The Bearded Iris

A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All

The Picture That Cost Me 1.3 Million Dollars

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

Sometimes a picture is actually worth a lot more than that.

Thirteen years ago this month, I quit a good job to stay home with my two-year-old son, Vincent.

We had moved from California to North Carolina—not for my husband’s job as most people assume when they hear we relocated cross-country, but for mine.

My husband agreed to temporarily leave work and do the stay-at-home dad thing while I brought home the bacon as a training manager for a technology company. I was pretty good at it (at first), and with my bonuses I was on target to earn about $100,000 that year. Well, I would have earned that much… had I lasted more than 9 months there.

But I didn’t.

Because in the fall of 2001, my sweet little Vincent came home from preschool with his first school pictures and everything changed. 

This picture changed my life and cost me 1.3 million dollars.

Way to upset the apple cart, buddy.

I took one look at my beautiful little boy, who had clearly been dressed for school picture day by his father, and I died a little inside.

“WHY DOES HIS HAIR LOOK LIKE THAT? What did you do—lick it? And what the hell is he wearing? An old ringer tee with a flannel shirt? Dude. Really? Was it Grunge Day?”

In hindsight, I may have overreacted. But that’s how I felt. My perfectionism reared its ugly head and I snapped.

I couldn’t bear the thought of a lifetime of school pictures testifying to the world that I was not around to do basic things like dress and care for my son while I was out there chasing the almighty dollar.

Truth be told, I was afraid. I was afraid I was failing at motherhood. 

That school picture was my wake up call.

Most days back then I was gone before Vince woke up and home after he was already in bed. I was under an enormous amount of pressure at work to put in even more time and effort, and an equal amount of pressure at home to work less and be more present. My boss and my husband were constantly disappointed in me. I missed my little boy. And I felt like I was drowning.

It took me a few more months and two lines on a pregnancy test to summon the courage, but I quit that job in March of 2002. I’ve been at home with my three kids, my very artistic dog, and a sexually dysfunctional leopard gecko ever since.

I’m technically a work-at-home mom now, because my blogging hobby has blossomed and I currently spend the majority of my days managing an online women’s humor community, In the Powder Room. If I’m lucky, I might earn about $6,000 this year on ad revenue and freelance gigs. No, that’s not a typo. There’s no zero missing. That’s just the best I can do so far. And a big chunk of that gets funneled back into hosting/operating/promoting the website, so it’s kind of a wash.

Disappointed Dowager Countess

“Oh good, let’s talk about money.” – Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham

(Sorry Dowager Countess. Tacky, I know. But I feel like it’s relevant here.)

This past year since acquiring In the Powder Room has been pretty challenging. I’ll always be grateful for the opportunity and experience, but I don’t really have much time anymore to do what I used to enjoy the most: writing. (As you know, since I haven’t posted here in months.) The demands of owning my own small business are all-consuming, and I feel like I’m sucking at everything again, both professionally and personally.

Earlier this week I called Bucket Head’s teacher in a panic because I forgot to pack his lunch on field trip day.

Vince went hungry at school on Tuesday because his lunch money account was empty.

I just found a stack of papers in the kitchen which included a variety of missed PTA deadlines. Jesus, it’s no wonder we were “accidentally” left off the school directory this year.

I’m no better at this mothering gig today than I was 13 years ago. And I don’t even have a decent salary to justify it.

Something’s got to give again.

I’ve been doing a lot of praying for guidance this week. Please God, give me a sign. I don’t know what to do. I am failing at so many things. 

And then it happened.

Yesterday I pulled Bucket Head’s spring school pictures (2nd grade) out of his little Batman backpack. (He’s my youngest child, and Vincent’s little brother. I know they look a lot alike, but this is not the same kid as that first picture above.)

I'm pretty sure God is speaking to me through Life Touch photos.

Tears immediately sprang to my eyes.

I am blowing this again… for $6000 and an ulcer. 

How could I have forgotten about picture day? He even had that sticker on his shirt the day before to remind me. (Which has probably gone through the wash and is now baked onto the shirt forever.)

GAH! Why didn’t I get him a haircut?

How could I have forgotten to lay out a nicer shirt?

What’s with the jungle backdrop? Another thing I’m sure I messed up by not pre-ordering.

“Why are you crying, Mom?”

“Oh honey. These are happy tears,” I lied. “Look how handsome you are. You took a great picture!”

But I knew I had just gotten my sign. God was talking to me through Lifetouch.

And for only $43, I could purchase all 4 portrait sheets and a FREE laminate of luggage tags, key rings, bookmarks, and a door hanger as a souvenir of the year I tried to run my own business and sent my kid to school looking like a hobo.

Thanks for the souvenir of my many failings this year as a business owner and mother, LifeTouch!

I am missing out on my life again, and as my husband says, “You don’t make enough money to be this miserable.” He’s right, and my family deserves better.

So with that, I am going to be making some changes. I’m not sure what they are yet, but they’re coming. Maybe I’ll finally get some help running ITPR. Maybe I’ll just slow it down so I can catch my breath. Maybe it’s time to try something completely different. I don’t know what it will be, but something good is coming. I have faith.

