I’m #DoingItAll And It’s Getting Me Absolutely Nowhere

shutterstock_137514404I love the Mommyish #NotDoingItAll conversation because I think it’s awesome to get and give permission to not have to do everything yourself. And in that sense I am a firm member of the #NotDoingItAll bunch. My husband always does the laundry and never expects a medal. We take turns shuttling the kids to and from school and we co-parent seamlessly. I have let go of some notion of being perfect and I truly don’t even try.  #NotDoingItAll in those respects is healthy and necessary and I’m 100% on board.

But even admitting that I don’t “do it all” (evidenced by the cluttered mess that is my apartment), my plate is as full as the one my great-grandmother made for me every Thanksgiving with the warning that “no boy wants a bag of bones, you’re too skinny.” If it’s not losing sleep battling my kid’s croup, it’s dealing with the other’s separation anxiety. If it’s not worrying how to pay the bills we have coming in, it’s making drastic changes in an attempt to live a more normal life. There are no vacations, no lucky breaks, never enough self-care in the world to keep up with this life.  I feel like I’m #DoingItAll to get ahead but all the while I’m spinning on the hamster wheel of life.

Even though I’ve given up on some ideal version of what it looks like to “have it all”, there are things in this life that I actually want. You can argue that they’ve been planted there by Hollywood, perpetuated by years of bad TV and subliminally reinforced by every magazine cover I’ve ever walked by. But that doesn’t make it any less real to me. So here are the ways I’m #NotDoingItAll that depress the hell out of me:

I don’t cook.

Not because I am so worried about putting a meal on the table every night that is uber-healthy and nutritious. I have a small handful of solid and quick meals I whip up some nights that do the trick. That’s not what I’m talking about here. I wish I had some culinary skills. I love so many types of food, I love bold flavors, and I love watching Top Chef. But who has the time to shop, prepare a menu and spend an hour or two putting it together? Not only that, but it takes time and regular practice to develop those kinds of skills in the kitchen. I’m too busy wiping butts and responding to emails to focus on that.

I don’t own a house.

Money Pit Chimney

My husband and I are both lawyers in NYC yet we can’t even begin to afford to buy something here. Certainly not in Manhattan proper, and the boroughs don’t look extremely likely either. We aren’t on the big money track because I took time off for the kids and he took time to pursue other entertainment endeavors (that probably sounds more interesting than it is) and, you know, we tend to want to enjoy our lives — and that includes spending time with each other, our kids and our families as much as we can. So 19 years of school, years of 70 hour work weeks, and negotiating work-family balance as best we can — and our prudent savings gets us essentially nothing.

I’m not pursuing my passions.


I thought by this time in my life I’d have more figured out. I would have a steady job that was essentially on autopilot (or at least didn’t suck the life out of me), my kids would be on a reasonable schedule and play independently and — although it would take some finesse, I am a time management pro — I would have ample opportunity to pursue my passions. My arms would be perfectly sculpted from my regular yoga practice, I’d spend time at the farmer’s market picking out local produce to cook, and I’d have plenty of time to meditate, journal and maybe even write a book.

I don’t want to do it all or “have it all” or fulfill any notion of what I’m supposed to be.  But there are so many things to do that I feel like I need a small army just to scrape by — and none of that accounts for the things I actually dream of being able to do.

(photo: Stockdonkey/Shutterstock)

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  • Kay_Sue

    I really feel this. I was telling my husband last night that, while I miss working, I feel like I am really completely present for the first time in years. There’s no last minute schedule changes, no alarm calls at three in the morning, no projects that sap up an entire week, no big corporate visits to prep for, no missing my kids for three days straight because my schedule has me up and gone before they wake up and home after they are in bed. Doing it all does mean sacrifices in some cases. I know it most certainly did for me.

    Even now I guess the opportunity cost is that I miss the challenge and validation of having a job, while I have more energy for my family and things that I want to do now (I actually did start my novel and learn to cook, so I chuckled at those parts a LOT).

    It’s a tough spot to be in. I wish you luck in balancing it out and finding the time for the things you want to do.

