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Story of Women - In a Rut

Updated: Jul 18, 2023

Meet Justine. She is a married woman with two kids living the American Dream Life... and feels like she is in a rut.

Was there ever a time when it was simple to be a woman?

"Mom, where are my shirts?"

My daughter's shrill voice fills the kitchen.

"Your shirts? In your closet?" I ask.


"Folded in a basket?"


"Damn. Are you sure?"

"Yeah... Never mind, I found them."


Emma pokes her head out of the laundry room.

"In the washing machine and they stink. When did you wash them?"

I try to think. I can't really remember when I did.

"UHM... Do you have a dirty one that you can wear?"

Sending my daughter to school in dirty clothes, what would my mother say? Thing is, I know exactly what she'd say, she told me just last week.

"You just need to do things during work breaks. You work from home, how hard can it be to stop, take a break, switch out the laundry, do a load of dishes, sweep the floor, then go back to work?"

It is a good question.

I generally don't take breaks, and if I do, I'm surfing the net, or checking social media. I don't really think to do the laundry. Hence my daughter yelling at me about how hard done by she is because she has to wear a shirt she already wore to school. Heaven help us, what will the kids think? What will her teachers think? Will they call social services if her shirt gets too dirty?

I press start on the coffee machine before putting cereal, milk, and bowls out on the table for the kids breakfast. I'm almost out of Emma's favourite cereal. I write a note and stick it on the fridge. 'Buy Cereal for Emma.' The grocery list is getting long. I'll have to get out to the store later today - like I have time for grocery shopping.

My husband comes into the kitchen holding a couple of clean shirts for Emma, the ones she doesn't like to wear. He is always swooping in to save the day.

"Your choice Emma, you can wear the dirty one, one of these, a smelly one, or you could go topless. Up to you."

I choke on my coffee. 'And if she'd chosen topless, then what?' She doesn't she just says, "Daaaaad" in that our you're so embarrassing way teen girl voice and grabs a clean one out of his hand. She usually does what he wants her to do whereas, I'm in a constant battle with her and feel like I'm failing as a mother.

"Morning, pour me a cup of coffee while I run the washer again." My husband says before disappearing into the laundry room.

My gawd.

How did women manage to do it all before washing machine's were invented? I can't imagine the trouble my great-grandmother had hand washing and hanging all the laundry to dry. That must have taken hours. And here I am in the 21st Century, where laundry is done at the push of a button and I can't get it done right.

Was it easier back in the day when everyone knew their place?

When men were men and women were women?

Did it make it simpler?

It doesn't feel like our lives are better. There is more pressure, more stress, and more responsibility. It feels like something is missing. Like this can't be all there is to life? Like it's all one big revolving wheel that goes nowhere making every day feel exactly the same.

I hear the washer start. I wonder if my dad ever did the laundry, or my grandfather or his father? Did they do anything to help the women that came before me? I remember dad doing stuff around the house but not cleaning or cooking. He fixed stuff, mowed the lawn, took out the garbage. I'm not sure he knew how to do the laundry.

I pour my husband a cup of coffee, add two teaspoons of sugar, and pop a bagel in the toaster for his breakfast before emptying the dishwasher. Better to just get it done than fight with Emma again for not emptying it last night like she was supposed to.

As I reach up to put the plates away, I feel strong arms wrap around me and a peck on the back of my neck. I lean into him and it feels... normal.

I grab the sugared coffee and hand it to my husband, "Your coffee kind sir."


I look at him and shake my head before buttering his bagel. Every morning he asks if I remembered the sugar, which I always do. His way of teasing me, I guess.

"Gus and Rose's place Sunday afternoon?" He asks and I nod. "Girls night after dinner?" I nod again. "Gus and I are stuck babysitting?"

"Parenting. It's called parenting when the kids are yours."

"Are you sure they're mine?"


That's my morning.

Every morning the same. A chore I forgot to do, my husband saving the day, the kids needing something, or disapproving of something I did or didn't do. Each day is the same. Chores. Kids. Work. Bed. Always the same. Perfectly the same. Perfect. The Perfect life.

I'm forty years old. I have a wonderful husband, two great kids, a gorgeous home, and a successful business. I have a good life and I feel like I'm missing something. Like I've forgotten something, did something wrong.

