01.05.13 Parenting

Help: I’m in Survival Mode

Help: I’m in Survival Mode

BY Jen Tobin

I’m looking around and realizing I’m not really living, just sort of surviving.

I had this dog once. She was a Lab mix from the pound and highly crazy. My neighbor (who now has her) believes she has PTSD. She wouldn’t recognize me when I walked in the room sometimes. If I had a towel on my head, fresh out of the shower, she would go ballistic.

When my baby was born, a friend offered to take the dog, Mrs. Mia Wallace, for a week to help lighten our load. We thought that sounded wonderful and dropped her off. Our friend lived about twenty minutes away and Mia immediately got out of her apartment about an hour after our departure. Mia was on the streets for exactly a week and went into survival mode.

I walked the streets she had been seen on, up and down with my fresh C-section wound, calling her name, for seven days. On day five, I spied her. She was lying under some bushes in someone’s front yard like a lion. My heart jumped. Surely she would recognize me and come running for treats, tail wagging.

She didn’t.

I called her name and she ran, RAN, in the opposite direction as far as she could with her tail between her legs. She had no idea who I was; the person who saved her from the pound, who massaged her hind quarters every night and slipped her scraps of tofu baloney. Not a clue.

I knew in that moment what “survival mode” really meant- this blind movement forward where you shut out everything that isn’t necessary in order to get by and stay alive.

I have been in survival mode for almost two years and to be honest, I’m kind of tired of it.

In February of 2011, the baby we had planned for was born and I went back to my full-time job eight weeks later. I was still breast- feeding and pumping at work and then again when I got home at eleven o’clock. I would wake up in the night with her and then at six when my husband left for work. Almost two years later, there aren’t any middle of the night wake up calls, but not much else has changed. I still work nights teaching massage and have clients on the weekends. My husband teaches junior high and then teaches guitar on the weekends. The only help we really have is when our schedules overlap three days a week and our neighbor (the awesome one who took on Mia) watches her. We have friends who kindly help on evenings when my husband has band rehearsal or a gig, but otherwise, we both work two and a half jobs. Baby, full-time job, part-time job…each. We don’t live crazy outside our means, but seem to just squeak by. We’re tired.

I find more and more that I want to sleep and not get up. I eat when I have to, go to work, clean the house, make sure my child is happy and go to bed. My head is down and I’m missing whatever scenery abounds.

My new year’s resolution is to start feeling joy again in little everyday things. To really delight in the crazy stuff my daughter does and appreciate the food my husband makes. It’s to have adventures…whatever I can find. To take a road trip or a plane trip or a trip by myself. It’s to live more simply so we can live better. I want to look around and recognize my surroundings and the people who love me. I don’t want to run in the other direction because I don’t know what else to do.

I know I’m not alone and everyone on the planet tells me this is just how it is with a toddler.

Is it? Does it have to be?

I’m taking suggestions on ways to spice up my life. I’m stuck and I loathe the word “stuck.” I don’t believe it’s real, just self-made so I don’t have to act. So if you have everyday things I can do to make my life a bit more adventurous, I’d love to hear them in the comment section! Perhaps you will inspire me and the other women here to live bigger, better and more alive.

Suggested Resources view all


Mothers Who Think: Tales Of Real-life Parenthood

I’m looking around and realizing I’m not really living, just sort of surviving. I had this dog once. She was a Lab mix from the pound and highly crazy. My neighbor (who now has her) believes she has PTSD. ...

Jen Tobin is a writer and instructor of massage therapy living in Los Angeles.  She has a daughter and a husband and a few dogs from Taiwan.  You can follow her blog at www.savingitall.wordpress.com.


  • Chris

    Write as much as possible. You’re good at it and it’s wonderful therapy

    • Jen Tobin

      Thanks, Chris!

  • Angela

    Spend time with girlfriends.

  • itsnotyou

    It’s not you, it’s what’s happened to millions of us courtesy of the rising cost of living and ever decreasing wages. We can’t afford to live. You can’t afford childcare. No-one with a baby should have to work two jobs. If you’re working that much you can’t make the space to create any “life” for yourself.

    • Jen tobin

      I know, it’s pretty crazy. I definitely don’t think we are all living the way we were meant to…

  • Samantha

    Go outside more, your child will enjoy it and you will too most of the time, maybe try doing some lunges, push offs on the bench, work the back of your elbows by pushing off the seat of the bench. It adds up and you feel better. Endorphins change your mood always for the better.

    Can relate to how you feel. My girls are 7,9, & 11. Trying my best to take care of myself so I can take care of my family. But having trouble being the best me. How am I suppose to raise them to be the best they can be and be a supportive wife? Endorphins, coffee and a good book get me through but I want to be happier. Better attitude would help but easier to be disgruntled. So spending lots of time outside. I can do a pull up now. We have routes now too. The girls put on their helmets and ask which park.

    Also, keep having sex. Like going to the park, the more you do it, the more you do it.

    Being around good people helps too. Good moms have great ideas and perspective. Other healthy couples with kids can be fun.

    (Got to make sure my kids learn some coping skills. I am sure there is a class)

    • Jen tobin

      Thank you…so many great points and ideas! I appreciate you reading and advising! Happy new year!

  • L.

    Holy Mackerel!! You made me spit hot tea out of my mouth laughing at the finding Mia with your fresh C section part of your story! I know that wasn’t the point of the story. My point is that you are one incredible writer! Please please keep it coming! You are bringing joy into this busy person’s life!

  • Adel

    sobbing. i know it’s so crazy to read this and be jealous, but here i am. i’m a nanny and housekeeper for a living and just biding my time til i can take care of my own family. i skimmed the previous comments. keep writing, absolutely. spend as much time as you can outside in the sunshine (don’t forget sun screen!) and have a second childhood through your child. some days at work i get so tired and don’t want to do anything and the kids are rotten and the house is a mess and i’m thinking today is the day i’ll get fired. so i set the kids down with a craft or something and talk with them while i clean and give myself 30 minutes to do as much as i can and let that be enough. and then i find out what they want to do and soak it up and it’s beautiful and the best, and i get my energy back through being silly with them. sorry i don’t know what having a typical job is like so much. i just want to be a mom. (says the single woman.)

Every week in your inbox!

  • Exclusive notes and videos from Amanda de Cadenet.
  • Early access to our Limited Space Workshops.
  • Amanda’s Favorites and Special Offers shared with you weekly.
  • Exclusive notes and videos from Amanda de Cadenet.
  • Early access to our Limited Space Workshops.
  • Amanda’s Favorites and Special Offers shared with you weekly.
Subscribe Now

to receive our newsletter every Tuesday.

Sign up here for my Weekly Newsletter and Exclusive Updates: