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. 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.