Q&A: The slog

Anonymous writes:

“Is it normal to be a little depressed by the never-ending cycle/gauntlet of tasks that are involved in having a full-time job and being a spouse and parent? Every day feels like a slog. Sometimes it’s a happy slog. But more often than not, the thought of the sheer number of things that have to get done — laundry, grocery shopping, bills, commuting, work, bedtime routines, the whole lot — feels like a real grind, and it often leaves me weary and just bummed out by it all. I’m not someone who procrastinates or shirks responsibility, so that’s not it. But people don’t talk about it all that much, so I don’t know if that weary and bummed feeling is normal, or if it’s a sign of depression. I’m not asking anyone to diagnose me with anything, I’d just like to hear from other people on how they feel about the constant treadmill of tasks, and perhaps even how they gain some relief from those gunky feelings.”

You asked not to be diagnosed and I can’t diagnose anyone with anything anyway, but as a person who lives with depression, I know that when my depression is in remission the daily routine feels busy and annoying and stressful but fine, and like there’s something to look forward to every day. When I’m in a phase of depression, the daily routine feels like a slog and like every day is the same, and like it’s all demoralizing and futile.

Which is to say that yes, I know what you mean. Right now it doesn’t feel that way for me, but it has during many times in the past. And it wasn’t about shirking responsibility at all. Depression isn’t laziness, and it isn’t a choice to be “in a bad mood.” It’s an illness that makes daily life dull and painful, and makes normal tasks require more effort than they do when you’re not depressed and for people who aren’t depressed.

Also: sometimes depression is a totally normal reaction to crappy circumstances. If you’re doing way too much, or your work is disappointing, or your relationship is having problems, or your kids are going through tough ages, then yes, it’s a normal reaction. But it’s still depression, and it still hurts.

When I feel myself sliding into mild depression I do the things that I know from experience work for me to get myself out of it–I start doing core exercises (Pilates or barre or T-Tapp or yoga) every day; I make sure I’m supplementing B vitamins, C vitamins, magnesium, and Omega 3s; I try to get eight hours of sleep (and I take Calms Forte to stop the racing thoughts); I got outside into the sunshine every day that there’s sunshine; I talk to other people; I ask other people to hug me long tight hugs (not the short perfunctory kind, but the long tight therapeutic kind. If someone will give me a massage or backrub that’s even better, even if it’s just 15 minutes); I drink enough water.

For me, doing those things for two weeks gets me out of the mild depression. For you they might not get you fully out of depression, but they should give you enough emotional space to talk to the people who love you about getting treatment.

I know other people are reading this and thinking Anonymous is telling their story. Thoughts?

23 thoughts on “Q&A: The slog”

  1. I find that the daily grind only gets me down when I think too much about it, although I do think it has an intensely wearing effect on me. I was just running through it for my husband – every day the same, get up, make coffee, make all the lunches, oversee breakfast, force the kids to brush their teeth, struggle into the car, drop them off, go to work, come home, start dinner, serve dinner, start the bedtime routine, read books, get them into bed, do the dishes, collapse. Lather, rinse, repeat. I’m on my own during the week for over half the year, so that’s my life. It’s not fun, and I’m exhausted. Sometimes I think about the Buddhist teachings about mindfulness, slowing down time, being present in each activity. Holding onto to each joyful moment that I’m able to have with my kids. One evening we made muffins, and it was so much fun, even though it meant I had a big mess to clean up in the kitchen. Try to separate the jobs from the relationships, and find space for finding some happiness or peace from the relationships in my life. Soldiering through the rest of the days when I can’t quite get there, contentment wise.

  2. Pick me! Pick me! Yes. The daily grind kills me. I wish I could be home. Working from home. In fact, I think I might Friday just to change things up a little.
    Get up, water, feed dog, let dog go back to bed with husband. Breakfast, drive kid to school on the way to work, work, leave to take kids to activities, sit in a rink, do exercise, empty dishwasher, laundry, nag kids to make lunches… Sigh…
    I try to do things for me, but it is hard.
    I used to work at home on a regular basis, but right now, that is nearly impossible. I do have depression, so I have to be careful about that and I do find that it gets better at some points.

    For me, the difference between slog and depression is if I want to take care of me. When I no longer care about me, basic things like washing my face in the morning, or just breathing to relax, I am falling into a depression. Otherwise, I’m just overwelmed.

