Shut Down, and other Common Ailments of the Working Mother/Writer

October 1, 2010

I have a shut down problem.

I firmly believe the term “shut down” should be added to that big medical book of ailments. This condition is real and completely underrated. It is more powerful than originally thought, because it does not affect the physical body but the MIND.

Reminds me of Einstein’s famous theory:  “ An object in motion stays in motion.” Quite brilliant this gravity thing.  If only my mental gravity could catch up with my physical gravity. I used to blame things on my “older” body, but I experienced a light-bulb moment recently.

 My mind is just as weak as my body. I think, sometimes, even more so. Many times my body is quite willing to do the work, but my mind just experiences SHUT DOWN.

Let’s explore the theory.

I had a hard day. Crawled out of bed at the crack of dawn with a hint of the common cold. Amazing how I can take a stomach virus or kick ass flu better than the annoyance of a common cold. Seems so insidious – like a snake that slowly slithers through your body, taking out one organ at a time. It’s slow torture and makes you feel like a big baby for wanting to sink into bed and drink chicken soup and watch soap operas. But of course, you can’t because you are not REALLY sick, you just have a cold.

Sorry, I digress.

Anyway, up with the cold, and find out my son has once again wet his bed. I smell pee all the time. In my sleep, at work, the scent clings to me no matter how much I bathe him or myself. Both my kids wet the beds: my bed, their beds, the couch if they fall asleep.  I do laundry a million times per week, and change the sheets every day. So, I get him up, change the sheets, do my thing, get caught in traffic so it takes me an hour and forty five minutes to get to work in a tropical storm while my little red car shakes on the edge of the bridge and I still drive 80 because I am late AGAIN. Bad day – no repeat needed. Come home in the same tropical storm with flooded roads and trucks skidding around me. Greeted my adorable kids in half naked state wielding fake swords and smashing everything in sight. Eat, clean up, and take stock of the house.

Trashed. Toy boxes upended in the creative need to make a fort.  Art boxes dumped  with an amazing display of crayons, markers, playdoh and unnamed things that crunch underfoot. Clothes limply hanging out of the drawers in an effort to find the right pair of pajamas for their stuffed animals to wear. The boys begin jumping on beds since the day wasn’t enough time to get out the energy needed to be emitted from two little boys. Check email – over 50 messages from the previous evening. Blog to do, other blogs to check, short story deadline at midnight that never got done, marketing proposal for another project, and research reading to still accomplish. Husband asking me when we can start the new Netflix movie so he can return it promptly tomorrow to receive another one I won’t have time to watch.

And I feel it coming.


I sat on the couch, pulled the Spiderman blanket over me, and just stared at the wall.  My husband skidded by, eyes wild, asking me when I was going to help clean up, get the kids undressed, finish my work and settle down. I told him I was done, the kids could stay up as late they want, pee all they want, and I would not remove one thing from the floors. I have decided I will be on the show Hoarders, because that is the beginning of what my house now looks like. My physical body, cold withstanding, could normally accomplish these feats in under an hour.

But my mind waved the white flag.

I surrendered. I was depleted. Done.

I promptly found the carton of ice cream, used a bowl because of my germs, and dug in. Then hit my list for the 100 shows I have DVRd but have not gotten to yet. Say yes to the Dress, Project Runaway, Parenthood, Survivor, the list was completely delicious and went on and on….

Shut down has happened to me before. My husband truly fears this ailment like the sinking of the Titantic. He even watches my eyes glaze over and yells at me “Please not the chair- don’t do it – don’t shut down!” But by that time, it’s usually too late and he ends up alone.

Too much going on and too little time to do it. My boys have beaten me. How they are able to imitate actual gremlin behavior while still looking cute like Gizmo is beyond me. But they manage.  So, tonight, I surrender.

I will write another night. I’ll miss this short story deadline, but there will be another. Maybe next week I will clean my house. I may even cook again. But not now. Probably not tomorrow. I need to hit the restart button, like my poor little computer who gets overloaded with all the searches and Bings and Yahoos I consistently ask her (my computer, my best friend)  to manage. Sometimes, she just goes blank, with a little flashing logo, and after the panic attack, I realize I just need to SHUT DOWN and hit RESTART.

This is an important writing lesson, which we normally term burn out. When you try to write consistently – every day is the ultimate goal – sometimes you reach a point where the mind cannot keep up with the constant lure of ideas, deadlines, and various calls for creative inspiration and time. Sometimes, you really do have to take a day or night off and come back fresh.  The key is not to wait too long, or the wonderful gravity thing just blows up in your face. Watch a movie, read, eat ice cream. Just one day. It is amazing what can be accomplished tomorrow, and how you realize a few hours lost in productivity can be a real trophy in your life.

And boy, sometimes I love a good sulk. Poor me. Poor, overworked, tired, mommy me needs a night off.

I am watching Alice in Wonderland with the boys tonight. Then I’m going to finish my romance novel, take some cold remedy (my grandmother used to give me whiskey, they now call it Nyquil) and sleep like a baby.


