Tough Week

August 23, 2023

I went back into my archives to figure out if I go off the rails EVERY August or just this one. While I did note some 2022 bedtime struggles (which thankfully have largely resolved), it appears that no, I was not feeling what I am feeling now — or if I was, I was not posting about it!

I feel . . . almost like this. (And this time I’m fairly sure I am not ovulating or PMDDing, though I did see my OBGYN yesterday and am going to try some new things for various reasons and NO not pregnant omg I’m 43 CAN YOU EVEN IMAGINE).

I feel particularly triggered by constant requests from others (professional, personal, you name it – often things that require a significant amount of work or emotional labor, doled out for free). Yet somehow, I do not feel like I can (or should) ask things OF others. I know it’s a boundaries thing but setting boundaries sounds SO SIMPLE in theory and feels so fraught in practice. The rants in Barbie feel relevant right now.

(Maybe that’s one reason I loved the movie so much. I felt seen!?)

I know some of this is just an adjustment period. The kids are tougher than usual right now which is understandable — they are going through transitions, too. But, here is my collection of complaints in addition to those noted above:

  • I am overwhelmed about the soccer schedule already. FOUR games this weekend (tournament) including one late on Sunday night!? What did we get ourselves into? I’m happy to support C but he hasn’t even seemed that enthusiastic. I *do* think this is a great opportunity for him in many ways (socially, physically, maturity-wise) but OMG. “Soccer mom” (or any travel sports mom) is an actual thing. And I am not a very good one. Maybe I can learn . . .
  • Every morning getting ready for school feels so rushed and the kids act like getting out of bed to eat breakfast is just asking tooooo much. There is a lot of yelling and a lot of kids ignoring what I say to them. It’s really frustrating. If we leave late for school, I arrive late at work. (And if I arrive too late at work, there is no parking and then I’m EXTRA late to work. It’s a non-linear equation.)
  • I still don’t feel like I’ve gotten my sleep back to normal (and feel unsure as to whether I can realistically sleep enough while marathon training. But I really want to keep training because it feels like the one constant thing in my life that is mine.)
  • I don’t feel like we’ve found any sort of rhythm yet which is 100% understandable because school started just three days ago. But it’s also hard.
  • Somehow despite wanting to eat more protein I haven’t even managed to pack my lunch for work in a week and have been subsisting on overpriced delivery that isn’t even good.
  • I find myself wishing I had more time. For a lot of things.

I almost didn’t post this because there is a lot of complaining. I *know* I have so much. Health. Resources. So much more. But I also wanted to be real. Maybe in August 2024 this will be helpful.


  • Reply Lani Inlander August 23, 2023 at 1:30 pm

    You are not just complaining and you are not alone! Ditto on the crazy travel team soccer situation. And if it makes you feel any better, a kid yelled at me this morning for not making his oatmeal correctly. He’s 11. He should be making his own oatmeal! This is after he refused to take the lunch I packed yesterday bc it was in the wrong bag. Might I add we are waiting for a new lunch bag bc of how many HE LOST last year? On the upside, he is finally into his new school :). So I will take what I can get. But, YOU ARE NOT ALONE :).

    • Reply Katie August 24, 2023 at 1:47 pm

      Kids don’t know how good they have it. I was in elementary school in the late 70s. When we ran out of the paper lunch sacks my mom made us carry our lunch to school these huge leather hippie purses that had been my older sisters. A little traumatic but also character building and a memory that makes me laugh and love my mom even more.

      • Reply Lani Inlander August 24, 2023 at 2:48 pm

        Exactly! One day they will appreciate us… We didn’t have much when I was growing up, but I know my parents did the best they could. I now apologize regularly to my parents for my antics.

  • Reply Q August 23, 2023 at 1:50 pm

    Fellow doc and mom here and the requests burnout is spot on. I’m feeling exactly the same way. Recently decided on a baby dose of Zoloft which has helped a bit, but the burden is real.

  • Reply Omdg August 23, 2023 at 1:56 pm

    I am on vacation rn and became irrationally angry yesterday about an email from someone who is not my boss asking me to do her work for her, when I already said no a month ago. On my vacation when I have my out of office notification alert on and everything. I mean, it took me like 60 min to cool down, maybe more. I was ultimately able to chill, but I feel like I should have been able to be more zen about it. Do you have any secrets to combat this? It didn’t ruin the day, but it could have…

    And then today I got a request to schedule a lecture I despise giving with the demand that everyone respond today because the admin had effed up and not sent the request out on time. I think this is just part of the game, but I also don’t feel like I have permission to ever be annoyed. At anything. Ever. “Because I have so much,” actually.