Did my mother feel this way? Did my grandmother? Did my great-grandmother?

Did they ever forget to switch over the wash and have to wash the load two more times before it made it into the dryer? Did my great grandmother own a dryer?

Did they have to run their kids around from one activity to the other? Help them with homework more advanced than when they'd gone to school?

Did they feel the pressure of friends, family, and society to be perfect? Always feeling judged? Did they every look a their lives and wonder if they made the right choices?

Will it be different when my daughter is forty?

By then everyone will probably just swallow a pill and say, "That's dinner." So, if women have more time because they don't have to cook, will life be any different? Or will my daughter be looking at forty saying, "I think I forgot to do something."

"Will she have regrets?"

Story of women book and support group

This short story is Chapter One of the That's Life novel, written by Shannon Peel and used as a jumping off point in the Story of Women discussion series. Join us to talk about how far women have come, what we've gained, lost, and wish for tomorrow.

This short story has a lot of different topics packed into it, which we can discuss during the Story of Women discussion. Here is some information to help you start thinking about the different topics Justine's story brings up. I will be adding other resources as we unpack Justine's story and how it relates to the Story of Women.

What topic in the story interests you?

  • Women's lives before vs our lives today

  • Living in a rut

  • Motherhood & parenting a teen girl

  • Mental health & depression

Below you will find information to help process the topics in the story. In the Story of Women discussion we start with Justine's story and the talk about how the story relates to our own stories and the Story of Women.

The objective of this discussion is to explore the Story of Women based on the topics in the short story. In small groups, you will have the opportunity to share your story, the expectations we put on ourselves, and our purpose in life.

The Story of Women Discussion Topics:

Click on the topic that interests you about Justine's story:

Sign up for the MarketAPeel Newsletter for more information about the Story of Women, brand storytelling, and the BrandAPeel Podcast.

Life for Women in the 1890s

In the 1890s, life for women was quite different. They didn't have the vote and were considered chattel of their husbands with little in the way of recourse or help if her husband did her wrong, abandoned her, or abused her.

Do you think women of this time felt as if they were living in a rut at times? Or since they were expected to do no more than take care of the house, husband, and children she understood her purpose and didn't fall into the rut wondering if this was all there was?

We can see what life was like for women in the 1890s from the advertisements targeting women to buy items and suffragette posters.

The Story of Women as told by Advertising.

Women worked twice as long as men ... housework was more manual than it is today and took up a lot of women's time, which meant they didn't have time to get into trouble by bettering themselves or demanding more out of life.

What do you think this ad is saying about the lives of women, their responsibilities, and how hard they worked in the 1890s?

I don't know about you, but the idea of having to wear a restrictive corset and all the layers that went with the fashions for women at the time.

I keep thinking they must have been so warm all the time and how long did it take them to get dressed to go outside?

Don't forget, there wasn't public washrooms at the time for women.

The good news for women of the time was that times were changing rapidly, just like they are today.

The wealthier families sent their daughters to universities to study and some women were becoming doctors, lawyers, and business women.

This was a time of drastic change from one generation to the next and the beginning of the Story of Women's fight for equality at the polling stations, the workplace, and the home.

This was the time of the suffragette movement and a handful of women were militant in the fight resulting in arrests and hunger strikes. These were extreme actions taken to make life uneasy for the men in power so they would pass laws enabling women to vote...

They fought because men could not be relied on to do the right thing when it came to taking care of women and children. This can be seen in this suffragette poster from the UK where women were stuck between two laws that left them no choice but the workhouse and to put children in orphanages. Many children at the time were left in the care of societies who arranged to send them to Canada as Home Children to work on farms and as servants. A practice that continued into the middle of the 20th Century.

America had a similar practice with street kids from New York being shipped of to farms around the country to work. In the early 1900s My grandfather left his home in Saskatchewan at 13 to go work on a farm with another family because there wasn't enough money to feed the family. It was a different time where childhood was not a special status and women were expected to pick up the slack at home and make the home a happy place for her husband.

Without women having a voice in government, the weak would continue to be abused and marginalised. Not because men don't care about the downtrodden but because of their story of needing to be independent, self sufficient, and protective.

Women and men are two sides of the same coin, we need to be apart of the same system to ensure the whole is considered.

What do you think about the women who fought men who were afraid to relinquish control and wanted to keep the status quo?

