Deep Thoughts on Stay-at-Home-Motherhood

I’m coming up on six months since I quit my job to stay home with Elodie and James. Like so many important life moments, it feels both longer and shorter than that. I’ve done so much thinking and soul-searching these last six months trying to figure out how I really feel about this new title — Stay-At-Home-Mom. There are some days I love it. I wear it with pride. And then there are days I can’t shake the feeling of shame and disappointment. There have been more times than I care to admit that when someone asks what I “do” — I bashfully say “I’m just home with the kids”.

I’m going to tell you something I’ve never actually said out loud, and it’s a hard truth to admit to. When I was a working mom there was a small part of me that judged stay-at-home-moms. While I preached, and still do preach, that everyone is just doing the best they can for their families, and that looks different for everyone, I’d secretly say to myself, “But I could never stay at home. I don’t know how they do that. I couldn’t sacrifice my career, my time, my money, to be home.” There was this tiny sliver that sort of looked down on SAHMs. Like I was a little better because I had a career. I was going to work. I was doing something. I know these thoughts were a defense mechanism. I felt huge guilt leaving my children 8+ hours a day to go to work. But I also felt really proud of my career, of my worth-ethic, of my paycheck. I simultaneously loved and hated dropping my kids off at daycare, because I hated saying goodbye to them, but I also loved having some time for myself — to do something I was good at and earn a living.

I wish I could say that six months at home has resolved these conflicting feelings, but if I’m honest, it’s only amplified them. I see things from the “other” side. I secretly always knew staying home would be hard… But it’s so much harder than I could’ve imagined. It’s physically, emotionally and mentally draining. I feel an immense amount of pressure to be present, to make healthy meals, to keep the house clean, to keep the kids socialized, to teach the kids about everything from numbers, colors and letters to empathy, kindness and hard work.

When Corey and I both worked full-time outside of the home it truly felt like we were barely making it through each day. We weren’t enjoying life and parenthood Monday through Friday, we were just trying to survive it. I so badly wanted me staying home to fix that feeling. And while yes, having me home has alleviated much of the burden that fell on our shoulders as two working parents, most of that burden has just shifted from both of us to me. Now I’m the one who is home all day and can keep up on the laundry and the rest of the cleaning. I’m the one who’s home during rush hour so I’m the logical person to get dinner started, I’m the one who’s always available to take kids to doctors appointments, or be home for a repair man when our dryer breaks or our internet isn’t working.Β Corey has no expectations of me — he doesn’t walk in the door and expect happy kids, a clean house and dinner to be made, but I expect that of myself. And if he walks in and we have crying children, a messy house and no idea what’s for dinner, we’re just in the exact same spot we’d be at every night when we were both working.

It has taken time to work through our new normal. My morning routine honestly helps me so much, but there are still times I feel twinges of resentment that Corey’s life has seemingly gotten so much easier while mine feels a lot harder. But then I remember that I got to be home with our kids all day. I got to see James take his first steps, I got to read them books, take them to the park, bake cookies together, have dance parties, I got to be there to kiss there owies and snuggle them while we watched a movie. It doesn’t feel like all rainbows and sunshine on a day-to-day basis, but the exhaustion I feel at the end of the day is rewarding in a way being in the office never could be.

I know I’ll continue to ponder both working-mom-life and stay-at-home-mom-life. There will always be pros and cons for each. I imagine I’ll go back-and-forth between the two many times for many different reasons. For now I’m just grateful I’m getting the chance to see it all from another perspective, to really live it. And now more than ever I really do believe there is no perfect way, no better way — working, staying home, working from home, it’s all so freakin’ hard. And I have so much respect for every single mother out there, no matter what they do or where they do it.


17 thoughts on “Deep Thoughts on Stay-at-Home-Motherhood”

  1. It’s easy to get inside your head about it especially when you’re the only adult around for hours at a time. I left my career about six years ago when my son was born so I get what you mean by the loss of the “doing something” feeling and earning that paycheck.
    At the end of the day I just can’t imagine not being at home. Even though it’s crazy at times, I feel like our life would be a complete shitshow without me at home with the kids. Especially as they get older and are involved in sports multiple times throughout the week and have homework and all that! I also feel like I fill my husband in on so much (moments he misses while he’s at work(Nike husband as well). Being around them helps me feel like I really truly KNOW them even in those chaotic moments of not having dinner planned and feeling not as present as I should be.
    When someone asks you what you do, leave the “just” out and say it with pride!! Your current job is very valuable!
    Cheers to motherhood!

