Reflections of a Former Working Mom; and Confessions about Staying Home
I’ve been a stay at home parent for all of five months, but I can tell you: It’s not for wussies. I adore my kids, and am grateful to be in a position to stay home with them, but I’d be lying if I said it was easy – physically or emotionally.
I spend my days chasing a goal that is unattainable. A clean & organized house where everything is functioning properly, kids that are bathed, dressed and fed, clean laundry that’s folded & put away. Why can’t dinner make itself, and dishes magically disappear? I daydream about a moment in time when my chores are complete, I put the kids down for a nap, and spend just thirty minutes of quiet time with a glass of sweet tea (okay, a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc). Day in and day out I work towards this goal, but it keeps getting further from my reality. Everyday, I complete the same tasks over & over again. No tangible progress, & certainly, no thank you.
The hardest part? I don’t clock out at 5:00, and my kids don’t leave town on Friday afternoon. No, my work days continue right on through the night and into the weekend. 2:00 am nightmare; I’m there. 4:00 am feeding; I’m on it. Then tomorrow, I’ll sleep walk my way through the exact same to-do list. Sometimes I wonder, what is the point?
Over the years, my view on stay at home parenting has changed dramatically. As a child, with a stay-at-home mom of my own, I naively believed that a woman only worked if her family depended on her financially. As a young professional, I quite ignorantly believed that the only reason a woman would choose to stay home, was if she were lazy, or incompetent in the workplace. In other words, I viewed staying home with kids as a cop-out. Hah!
Now, I’ve tried it all: Full-time working mother, part-time working mother (still nearly full time – without the health benefits – insert eye roll), and finally, an unemployed SAHM. My only conclusion; I’ve yet to find an assignment that lives up to all its glory.
Since the birth of my first daughter, I’ve struggled with the guilt and insecurities that come with trying to decide how to balance my time as an individual, contributing spouse, and a mother.
As a working mom, I couldn’t stand that I had to drop my child off each morning to be cared for by someone else. I spent those first few months back at work fighting back tears at the most inopportune times. The evenings and weekends were spent catching up on the housework and errands, rather than on quality time with my family. I almost never made dinner (like I thought a respectable wife should), instead, take out became the norm. I was drowning in responsibilities, yet felt astonishingly inadequate.
Then, I cut my hours at work, but many of the same problems remained. Less hours in the office didn’t exactly equate to “less work”, but it did mean less pay. There was guilt around accepting less money for my family. There was guilt when I left the office before the rest of my team – the looks, the comments: “well, you’re not in tomorrow, so…”. The one day each week I was home with my daughter was spent fielding emails and doing laundry while she was parked in front of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse – enter, mom guilt.
And finally, here I am, a SAHM, with almost nothing to show for a day’s work. There is always a room that needs picking up, laundry that needs washing, dishes that need cleaning, someone that needs feeding or a bum that needs wiping. The only time I sit down is to nurse the baby, and still, my husband comes home to a messy house (despite the fact that I’ve cleaned it top to bottom – twice), and a disheveled wife.
Ironically, I had more free time as a working mom with my daughter in someone else’s care, than I do now that my days are unscheduled. Oh how I miss that quiet cup of coffee as I scroll through my emails. I do manage to make dinner now, thanks to a company that leaves recipes and fresh ingredients on my doorstep once weekly. And I’m eternally grateful to services like Amazon Prime & Disney Junior on Demand, without which I would probably self-destruct.
So, let’s stop judging ourselves and others for how hard we work, or don’t. It’s important to remember that we are all doing the best we can with what we have. I know, you’ll inevitably continue your social media posts of freshly baked cookies, flower-adorned infants and clean family rooms, but unless you’re a SAHM with a full time nanny (or you have just one, amazingly well behaved kid), I’m calling your bluff.
Matthew 6:34: So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.