Pulled, Stretched, Torn — and I am not just talking about my belly

She pauses, her pen poised to capture my next reply, and leans slightly towards me. My son’s therapist is young with a timid voice that caught me off guard the first time I met her, but she is surprisingly powerful.

therapist-notebook“So… how are you doing with the focused play time?” she asks me, “Have you been able to schedule in a daily time to spend alone, playing with your son?”

I scan through the past week. I had had a chance to sit down and play Lego with just him only once. Life seems like a blur of driving and activities — school drop off and pick up, homework, hockey, preschool, play dates… I explain, “I was out of town until late Sunday night, but yesterday I had a good afternoon with him shopping for my daughter’s birthday and having dinner together. And we have our bedtime routine of stories and talking.”

Unimpressed, she replies, “So… only one time of focused play then, when your son was leading the activity?”

“Yes,” I concede, “I know, I need to do it more.”

Her pen scratches away and I swallow my shame.

What kind of mother doesn’t have time to play with her son for fifteen minutes a day?!? It sounds so simple, but life parenting older kids seems even busier and more chaotic than when they are younger. Sometimes it feels like there is no slowing down until they are asleep. “I tend to be task orientated,” I admit. “But yes, I will try to make sure I schedule time for it every day.”

But I know I will fail. My good intentions will be ripped apart as I am pulled from every direction.

I will come up short. Again. Weekly. Daily. Hourly.

I can cut this cake into only so many pieces, and it will not feed everyone.

My husband and I will fight over my schedule, I will be behind post deadlines, I will not answer even a tenth of my emails, and I will still not schedule my daughter’s fillings. (Oh yes, I will fail to book mine as well.)

It seems I am constantly failing someone. At every point in my day, I should be at least three other places as well. Even my dog, (the one my son promised to look after,) will whimper and beg me for just one more walk.

Yes, my daily routine is crazy, probably madness by most people’s standards. But it is what I need to do — want to do.

I am cramming as much into this short life as I possibly can. I own that. I realize that many people would not make the same choices I do.

But still, I think this pulling is a condition most of us parents face. The stress and demands of life leave us battered and coming up empty at the end of most days. There is simply too much to do and too many people who need us.

As I walk down the hall, my son takes my place on the therapist’s couch. I stand outside facing the sun and wrestle with guilt and stress, as if my depression has long arms reaching out and physically pulling me down inside myself.

I won’t be able to satisfy everyone. I won’t even be able to satisfy myself.

But somehow I need to release the need to try. I am flawed. I will make mistakes and disappoint those around me. I will not have enough of me to go around and sometimes I will misuse what I have. But I will try. I will do my best.

I hope that one day my children will offer me more grace than the notes therapists take. I hope that they will know how much I loved them and how I tried to not break as I was pulled, stretched, and torn.

Written by Janice Croze, co-founder of 5 Minutes for Mom.
Wanna chat? Find me at: @5minutesformom, @janicecroze and Facebook.com/5minutesformom.


  1. says

    ((hugs)) I think we’ve all felt the same at some point. I think what you need to remember is before being a blogger, a marketer, or even a business owner …the most important role in your life is being a mother.

    • says

      Yes Cat — and I do believe I put my children as my top priority. But even so, the fact is that my time is divided and I constantly feel like I am coming up short — even between the two of my children.

  2. says

    Wow! I am 56 years old and don’t recall a time that mmy parents gave each of us focused playtime :) I have 3 grown children, and I was similar to yourself. Never seemed to be enough time. My daughter does give more focused time to her children I think – or is she just present more often.
    My generation all seemed to live and have few scars – the one difference from my children’s generation is that our mother was at home. She may not have been playing with us,, but she was a fixture – usually doing many things, but generally in same area we were . That made a difference.

    • says

      Thanks so much for your input Darleen.

      Yes, when I think about it, my mother never sat down and “played” but she was the most devoted mother.

      She also was a working mother and she had four of us kids. I never even saw my mother sit down period! That woman never stopped — she was a machine! I have only a fraction of her strength.

  3. says

    Ahh yes, sounds just like my mother :) I guess every generation seems to have more guilt about time not spend with our children. I can attest to one thing however, I play with my grandchildren and love it. It is the absolute best time of my life – energizes me! And I realize, that I never had time to do the same with my own children. I still don’t have as much time as I wish I did to play.

    BTW – what do you use for comments, as love the email response I receive – beautiful. I am midway into WordPress coding and all that there is, and love it when I find someone using something I haven’t encountered. Great site!

  4. says

    You know, I was just like that prior to my injury. Now? Not even close. I physically can’t be. In fact, not only do I not carry my share of the burden, I add to it. And believe it or not, everything still moves on just as before.

    If I could encourage anyone in the situation that I was in before, I would say to slow down and enjoy life. You just never know when it might change. Permanently.

  5. says

    I know we’ve all been there. My goal this year was to create more balance in my life. So I say no more, make time for me at least once a week, and make focused time for my kids once a week. I think given your schedule and hectic days it may not be possible to have focused playtime every day and you can’t feel badly about that. Maybe your husband can try to do the same so between the two of you it can be more often.

  6. says

    I hope you find the strength to cut yourself some slack. I empathize with your situation because I suffer from depression, perfectionism, and guilt too. Rationally, I tell myself that I can let one thing or another go…it doesn’t have to be perfect. But I cannot let it go. And the more depressed I get, the more perfect and controlled things around me must become. It can be very ugly around here.