  2. I totally get this. I am a full time working mom with a ton of flexibility- but when I was between jobs for 8 months when I was pregnant and my son was 1.5-3 staying home was HARD. I was exhausted and i although I love being a mom more than anything, I didn’t love being a stay at home mom. Now I’ve been working full time again for the past 8 months and everyone is so much happier in my house. I have to admit that part of it being so good for us is the flexibility of my job, but honestly I have so much respect for stay at home moms!!

  3. This was so good! I have stayed home since my son was born (that was hard going to work one day while in denial about being in labor and then just being done the next). I loved hearing how both sides are hard. You explained your feelings better than anything else I have read.

    I always wonder how moms who work can get everything done, but I also am the one that puts all the pressure on myself to do EVERYTHING at our house and it is hard. I worry about when I do go back to work once our youngest is in school and how we will be able to go back to sharing the responsibilities and figuring out things like who will stay home with sick kids. We have a few more years to figure that out but it definitely crosses my mind. Anyways my oldest is starting Kindergarten in the fall and I am beyond thankful that I feel like I haven’t missed anything with him. It really goes so fast.

    Loving your blog and also the Instagram post about how you know when you are done. Struggling with that right now! It didn’t lead to a clear answer (I wish!) but it did make me feel good to know I’m not the only one!

  4. Thank you for your honest words. I used to be a stay at home mom and always felt the “secret” longing to “be someone”…. to “do more”. Well, now I work and it’s extremely hard to keep up with everything without loosing my cool too often πŸ€¦πŸ»β€β™€οΈ But like you said, we are all doing our best and hoping to keep from messing up our kids in the process…. good luck with everything Liz, I enjoy your posts!!!!

  5. Love this post! Thank you for sharing such honest thoughts. I currently work from home with my 8 month old and not a day goes by when I don’t question whether I should quit altogether or go back full time, it is a constant struggle. It’s so comforting to know that other women struggle with the same internal conflict .

  6. I used to read your blog back in the day when you still lived in Amsterdam, and through instagram suggestions, re-found it. I’ve never commented on any blog post, but this topic just hit home! I have a 16 month old daughter, and went back to work when she was 6 months old. I think about staying home with her everyday, and I couldn’t describe the struggle better than you did if I tried. Thanks so much for your honesty! As I start thinking about trying for a second child, I always wonder how I will feel when it’s time to return to work- I will definitely be coming back to this post as a source of inspiration πŸ™‚

  7. Thank you for writing this, Liz! I stopped working just before having my son (our first) and I don’t have any solid plans to go back to work yet, and have felt so judged by many of our friends. As if my own conflicting feelings weren’t enough, I have to put up with others’ judgement, too?! I have a lot of respect for you for not only getting up and doing what you do every day (it’s HARD WORK) but for also putting into words the honest feelings of so many of us out here.

  8. I’m sitting at my desk while my kids are at daycare and I’m tearing up reading this. You’re rightβ€”it’s all so hard! The only way Jeff and I get through it is to have a sense of humor and remember that this is just a short chapter of our lives. And life goes so fast! I’m so happy just to experience it. I’ve recently lowered my standards when it comes to laundry, cleaning, cooking, etc., and it’s helped a lot, surprisingly. (It’s only taken me 5+ years to get there!) You are an amazing mom, Liz, and your family is beyond lucky to have you. I admire your openness, honesty and everything you do, personally *and* professionally! xo

  9. I’m going through this decision making process with my husband now. I remembered this post from a few weeks back and searched your IG page to find it and I read your blog too! Thank you for sharing!! Like a few other readers I would love to hear how you guys adjusted your lifestyle now that you weren’t bringing home a paycheck. We’re in a possession to allow me to stay home but it doesn’t change the feeling I have of guilt that I won’t be monetarily contributing! I’m also wondering how the dynamic in your marriage may have shifted or how y’all work together differently now? I wish there was a seminar for couples to work through this big change/decision but alas, trial and error it is again πŸ˜‰ I know in my heart that this is the “right” decision but is so hard to accept #theguiltisreal !!!!

