I used to think being a stay-at-home mom would be easy . . . until I became one.
It’s not lounging in your PJs, drinking coffee, and watching reruns of your favorite show. Nor is it sitting around scrolling through social media between errands and naps. It’s not simple, and it’s certainly not relaxing. It is a real job, and it is utterly exhausting in every way possible. It’s overwhelming, and it’s lonely.
It’s questioning every single decision you make and praying that God will guide you to the right one. Teeter-tottering between being too hard and being too soft. Some days are full of stress, anxiety, and sometimes even crying. It’s going to bed absolutely drained and overstimulated by touch, knowing you’ll wake up and do the exact same thing all over again. At the same time, no day is exactly like the day prior. One day can be smooth and seemingly easy while the next is extremely difficult even though you haven’t done anything differently.
It’s the neverending guilt of having nothing left for your spouse because your tank is completely empty. I’m fortunate enough to have a spouse who is always willing to help, but it makes me feel even more guilty for having nothing left to offer him.
Your entire existence is devoted to tending to the needs of everyone around you.
For some reason, even when there are others around to help, your child still wants YOU. There they are, clinging to your leg, whining, wanting you to hold them. You feel terrible for wanting to get a babysitter because, at the end of the day, you chose to have children. They are your responsibility and no one else’s. So, what gives you the right to ask for help? You save those types of favors for times when you really need them. Like doctor’s office visits for yourself or your other children. And when your husband is home, you can’t help but think about the fact that he’s worked 50+ hours this week and probably wants a break too.
Your day starts somewhere around 6 a.m., and it seems like it never ends. The moment your eyes open, you are on duty. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to brush your teeth before the baby wakes up hungry and screaming. You make breakfast for everyone, hoping that maybe—just maybe—you’ll get a chance to eat too. But by the time you clean up from breakfast, it’s snack time for the kids. We don’t get a lunch break either or even a solo bathroom break.
Then there are the bottomless laundry baskets you dread tackling because even that comes with one child tugging at your leg through the whole process while the others are asking 100 questions. It’s vacuum-deprived floors and a kitchen table covered in syrup and jelly.
There’s no time to check emails or text messages, and typing a two-sentence response comes with at least five interruptions. There’s homework to do and doctor’s office visits to get to. Also, the cat just threw up, the baby is attempting to eat dog food, and you’ve been running around with a full bladder for two hours.
And all you want to do is go outside and scream at the top of your lungs. But, you can’t do that without a child on your hip or a child standing at the door watching as you lose your mind.
Running errands seems like a simple task. But as a stay-at-home mom, it’s no longer just running a quick errand. It’s snacks, diapers, wipes, formula, water, toys, shopping cart cover, stroller, etc., etc. The time it takes to prepare and load up the car sort of makes the trip seem worthless. Not to mention those times when you are finally ready to go, and then you realize it’s nap time. So, you re-route and prepare.
Humidifier is ready, noise machine, blanket, paci. Then, as you’re making a bottle (with a screaming baby on your hip), you knock over the wax warmer full of hot wax, and the 8-year-old is asking for a snack, for the third time. You want to cry, but you must maintain composure. And when you finally get the youngest down for a nap, you can always count on a loud bang in the next room to wake them up. We won’t even get into those days involving teething or ear infections.
Technically you aren’t alone, but when your child is too young to conversate with, it can certainly feel like you’re alone. It’s much different than having conversations with coworkers. Even if those coworkers annoy you. Adult conversation is adult conversation, and stay-at-home moms don’t have many of those. Instead, we’re busy answering a minimum of 100 questions on a daily basis. Wearing the best fake, serene smile you can imagine.
You don’t get sick days or sick time, period. You aren’t allowed to be sick.
Diapers still have to be changed, bottles have to be washed, and you can’t close your eyes when there are three children roaming the house. You look at the clock and watch the door, hoping for your husband to walk through any second. Oftentimes, your entire day seems like a blur and you’re unable to recall completing one single task. In fact, no matter how much you’ve accomplished that day, you still feel like a failure. Like it’s never enough, or you should’ve done more. Asking for help makes you feel like you aren’t capable of doing it on your own.
Self-care is a thing of the past, even though moms are the ones who need it the most. Just taking a shower seems like a huge task. You think, Oh, I’ll shower while the baby naps. But then, it takes you 30 minutes to get them to sleep, and by that point, you’re tiptoeing through the house for the next hour trying not to wake them up. You know the minute you step into the shower the baby monitor will go off. So, you decide to wait until the evening after you put the baby to bed. But, there’s dinner to clean up, homework to be done, pets to be fed, and your husband needs to shower too. It’s usually 11 p.m. by the time everything is done and everyone else is taken care of. It takes everything you have to muster up enough energy for that shower.
Then there are those, like myself, whose baby doesn’t nap at all. But, they sleep through the night, so how dare we complain about a lack of naps. In fact, you can’t complain at all or you’ll be accused of being ungrateful. It’s OK to complain about work, but you can’t complain when you “do nothing but sit at home all day.”
It is a privilege to be able to watch your kids grow and change each day. And yes, staying at home is a choice.
But sometimes it’s the only choice that makes sense for your family. You don’t get paid. You don’t get vacation or sick days. There are no bonuses, promotions, or pay raises. You work a shift that never ends, and quitting is not an option. So, what you get is an exhausted, disheveled mom at the end of each day. We entertain, teach, cook, clean, and we are on call 24/7. If you combine all of our job titles, stay-at-home moms would be earning something in the six-digit range (not including overtime).
Every decision we make is scrutinized. Yet, most of the good we accomplish is unseen. Teaching them to walk, drink from a cup, make new letter sounds and identify colors, how to pray, brush their hair, and shower on their own. People don’t tend to notice these things because, after all, we’re supposed to teach them these things.
We don’t enjoy putting ourselves last or knowing that our day isn’t ours at all. We don’t enjoy being on edge and feeling battered to the point of no return. And we certainly don’t thrive off being torn between four (or more) people day in and day out.
The fact of the matter is we could all use a little support, recognition, and encouragement.
We don’t want to be mentally, emotionally, and physically drained. We don’t want to deal with postpartum hormones—or female hormones in general for that matter.
What we want is an endless supply of energy. We want to be good parents. We want the superhuman ability to give not just our kids the best of us but our partners, too. We want to set a good example of what a marriage should look like. We want to teach them it’s OK to have both good days and bad days.
Needing a break doesn’t mean we need to leave the country. It means we want to do whatever we want to do, completely uninterrupted. Maybe it’s writing or reading, maybe it’s pulling weeds or mowing the grass. We want to be free of responsibility, even for just an hour or two. Without feeling guilty or indebted. That is what keeps us stable and sane and feeling like we still exist. This time is an essential aid to our ability to parent, ability to recognize the help that is given, and the ability to say thank you.
It is literally impossible to list each of the things we do on a daily basis even when it looks like we’ve done nothing. We are choosing to give up many of our years just to ensure that our children have the best life possible. We are the ones providing consistency and leadership.
All in all, believe me, we are grateful to those who see us and support us, and we love you.