    Please understand that your children will be absolutely fine if you can’t carve out 15 minutes of your day. You are present and that will be enough most days because you’re still engaging with them. The time in the car, shopping, making dinner and eating it with your family (even if it’s not every night) COUNTS. As another reader pointed out, parents in previous generations (mine included, and they are teachers) didn’t spend dedicated time playing with us. We had more independence and we thrived. Your children will too. I know you’re not neglecting your children. They have a happy, loving home where they feel safe. The pressure you add to your daily dose of “not good enough” is unneeded because it’s untrue.

    And have you considered what you ARE giving them? You are a role model showing what a strong woman you are. You have a successful business, respect from your colleagues, and a family. You have a strong work ethic and you help others. I think it’s important that your daughter is watching you work hard and succeed, and it’s important that your son is gaining the perspective of women being just as strong in the workforce as men. In fact, it’s quite possible that you’re helping to break down barriers for the next generation. Maybe they won’t need to feel guilty the way we do when we’re trying to achieve our goals. They’ll understand better than we do that it’s OK to chase your dreams AND have a family — and that it’s not always easy, but there can love and happiness just the same.

    You do well, Janice. Give yourself permission to be human. I’ll try to do the same.

  7. says

    The most important job we have is as mothers. However, that said, some of us are better mothers but focusing on our lives outside of being a mom. Does that make sense? I like working (thankful I can do it from home) but it makes me a more balanced person and in return, a better mom. But finding balance? Remembering to stop and focus? It something I have to remind myself to do. You are not alone. Just remember that we start over with each new breath.

  8. says

    This is something I struggle with daily as well. With 5 kids, there is literally no way I could spend 15 minutes focused on JUST one child at a time. But I do what I can. When I am in the car, with my teenager in the front seat, I am focused on her. I let her drive the conversation. And we do talk. In the afternoon, I spend time in the kitchen with my 12 year old, because she loves anything to do with the kitchen. I go to their soccer games, I help them with their homework. I read books and I snuggle with those who will still snuggle with their mama. I walk the younger ones to school every morning and I take an extra 15 minutes out of my day to sit with them while they eat breakfast (yes, school breakfast). It’s not much when you add it all up, and I still feel guilty for all of the time when they are at home and I am completely consumed with work. Life now is SO different from the days when my babies were tiny and I sat on the ground to play with them all day. But they still know that I love them. And I know that Jackson and Livvie know that you love them. I see it in their faces, the way Livvie sits on your lap and smiles up at you, and the way Jackson strangles you from behind when you’re on your computer. They love you. And they know that you love them too. I promise. You do so much. It does not go unnoticed.

  9. Leah Segedie says

    You too? And here I thought it was just me. I think its just the plight of the working mom. We may have home offices, but that just makes us busier. Perfection is one of those things that peopletalk about, but even the ones that teach it are full of shit. Oops! Did I just cuss on ur blog? 😉

  10. says

    I’ve only known you for a while, Janice, but I get the sense that you would not thrive as a person if you didn’t have a million things on your plate. I remember a brief period when my mom didn’t work and tried to be a SAHM to us kids when we were teenagers. It was bleak. There was a lot of macrame and quiet tears. She didn’t have it in her to NOT be a hard charger, and it didn’t do any of us any good when she faked it.

    It makes me tired just to think about your schedule, and yet you have time to be there for all your kids’ activities, getting the boy all the help he needs, going to therapy. Holy cow. That’s some hardcore parenting.

  11. says

    No matter what you decide to do with your life, ask yourself this: “will I grow old and regret this decision?” You are not a superwoman. Somethings just have to go. You decide what they are.

  12. says

    A friend shared something in our moms’ group this week that really resonated with me. She was sharing how she and her hubby meet weekly for a “family planning” time where they review the budget for the week, the calendar for the week, and their meals for the week. It helps them stay connected, stay focused, and keeps them on track with the priorities they’ve set for their home.

    She said, “we do this as a means of taking control of our calendar so our calendar doesn’t control us.”

    Yeah. I know. Ouch.

    I’m still thinking that through.

    I am on a big learning curve with a babysitting job I’ve taken four days a week. It changes my grocery shopping, my errands, my meal planning, my in-home chores, everything. And I think that I need the balance and the opposite temperament that my hubby brings to the table to effectively make the changes so that they match our priorities as a family. Getting him to meet even twice a month (which he would resist and even likely dislike!) would be SUCH a huge boon to a smoother running, less stressed, much less harried household. Which he would love.

    And considering how I feel by 7:30 or 8 p.m. every night, with still piles of work to be done that I couldn’t do with three little ones underfoot all day long? I think I would to.

  13. says

    Yes! I feel the same way and most nights lay in bed praying that I’ll do better the next day. It is impossible to do it all, but we do our best and the love shows through. Hang in there!

    And thank you for sharing this touching post.

  14. says

    Janice … you can only do your very best. My husband taught me that. Sadly he wasn’t my husband when I was raising my children and I felt exactly as you do now. Pulled, stretched and as if I was failing. We mothers are our own worse critic. Years from now, when your children are grown, you’ll look back and realize how great you are. You’ll wonder how on earth you ever did all that you do. For now … do the best that you can. You can’t do more than your best. And you … are spectacular!

  15. says

    Janice, in spite of your seemingly inability to spend time with your son, my admiration is still on you. I grew up with my parents always working and grew without their parental care. You on the other hand are aware and trying to make it work – that I think is admirable. I’m also a mom and it’s hard being the perfect mother. We are not perfect and thus we fail. Hang in there. You’re not alone. Hugs to you!


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