    No advice, just empathy.

    • Reply Lani Inlander August 23, 2023 at 2:01 pm

      Sending you all the love, lady! That is brutal! I get you on not feeling like you have “permission”.

    • Reply Megan August 23, 2023 at 2:04 pm

      What happens if you just ignore? Will it impact ur career in a very negative way?
      I get such requests all the time. I just re-iterate when I am on vacation I am on vacation, will not check emails, texts or do anything work related. Nothing bad really happened, either they find a way to do the task or the task waits till I am back at work.
      If I already said no and its not a requirement for my job, I just ignore the requests.

      • Reply Omdg August 23, 2023 at 3:12 pm

        It’s a little more complicated than that, but yes I could ignore the requests. Usually all that happens is the admin (if it’s an admin) acts passive aggressive towards me, but that’s part of their job description so it’s hard to care too much about it.

        Recently, I had a colleague ask me to verify that the data analysis a statistician completed for a project she was doing was correct without any offer of authorship or even acknowledgement. I ignored the request bc it would have taken me multiple days and for what? I don’t work for free. She also didn’t seem to understand the most basic point of the analysis she was conducting and it would have taken me days at a minimum. A day later she actually CORNERED ME, and asked me to my face, in public, whether I had received her email. I had to tell her no to her face bc I genuinely do not have the bandwidth but it was awkward. No idea whether there will be fallout. Anyway. She is also not my boss.

    • Reply Amber August 25, 2023 at 3:23 am

      Ummm…why are you checking email while on vacation??????????

  • Reply Jessica August 23, 2023 at 1:56 pm

    Maybe you don’t have to be a great travel sports parent? I have 4 kids who played travel sports (baseball and hockey) and my husband was often not available evenings/weekend. I absolutely did not feel obligated to be at all of their things. At tournaments I would leave my kids for the day and I think they were all fine with it. There are enough people who like giving up their entire weekend to sit at a field, so leaving my kid with them was no bother. I did try to contribute when I could and I still have lots of friends from our travel sports teams so I don’t think anyone minded. So, my suggestion is to take that off your plate. Also, one of my kids played tackle football and I am against that in principle so I didn’t go to his games. All of my kids still seem well adjusted and we have spent time together in other ways. I really don’t regret not being a sports parent.

    I hope next week is better! I think this can be a hard time of year- and even more so with jet lag.

    • Reply Gillian August 23, 2023 at 4:07 pm

      This! I have never been to more than a few games per season. Sometimes my husband goes. Sometimes we get rides. Last year my 15 yo took Uber to a couple of games (obviously a little different with a teen on the ride share app sitch). I have never spent a Saturday night at a travel soccer game.

    • Reply KDR August 24, 2023 at 9:28 am

      I’m going to third this! I played travel soccer in middle/high school and it was totally normal for parents not to come to every one, esp when there were siblings involved. I would say like 2/3 is a good goal?

      • Reply Mary August 24, 2023 at 1:19 pm

        Also, I’m sure this is already on your radar, given your area of expertise but you may be beginning to experience perimenopause, which can affect mood in these ways. I’m only a couple of years older than you (46 now) and in hindsight, I can now recognise that many symptoms such as much larger mood changes than usual, sleeplessness and heavier periods/cycle changes all kicked off for me at 42-43. It may be helpful to get that checked out to see if that’s a factor. I’m now on HRT and have a Mirena and all the symptoms, particularly the emotional ones, have all returned to the manageable range and in some cases, are much better than they have ever been.

        • Reply Mary August 24, 2023 at 1:21 pm

          No idea why that posted where it did, but my response is in reply to Sarah’s main post. Sorry about that.

        • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger August 24, 2023 at 1:22 pm

          Yes but I’ve been on birth control (hormonal) so i would think that would mask? That said I’m planning to come off and I definitely want my levels checked.

  • Reply Mark August 23, 2023 at 1:57 pm

    Hope things are better soon! Thank you for openly sharing about the times when life feels hard.