  3. Two parent WOH household here with one child in 2nd grade. I can totally relate to "the slog." Here is what helps me cope, and I don’t suffer from depression (although my husband has controlled depression/anxiety issues): I’m SO fortunate that I have a cushy job. I work with funny, happy people, doing something I enjoy and am good at and am challenged just enough. I rarely get overly stressed at this job. Sure, it’s still a job and sometimes it’s annoying, but most of the time it’s great. My commute is longer than I’d like it to be, but it’s a pleasant commute of back roads through farms and woods and such. I also have an understanding workplace, so there is no problem if I need to WFH or not work due to family or household issues (snow days, sickness, appointments, etc.). That is probably not helpful though because it’s pure luck that I have this type of arrangement. I think my personality also meshes well with routine. I enjoy and thrive on knowing exactly what’s coming next and what has to be done. It’s not always fun of course, but it is predictable and that is comforting to me. I am a planner so I always know what we are having for dinner the week ahead so there is no last minute guesswork and stress over that. I mean, I still have to cook dinner, but at least I don’t have to think too much about it. I also plan in left overs for a couple of nights so I have the night off from cooking. On those nights, I’ll make an effort to spend more quality time with my family (which usually just means cuddling on the couch watching TV), but we all need that down time. I also allow myself plenty (probably too much) Facebook time, but it’s a real mood booster for me as well. I’m sorry if that is not practical advice.

  4. Similarly to Magda – my daily routine feels stressful and busy but as soon as I start to describe it as a slog I know I’m having depressive/anxiety symptoms and I need to IMMEDIATELY get more sleep. This is easier said than done, especially with kids, I know. That’s why a lot of my marathon baby years with sleep-hating children was a slog. But not getting enough sleep mimics AND exacerbates depressive symptoms, and so often when I start having those anxiety waking nightmares or feeling like everything in life is a slog and what’s the point, I start trying to go to bed at least an hour earlier for a few nights and every time except once it goes away. (that once was a time that I did end up going to a therapist, and I only went for 5 weeks, and I hated GOING but I loved HER and I loved the outcome which was learning tons of methods of reframing my stressors so I didn’t have to keep going for that long.)

  5. The daily routine IS a slog. I am a WOH mother of kids aged 7 and 10, in elementary school. In some ways it’s more of a slog now that they are in school, because halleluia, everyone sleeps at night, but with homework and activities (and we are not overscheduled by any means – each kid has one usual weekly activity, and then soccer season exhausts us), there is like no time at all. I mean, write out what you do every day for a week, and if you don’t objectively think it’s kind of insane, I congratulate you. I leave the house solo at 7:25am and get home with kids at 6pm, and have to do all the normal family life stuff in the rest of the time we’re awake. It’s hard.

    How am I sure it’s a slog? I was unemployed for 10 months a year ago. Daily life was SO MUCH EASIER and more enjoyable. (There were bad things about it – for me, not having meaningful work outside of family life leads to depression) but there was just more time to take time to TEACH the children to make their lunches themselves instead of doing it for them because we need to get out the door, do homework after school so when my husband got home we could have family dinner and family time (like reading aloud together!) I miss it. Part-time meaningful work would be ideal for me, but doesn’t really exist in my field.

  6. I’m not sure if you’re depressed or just in the "sloggy" phase of parenting. Maybe both or maybe just one. I think "the slog" is not something that gets talked about much in the mainstream media/blogs, but it very much exists. I feel it often enough that I’ve decided to call it mind-numbing. It doesn’t mean I don’t love my kids/husband/life choices, it just means that right now there is no break to all the tasks that need to be done and the people who need ME to do them. Can that cause one to become depressed or to uncover a pre-existing depression? sure. And it’s probably a good idea to look into it a little bit. But, I just wanted you to know that there are lots of us who feel like we’re in a never-ending cycle of everything you’re talking about. Other parents- those who have older kids- frequently tell me that this is not uncommon and that it will end someday. I have hope that that’s true! I also find that during the winter -when there is so much inside time, not as many activities or sunshine- my "bummed" feelings are greater. Take hope that this won’t be your life forever and if you have a little nagging voice in your head that says what you’re feeling might be something more, have courage to act on that voice.

  7. Exactly what Moxie describes, down to the propensity for mild depression, the role of sleep and Pilates and Omega 3s, et al. I also use a light box when it’s gray, which seems to help with the slog/depression peaking in the fall. Now, I’m very lucky in one way – both my husband and I work from home, so while there’s still a ton to do, much slogginess (commuting, having to dress like a grownup and be ready to hide my feelings in a Bizness Environment) is avoided. I am very aware that I’ve traded the resulting significant money anxiety for the extreme likelihood of depression that comes whenever I’ve held an office job… but it’s far better for me/my family this way. And… I resent, and continually must work against, the slog imbalance – my husband is extremely egalitarian in theory when it comes to valuing our work equally and sharing the sloggy bits, but I’m still the one who picks up the slack when he slides off after a few weeks or months, and the one who says "I’m feeling like I’m doing too much – time to rebalance the chores again."

  8. "write out what you do every day for a week, and if you don’t objectively think it’s kind of insane, I congratulate you."