    • Carinn Jade

      You perfectly put into words the sacrifices. I’ve been on both sides of things and — for me — being at home is the right choice. Now I just have to back out of some of our obligations to make that happen…

  • DrMom

    So true. Hard to find the balance. I hopped off the career track after getting a Phd to stay home w/ the 2 young kiddos (soon to be 3 in April!) because it was just becoming INSANE to try to do it all. I was not productive at work, wasn’t present at home with my kids or husband and ready for a nervous breakdown. People make comments all the time about how I am “wasting my education” but I don’t care. This works for us right now. Life still seems so busy being home with them that it is hard to remember how I actually went to work at all! But I do feel that my sanity has returned (more or less), kids seem happier and I am generalIy more grounded and fulfilled. I do hope to go back someday once they are in school and definitely have my days where I miss that fulfillment (and income) of working. But there is always a cost. I am choosing to pay mine this way for now. Always love hearing stories of how others are doing it. Everyone has such a unique story and experience. We can learn from and help each other!

    • Carinn Jade

      Nothing pains me more than the “wasting my education” line. That education isn’t going anywhere, not to mention I put it to good use for some time. I’m slowly learning it has to be my choice, even though lots of people will feel they can chime in.

    • JulySheWillFly

      What does it even mean to “waste” an education? To not make money off of it? Money aside, employed or not, I am a better person, citizen, mother, friend, human, for having gotten a law degree. I look forward to talking to my son about the world through the eyes of an educated woman. No waste there.

    • whatlight

      You’re not wasting your education. Your expanding it, period. You really think nursing school taught me how to raise kids? Nope, though a lot of people assume it does. Or years working in the NICU? Again, no. Sure, I got some experience dealing with sleep deprivation I guess but the other aspects of parenting were all new to me and my kids taught me a lot. And I absolutely use the things I learned from my kids (greater patience, adaptability, taking on the perspective of another who cannot communicate with words, etc) every single day in my job. So to anyone who thinks that taking time out to raise kids is some kind of waste- you’re wrong. Period. Think of it instead as continuing education.

  • Alexandra

    Carinn I totally understand. I did law school in NYC and am now working in-house for far less than I thought I would be making. I thought that (5 years later) I would have had a big firm job, loans paid off, etc. I am paying my “mortgage” every month – it is my loans!! So…no house yet, although hubby and I are both “doing well”. Twins on the way – and mom coming to live with us for child care so I can keep working because hubby gets no benefits as a consultant. Ah the wheel – where do I get off??

    • Carinn Jade

      If you find the exit, please email me immediately at jadecarinn [at] gmail — I need off!

  • http://www.twitter.com/ohladyjayne allisonjayne

    Check, check, check.
    99% of the time, the fact that my wife and I don’t own a condo/house/anything doesn’t bother me at all. We have an awesome apartment in a big city, and it’s in a co-op, which means it’s slightly less than market rent and allows us to live in an amazing, walkable neighbourhood with great transit access and a strong sense of community. We have all the space we need, and having everything on one floor makes it so much easier to keep it clean and tidy. But yeah, there are times – usually triggered by someone else being shitty – that I do worry that we’re ‘throwing our money away’ (even though our financial advisor agrees with us that it’s not a good time for us to consider buying right now, and that because we’re actually saving more money, we’re doing just fine) or whatever. Even though my parents didn’t own their own home until they were 40…I guess it just seems like most other folks my age (early thirties) are making a LOT more money than I am (I work for a non-profit) and own fabulous condos or beautiful houses….though I do wonder how many of them are getting parental help.

    • Carinn Jade

      I’m with your FA — buying isn’t always the best thing to do and it sounds like what you have is working. We’ve been in a similar situation as well. But now my kids are in more permanent school and we know we won’t be going anywhere until they are in high school at least. So we have 10 years and we’d like to try to put down some roots.

    • Rochelle

      We rent because we are trying to pay off all our debts. I refuse to carry any more consumer debt and I certainly won’t buy a house until I am debt free and have some savings just in case anything goes wrong with that house.

      I recently had a friend try to tell me that I was throwing away my money because I was paying someone else’s mortgage and my rent was more than her mortgage payment. Meanwhile, her family is close to $100 000 in debt on lines of credit and they are always too broke to do anything and are forced to work extremely long hours in order to pay their bills.

      We have a time line and if all goes well, we will own a house and still be able to enjoy life while we are at it.

