I’ve been a SAHM for nearly 10 years, during which I’ve brought three new humans into the world. Ten years that, to be honest, are a blur as I look back. How the hell did I do it? With a husband who worked long hours and traveled frequently, there was often an indistinct transition between Tuesday and Wednesday, or even from weekdays to weekends. There was no break, ever.
Days passed during which I spoke to zero grown-ups. Took zero showers. And did zero things outside of my home. Every year, fall would arrive, and my friends with older kids would skip down the street, ready to celebrate the first day of school and all the quiet and me-time they were going to get.
I hated my friends on those days.
Because SAHMs to babies and toddlers don’t know the difference between April and October, or between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. The days and weeks are really just a continuous loop of Groundhog Day. Wipe, wash, feed, repeat. For days, weeks, months, and years. Until one day, you’re 10 years in and look at yourself in the mirror for the first time in forever and gasp in horror. This is what you look like now. Ashen, graying, slumped over, brain void of adult conversations and instead filled with Peppa Pig and your child’s poop schedule.
But then, one day, it happens. The moment you always dreamed of finally arrives. For me, it was September 4 of this year. For the first time since embarking on this SAHM journey 10 years ago, all of my kids got on the bus at 8:15 in the morning. And none of them came home until the bus dropped them off at 4.
It was quiet. So, so quiet. And it was glorious. I celebrated with hot coffee. With solo errands. And some grown-up TV while curled up on the couch. Because I fucking deserved it.
Unfortunately, due to inaccurate perceptions of what SAHM life is like, not everyone agrees.
There still remains a battle between the different moms of the world. And when SAHMs share humorous memes about enjoying a latte or a Fixer Upper marathon, or even a nap on their kids’ first day of school, we are often met with disdain.
“Well, that must be nice. Some of us have to work for a living.”
So here’s my response to that.
No one in the history of ever has said, “You know who has it easy? Those working moms.” Nor should they. Working moms are machines. They Do. Not. Stop. They essentially work two full-time jobs and, honestly, I don’t know how they do it. So if a working mom asks for help, or scores a day off, or a luncheon with colleagues, or a work trip, or happy hour, or a shopping spree, I say GET IT, GURL. Whether it’s for your career or your own personal happiness and well-being, you deserve all the things.
Also, I was a teacher in my previous life, so I know first-hand that not all “work life” means 90-minute lunches at swanky downtown restaurants, or expensive Burberry suits, or last minute coffee breaks. “Lunch” as a teacher means a sandwich you brought from home that you slam in 20 minutes while grading papers. And you shop off the clearance rack at Kohl’s.
But what I did have as a teacher was adult interaction. And the ability to contribute financially, which made me feel valued. And when my brain used the two degrees I’d worked hard for (and paid hard for), I felt significant. And smart.
Being a stay-at-home mom is a blessing—I know that. I know that some moms would love the opportunity, but cannot afford to stay home. I value the time I’ve had with my kids. I was there for everything, for every fever, boo-boo, school project, and school musical. I’m the one who taught them their letters, how to write their name, and wipe their own butts.
But when that’s ALL YOU DO, it can take its toll.
For many of us on the SAHM track, there’s a giant void in the space where our former selves used to be. We don’t see it coming, and often don’t realize it’s happened until we are years into the gig, but we are drowning. Drowning in loneliness. Drowning in lack of real conversation. Drowning in the memories of what it felt like to be a real person, out in the world.
Our spouses and friends and family members can tell us until they’re blue in the face that we are needed, and that we are valuable.
We hear those words, and we may even believe they are true.
But we still lose ourselves along the way.
Because here’s the truth… For many of us, the switch to SAHM life was abrupt, and harsh, and a difficult choice to make. Many of us gave up our careers because we couldn’t do both—whether it was due to childcare costs, our children’s needs, our spouse’s work schedule, or just knowing how much we could handle on any given day.
And on the longest, most exhausting days of potty training and breastfeeding and tripping over toys and begging the toddler to take a nap so you could finally call your girlfriend or your mom to hear someone say, “You’re doing okay”—those are the days we dreamed of that moment, one autumn, when they’d finally all be in school.
The moment we’d be able to look at ourselves for the first time in 10 years and say, “Hi. I know you’ve been gone awhile. Let’s bring you back.”
That might mean a Starbucks run. Or solo trip to Target. Or lunch with a girlfriend. Or a pedicure. Or a nap. We aren’t trying to brag about our new-found freedom, or rub in working moms’ faces that we can do those things. We are merely having a moment of celebration that we came out of the fog, alive, and still kicking.
(And, FYI, most of us are totally kidding. We might enjoy a hot coffee, but we still get the mom-shit done too. I got a pap smear on my kids’ first day of school. So, yeah.)
In the end, if you’re a working mom and you find yourself envious or irritated at a SAHM who suddenly gets to watch a little Hoda and Kathie Lee while she folds laundry, just remember, she’s probably been jealous of you for a long time.
Why don’t you invite her to meet you for lunch? Or happy hour? Or go shopping one Saturday (even if it’s scouring the clearance racks). She probably hasn’t bought herself something new since the Britney Spears comeback, so she’ll gladly take you up on the offer.