    Yes, this! I call it the Done List. I started it when T. was a baby – if I’m feeling overwhelmed, or beating myself up for being unproductive, I write down everything I’ve done that day (everything from # loads of laundry washed and folded to client calls made to kid bathed to my own writing revised, to my own shower taken). Reminds me that in actuality, I (like you) am a goddamn Wonder Woman.

  9. I hear you. SO much. I come at it from a different perspective, as I work full time, but from home. So my daily slog involves getting up at the same time, the husband and I getting everyone fed and dressed in the morning (except me…I am forever in yoga pants and a hoodie in this phase of life), husband going to work, me getting the kids to school, coming home to work, picking kids up from school, dinner, bedtime routine, repeat. Sure there are a lot of perks to working from home, but not really leaving the house all day and not getting dressed ‘for real’ for days in a row gets really, really old. Even on the weekends we have our routine that has to happen–various weekly errands, house chores, nap times for the kids, etc. Come summer it will include lawn mowing and the rest of all that. Finding time for anything interesting–a zoo trip, swimming class, weekend trip out of town–feels nearly impossible some times. Our constant battle is that my husband works downtown, and therefore loves his weekend down time to just be at home, even if we’re working through chores and routine there. I feel a huge need to get out, do something, go somewhere, mainly because I’ve been in this damn house all day, every day. So yeah, I feel you. I’m hoping that warmer weather will help me get out of this funk, and I’m doing my best to try and incorporate some exercise during the week to break things up.

  10. Slog happens. For me it’s worst when there is too much sameness. I say that I feel strapped in to a ride I can’t stop. I change what I can. It might mean taking a vacation day or arranging to leave work early. It might mean taking even a slightly different route on the commute. It might mean taking a break from a conventional dinner and just having nacho night. It might mean planning something to look forward to. Whatever helps to break it up, is good.

    Finally, right now is the sloggiest time of the year. Slush, cold, gray skies, head colds, imminent spring break making school age kids testy…they all make it feel harder than it has to be.

  11. Slog seems to go in cycles for me. I stay at home with our two boys, and right now the little one is so 3.5 that I want to pack him up and send him off to boarding preschool. I let myself spiral down with thoughts of going back to work and not having any idea what "work" is. It distracts me from the work that is right in front of me, which makes chores pile up and depression creep in. It all seems so endlessly mind numbing. Anyway, what gets me out of it is reading inspirational self help books and blogs. The guy I’m into right now addresses the feeling of not having any passion for life by starting with a passion for self care. So that’s what I’m doing right now. Reading and taking care of myself. And it gives me the space to reframe the rest of my life and not see it as a slog. And I’m getting in pretty good shape, which feels great. So that’s my two cents. Slog = take better care of yourself.

    1. Second the request for the author about a passion for self-care! Would also love any other rec’s for inspirational reading to get through the slog.

  12. I’m glad to hear others feeling the same way! I had a big ‘slog’ from the fall through the early part of the year, and I’m still dealing with lack of inspiration and focus at work. It was not only the chores, but also the emotional drain of the family, which includes an ailing parent at my house. I feel like I am the emotional center of the household. All crappy feelings come to me to be soothed and straightened out, but no one is there to hear my crappy feelings.
    One thing that helped during the sloggiest time this winter was writing 3 things I was grateful for at the end of each day. That was surprisingly helpful. It didn’t change the load but it made it a bit lighter. Getting enough sleep helps, but it is a constant struggle for me to do. A big help for me is to shift tasks to a lower stress time period. On weekends, I start dinner prep (chopping, etc.) after breakfast, since that’s a time the kids play well together. We make lunch the night before, and we have the kids choose clothes the afternoon before, when they are less tired, etc.
    I just wish I weren’t so tired . . . .

  13. Would it be possible for you to outsource any of the slog? We have a babysitter who comes in the morning and helps me get the older kids off to school (and then stays to take care of the baby). She packs lunches while I get myself ready to go to work, and during the day does the dishes and empties the dishwasher. She also does the kids’ laundry during naptime. Her doing those tasks makes my day feel like a lot less of a grind. We are also working on getting the kids to clear the table after dinner, as a segue into their eventually doing dishes…we can dream, right? I also know a family whose kids are older (so no need for a fulltime babysitter) and has a college student come every evening after dinner for an hour or two to clean up, do laundry, and do whatever other organizational tasks they need done. It’s not a huge amount of money, and it might help your sense of how much has to be done even if you could get some help one or two nights a week.

  14. When the slog hits me, I circle my wagons – cut off anything or anyone that isn’t adding positive to my life and then I spend more time with my kids. Not a lot of time is required, seriously like 20 minutes doing something that will not produce any tension. Like I just sit and listen to her talk, or sit while she plays in the sandbox. Or take my son for a walk. A reminder of how amazing things are when the requirements are stripped away. That’s it really. It’s not a cure-all, but it’s a small, easy way to keep the slog at bay.