If you are interested in the story of Women and want to dive deeper to find out how your life, beliefs, and values were affected by those who came before you. Join the Story of Women Discussion, which is the first step in a program to help you change your narrative and start telling your own story from a place of power and strength.

At the Story of Women Discussion, we will discuss these questions and share our stories to connect with others by finding common threads in each others' stories.

Think about, how is your life better than your mothers', grandmothers', or great grandmothers' life? How was their lives better than yours? What do you want for the next generation coming behind you.

Which issue is top priority for women?

  • Equal pay

  • Women in leadership roles

  • Value domestic work & Motherhood

  • Reproductive Decisions

Changing Your Narrative...

Participants will receive a link to download a workbook to guide them through their own story and change the narrative to tell the story from a place of power and strength instead of victimisation and apology.

Other Topics in this short story that

can be explored during in the discussion

What Does In a Rut Mean?

The Cambridge Dictionary says, "to not have changed what you do or how you do it for a very longtime so that it is not interesting any longer."

We can see this in Justine's interpretation of her life. Many women would life to have her life, it's the North American dream, but for her it's boring and uneventful.

When we feel like we are in a rut we lose our sense of self and can spiral into depression because we don't see any purpose in what we do. When women are stuck in a rut, they can usually get out of it by going out with friends, joining a new club, finding a new hobby. For some, the rut is so deep they can't see a way out and they feel trapped in their lives - no matter how good they've got it.

How I can Help You Get Out of the Rut

I help women and men, who can't see the forest for the trees and are feeling lost.

If the story you tell about your life sounds like Justine's version of life, I can help guide you to crafting your story from a place of strength, power, and vision so you attract new opportunities into your lives.

I know it works, because I was Justine. In writing the novel, That's Life, I discovered my voice, saw my choices, and how others were perceiving me, which is why I continued to attract abusive men and users into my world.

Once I changed my narrative, saw my life for what it was through exploring my story, I discovered the power of words, ideas, and stories to move our lives forward. If you want to know more about my story, click here, you will find information about myself and interviews where I shared my personal story of transformation.

Anxiety and Panic Attacks

I help people understand their anxiety and move through panic attacks to see the forest for the trees. If you are suffering from anxiety and panic attacks, let's talk about how I can help you by asking questions, listening, and guiding you as you craft a new story for yourself.

How do You Know if You are in a Rut?

Being "stuck" is something that sneaks up on you over time. Day after day, you might follow your same routines. Eventually, it feels like you aren't getting anywhere and you're just existing.

Signs that you might be stuck in a rut.

  • Every day seems the same. You might even have trouble remembering what day of the week it is because everyday feels the same. You will relate with Justine's story of everything being the same. Perfectly the same.

  • You aren't excited or inspired. You don't care about anything and there is nothing to look forward to because, you've lost sight of what you are working towards.

  • You feel unmotivated. You're tired and it feels like an unsurmountable amount of energy to do anything, let alone do something new. You want to change things up but it feels like too big of challenge, so you do nothing.

  • You feel unfulfilled. Like Justine, you are left wondering if this is all there is to life and if so, what is the point of it all? You've lost sight of everything you've accomplished and have no idea what your purpose in this life is.

  • You want to change, but fear keeps you in the rut. This is a common affliction, especially in today's world of high stress and anxiety. We can't handle one more uncertain thing, yet we need uncertainty get out of the rut and find our purpose.

If you are feeling this way, chances are you may be suffering from depression. Click to learn more about depression and the various treatments available to you.

If you feel like you are in a rut and want some help figuring out your purpose and a new vision for your life, Let's Talk about how I can help you find purpose through crafting your story.

The Story of Women Discussion

Join us on the journey of discover by discussing Justine's story and how it relates to your life or how life has changed for women over time and where you would like to see it go from here. During The Story of Women Discussion we will discuss the story and whether we relate to Justine or what we think her problems are and why she feels like she is in a rut.

There is a lot that can be discussed from this short story and you never know where the participants will go with the Story of Women during discussions. Following this is some information to help understand what life was like for women at the turn of the 20th Century to help facilitate conversation around the questions Justine asks about past generations of women.

Make sure you sign up for the MarketAPeel newsletter about brand storytelling, the story of women, and the BrandAPeel podcast.

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