Dear Stay-at-Home Mom,
Let’s face it – you live just a little against the norm. You don’t really know where you fit anymore. Somehow, you’ve lost relevance with your friends who don’t have kids. And the friends who do have kids are now back to work after mat leave. You feel startlingly lonely all of a sudden, a little bit insecure, and a lot unsure if you’ve made the right decision or not.
I’m writing to let you know that five years into this stay-at-home mom-ness, I still feel that way from time to time. There are days when I doubt my “worth” as an individual because what I do often isn’t recognized, understood or appreciated. I’ve heard all the judgments and assumptions – Your house is cleaner than mine because you’re home all day. Staying at home all day with just kids would make my brain cells die. It must be nice to be able to afford to stay at home. How can you allow yourself to depend on a man for your financial security? You actually have time to make a nice meal. You should be able to take on this extra task because you’re home and you clearly have the time.
I’m sure you have your own set of expectations that people impose on you. Or maybe you impose them on yourself. Sometimes our inner voices can be our own worst critics. But I’m here to tell you that I know what it’s like.
I know that your house probably looks like a tornado ran through it every day by 9 a.m. I know that you likely have tried, and failed, and tried again to implement a cleaning schedule because you are home, after all. You should be able to do this! You’ve tried to include your kids in the cleaning, to teach them responsibility, singing the clean-up song over and over and over again through gritted teeth. Instead, you start looking at the mess around you and decide to call it “happy dirt” because it means the kids played, created and explored with abandon.
I know that you crave adult conversation. That one of the hardest things about everyone returning to work was the long mornings without play dates, without that fellow mom drinking thrice-nuked coffee. And yes, there are days when you chide yourself for trying to rationalize with a two-year-old. But no, that does not mean that your brain is not working overtime. If anything, you now have skills in negotiation and distraction that far surpass any professional. Even the time it takes to study and know your children takes far more brain power than any other job you’ve ever done.
I know the sacrifice you make to stay-at-home. I know that you likely price-match your groceries, you turn the water off while you scrub shampoo into your hair, you collect beer bottles on recycling day, and you shop at thrift stores. You wonder what it would be like to just buy the meat that’s not on sale at the grocery store, to break the bank and actually eat chicken that is both boneless and skinless. I know that it’s not about being able to afford to stay at home – rather it’s about what you’re willing to sacrifice.
I know that every fiber of your being rears in revolt when you’re accused of relying on your husband financially. I know you’re dying to point out that just because you have decided to stay home, does not mean you’re a doormat, the weaker link, the meek, dutiful wife. Rather, you are a force to be reckoned with. You’re the strength behind your man. He would not be where he is without you and the abilities you wield on the home front. Somewhere along the line, we separated ourselves from our spouses, looking at each other as cold, contributing monetary values rather than viewing each other as a unit, a team.
I know that yes, you may have the time to have lazy mornings. You may not have to get out of your pajamas until noon. But that does not mean that time is in surplus. By five o’clock, meals are slapped on the table with force (and extreme efficiency) because you’re proud of yourself for making it through witching hour without losing your mind. Gone are the days of listening to quiet jazz, drinking a glass of wine, burying your nose into a bouquet of fresh herbs, while stirring something bubbling slowly on the stove top. Instead, you’re signing books out of the library – Meals for Picky Eaters made in 15-Minutes or Less. Time is different now. Yes, you may be making the choice to invest your time at home, but that does not mean that you have more of it.
Yet I also know that despite the sacrifices and all the insinuations, someday you’ll suddenly realize that you’re pretty darn comfortable in your own skin. That you wouldn’t trade these early years spent at home for the world. That as you stand on the cusp of new possibilities, you will never regret these lean, self-sacrificing years where you put your needs on hold for just a little bit. Because, suddenly it’s five years later, and you’re able to explore your passions a little more, you’re able to open doors to exciting opportunities. And you’ll realize just how very full and beautiful your life is.