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Debra Pickett Headshot

A Mom in Winter

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The roads were slippery with snow, I hadn't had time for coffee or breakfast and, as I tightened my death grip on the steering wheel, I found myself wondering what I would have been doing right at that moment if I did not have kids. Because, clearly, it would not have involved driving my 10-year-old-barely-up-to-the-task-hatchback to preschool on a wintry Wisconsin morning.

Motherhood has taken me out of my comfort zone in all kinds of ways, but none has been quite as dramatic as the decision my husband and I made to leave Chicago behind and move our family to a small town with great public schools and live in a big old house with seven acres of woodlands for a backyard.

We are, without a doubt, incredibly fortunate to be able to do this. As entrepreneurs, we're able to work remotely much of the time. And we have the means to travel to visit our loved ones.

Still, the decision has come with some challenges.

My husband, who travels for work, is now gone five days a week most of the time, rather than four. And I'm missing the circle of city friends who've been my sounding board and support group throughout the many adventures of raising three boys.

I'm generally pretty undaunted by things, but, on this particular morning, I felt an uncharacteristic wave of pessimism sweeping over me. The daily grind of getting everyone into his snow gear and out the door on time in the morning and then dinner/bath/bed in the evening is exhausting.

If I didn't have kids, I'd probably be warm in bed right now.

In my single days, I lived in a high-rise apartment a few blocks from my desk at the Sun-Times. I walked virtually everywhere I needed to go -- didn't even own a car. The doorman signed for all my packages and pretty much anything I could ever need was available for delivery. My workday started at 10 a.m. (one of a few compelling reasons that a career in print journalism is still worth considering) with a Venti dark roast in hand.

For reasons that are, well, a bit too well-documented, my career as a columnist proved incompatible with the needs of my family. Most days, I have very few regrets about leaving behind one of the best jobs in journalism to follow another path.

Still, there are moments. Moments when I wonder how things might have been different.

I miss the ease and freedom of my old life, things utterly taken for granted then, like uninterrupted sleep and personal space and the ability to leave home without needing to book a sitter.

Of course, the thing to say here is that it's all been worth it. That the love of my children is far more important than that other petty stuff. (How many times did I actually go out for a spontaneous glass of champagne, anyway?)

But, sometimes, I don't feel like saying the correct thing. I don't want to toe the line anymore. I just want to go back to bed.

We made it safely to preschool, of course. We parked in "our" spot at the far edge of the lot and raced each other all the way to the front door and did our standard hug and kiss and high-five to say goodbye.

I went on with my day -- errands, writing, work, laundry, running, managing our home renovation project, cooking dinner -- with a slightly sour feeling. If this had been an episode of "Parenthood," one of my kids would have done something intensely cute and loving, and I'd have suddenly known, in that moment, that all was right with the world, or there would have been some sort of crisis and I'd see how much they depend on me and how nothing else really matters and my priorities would have popped right back into their proper order. In real life, none of that happened.

I just kept going, like driving through the not-quite-metaphorical snowstorm, and made it through another day. And, the next morning, things were better.