In summary:

Lost wages for leaving my corporate job 13 years ago: $1.3 million

Lifetouch package of 4 portrait sheets + FREE laminate souvenir: $43

The peace of knowing my family’s life is about to change again for the better: priceless.

108 Comments

  1. At the end, while standing at the big ol’ Pearly Gates God will not tell you, “You know what? You had an awesome career! Way to go!” *high five*
    No, he will commend you for raising great humans! *high five* 😀

  2. Give yourself credit Leslie! You made yourself a beautiful boy and he’s loved. You have to do what you feel is best for your family, but don’t be so hard on yourself. He’s not out jacking cars for attention.

    • Yet. Actually Bucket Head won’t be a car jacker. He’ll be a Chippendale Dancer. I am notoriously hard on myself though, you are right about that Teri. XO

  3. Oh, Beardy, I relate to this on all the levels. I love you, and I know you’ll find the answers in you heart. And I know you’ll make the changes you need to make, whatever they are, because you’re strong, even when you don’t think you are. Remember, we’re never supposed to be perfect, we’re just supposed to be trying to be better. You do your better, whatever that ends up being. xoxo

  4. I have worked from home for the past 10 years. We still have awkward school pictures of our son because he wore what he wanted to wear. Kids start dressing themselves pretty early in life, and a lot of them have strong opinions about what they wear. So, instead of fight about it, I let him wear what he wanted. It’s a part of growing up.

    Hugs to you, bearded lady!

  5. My husband has the same philosophy. Why are you working so hard for so little? Although that’s really not fair – he’s incredibly supportive. He’s more confused by the pressure I put on myself when I clearly don’t “have” to. He’s right. But so am I. When you find that middle ground, send me a map, love. Send me a map.
    (I support you and want you to do what’s right for you!)

    • YES – exactly!! Even my 12-year-old daughter said to me this week, “Mom, why do it if it makes you so sad? You don’t have to, right?” Out of the mouths of babes. I think there might be a middle ground somewhere…or maybe I’m just romanticizing the good old days when it was just the writing and not the publishing/business owning stresses. I’ll definitely let you know when and if I find it, Suzanne! XO

  6. We are having parallel epiphanies except God is speaking through my empty refrigerator and Amazon video bill. Seriously, I have started debating what REAL is. I understand. Never stop writing. Even if it’s just for you…and me, of course. I love you.

  7. Ok ok I’ll buy lunch next time- geez! No really – it’s ok to slow it down- our kids need us way more in the teen years than the younger ones, trust me

    • Hahahaha! I know, it’s shocking to me too. It’s pretty liberating to put it out there though. Like they say, we’re only as sick as our secrets, right? And I know you’re right about that teen thing. {shudder}

      When’s our next lunch, lady? I’M STARVING!

  8. I was just thinking I hadn heard from “Iris” in a loooong time!! Your post mad me cry. Whatever you do, you will rock at it. Follow your heart. It doesn’t get any simpler than that. Happy belated birthday!

  9. It’s so frickin complicated to be a woman and navigate worth in this world.

    • RIGHT?! So frickin complicated. And the fact that something as small as a school picture could be the breaking point that made me question everything — all my values, all my career aspirations, all that earning potential…

      I probably just set the women’s movement back 50 years. Great, now I feel guilty about that too. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?

  10. Nothing but love for you. Do what you got to do.
    I really want to go on a rant about half-assed “bloggers”. I really do. And advertisers.

  11. I completely understand. My husband and I decided that I should stay home with the kids (all four of them) while he worked. For awhile, things were fine. But then he lost his job. I worked 3 part-time jobs to help out but luckily they were in-home jobs so I could still be here with the kids. He went through two more j0bs–laid off by both when the companies scaled down. The things is, we have suffered financially for more than 20 years. It sucks to be stressed out about money all the time, but to this day, I wouldn’t change my decision about staying home. I know I did the right thing. God has given you yet another sign—-do what your instincts tell you to do. You’ll find a sense of peace and balance when you listen to your heart. XO

    • Oh Marcia – WOW. I didn’t know that about you. We’ve been in that position before too and it really does suck. The best part of my day though is watching Bucket Head get off that school bus and being the first person to hug him and hear about his day. So yeah, I too honor this decision to be here at home. I just need to find a way to be more present while I’m here, and not so consumed with my failing business. Thank you for being here and being such a good friend and big supporter of ITPR over the years. Love you.

  12. yep. There’s no way, no matter how brilliant and beautiful we are, that we can do everything we’re “supposed” to do. Just. No. Way. So, you grit your teeth, leap over the side, and hope for the best. Sometimes there are pretty soft feathers at the bottom and sometimes there are fresh cowpies, but you keep leaping. And one day you wake up and your baby is 25 and a professional working in NYC where it isn’t soft and sweet like North Carolina, but there are RAPISTS and MURDERERS and PEOPLE WHO SMELL BAD and after you are done sobbing your way through a whole bottle of Tanqueray (because that is what you drink in August, if you are a civilized human being), you realize, hey! I did a pretty good job. And as a mom, pretty good? Is good enough.

