Ask Alice

By Melissa Dinnel


Dear Alice,

I recently had a baby boy, and I wish I could say it’s been the joy of my life, but I actually hate being a mother. It wasn’t my plan. I worked long and hard to graduate from business school. I now have a high-powered job with lots of respect and responsibility, plus a generous paycheck and really good benefits. One drunken night with my husband, a moment of irresponsibility, and now I’m a mother, for the rest of my life. I was in denial until the sixth month of my pregnancy. I looked fat and felt sick. I tried to hide being pregnant from my family and friends, and my colleagues. I didn’t buy a crib or stroller until the week before I delivered. I thought my feelings would change and my maternal instincts would kick in once the baby was born. But, that hasn’t happened. I feel pinned down and drained. I look at him and feel nothing but an un-ending burden. On the other hand, my husband is a great dad. He was very supportive during my pregnancy, and is really happy to be a father. He spends more time with the baby than I do. He is starting his own business because he hasn’t been able to find the job of his dreams. He can work from home. He is a great stay at home Dad, and I make enough money to support us all until his business is off the ground. I know that most women reading this letter are cringing and judging me. Women are supposed to want to be mothers. It’s our destiny. Not wanting to be a mother is a disgrace to womanhood. Am I a selfish monster or just being true to myself?

— Trapped Mom


Dear Trapped Mom:

Tough stuff. My heart goes out to you, as a feeling like this must be devastating daily. Mostly because of all the very dangerous ideas and expectations placed upon women and what culture has deemed correct. The first thing I want to make very clear to you is that you are not alone feeling like this, and many women do- they just don’t feel comfortable talking about it. The world can be a fucked up place.

“Not wanting to be a mother is a disgrace to womanhood,” are very shocking words.  I don’t want to be a mother. It is a decision I have had to explain all my life. As a child of adoption as well, I intrinsically have to believe that not every woman is meant to be a mother. Last time I checked, there were many things I could do besides procreate. I think you are being true to yourself- just start by surrounding yourself with some like-minded women, who might be feeling similar feelings or who may teach you how to find some joy in motherhood.  Have you looked into the possibility that you might be suffering from postpartum depression? That might be the case, as it sounds like you have some potential symptoms.

I would stay away from assessing your “performance” as a mother in comparison to your husband’s performance.  Everyone approaches parenthood differently, and maybe your husband hasn’t found that dream job yet because parenthood was really what was calling him.

Now for the brutal truth.  You are indeed a mom, trapped or not. And you have to find a way to become happily trapped. You chose to bring this child into the world with your husband, and now you are his mother. His needs are first, but you both are equally important. Ask yourself how you can get on board with the decision you made, when there were other options available to you. This is the path you chose, for a reason.  Now it is time to discover how you can make this work for your family.



p.s. And without alcohol, a lot of us wouldn’t be here.



Dear Alice,

I vacuum compulsively. I start my day vacuuming and end my day vacuuming. It drives my roommates crazy! My neighbors constantly complain to our landlord. I don’t have a dog or a cat or any real reason to vacuum so much. I just love the motion of it, the beginning and end of it. It relaxes me, and I like knowing that my wall to wall carpet is clean. It’s not as if I lie around on it or anything. I don’t do yoga or watch TV from the floor. I just like to vacuum. That’s not so bad, is it?

— Suck it Up


Dear Suck it up:

Oh man, if only your mouth were a Hoover, no one would be complaining. Just kidding! If this is your most annoying habit, I feel like you’re doing well. Compulsions like cleaning can be very soothing to the cleaner-my mother had this compulsion-but it is hyper annoying to everyone around you. I don’t think you need a reason to live life super clean; we all have different lifestyles and a right to live them.

Now to the real issue of being disrespectful to your roommates and your neighbors. I know that it may not be financially plausible to move somewhere alone, but if you can’t vacuum around a schedule that you and your roommates decide on, then it is time to not only move out, but to consider a house instead of an apartment.  When we share living spaces with others, it is important to be as respectful of them and their lifestyle choices as you want them to be of yours.  And vacuuming is the most horrid sound to about 80% of the population; seriously like nails on a chalkboard.  Have a conversation with both your roommates and your neighbors about when are appropriate and convenient times for you to vacuum without putting them out. I think compromise is key here, and will create trust.


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