I hang with moms and kids. That’s my crowd as new stay-at-home mom. I joke that there are days that the only adult males I interact with on the regular are my husband and the Starbucks barista. I’ve noticed a distinct difference between two types of SAHM’s. There are moms who have never worked outside the home since they had children, and those who have. Meaning, I know moms who stayed home with their first child and I know moms, like me, who started staying home with their second child.
A conversation with a group of moms holding babies went something like this:
A SAHM with two kids who never worked after her first child was born asked me, “So, Amy. Do you miss work? Are you glad you’re staying home?”
I say, “It’s great! It was a really good decision. My daughter loves her preschool. We were a little nervous pulling her out of her daycare. We were sad to leave there. It’s a great place, but I love being home with the kids. I’m actually a ‘stay-in-the-car mom’ Ha! We’ve been so busy.”
She says, “Yeah, but it’s so hard taking care of the kids all day!”
A new mom holding her first baby chimes in, “Yeah, being a stay-at-home-mom is the hardest job in the world.”
I looked around the group to try to catch the eye of a mom like me, one who went back to work after her first baby. No one like that was in this circle. I stayed quiet. I faded out of the conversation that turned into complaining about nap schedules, unhelpful husbands and struggles to decide what to cook for dinner.
Hardest job in the world? No. No it’s not. Working outside the home while still being a parent is harder. It is. It just is. I feel I can say this because I’ve done both. Take all the stress of caring for children, cooking for your family, maintaining your home and add the intense pressure of a full-time job to it. Add the commute. Add the limited time. Add the daycare bill. Add the pressure of counting up paid and unpaid maternity leave days. Add the agony of leaving your baby. Add the guilt. It makes it all harder.
I’m not saying it’s all roses being a homemaker. I’m busy, no doubt. My kiddos keep me on my toes. Napless days of wicked tantrums are exhausting and infuriating. Those are times I miss the outlet of work. I know there are mothers of children with special needs who have much more taxing days at home than I do. I understand there are mamas with colicky criers and mothers of multiples trapped in the house all day. I feel for them. I know they have rough days too.
I’m just saying that since I started staying home, our lives are so much better. There were days that I would spend less than two hours a day with my child. We’d get dressed in the morning. Eat in the car and I’d drop her off. By the time I got to her, I had two hours before she went to bed. That time was mostly for dinner and bath.
When two parents are working it’s like being shot out of a cannon on Monday morning and the cannonball lands on Friday afternoon. The cannonball falls exhausted into a messy house and an empty pantry. While we did have lots of fun on the weekends, we often did not. We often had to clean, grocery shop and do all the mundane things we couldn’t get to during the week. The weekend culminated with the Sunday night dread. I’d prepare with a gripping feeling in my chest because another work week was beginning.
I understand job satisfaction is part of this. I know some women who are very fulfilled in their jobs and feel that’s where they get the most validation. Other women I know work for companies with 12 paid weeks of maternity leave, mothers’ rooms for pumping that have lounge chairs and half-day Fridays. While I liked my job and the people I worked with, I chose careers that were not as conducive to parenthood. I knew that when I went to college and majored in journalism and communications. It’s hard being a mother reporting the news live on TV at 6:00 am or answering my public relations client’s email at 7:30 pm when it’s bath time. My friends who work in banking, for example, start at 9 and end at 5. That’s the nature of their business.
Now I can let my daughter play on the playground after preschool. I can take half an hour and make a gingerbread house with her. Hell, I can lay my head on the couch and take a nap when the kids do on a Tuesday because it’s raining and I have a headache. One parent is home to unload the dishwasher and start dinner so it doesn’t become this huge issue or argument. I can take the kids to the doctor when they are sick without scheduling it on my Outlook calendar or calling five people to make sure things at work are covered. None of that was possible when I was working full time and it was hard. Harder than this.
My biggest fear about staying home was that I was going to be bored, lonely or unstimulated. Those are the complaints I hear from SAHM’s. I can say that I have not felt that way AT ALL. Not once in the last 8 months have I been bored, lonely or unstimulated. Maybe it’s because I immediately planned stuff for us to do and groups to be a part of, I dunno. But, I really attribute not being bored, but being happy to two things:
- I am not home with only a baby. I have a preschooler and a baby to keep me busy. Yeah, babies can be boring. Add a toddler, preschooler or older child in the mix? Party time! Boredom be gone!
- I know how crazy it is to have two working parents and I know this is better. It just is.