    • PEOPLE WHO SMELL BAD?! Oh my Lord, I never even considered that level of hell for my babies out in the world without me someday. NOOOOOOOOOOOOO! I am still here, leaping over those fresh steaming cowpies, and grateful for the friends like you I’ve met along the way, Kirby. Thank you!

      • Full Disclosure – Iris had a number of friends, myself included, who live in here NYC and who smell fresh as an Irish spring…

        • Bernie–more disclosure–I am actually from NY. I’m pretty sure I bathed when I lived there, but I was young and who can remember that far back? I am aware that most of NY’s citizens don’t smell, but the ones who do tend to make up for it.

  13. I’ve had about a year of feeling like I am failing at everything. It’s tough. I’ve been trying to cut back and prioritize. I don’t think I have ever worked this hard for so little money. I lie awake at night wondering if it is going to eventually pay off and be worth it or if I should have waved the white flag months ago, but somehow wasn’t smart enough to realize it.

    • Yes – yes – all of this yes, Lillian! Trying so hard to cut back and prioritize, but feeling so much guilt when I do say no to something. Working so hard–for peanuts–and wondering if I just stick with it will something come from it or am I just not the right person for this job? And seeing the piles increase around me and my kids struggling with certain things while I put in so much time and effort for something that might not pay off. I think I’m just at that breaking point where I AM waving the white flag. JESUS, TAKE THE WHEEL. I surrender. Thanks for being here Lillian! XO

  14. Thank you for being so honest and writing this on behalf of every mother (working outside the home or just working at life). It’s so hard and things like Picture Day (or book fair last week) are so easy to miss or forget … Be confident in your decision to to what is best for you and your family. And remember, you’ll always find friends in the powder room. : )

    • Beautiful, Leigh-Mary! Thank you. I will remember that, and I am so grateful for my friends In the Powder Room for your support and understanding. And yes, I’ve missed that book fair, and Learning with the Stars, and Bingo Night, and the art show, and the PTA Auction this year. I’m surprised those ladies aren’t burning crosses in my yard.

  15. I have been teetering on this at home mom thing for 18 years now…oldest leaves for college in the fall. Sometimes I think I gave up sanity, others I think I saved it. My wish for you is sanity and fabulous school photos!

    • Thank you Andrea! Sanity is exactly what I need right now – thank you for getting it! And fabulous school photos would be the icing on the cake (and just the proof I need to make everyone else think I know what I’m doing…which I clearly do not.) XO

  16. The thing that struck me about the photos of your son is that in both, he looks like a pretty happy kid. So you must be doing something right 🙂 And, I had no idea that photo 1 sucked! I must have been as lousy at dressing my boys as your husband! Your gut’s telling you what you should do. Find your happiness.

    • Hi Jennifer! Those are actually two different sons, sorry – I should have explained that better. I’ll revise that part. Vince is my oldest, he’s 15 now, and “Bucket Head” is my youngest, he just turned 8. Thanks for being here!

  17. I’m not really all new age-y, but sometimes it does seem like the universe (or maybe our bodies) is telling us what to do. You can’t do it all! It’s funny that picture day did it for you. I do work full time and, yes, picture day has always given me a sense of failure, esp because I can’t do hair, but mostly I just shrug if she wants to wear what she wants. So when she was 2 she insisted on a gold shiny dress w/ her pink sneakers. Oh and she’d fallen the day before so she had a big cut on her chin. Sigh. I just remind myself that self-deprecating humor is my thing so she’s providing me material. 😉

    • Ha! Yes, I hear you Liz. Lifetouch (or whoever it was) actually retouched Bucket Head’s 1st grade photos last year without my consent and he looked like Barbara Walters with an extra camera filter. I WAS SO PISSED! I do want the REAL deal. I want to see the chin boo-boos and the favorite gold dress. But I want those to be choices and not a constant reminder of another thing I forgot as a mom this year. You’re right – we can’t do it all, but this year is particularly kicking my butt. Three cheers for good material though. I’m so with you on that sister! 🙂

  18. Awww, Les. You’re being unnecessarily hard on yourself. That’s just wasted energy. You’re raising 3 well-adjusted kids who will likely look back on those school photos with a smile. How many kids can say they got to wear their dinosaur tshirt for pictures? I happen to think that’s awesome! Very telling of his personality. And that’s a good thing! If you need a change, make sure you do it for you and nobody else. Just trust that the universe will give back to you. There may be a few bumps in the road, but that’s just part of the journey. Make sure you wear your seatbelt…safety first 🙂

    • SO MUCH WASTED ENERGY, El. Yes! Thank you so much. You know I’m wearing my seatbelt and my helmet… probably to a fault. I’m ready, universe! 🙂

  19. Even though kids thrive, it does hurt when you feel like you’re not there for them like you want to be. Hope you get it all sorted and selfishly, I hope it means you’ll be doing more writing! I’ve missed your blog.

  20. You are doing a great job! I have a 25 year old girl and an 11 year old girl. Over the years I have worked, not worked, been in school, been a drop out, work again and now at 53 in school again for my undergrad!! I’ll bet I’ve remembered picture day 5 times between the two, and they still looked like no one had ever brushed their hair or they demanded to wear fairy costumes. The point is- we all do our best but they will blame us for everything anyway! All Moms have “Lipstick On Our Teeth”!!! XO

    • Ha! So true – they really will blame us anyway. That’s a great perspective. I remember “Mini-Me” saying a few years ago, “When I grow up I’m going to have a REAL job, not like Mom’s job.” So there you have it, no matter what you choose, the kids are not going to get it or appreciate it…until they have kids just like them and we get to go, hug, sugar ’em up, AND LEAVE. Mwhahahahaha! Thanks for the “Lipstick” reference. You are my people, Julie.

  21. Wow. Thanks for your honesty and vulnerability. It’s hard to admit when shit ain’t right, and takes huge courage to face the truth when it might mean uncomfortable changes coming or way. Whatever you decide, try and see the trees and the forest, and then the jungle and desert…. oh what the fuck am I saying? I dunno, but my heart goes out to you. Good luck, god speed, and don’t take no shit, sister.

  22. In addition to the love, laughter, and wonderful memories you’ve given your children and shared with us, this post reminds me again of the gift you’ve given us of being real and the you and your husband have given your boys of more laughter when they post their very own version of #tbt (or whatever has replaced hashtags in the future). Looking forward to hearing the awesome that’s in store – even if we have to wait a while.

    • Wow Lauren – great comment. Thank you for this! Oh Lordy, I can’t even imagine what their #tbt will look like… but it reminds me of that funny e-card, “I plan to give you love, nurturing, and just enough dysfunction to make you funny.” Check, please!

  23. I have missed you and am so happy to hear that you are going to make changes to make your life happier. I LOVE your writings and hope to see more in the near future. No pressure though, we do that to ourselves enough. It is astonishing to me how quickly our babies grow into mature adults. I wish you peace and happiness in your upcoming changes.

    • Thank you Peg! I’ve missed this too. Hoping and planning to do more of my own writing and less of the administration stuff, which just sucks me dry. Thanks for sticking around! Peace and happiness sound good. I’ll take it!

  24. I know you can’t bear to hear this right now, but you are enough and we are all blessed to have you in our lives. I want you to find your peace because you give so much. BTW, I can be the vice president of your Miserable Jobs are Not Worth It club or MJANWI. (We’ll work on that.)
    But dangnabbit woman, why did you go and get me to calculate my lost wages?? I would have enough for one heck of a clubhouse by now. 🙂
    Ellen

    • WORD. The lost wages is a kick to the jiggly parts. Sorry about that. And I can’t even fathom how much bigger yours is than mine (and I don’t say that every day.)

      Thanks for being here, Ellen. Serenity now!

  25. I needed to read this. I felt like I was reading my own story.
    Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

    Your sign from God was Lifetouch; mine was from The Bearded Iris. Thank you.

    • HOLY CRAP, Meegan — thank you! What a compliment. And also, sorry that this is your story too, because I know it hurts being in the thick of it and trying to figure out what to do. Thank you so much for being here! We can muddle through together.

  26. Your humor made me cackle in bed and wake my husband more than once. If you need to step back to give more of you to your family and yourself, then that’s a great plan. They should get the best of you.

  27. I have so much to say, but it all boils down to one thing. You need more than 50% happiness. Contentment, satisfaction, whatever you call it. 51%, minimum. If you have even only 49%, it’s not good enough.

    You have my support in all things. Wherever you’re headed.

  28. It’s so important to listen when we feel that tug that something’s not right or that we’re doing too much. For the record, I think they both look adorable, but I get it. I just ordered the soccer pictures of all my kids…from last September.

  29. I get it. Over and over I get it. It’s why I almost never submit stories, ok, never anymore. It’s why I write when I feel like it, because when I had to for something I felt stressed. We don’t make anything doing this. If you do it, it should be because you enjoy it and when you want to. The problem with this advice is that you, YOU are talented. You are a gift to your readers. You inspired me when I found this whole blogging thing. But you don’t owe me, us, the Internet or anyone else anything. You are talented and you should feel good when you do something. I wish there was fairness when it comes to your talents but sadly there isn’t. I was hopeful with ITPR you would figure out how to do that right. You know, make smart and funny women collaborate and make money for all the hard work it takes to put out the quality you put out. What I am realizing there isn’t money to be made. If you can’t do it it can’t be done. Sure, you can make money reviewing margarine but putting funny stories on the Internet is expected to be free.
    Take care of yourself and your kids and share when you feel like it, if you feel like it.
    I say all the time my stories will be here when the kids go off to college. I will drown my sadness in my keyboard.
    Or go out and rock the corporate world. You will too. All this is a learning and growing experience. Someone will realize that and they will win the lottery to have you.
    Keep us posted with your successes. That could be a photo of the kids or a selfie on the way to a new J.O.B. But you don’t have to!
    Kisses and hugs! Oh, you still have to go to Erma. That has to happen. 😉

  30. Being a mom is hard, no matter what you do. You’ll figure out what’s right for you and your family. Sometimes, it takes stepping back to see what’s really important to you before you can make the changes necessary. Wishing you the best of luck and keeping you in my thoughts!

  31. Well reading this just makes me feel like a fucking loser because I have been a stay at home mom for 15 years and have been only blogging 3 of those and I was forgetting picture day way before I started my blog.
    You’re doing good kid. You have a bandwagon waving you down the parade route.

  32. Lifetouch is satan speak for lifecrotch. I promise. I have missed you dearly, as have many of your readers I’m sure. Think of the laughs, the awkward moments, when you bring out the reams of photos that you paid dearly for. It’ll be okay, you got this.

  33. We do miss you because you make us laugh and because we get to be a part of something great- your family. But we also completely understand. You have to be happy- no matter what you are doing. So make the right choice – we’ll still be here.
    And I love Bucket Head’s shirt and hair- it looks great. Plus the jungle background goes with dinosaurs.

  34. this might be my new favorite thing you’re ever written, because it shows important pieces of you you rarely let other people see.
    You know I’m here to help in any way I can, Beardy. I believe in both your mom ability AND your ability to run a kickass website. xoxo

  35. Mary the Oinkteller

    March 28, 2015 at 7:20 am

    I love your posts – they are so honest and relatable. We do the best we can. Some days it’s enough and others…well, as Scarlett said, “Tomorrow is another day!” All the best to you and your family!

  36. I love you, I love you, I love you. Your heart and your gift is beyond beautiful, Leslie. Keep being wonderful, amazing you. xoxoxoxo

  37. OMG Leslie. You could have been writing about me.
    Except I never worked a 100,000 a year career.
    Or have three kids.
    Whatever.
    But I get this to my core.
    On the ride home from Tennessee yesterday, I even said to my husband, ” why am I blogging anymore? What is the big picture?”
    I feel this completely yet I have no idea what exact changes are in store for me.
    I love writing so intensely.
    I love reading YOUR writing, just know that.
    Big fat hugs.

  38. You beautifully brave woman, you. Do right by your heart and you’ll never go wrong. Hugs, Mama! xo

  39. I so, so, so, related to your beautiful post. Sending good thoughts that you find what works for you and your family.

  40. I don’t believe that salary should be the sole measure in your decision. You aren’t measuring the impact of your little business in the broader world, on people who read your blog. I am sure the Lord is speaking to you but maybe the message is about changing your viewpoint not just the job. I often think about parents who work three jobs to support their families and don’t have the option to quit. Pray for clarity of his will for you, not yours. My daughter’s favorite scripture is: God is with you, Mighty Warrior. He is there with you. Let him lead and he will direct you to the path he wants you to follow.

  41. Oh, Leslie, thank you for writing this. You are in my brain.\. I drove to Atlanta yesterday so I could speak for free (again) on writing for bloggers. I quit my lawyer job back in 2000, and my academic job a year ago, to go freelance. I’m on track to earn $4K this year, doing what I “love” but crying every day about how I am a failure as a mother and a provider and as a person who is “following her dream.” The financial cost of those job changes was enormous. I get this. And I don’t know the solution. So I’m here, doing something I love and being paid in a boxed lunch, missing my daughter’s roller derby match and pondering what comes next. xoxo, Cindy

    • Cindy,

      Kuddos to you for doing something you love and your passion for helping others through your writing!! I am working with a group of amazing momprenueurs paving a way to create a lifestyle designed by us moms and never missing that next milestone!! Love to have you join us, moms uniting is a bond nothing can touch!! Keep your passion

  42. Dawn@LightenUp

    March 28, 2015 at 9:34 am

    You never know. You might look back at those pictures one day and laugh. I’m willing to bet your kids are amazingly well-loved and cared for. 🙂
    And hey – at least they’re dressed.

  43. Oh Leslie, I get it! I really do – and I’m not even in the $6000 club:). What the Hell is wrong with me? I hope you find the answers (and share:)). For the record, I think the picture is adorable – and I remembered picture day, but still lost the battle of the shirts with my kids.

    • Oh Allie I totally get it as well!!! Momprenueurs are uniting and reclaiming iur kids and our lifestyle!!! Together we can create that enviroment….Have some moms with a plan if b you are interested in chatting with us we would love to have you!!!

  44. Hi Leslie,

    Your story hits sooo home to me! We juggle it all just for our kids to have it all….kids are only young once and in todays world we need to be there! Kuddos to you for seeing the bigger picture 🙂 If you would like I am in a very successful group of momprenuers and they are showing me a path to a life designed by me provided by God…….this is the most inspirational group of moms I have ever been blessed to meet and call my friends! I am so glad we moms have a way to never miss those moments again…….God is good……

  45. If you’re not sure if you’re screwing up your kids and you’re not scared all the frigging time… You’re not doing it right.

    Right there with you, that’s for sure. We just returned to homeschooling. In high school. Because, clearly, I’ve lost my mind.

    Good luck, Mama. We’re both gonna need it.

  46. I sense a quantum shift among bloggers who have been at ‘this’ for a while. Personally I’ve decided to start living life again- instead of trying to figure out how to grow my readership- or prep a kid for picture day. My kids are grown and I still find myself not returning calls because I have spent too much time online. You’ve been a true inspiration and no matter where your path leads- you still will be.

  47. Priceless! I’m sorry you’ve been under so much stress. You know, this internet/blog thing doesn’t really bring in the dough. It brings in the love, the fulfillment but no $$. You’re a wonderful mom!! I’ll be waiting to hear your decision. I’ve sure missed your blog here and it looks like many have. Nice to hear from you Leslie. Hang in there. 🙂

  48. I have long admired you, Leslie, and this just reinforced that. As I look around at the piles of unfolded laundry, food on the floor from breakfast, and my kids engrossed in game screens, I get this so hard. How can I be failing at this? Even if motherhood isn’t a job, it sure as hell isn’t a hobby. After 8 years of being home with my kids, how do I still not have a handle on how to balance everything? Be proud that you have helped create something amazing with ITPR, and beyond. And know that your fans are eager to see the new trail you blaze. ox

  49. Oh my gosh, I love this so much. I needed to read this today. I too occasionally do the math about the cost of my lost stock options and six-figure job that I left 10 years ago to become a stay at home mom.

    I never questioned the value of being a stay at home mom and for me, that ‘loss’ is worth it. But now that the kids are in school full time I have a new equation: How much do I need to make to feel like I’m contributing to the family while the kids are at school, but still be available for sick days/field trips and justify the $0 income of my blogging gig. I just found a contract position that seems to be a good fit but it’s all a balancing act that I continually hope that I’m not messing up.

    For what it’s worth, I think his photo is adorable, you’re doing great….and there’s always retake day. 😉

  50. Thank you for sharing something so personal and poignant. In 21 years with my husband, I took 6 years off. The first 3 because he got custody of his two kids and we had a baby, and the next 3 when the “baby” was in middle school with emotional problems after his older siblings grew up and moved out. Instead of being supportive of my being home to parent, I was constantly put down for not “contributing”. 21 years was enough and now I single parent my teenager and dad stays out of the picture. You have to follow your heart because they grow up so fast. Give yourself a break and do what makes you happy. You are inspiring!

  51. Oh Iris, I have so missed you, but I confess I sort of forgot about you so you can imagine my excitement when I went to my email to see if my accountant has sent me the bad tax news and found an email from you!! You got me through a few very bad years of my life by making me laugh, sometimes until I cried and held my stomach.

    I know the pull of trying to “succeed” at a money paying gig. I know the feeling of failing everywhere and I know that being a stay at home mom and supportive wife is the best job in the world. Take it!! You are not less because you are not accomplishing something out there. Accomplishing at home is enough. You are enough.

    Looking forward to more emails letting me know there is a new blog post. I could probably give you some fodder now that youngest daughter, former Marine SIL who is going blind and the two granddaughters, 7 months and age 6 now are living with us here in Northern California!!

  52. Whatever you decide to do, it will be the right thing, just like it was the last time. I think each big decision puts us on course, and sometimes when we drift, we just need a little wake-up call to see if we’ve drifted a bit or totally got off on the wrong exit. (And who says you wouldn’t have chosen the jungle background, even with days and days of contemplation to do it? 😉 )

  53. Your story came at a perfect time for me. My 53rd birthday was this week and birthdays always make me reflect upon my life so far. I was actually feeling kind of down because I have always chosen to work part time and spend the remaining time focusing on my kids, husband and volunteer work. It’s been a good life, but when I compare what I have done “career” wise with some other colleagues and friends, I feel like kind of a loser who did not live up to her “potential.” However, I have raised three children to adulthood and they have turned out to be pretty amazing people (or at least that is what other people tell us!) that are contributing members of society and still have a happy marriage after 27 years. I rarely missed a game, school event or a field trip. (Unfortunately, their school photos were always a crapshoot regardless of how hard I tried to have them look nice for them! ) Your story made me realize I should be grateful for those experiences and memories, since not all women even have the choice to not work full time. I honestly feel it is impossible to have it all without having a nervous breakdown.

  54. WWFPOD? What would Fisher Price Oprah do?

  55. Leslie,
    You really nailed it with this one. (And I didn’t realize how much I missed and loved your posts until the happy name showed up in my inbox)

    You are a terrific mama, one that makes sacrifices for her kids, but then knows when she is overextended and your family needs you more.

    I’ve been working on my big change (not menopause) at NML and it is hard to make such huge shifts. I feel with your notice that our periods are aligned or something. Best of luck to you. You are so talented that you will do well no matter your path!

  56. I get this. I really do. One year, despite my best efforts, (which clearly weren’t enough) my son, Max, brought home what will forever be referred to as The Ted Koppel pictures. Motherhood and the pursuit of our dreams and passions is a helluva juggling act and while it’s often rewarding, it’s also fraught with fruitlessness in the financial category. So many things weighing on our shoulders; how can we spend more time with our kids and successfully run a household while meeting the seemingly endless demands of a highly competitive chosen field? I have to admit, I don’t have the answers. But from my years of attempting to navigate those waters, I do know this: you have to do it because you love it and only because you love it. And you have to do what your heart tells you. Also, we all need to go easy on ourselves. Perfection is an unattainable pain in the ass Martha-ism goal. You’re not sucking at anything. You’re winning. Like tiger-blood winning. Go get ’em Iris. RAWR! XO

  57. I struggle w pretty much the same everyday. I have 2 boys, 10 & 5. I leave for work everyday at 5 am before they are even awake, and usually not home until 4/5 pm. At which time it’s time to make dinner, wash the dishes, make the lunches for the next day, baths showers all of a sudden it’s 9pm and time for everyone to go to bed – I “try” to be organized and connected, but somehow, there’s always a beat missed. Picture day, pretzel day, candy gram, you name it. Glad to know I’m not the only one that feels this way. I’ve never commented on a blog post before, but this one hit home- on something I think about EVERY day- all I can say is my kids are healthy, happy, and say I’m their “favorite Mom”. So must be doing something right. We make the most of our weekends, filling them with family adventures. This past summer was a blast- we did something new every weekend. But created a lifetime of memories. All you working moms hang in there. You’re not alone- there’s no “right way” to do parenthood. Just keep your kids safe, healthy, and above all happy- always kiss them goodnight and goodbye before you leave for work (even if they’re sleeping)- sometimes you’ll catch a smile from your little nuggets even if snoring away)

  58. We ARE our own worst critics. This is A W E S O M E ! ! ! !

  59. I’ve missed you so much. I love ITPR, but I love a happy Leslie more. Whatever you decide to do, remember, you’ve got the love and support of a lot of people behind you, and some friends that will be there for you with whatever you need.
    Now. Hug Buckethead for me.

  60. Leslie, Last night at dinner my husband and I stared wordlessly at each other after I reminded him that out little kids are now 18 and 20.
    “How the f*ck did that happen?” he asked.
    It goes fast. So, so fast. So although I don’t think my two cents are worth much more than about, oh, you know, two cents, I think you are absolutely headed in the right direction. Whether or not you decide to continue along the same path, the important thing is that you are pausing to decide what is best for you and your family instead of just taking the path of least resistance. You know what Yogi Berra says… “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Glad to hear from you here!! xoxo

  61. I felt every push and pull you described- probably because I’m in the same boat. I wish you peace in your decisions and fulfillment in your days. xxoo

  62. If you are more stressed than happy, it sounds like you need a change…and not because of a school picture. Follow your heart and all will be right with the world. You’re doing a good job, Momma!

  63. LESLIE! I HAVE MISSED YOU SO MUCH. And, you made me cry.

  64. I actually love In The Powder Room but sadly this post was awful. Why are we lauding your 360° failure? I have coworkers who dreamt of quiting the 9-5 to be SAHMs, and once they saw that wish fulfilled, they excelled at it. You didn’t want to stay home (at a huge finance loss to your entire family) to be a full time mother, you wanted to stay home (with the excuse of your family needing you) to fulfill your own selfish desire of being your own boss and having your own business. Well, kudos to you for having the intelligence and cunning to carve a spot for yourself in an overpopulated digital world, but don’t fuel your popularity on the BS story of needing to be a mother first, and a slave to the American dollar second. I’m sorry to have read this post as I had been praising this page.

    • Jessica Tilley Hodgman

      March 29, 2015 at 11:31 pm

      Hello, Rachel. I’m a friend of The Bearded Iris. I’m also a dedicated mother and I struggle with my decision to stay-at-home with the children I love more than all-the-rest combined. Still, every day, I feel the void left by the all-the-rest that I chose to set aside. I know I am not alone in this.

      Rachel, you took time out of your day to call Iris on, as you put it, her, “BS story of needing to be a mother first and slave to the American dollar second.” I wonder why you did this. You clearly missed the heart of her thoughtful post, and you exhibited perverse unkindness in the process.

      For all of the rest of us women, who have not failed, but who have looked at the paradox of our extraordinary & complex lives, wept through our bravest decisions, and laughed through our heartbreakings, we respect Iris’s vulnerability and we laud her courage. Rachel, I hope you wake up to generosity and empathy. You’ve failed to extend either to Iris at her time of courageous truth-telling. You chose to hurl ignorant judgment instead. In that, you have failed, by any standard.

      Iris–it’s clear by the rest of these posts, you are loved & supported in your struggle. You’re not alone. And you are wonderful. XOXO

  65. There was this giant weight lifted off of me when I read this. To hear that someone in the same position as me (though much more successful) is having these same feelings I have been dealing with is freeing. How often I have wondered if time spent on social media is even worth it. How tired I am of feeling scattered, of feeling tremendous pressure to turn all our life events into a blog post or funny status update or Instagram photo without feeling like I am really experiencing them at all. I want to continue doing what I love, which is writing, but at what cost? Thank you so much for writing this. I feel I have found a new kindred spirit.

  66. I can’t even tell you how much I relate to this. From an outsider looking in, I have to say — I think both pictures are precious. Do they look like they’re ready for a GQ photo shoot? No. But they look happy and healthy and just damn CUTE. However. As one perfectionist work-from-home mom to another, I totally get your frustration and your feeling like you’re drowning in your own inability to Do It All. We can do it all, just not all at the same time, right? So identify today’s priorities and figure out what can be moved aside until tomorrow (or next year). You will figure it out. You’ll find a way to get back to the balance that your mind and body and career and family need. You got this.

  67. Jumped over here as soon as I saw you posted.

    I don’t know what to say to you, except never change, Leslie. Stay honest. We, your community of friends, will keep you afloat. Oh, and this, “Better to have tried than to live a life of regret.” We try, I keep trying and you keep trying, we all keep trying. There is no perfect answer, and there is always the black to the white… but we keep trying. Let’s see what sticks to the wall together! I love, you, lady.

  68. I have so missed your post and emails!!!

  69. I have 3 boys and ever since I got the baby picture of my 3rd son with hair clicked back by water (by the daycare workers), teary pink-rimmed eyes and his bottom lip stuck out so far he could step on it (he was about 18 months old), I’ve looked at school pics as an adventure. I’ve run the gamut – giant boog in nose, got into water fight 5 minutes before going to pictures (in a yellow t-shirt; hair sopping wet, looking like he was in a wet t-shirt contest), bbq sauce on carefully picked out polo shirt (and it was a GREAT pic of him – what school gives kids bbq sauce at lunch on PICTURE DAY?). This latest round, my middle child decided to pick a zit on his forehead the day before pics. It’s the first thing you notice and he’s only 11. Each year, my friends and family eagerly awaited what tragedy/debacle would befall one, two or all 3 of my boys on “school picture day.” It became an exciting event! If all 3 came out looking great (which has probably only occured TWICE, EVER), I felt like I won the lottery. And guess what – I bought every single one and shared every single one. Even the boog one. Because as long as you weren’t lookin’ at the 8×10, it wasn’t TOTALLY noticeable. Anyway, you’ll look back on all those pics and get a good laugh one day. I know I will.

  70. Well, I quit teaching to stay home. Been here 8 years and have created two more humans. I make no money and still can’t get my act together. Failing. Falling. Trying to prioritize. What to do when it ALL seems important???? Sometimes, I call an audible and just say screw it and take my kids outside to play. It’s more fun out there! It will be fiiiiiiiiiiiine. In the meantime, trying to make my yes-Es I’m life take second place to my…let me actually think about it and get back to you. It’s a season. A very long season, but I’ve watched others and they are lamenting that it has passed.

  71. Just saw this on the news tonight. nbcnews.com/nightly-news/video/time-spent-with-kids-may-not-impact-their-success-420373059712

  72. I know it wasn’t the intent, but this just feels like another opportunity to point out how lacking we are if we do anything other than caring for our kids. Who cares if kids school pics aren’t perfect. I know that we need to respect each others choices. I just find most stay at home mom’s look down their noses at working moms

    • That really wasn’t my intent, Sandy, you’re right about that, but I can see how it might feel that way. I’ve done all three: work in an office with kids in day care (and then kids at home with Dad), stay home with kids (no job), and work from home. Every single scenario has its rewards, challenges, and frustrations. I also realize that I have the luxury of choosing to be at home and work for peanuts because a.) my husband has a good job, and b.) we’ve made lifestyle choices that minimize our expenses. Not everyone has those choices and yes, we should all just respect each others’ choices and know that everyone is just doing the best they can with what they know and have.

      The school pics are just a symbol to me of the larger problem in my home right now: me spending too much time and energy trying to build a business that isn’t feeding either my pockets or my soul, and seeing the concrete proof of me not putting more effort into the care of my children (because of the hair and clothes), even though I am here at home, was the slap I needed to realize my priorities have gone astray. This is just about me and my choices and my current struggles trying to do too much. It’s definitely not a commentary about anyone else’s choices.

      Thanks for reading it though and taking the time to comment.
      Leslie

  73. I read this post on my phone the day you posted it but commenting from my phone is a PITA and I haven’t been reading/commenting on blogs for months now.

    Still.

    I had to come back today and tell you I read, I laughed, I loved it.
    Every bit of this. (Including Violet Crawley was such a win I can’t stand it.)

    Your words and wit are perfect. Every time.

  74. All you are missing is perspective. Like, for one example, when your sons are 30 you will be astonished (as I am) at how darling and wonderful they look in those pictures.

  75. Wel, a mom’s gotta do whst a mom’s gotta do. Just know that your fans miss yoy,

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