  15. For me, the slog hits in the down time between stuff. So, this time of year is especially bad: Holidays are over and there aren’t any (planned) days off or events until Spring Break. Snow days just throw off the schedule and stress me out. They don’t help with the slog because they aren’t planned (you can’t really get excited about them after a certain point). I try to plan exciting things to look forward to (date night, museum trip, etc).

  16. I was just talking to my husband last night about how everything feels like a slog right now. There’s so much to do, and none of it is inspiring me. I know that part of it is the weather. It’s been so cold these past 3 months that I’ve hardly spent any time outside, and going for walks outdoors is one of the things that keeps me happy. I finally got out for a short walk today and I’m feeling a bit better. Others have mentioned the slogginess seems to go in cycles, and fall in "down" times, and that definitely rings true to me, too.

  17. TOTALLY. Totally. I found my husband in the kitchen tonight leaning up against the counter hunched over our son’s lunch box and he was like, I just can’t do it tonight. I feel like we keep it together pretty well the early part of the week, things start to skid by Thursday and Friday we crash and burn into a takeout pizza and 9pm bedtime (which is kind of awesome, but also an indicator of totally sapped energy by end of the week). Then weekends are battening the hatches (mostly cooking ginormous batches of food) for the week to come. And then laundry and dishes and bills…so, not much constructive to offer but to say that we’re totally slogging away too! It doesn’t help that we both have jobs that are more like 120% time – I would love to find something maybe 4 days a week and use that 5th day to try and tackle the slog so the weekends could be more enjoyable!

  18. I am sunk deep in a sense of slog right now, and what is worse is that I know my husband is actually picking up so much more of the slog than I am, and yet I am completely and utterly wiped out. I know, intellectually, that I need to do T-tapp or yoga or ANYTHING but by the time the baby is finally asleep, I am just paralyzed with exhaustion and…paralysis about all that I’m not doing. LIfe just feels like this neverending to-do list that I am never ever going to catch up on.

  19. normally, yes, i’d feel the slogginess. right now, though, i’m in rebellion. i got so fed up with having 2 children, a 7yo and a 49yo, instead of the 1 i gave birth to, that i’ve quit cleaning etc. really, 49yo, what makes you think it’s ok to put ice pop wrappers on the floor? that’ll be there for a while, because i’m not the fucking maid. which, yes, depresses the hell out of me, because i value clean and clutter-free, but right now – i just can’t.

  20. I pretty much agree with everything and everyone. Slog slog slog M-F, and slog/prepare for slog Sat-Sun. I’m WOH AND WAH, and it’s kind of a trap, because WAH means doing chores as well as work. If my workplace weren’t so unpleasant I think I might prefer to fully compartmentalize at this point and go to the office all the time. Kids are 7 and 3 (lovely combination – ha – as has been covered in previous posts). Ditto too the husband who is egalitarian in theory but far less so in practice, despite my complete openness on the issue and his general greatness. I think all the time about how to do more for me but I honestly can’t figure out where the time would come from. It’s absolutely worse in winter. My p.o.v. is that it’s not depression in my case, but that the way I feel is normal in the face of my life. I spoke with my doctor recently about it and she agreed. She also feels that not having built-in support networks (mostly extended family) around is a major contributor to the way we – meaning working mothers – feel. It doesn’t help that I live in NYC where everything just seems worse (I’ve done it elsewhere so I know, but we are stuck here for reasons too long to go into). It’s a waiting game – waiting for sun and warmth, waiting for the tantrums to stop, waiting for the right time to get a different job. We can all just do the best we can.

  21. Add me to those saying that yes, it’s a slog, but there’s a definite line between annoyance and futility. For me that line is depression, and those thoughts are a bright red flag that I need to be mindful of my wellness in coming days/weeks. Right now, I laugh and roll my eyes at the silliness of rolling that stone up a hill over and over (the laundry. The dishes!) A few months ago, I slipped into "what’s the point, and why am I here?" mode.

    The best evidence I have for attitudinal difference relating to mental health (for me, YMMV) was last year, when I tried to completely go off my antidepressant and let lamictal (for bipolar2) carry the load. Off antis, I had spiraling thoughts about 9:30-10:30 every morning. Back on the tiniest dose possible, the thoughts vanished — or, at the worst, I owned them rather than them owning me.

    Summing up — you may or may not have a treatable depression, but what you feel is TOTALLY NORMAL. Also, my PSA: I’ve learned that cyclic depression is often/usually unrecognized bipolar 2. The depressions can be worse than "normal" bipolar, and they return. The upsides can be awesome and incredibly productive. For me, it went untreated for years, because why the hell would I go for help for feeling amazing? Problem is, the highs are often unsustainable and lead to a crash. /hijack /soapbox

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