Dear Stay-at-Home Mom,
I know if you are reading this you are probably at your wit’s end. If you are lucky, you are tearing out your towel-dryed hair while scouring the Internet to read something from someone, anyone who feels like you. (And if it has been “one of those days,” you are probably ripping at hair that is bogged down by oil and three-day-old product.) There may be tears in your exhausted eyes and stains on your shirt, but you are staying awake, desperate to find companionship or to learn childrearing secrets or to hold a conversation more meaningful than “How do you like your jogging stroller?” or “Is your child sleeping through the night?” Maybe, like me, you are desperate to learn you are not alone.
I can’t tell you I have any answers—I don’t—but I can tell you that you are not alone.
I know being a stay-at-home mom is challenging. It is isolating and lonely, painfully lonely. I mean, you are never physically alone. You share every meal and every moment with your little munchkin. Every trip to the bathroom becomes a full-on family potty party, but that doesn’t mean you don’t feel alone. (There are days I wander the aisles of Walgreen’s hoping someone will smile at my daughter, hoping I can use that subtle interaction as a segue into a full-blown conversation.
I know you are tired of hearing people tell you how blessed or lucky you are, how it’s all worth it. It doesn’t help, period, and it probably only magnifies that newfound mommy-guilt most of us experience (because why don’t you feel blessed after all).
I know staying home isn’t always a choice. Everyone says it is, “Oh, it is so nice you are able to stay home with your child. I wish I could!” Child care is expensive, and sometimes it simply doesn’t pay to work outside the house; some salaries only cover the cost of child care and your commute. I get it. I understand.
I know you never enjoy a hot cup of coffee and rarely enjoy a shower. I know your child’s nap time isn’t your me time; it is time to pay bills, do dishes, clean the house, prep dinner or plunge the toilet that has been backed-up since 8 a.m. Maybe, just maybe, you can sneak in some food before the kiddo wakes up, but I’ve found the ding of the microwave always coincides with crackly “I’m up” coos and cries blaring over the baby monitor.
I know many people joke at your expense, minimizing the work you do or envying your ability to rock pj’s at 2 p.m. on a Tuesday. I know you smile and laugh, perhaps pointing to their jealousy, but I also know it is fake—the smile, the laugh, everything. Inside you are seething. Inside you are angry at their blatant disregard for the work you do, for what their mothers probably did for them. Inside you are crying.
I know this is why you don’t ask for help. You are afraid, afraid your needs aren’t enough, afraid you are a failure.
You are not.
Has anyone told you how amazing you are, as a mom and a person? No, really, you are the world to a little person (or persons). You are their cook, their teacher, their playmate, their companion, their protector, their dictionary, their comedian and personal entertainer, and their mom. I know being a stay-at-home mom can feel thankless, but what you do is amazing, and you should revel in that!
I’ve heard some suggest that if you are unhappy with your newfound role you should “get a hobby or go do something,” but I know it isn’t that simple. It isn’t that easy. There are a slew of considerations, some actual, like money and childcare, and some self-imposed, like feeling too guilty to go out because when you try to walk away your child screams and cries “Mama, Mama!” while they reach their little arms out and lunge their whole body forward. Even the best-laid plans, even the most hardened resolve, can fall apart thanks to an unexpected illness. (Thanks pinkeye for keeping my raging toddler home today!)
You are not a terrible person for missing those strange, semi-silent moments stuck in rush hour traffic, for longing for an angry stare or a flat-out “fuck you!” from the car beside you. You are not a bad person for lamenting the loss of you, for yearning for the person you were before you were a parent—before you were “so-and-so’s Mom.” And you are not the only person who has questioned their decision to become a parent. I don’t know if you have, but I share this because I have. I share this because there are moments, days even, when I have regretted having my child. And these thoughts and feelings made me crumble. Who the fuck was I? I thought. How shitty am I? I don’t deserve to be a mom. But you are not alone. These thoughts happen, and they do not make you awful or inadequate. They keep you sane. They keep you honest, and they will help keep you you.
It isn’t all bad. You know there are amazing moments you wouldn’t trade for anything, but the thing is you know that. I don’t need to tell you that, nor do you need to read another post about the “sunshine and rainbows” side of parenting. I am thankful I heard my daughter’s first laugh and saw her first steps. I am thankful we get to sit on the floor and share ‘nanas every morning and cookies every night. I am thankful for story time and Sesame Street and spontaneous dance parties, the moments many moms miss out on. That doesn’t mean you can’t have bad days or dark days. That doesn’t mean you have to punish yourself for feeling differently, for feeling frustrated or angry or sad or indifferent.
What you need to hear (hell, what all parents need to hear) is that is OK to let the dishes stack up. It’s OK to be pissed at your significant other simply for having a life outside the house. It’s OK to loathe silly songs—I for one wish that the wheels on that damn bus would fall off. It is OK to miss the woman you were. Whether you worked outside the house or not doesn’t matter, everything changes when you become a mom, and when you stay at home, there is nothing to you aside from mom, or so it seems.
These are the things no one tells you, but these are the things you need to hear. This is not meant to be a tirade or bitch-fest. I am not here to complain for the sake of complaining, and I am certainly not comparing the life of a stay-at-home mom to the life of a working mom. I just want all moms to remember it is OK to be discouraged. I want all moms to realize there is someone out there who can relate, regardless of your experience. If you love every moment of motherhood, that is awesome. But if you struggle, there are moms like you too. They can support you as much as you support them if you let them.
So don’t be afraid to be real, to be honest.