Maxed Out…this American mom is on the brink…

“We were all living the lives we’d chosen. We had what we thought we wanted- wonderful children and a level of financial independence that our mothers never knew. And yet, most days, it felt as if our lives were being held together by Band-Aids and Elmer’s glue. None of us could make sense of the wretched state we found ourselves in. What were we doing wrong?”

After forwarding a powerful  article  on burned out mothers to a friend, we decided to buy the book mentioned in the article (Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink), and have been sending rapid fire texts and quotes to each other ever since. Because this book has spoken to us. It speaks to my greatest fear, and how I’ve actually been feeling for a few weeks now. That everything is held together by Band-Aids and Elmer’s glue.

Katrina goes on to explain, “The last few months had been a carnival ride of constant motion that left me dizzy and sick to my stomach. I wanted off. I wanted someone to pull the brake. I wanted to make it stop, but I didn’t know how to make it stop. I  ddn’t even know what stopping meant.”

Um, who can relate? Whoa.

Her book is so honest and real in chronicling the trials and tribulations of working motherhood. It left me feeling validated, but most of the time I read it and vacillated between being completely freaked out about the future with a potential 2nd child and feeling like ‘I got this,’ because part of what she talked about what the magical aspect of working part-time. She called them “Magic Fridays” when she had a 4 day work week, which is a phrase I think I’m going to borrow. But…there was one piece that I’m still chewing on.

Because, when I take a step back, which is like a layman’s term for almost depersonalizing, I realize that there is actually nothing in my life right now that should be making me feel this crazy-carnival way. My husband and I have been in a really good place. Potamus is teething, but sleeping much more, and we’re down to one time nursing. My class is going pretty well and my advising schedule isn’t too crammed. Flexible job. Yoga class. Therapy. From the outside of my own mind, looking at my life, I’m actually in a really calm content place. And yet…..and yet…I’m not.

I know that everyone has different thresholds, but I’m actually not okay. I feel like I might start crying at any moment over any little thing. So I’m back on my meds. I got the prescription filled yesterday, and hopefully they’ll kick in next week. I felt like I was heading toward this cliff and I didn’t want to go there again. Because even my coworkers and students have noticed a change in my mood this last week especially. My irritation with things being out of place in the classroom is an all time high.

And part of me worries that if I am like this with one kid, what will happen if I have another? I know that’s a long way off from needing to think about, that I get to just enjoy the next several months and don’t even have to talk about it, and trying to project how I’m going to feel into the future isn’t really that great anyway, because it’s rarely true. Though, if I’m totally honest, thinking about it too much might send me into a panic attack.

Where is the line between intuition and anxiety? Because, in my mind’s eye, I can see us having another child. Feeling that completion feeling that I really do want. And I can also see myself having a nervous breakdown in the same picture. That just the stress of two kids, even a part-time job, and doing all the parenting things that are never ending, will kill me. That’s how it feels. I know the reality is one step at a time, but I do get terrified. Because:

“The line between ‘Everything’s okay’ and ‘I’m on the verge of total collapse’ is so thin.”

So true. And yet, when I finished the book, I felt really hopeful. Because, while I might feel on the edge a lot, I’m not alone. And I have supportive friends, partner, and am taking all the really good steps to beat back the anxiety and depression. And I’m learning more about myself, like going back on meds when I see the train-wreck coming, or choose to NOT go to yoga because I had been gone every night of the week and just wanted to relax (which feels different than just not going because I’m anxious/depressed), and taking sweet advantage of my Magic Friday today to rest while Potamus was resting.

Moms, I recommend this book. Working moms, I definitely recommend this book. Mom with anxiety, read this book. It’s so good.

What have you read lately that’s spoken to you? Inspired you? Made you feel less alone?



  1. Hey lady. I don’t mean to be a tool by suggesting this, but you just got that iud. I know when I had mine, my hormones were WAY outta’ whack and I got my period like every two and a half weeks, even though it was the copper one and not the one with the hormones in it. Is there any chance that your hormones are causing you to feel a little extra unbalanced? Just a thought. Please don’t be mad at me for suggesting it. I’m not trying to invalidate how you feel at all, and I wish I could give you a great big hug. I know that for me there are ten days out of the month where the world is ending and it is totally around hormones (oh yeah that reminds me I have to call my doc about that… I think I am needing meds too so I don’t jump off a bridge or get a divorce!) That book sounds really good and relavant. Does it offer any suggestions or just validate how thin we working moms are stretched? I’ve always said that women’s lib was good for some things- like it is nice we don’t get stoned to death for wearing pants and such, but it really screwed us out of being moms to the full extent of our being. Anyhoo, sorry for the book, I just wanted to reach out and say, I feel ya’, and I hope you start feeling better. I think you are really brave and awesome for posting so openly about something that a lot of us feel ashamed of or less than for, even though we shouldn’t. It helps so much to read that other moms go through the same stuff. Big love!! xoxoxoxo.

    • Ooooh, good call on the IUD! I hadn’t even put that connection together, I’ll make sure to watch it a little more.

      So, the book is mostly her story into how she realized that she was worn thin. And then it shows the steps she took to heal. What I love is that she didn’t stop working for long, I was really hoping it wasn’t a ‘solution to all of your problems is to stay at home!’ but more overall highlighted her journey into figuring it out and trying to recover.

      But I also really liked that at the end of ever chapter she talked about different things from a political and policy perspective that really got my wheels turning. Things like Cambodia has paid maternity leave and we don’t. Ways that we as a country are going in a direction that is creating this carnival ride, but is causing so many issues that could be changed with different policies and attitudes. I found that part really insightful and made me want to DO SOMETHING about it!

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