    • http://www.twitter.com/ohladyjayne allisonjayne

      That’s what I’m worried about – putting ourselves in a position where we can’t do anything because we’re so house-poor. My FA says that home ownership works well for people who aren’t natural savers, because it basically forces you to ‘save’…because we are natural savers and are contributing to multiple savings/retirement/etc accounts, she says we’re doing ok.
      Plus, I live in a co-op, so my rent isn’t helping anyone else make money….it’s a non-profit, all the money goes back into the co-op…so really, the way I figure it, I’m just making a thousand dollar donation to affordable housing every month.

  • JulySheWillFly

    Every time I share with someone that I am overwhelmed and burning the candle at both ends, they suggest another way to save time, outsource, or let something go. What they don’t realize is that it breaks my heart. Letting go of cooking dinner is sad to me, not a relief. Having my childcare bathe and dress my son before I get home is not a weight off my shoulders. It’s a knife in my heart.

    I know I can’t do it all. But I find myself sacrificing the things I want to do make time for the things I have to do, which doesn’t leave me feeling any better.

    • Carinn Jade

      Exactly, it’s always how we can delegate at home — the place where I most want to be. So well said.

    • jane

      This is such an example of ways that it just gets better as they get older. I do still like to be there when my kids go to bed, but it’s not like I’m doing (or missing) tub time with my 8.5 year old. She hops into the shower and I can do other stuff then. Same thing with leaving early in the morning. I used to hate being gone before they woke up, but now they both have ipod touches and know how to text, so we can shoot each other little kissy-face text messages and a huge “I love you” so it doesn’t feel as terrible. Part of getting things back really is a waiting game. That part does get easier, I promise.

  • http://twitter.com/mariaguido Maria Guido

    I hear you, Carinn. I wish I had some answers. New York City is soooo hard. But as someone who left it I can say that the problems don’t disappear when you move – but the comfort level definitely increases.

  • etbmm

    Thank you for writing this. It helps to know someone else feels me. <3

  • jane

    For the first time in a long time, I feel like I’m doing it all and it’s working. I don’t say that to make you feel guilty or to humblebrag or whatever, but just to let you know that it is possible. That said, I don’t know if it’s possible for everyone in every way, but not every compromise you have to make has to be major.

    First of all, I don’t live in NYC, which would suck the life out of me, and not just for the financial reasons. There’s a particularly frenetic “keep up with the Joneses” mentality there that I think is hard to shake even if you are trying to shake it. Also, I’m a teacher and not a lawyer, which means that my hours are shorter and I am much more control of how much work I take home. Finally, and this is the huge one, my kids are a little older. At 8.5 and 6, I find that they are just self-sufficient enough that I can do stuff while they’re around and still get that stuff actually accomplished. So part of the issue, I really believe, is just waiting a little bit.

    The other thing is to think about how you can add things in one at a time. I think cooking is a great place to start with that. What if you decided that you were going to have a big Sunday dinner at least once per month? You work it out with your husband that you get two hours on that Sunday to really prepare a dinner, and everyone sits down at the table and eats it together? If that goes well, add in another Sunday. Start thinking of what weekday you might have an extra hour to make a not-fancy-not-frozen-pizza dinner.

    Then figure out how you can add in something else. Can you get up 1/2 hour earlier 2 days per week to do some yoga at home? Then could you add in a Saturday class while your husband takes the kids to starbucks? I LOVE me some sleep, but I’ve realized that if I want to really run in any kind of competative way, I have to get up early at least 3-4 days/week. Because the running has made me feel so much better, it’s a choice I’m willing to make. Also, get away from screens. I realized if I stopped dicking around on the internet every night for 2 hours, I could take up knitting again. I’m still just sitting there not doing much, but at the end I have something to show for it.

    Life is never going to be perfect, obviously, and we’re likely always going to feel bad about something. But if most days you feel like you did 90% ok, just round up to 100%

    • Carinn Jade

      Some really great ideas and a wonderful perspective! Thank you for sharing.

    • Anna

      I completely second this. I felt much the same as you when my kids were little, but now that they 5 & 7 and in school, and increasingly independent in terms of dressing, eating, etc, it is SO much easier. Since they do more of the grunt stuff themselves now, our time together is more fun – we can play a game of cards or chess, or just cuddle, instead of spending half an hour wrangling them into brushing their teeth!

    • MamaLlama

      Thank you for giving me hope! Same to the commenter Anna below this! My little ones and work wear me out!