PS: Don’t leave me out here alone guys. Please admit you do this yourselves or my husband really will convince me I am crazy.

❤️ Leave a comment → 


  1. Theresa says:

    I know I don’t have kids or a husband but sometimes I shut down as well. Maybe with all the job hunting and feeling bad about myself not being about to get anything or just to tire to keep moving on. That is when I can’t even get out of bed falling asleep while watching tv at 12 noon what the heck is that? I am sorry to hear that you are not feeling well and I really hope you get feel better soon.

  2. jennifer121 says:

    Thanks, love! We all shut down and I think we need to embrace the feeling instead of always thinking we need to accomplish things. We need to tell ourselves it is ok up to a point. And never preface saying you don’t have kids and a husband – life is hard all the way around at every point in life. The good part? You have the best friends in the world who love you – like me!!!!

  3. I hear ya, Jennifer. I try to balance being a wife, mom and nurse with writing but it’s darn near impossible sometimes, lol! And having a cold makes you feel miserable 🙁 I hope you feel better soon. Sometimes I feel guilty for reading instead of writing, but we all need time to recharge, right?

  4. Hey! Love the new look. I know I’ve been out of it, but when did all this happen. The picture of Mom and kids is great!

    • jennifer121 says:

      HI Taryn, Thanks! Took an online class about blogging and I am trying to update it to make it a little more attractive/interactive. Still more to go but I am so glad you like it! Just did it so you did not miss much!

  5. Carol says:

    Ah, the shut down. Not just feeling tired, but also miserable, even if I know I have a good life, I can’t shake the feeling that I don’t. That kind of mood, as my friend’s mother used to say, should be treated like a cold: go to bed and sleep it off.

    ps. We’re toilet training now and sometimes I don’t change the sheets on a wet bed only to get wet again the next night. The plastic I’ve put on it protects the mattress underneath and I’ll let the sheets dry during the day and throw a towel on top so my son has a fresh layer to sleep on. Didn’t I read somewhere that urine is sterile? Don’t tell anyone.

  6. Carol says:

    Oops, just posted a comment but realize you might not know who I am – it’s Carol from The Kings and I (

    Hope you feel better in a couple of days.

  7. jennifer121 says:

    Hi Carol, Love it , love it, love it. I DID hear urine is sterile! And I do have plenty of mattress protectors on the bed already. Clever thinking! And of course I know who you are – I love your blog and check it regularly. Will link yours to mine. I feel better today because yesterday was so far gone there was no way to even salvage it. I am going to try desperately to get my boys out of the house to do anything – they need to run off some energy. Have a good week!

  8. Hey, Jennifer,

    Yep. I do it ALL the time. The messes my boys make. Ugh. I will get better though.

    I am sooooo glad you found me on my blog. E-mail me so we can keep in touch.

    Or I’ll just stalk you here. 🙂


  9. Wendy Marcus says:

    Hi Jen!
    I LOVE the new blog. It’s so YOU! I’m a little late in commenting so I hope by the time you read this you’re feeling better. It’s important to take time out for you. Your house will not implode if it’s not cleaned on a daily (or even weekly basis). I’ve tested this out. Your children will not suffer from eating pizza three nights in a row. When you feel a little stronger, get this bedwetting thing under control. Talk to your doctor, limit fluid intake after dinner, do not let them nap on the couch or even the carpet. Teach them to take time out to pee on a regular basis ie. before they sit down to watch a movie. It will make your life so much easier. And hang in there. I speak from experience when I say, “It WILL get better.”

  10. jennifer121 says:

    Thanks, Wendy – I wanted to personalize it a bit more. And thanks for the pep talk – still feeling like crap so called in sick. Jake actually did not wet the bed last night – hooray! My friend said he is sleeping so deeply since he started school that he’s now bed wetting and to try waking him up right before I go to bed and take him to the bathroom. Am going to try that. He doesn’t have accidents during the day and I don’t want to put him in a pull up – he may like it too much!!! Hope you have a good day!

  11. Paige Morgan says:

    I am currenlty in shut down mode. I can’t write, I have a million posts started and can’t get one finished. All I want to do is sleep and browse blogs. I am going to restart any minute now…

  12. jennifer121 says:

    OK, I completely understand – I am with you! It’s ok if you dont’ restart. I think you need a break. You are productive and amazing and need a night off. Take it. Let’s talk about a guest blog and maybe we can give each other a posting break – it will be fun. Read a book and watch a Lifetime movie – I promise it will get better!!!

  13. This happens to me all the time. In some periods of life more frequently than others – you are not alone in the shutting down.

    And you’ve got way more to cause a shut down than I do!

    • jennifer121 says:

      It is so nice to hear from you! I think we all shut down – it is part of being human – and what is amazing is the fortitude we all have to get back up again. Maybe not right away – but we always get up! Really liked your blog – will comment soon.

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