  • Reply Megan August 23, 2023 at 1:59 pm

    I am with you on the sports intensity being overwhelming. I want to support my kids but I refuse to have our entire family’s schedule revolve around it so we haven’t committed to extensive sports teams. It hasn’t been a huge issue yet as no one seems incredibly gifted athletically but you’ll have to see how it works. I sometimes need to remind myself that I am in charge of what we commit to so can choose accordingly. Not sure why all sports seem to ramp up so quickly and at early ages IMO. Also re: yesterday’s post, my youngest has definitely seen and experienced a lot more at younger ages than other siblings but that’s third kid life for you and she’ll be just fine!

  • Reply Irene August 23, 2023 at 2:03 pm

    My youngest is very very into soccer and I’m dreading the time we have to make the calculations about whether the level he can play at is something we can support. I still remember the handful of years my brother did travel soccer. We have family friends with a very talented kid and their travel seems impossible to me. No judgement just….I could not do it. Presumably it works for them.

  • Reply Laura August 23, 2023 at 2:13 pm

    Fellow non-sports mom turned sports mom. (And to preface—this advice is worth what you paid for it 😉 As other commenters suggested, you don’t need to be at every game (unless you want to be), and if you can get in with his teammates’ parents you can carpool for games and practices to alleviate more time spent in the car.

    We had 3-4 games / practices for baseball all summer, and if I took my son and my daughter was elsewhere, I would sometimes opt for a walk with a podcast instead of sitting and watching the game / practice. Finally, I also coupled social time with games by using the time to catch up with other moms when I wanted the social interaction time 😉

    Finally, I feel you on the lunch thing! I recently bought a bunch of small glass Tupperware from IKEA and started packing a full week’s worth of lunches on Sunday nights. Every day I put the Tupperware in my lunch bag and go. Not sure how long I’ll keep it up but it’s working for now!

    Hang in there, the back to school transition is not for the faint of heart, no matter how many times you’ve done it. I usually feel off for a few weeks. Hoping things look up from here, xoxo

  • Reply Laura V August 23, 2023 at 2:32 pm

    We were a travel baseball family for many years and I am sure I had complaints at the time, but I will tell you in many ways I do miss it now that our youngest is a senior in HS!! It was well spent time for the boys to be on a team and develop friendships, teamwork, grit and commitment. I have a son that was not involved in sports after 7th grade and it was much more difficult socially. And for me it was built in social time with adult friends that become much harder to cultivate outside of the bleachers. None of my kids will play in college, but that should not be the point for most – the lessons learned on the field/court are timeless. And agree with above responders – carpooling is a must!!

  • Reply Teresa August 23, 2023 at 2:48 pm

    Not trying to make light of your situation but it made me smile because I don’t remember not feeling like this while the kids are in school and activities! I would like to say it will get better and with your problem solving/ coping skills, I’m sure it will. For me, chaos and stress and overwhelm from changing and overly demanding schedules is the norm.

  • Reply Maxine August 23, 2023 at 2:52 pm

    I could’ve written this (basically all of it). Thank you for posting and your honesty to make me feel less alone!

  • Reply Sophie August 23, 2023 at 3:12 pm

    How good was the Barbie Movie! 🙂 Thank you for your honesty in this post, weeks like that are so hard, sounds like lots of transitions (including time zones!), new sleep schedules, new activity roster, plus requests when you are at capacity- it’s a lot. Hope it passes quickly, and you hit your back to school stride before long (which I know you will!). Hang in there.

  • Reply lisaoflisasyarns August 23, 2023 at 3:58 pm

    Transitions are really hard. Both of my kids are going through them (new daycare next week for 2.5 yo, new program this summer for 5yo, and he starts K next week). Behavior has been ROUGH. I’m looking forward to maybe October when things settle down a bit and we are all used to our new routines/environments. I think you probably just don’t have much “margin” right now with everything going on, so requests that wouldn’t have bothered you before do now… That’s how I get when I am overwhelmed by something.

    I posted about sports involvement today! Sports are so different from what I experienced as a child it seems… where we lived, there was no traveling sports and we wouldn’t have been able to do them even if that was an option because my parents just didn’t have the time/resources with 5 kids and all. I won’t be surprised if my kids aren’t athletic enough to pursue things like traveling sports teams since I am incredibly unathletic. I really don’t know how we’d manage all those practices and games and such! Maybe you can read the Family Firm by Emily Oster if you haven’t already? I’m planning to start reading that now that we are starting the elementary school years!