    1. Thank you so much for your comment! I had soooo many of these thoughts before finally deciding to stay home. I am so prideful of my career and just being a strong woman in general, and if I’m being brutally honest I think before staying home I did subconsciously kind of thing SAHMs just kind of bowed down to their husbands … And I wondered what our dynamic would be like if/when I did leave my job. I am going to write a ton more about this in a post this week, but while it has definitely taken some adjustment, I see now my worries were all for not. My husband respects me, still comes homes and talks work with me because he values me and my insight and my career experience. He never ever expects to walk in the door to a clean house and dinner on the stove and happy kids. He is truly in awe of me being home with the kids all day and staying sane (and more than that, feeling happy). The fact that I can feel that genuine respect and admiration from him goes a REALLY REALLY long way. I’d be lying if I said I still didn’t have times I felt inadequate next to my working mom friends or when we run into a colleague of Corey’s and his wife and they ask me what I do and I “just stay home” and the colleague’s wife is some powerhouse career woman. But there are two sides to every coin and I’ve seen the working mom side and I know it’s advantages and disadvantages. I’m just feeling grateful we were able to make this work so I could give being home a try. Okay longest comment ever but more to come on this subject!!

  10. Thanks for your blog post… This topic is something I struggle with daily. As a young woman, I feel like I’ve always been encouraged to accomplish and excel and I feel like I have done so. But then, once I became a mother, I feel there is a new societal pressure to be home with the kids. I’m currently a nurse, and I work part time (2 days per week). People are always saying, “Oh, you only work two days a week? That’s good.” No one says that to my husband. I feel grateful that I get the balance of being home 3 days during the week, but still having that work part of me for 2 days of the week. What I’m struggling with right now is where to go with my career in the future? I feel the urge to learn more, continue on in the profession and possibly become a nurse practitioner. But I know that becoming an NP means less time with the kids. I struggle with the decision to advance my career to something truly fulfilling where I feel accomplished, but I know there is a sacrifice with family time.

    1. I really hope by the time our children have children both sons and daughters will get the question “are you going to go back to work after maternity/paternity leave”? You better believe Corey never got that question but I got it ALL the time. Such a double standard. I think the conflict you describe is the crux of modern parenthood — you truly feel like you can’t have it all. Work life and home life are just structured in a way that isn’t conducive to “doing it all”… You have to choose. I guess I’d ask you what would make you feel more fulfilled — advancing your career and feeling truly accomplished in your career (as you say), or feeling fulfilled in your motherhood? I truly don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer and it doesn’t make you a worse mother or employee for feeling whatever you feel. You just have to dig deep and answer that question for yourself. That’s just my opinion πŸ™‚

  11. Hey Liz! I read this when you first posted it and thought it was so insightful. And then saw your Instagram stories and decided to come and comment! I have no kids yet but we are trying, and this topic has been so important to me. May I ask, did you work out any plan with your company in the case you ever wanted to go back? Do you think they would take you back? My main concer is to leave a job I like, and then being force to find something else in another place. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi There! Thanks so much for reading and commenting! Luckily for me I worked for a big Fortune 500 company that had really great maternity benefits (by the time I had James they were providing 16 weeks of paid leave and the ability to return to work part-time for 12 additional weeks.) I had exercised the benefits and when I left, I did so on good terms, but not with the intention that I would be back. I believe if I wanted to go back they would help find a place for me, there were no hard feelings upon my departure! I think always having an open and honest dialogue with your employer about what obstacles you’re facing and if they can be flexible with you whether that be with a part-time schedule or leaving with the potential to come back, is always a good thing. What do you have to lose right? But if you love your job you might be surprised at how fulfilling it still is when you return to work. Right before I left I was in a really stressful work situation that really burned me out and left me feeling like I needed to step away. If I loved my job I am honestly not sure I would’ve left. I hope all my rambling makes a little sense and you find it helpful πŸ™‚

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