“I couldn’t do it, I would get too bored.”
“What do you do with all that free time?”
“I would miss my job too much, I like having a separate life.”
These are just a few of the comments I’ve received in response to my decision to stay home and raise my son. I never pictured myself being a stay-at-home mom. I hate cleaning and can barely remember to take my keys out of the door—how could I manage to keep another person alive? Well, like most stay-at-home moms will tell you, it just happened.
I’ll be the first to tell you that many perceptions of the stay-at-home mom are extremely untrue. First of all, I don’t have the time to get bored. Even my partner, who bless his heart works full time to keep a roof over our heads, has repeatedly offered to set up the old video games we used to play before parenthood so that I can “be entertained” during the day. What he doesn’t understand is that my “free time” during the day is spent showering, doing the dishes, and tidying up after a crazy crawling tornado. If I’m lucky, I may sneak a chapter or two of a book in but that’s pretty rare.
Many moms choose to go back to work after having a child and I think that’s great. If you have a job that you look forward to going to everyday and helps define you as a person, bless you and stick with it. I, on the other hand, have never experienced that until I became a mother. I also don’t have the luxury of having a retired mother nearby aching to take a baby off my hands so day care was out of the question. Motherhood is the only thing that has ever come naturally to me, so I choose to do it full-time. I too like to have a separate life but mine just comes in small doses.
There’s a certain amount of guilt that I felt about not bringing home a paycheck and not being able to help with the financial burden so I guess I had a hard time justifying it. I’ve always been the type of person who works hard for what she wants and tries to have everything be as equal as possible in a partnership. You can only imagine the amount of guilt I would feel when my partner would come home from work to a sink full of dirty dishes and a disaster of a house. Where did the time go? How couldn’t I find 20 minutes to wipe down the counters or even do a half-hearted vacuum job?
When my son was 6 months old, I went out to dinner with a few friends one night. The waiter was making small talk with some friendly questions and happened to ask each of us what we did for a living. “I’m a social worker,” replied one. “I’m an elementary school teacher,” said the other. I paused when the eyes were on me—well, I USED to be a yoga instructor and writer, now I’m a full-time spit-up crusted food source and diaper zombie at the beckoning call of an infant. “I’m just a mom,” I said. To my surprise, both my friends and the waiter looked at me with sharp eyes. “JUST a mom?” replied the waiter. “Honey, do not discredit yourself. I commend you for your responsibility. You are raising another human being—that is no small feat.” As shocked as I was to hear his reaction, a smile immediately came to my face and I felt an extraordinary amount of self-satisfaction.
It’s no secret that along with parenthood comes an immense amount of judgment. We watch how other parents handle their kids and wonder if perhaps they know something we don’t. If we breastfeed, we are embarrassed to do so in public; if we bottle feed we get the guilt trip about the benefits of breastmilk. All judgment aside, we alone are our own biggest critics. Why are we so hard on ourselves as mothers? We strive to have a clean home, a delicious dinner on the table, and smiling children every day—but life gets in the way. Kids are unpredictable, as is life. So take a deep breath, ease your worries, and tell yourself that you’re doing a good job. When your family looks back on this time they will not remember how many days that dirty pot sat in the sink, how long that coffee stain has been in the carpet, or that you wore that same pair of yoga pants three days in a row. They’ll remember the love you gave them and the smiles and laughs you shared.
Written by Sarah Antrim