    • Reply Gillian August 24, 2023 at 12:00 pm

      I really love E Oster’s work. The Family Firm was great because it give you more of a framework for thinking through your family culture. I wish it had come out when my kids were little.

  • Reply Grateful Kae August 23, 2023 at 4:14 pm

    Ok, let me see if I can give any helpful tips. I’ve been a “sports mom” for maybe 9 years now?

    For practices, 100%: carpool. Do not ever feel like you should sit and watch a practice. NO.

    For tournaments: consider splitting days with your husband, like 1 goes Saturday, 1 goes Sunday. That usually works out pretty nicely (though when we do it, it’s usually bc the other parent is with the OTHER kid at a different sporting event… 😩). Mindset shift can help a little- view it as “quality time” with C, if you can, not just something you have to do. (It’s taking the place of “library time” or whatever other outings you would do on a weekend when he was younger.) Stop for ice cream after, go to lunch between games, etc. Also: remember that they often spend almost 45 minutes warming up before the games! This is great “me time”!! i.e. sit in the shade with a book, write a blog post, go for a walk, etc. I personally would not skip the game, if I’m already there especially! But warmup time is 100% fair game to do anything else.

    For regular games/close to home: Again, alternate who goes sometimes. If it’s a home game and close and we’re free, we typically will both go unless we have an actual conflict, but for the far away games that take up half the day, I have a lower threshold for skipping or sending my husband. Though I’ll admit I do try to make as many as I can, despite the stressors. I do like to watch them play and the years do go fast!

    Also, don’t get too overwhelmed yet- there are usually only 2-3 soccer tournaments in a season (at least around here), with typically one right at the beginning. “Regular” game weekends with just 1-2 games max can be significantly easier, and some days they’ll have byes and NO games usually! So don’t base your whole opinion of the club thing based on the opening tournament…give it a little time to adjust. 🙂

  • Reply Jackie August 23, 2023 at 4:32 pm

    My list looks different, but I totally feel this.

  • Reply Linda August 23, 2023 at 5:05 pm

    Feel free to vent. It’s your blog. Here’s something that will hopefully make you smile. Watch the video

  • Reply Brooke August 23, 2023 at 5:27 pm

    I’ve tried to be social with the other parents at sporting events, but no one is super friendly so I just lean into it. I bring my audiobook, put one ear bud in, and have some me time while watching/supporting my kid. My husband is typically with our other kid during the games. Thankfully it’s just one game each week!

  • Reply Amanda August 23, 2023 at 6:20 pm

    I am apparently getting a reputation in my group as someone with boundaries/who can say no. But, people have said this to me as a compliment (at least to my face), and some residents (male and female) have said they appreciate me role-modeling this. I say yes to lots of things – resident lectures, helping residents w scholarly activities, making our group call schedule, academic committees (am on 2) – but I do also say no to things if it is too far outside of my area of interest or if I don’t feel like I have the bandwidth. I honestly think I get this ability by observing attendings (mostly women) in my residency seem burned out by how much they had taken on. I was also given the advice in training by multiple people to “learn to say no.” All that to say that I think people like you sharing this sort of thing helps empower younger learners to practice this skill, and also that I’ve had the interesting experience of people talking favorably about me saying no to things (again, at least to my face).

  • Reply Jane T. August 23, 2023 at 9:55 pm

    No advice just solidarity. This time of year is tough!

  • Reply Alyssa August 23, 2023 at 10:11 pm

    This makes me feel SEEN – especially as a mom and a doc. I feel like I just field requests from people constantly. Kids, husband, teachers, extended fam, staff, patients, third parties – it does not end. Things I am trying:
    – wait til the end of the day to answer texts all at the same time
    – not check my email constantly especially when I don’t really have time to answer it (got this from you of course)
    – ask staff to batch clinical requests unless TRULY urgent
    – remind patients when I see them that I am happy to get calls/emails/etc for simple questions but I am a real live human with many things on the go so they will always get a response in a REASONABLE amount of time, not instantaneously, so one call/email/etc instead of 3 will suffice
    – tell my husband there is a no-talking zone for 20 mins when I get home because I just need to hear myself think
    – a lot of deep breathing 🙂

  • Reply Ruth August 24, 2023 at 2:12 am

    Gah, I feel you, I see you, have shared all those feels. If soccer isn’t working for you all, then it’s ok to stop. Ditto marathon training. Says the woman who used to be hopeless at stopping things but who is a bit better these days!

