Lots of women before me have sat down during those precious nap-time minutes to write about their journey as a stay at home mom. Even with the volume of thoughts already shared about stay-at-home-momhood, I it has recently been on my heart to chime in. I think I might have something to contribute. I hope I do.
After much reflection I have decided that the best thing I have to contribute to the stay-at-home-mom discussion is my journey, one that I am still on. For many of us, myself included, the decision to stop working outside the house and stay home has led to a life so radically different than we ever pictured or before experienced that we still, each and every day, struggle to understand exactly what our job description actually is, what our schedule should be, what all of this work is building up to. Even 4 years in I often feel lost, or worse, feel like a failure at this job–which of course is so much more than a job. But I guess that isn’t surprising since even the way that I came to be a stay-at-home mom was less than perfect.
My husband and I got married in August of 2010…and 9 months later we welcomed our first child, Gus. At the beginning of that first pregnancy it was assumed that I would continue to work once the baby arrived, and that didn’t seem odd to either of us. I was 29 years old. Working is what I did. But, as those 9 months swept by other factors started coming into play.
First of all, at the time I was teaching at a fairly rough inner-city Alternative High School (alternative meaning, a school for kids that had failed out/dropped out/had babies/gone to jail/were homeless…) in Minneapolis. I saw a lot of joy there, but also a lot of violence and sadness. As the only female on staff and the only voice for life, it was good and important work, but as the pregnancy progressed I realized that that wasn’t enough.
It is one thing to walk into an unpredictable situation every day as a single (strong) woman. It is another thing to walk into that situation with an innocent child in your womb. I felt guilty every day I was there pregnant with Gus, and the few times a fight broke out or weapons were found in the school building I experienced a fear I had never known before.
Both my husband and I agreed that after the baby was born I would not be returning to that job. But still, I would be working.
Towards the end of the pregnancy we started looking seriously into daycare options. And, wow. Just wow. We couldn’t believe what it cost to put an infant in daycare.
My husband, the accountant, sat down and crunched the numbers over and over. I’d lived well off of my teacher salary, paid outright for a masters degree, certainly never denied myself very much, and yet now, with the looming expense of childcare, it became clear that especially after we had another baby, I would be working EXCLUSIVELY to pay for childcare.
And that just felt silly.
And so, with little to no prayer, very remote conviction and a whole lot of apprehension, I quit my job the moment contractions started and haven’t been back in nearly 4 years.
I was officially a stay-at-home-mom, whatever that meant.
I would love to say that I took to the stay-at-home lifestyle with ease and grace. But, that, my friends, would be a lie.
After Gus was born I suffered (and I mean suffered) with postpartum depression and even after that was treated and dealt with, I still struggled. I remember roaming the house at 3 in the afternoon, wondering what in the world I should be doing with myself. I remember crying to my husband, feeling like a failure, but mostly being so completely alone. Our closest family was 3 hours away. I had a few friends who were also home with their kids, but they lived 30 minutes or more away.
I remember strolling around our suburban neighborhood in the middle of the day, looking at all of the empty houses. I felt like the soul survivor of nuclear bomb drop. The two of us, me and this non-communicative baby, were the only humans for miles, or so it seemed…
The first days as a stay-at-home mom–those days when you only have a tiny infant–are the hardest. They should be the easiest I think now, since the mania of toddlers and adolescents has yet to start, but for women like us, women used to days filled with tasks and people and obligations and questions and dates and noise–those quiet, still, lonely days alone with an infant are scary.
Even now when I am home with 3 kids under 4 years old–and my days are anything but quiet–this stay-at-home motherhood thing still scares me. I can see now the rewards, which makes it better, but sometimes not very much easier.
Being home has stretched me more physically, mentally and spiritually than any job I’ve ever had outside of the home.
Being home has brought me closer to my husband.
Being home has allowed me to give my children everything. Everything. Everything that I was, everything that I am, everything I will be.
In my desperate moments the fact that I am continually asked to pour myself out in this role as a stay-at-home-mom can be so painful, so confusing, so frustrating.
But then we all get the giggles at lunch, and I don’t feel empty at all.
I feel very full.
I can’t imagine anyone else taking care of my children. I loose my temper, I bribe, I turn on the TV to get a break, I’m on my phone too much–and am imperfect in a million other ways, but they are mine and as a stay-at-home mom I know that I am FULLY theirs.
I hope that as I continue to share about life at home with kids you will join in with your own struggles, successes, tips, stories, pain and joy. I’m not the first woman to write on this topic but I can’t help but add my voice in support of this noble vocation.
I’d love to hear if you too are/were a stay-at-home mom. Did you have any of these struggles too?
Thanks for being here!