  • Reply Emily August 24, 2023 at 7:17 am

    You have a lot on your plate AND two big changes – your smallest in kindergarten and your oldest in middle school. Don’t under-estimate how those big changes might make you feel (very reasonably!) more emotional

  • Reply Gina August 24, 2023 at 7:23 am

    Yes to all of the above comments! I also think of sports practices as “me” time – I often take walks/runs outside, listen to podcasts, chat with a friend, and/or even sometimes just sit in the car and read, meal plan, etc. I often plan ahead what I’ll do based on the sport/location.

  • Reply Jenny August 24, 2023 at 9:16 am

    I can see by the comments that people really relate to this post! I’m always a little bummed that my kids aren’t athletic, until I hear things like this. I know, sports teams take up a TON of time. My kids are both into band, which takes up a little extra time but nothing like sports. I like people’s suggestions that you don’t have to attend every practice and game- not sure how realistic that is for you. Or maybe you’re already doing that, but with three kids and all the driving it’s still too much. The first week of school is also hard- I hope things smooth out as time goes by!

  • Reply JF August 24, 2023 at 9:19 am

    Feeling like this too. One kid started school this week but the building isn’t air conditioned (!) so we’ve had early release days for heat every day since it’s been 95-100 degrees. My younger kid’s preschool doesn’t start until after Labor Day and we are just scrambling because there are no more camps :/ We spent last week visiting family and trying to work remotely while the kids did “Grandma Camp” but I realized very quickly that my husband can just lock the door and work, while I got interrupted every 10 mins by questions from my kids or my MIL about the routine, lunch, etc. I think I need 3 uninterrupted workdays in a row to feel like I’m back on track. But I won’t get 3 days in a row for awhile so just trying to remind myself that this is temporary.

  • Reply Kelly August 24, 2023 at 11:38 am

    Every August everyone in my house has what I call “The August Breakdown.” The kids are nervous about the upcoming transitions, and then adjusting to said transitions. The routine changes from more relaxed summer to more structure, which is good but hard to adjust to. To make matters worse in my house- my husband and I are both teachers so that adds to it but I’m convinced this would happen with kids even if I wasn’t a teacher. So anyway, right there with you! It will get better soon!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger August 24, 2023 at 11:54 am

      thank you Kelly!

  • Reply Al August 24, 2023 at 12:11 pm

    Long time reader/first time commenter. I imagine this is somewhere on your radar given PMDD stuff, but I just wanted to say from the outside that persistent irritation is how depression shows up for some people. I hope that’s not a huge overstep. Thinking of you.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger August 24, 2023 at 12:57 pm

      thank you!!! totally get it. it crossed my mind myself. if continues will think about next steps.

  • Reply Mary August 24, 2023 at 1:23 pm

    Also, I’m sure this is already on your radar, given your area of expertise but you may be beginning to experience perimenopause, which can affect mood in these ways. I’m only a couple of years older than you (46 now) and in hindsight, I can now recognise that many symptoms such as much larger mood changes than usual, sleeplessness and heavier periods/cycle changes all kicked off for me at 42-43. It may be helpful to get that checked out to see if that’s a factor. I’m now on HRT and have a Mirena and all the symptoms, particularly the emotional ones, have all returned to the manageable range and in some cases, are much better than they have ever been.

  • Reply Daria August 24, 2023 at 7:49 pm

    Thank you for being so open with us. We all feel seen. My kids are still small and not there yet but is something in need to keep in mind. Loved the comments your post produced.

  • Reply Friday Five: Feeling Low – Mom of Children August 25, 2023 at 11:14 am

    […] You Later, Summer” Slump? Back-to-School Bah Hambug? Anxiety Annie? I’ll stop here. Sarah’s reflection is so, so good. Be sure to read the comment thread as […]

  • Reply San August 26, 2023 at 7:47 pm

    Oof, this is hard. Time seems to always be a limiting factor to so many things.

  • Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.