I’m a stay-at-home mom (SAHM). I decided to stay home when my oldest was born, seven years ago. I have four children all two years apart from each other; we have a fun household. When I was younger I had a vision of myself, I saw myself being a successful woman that would make a difference in a positive way by being involved in something that would be perceived as meaningful. I wanted to become a doctor and help people, maybe explore the world and simply enjoy life. My perspective changed once I met my husband, we met in high school and we became inseparable. It was fairly obvious from the beginning of our relationship that we were going to end up marrying each other. I never planned on meeting anyone that would make me feel the way my husband does, I always say if I wouldn’t have met him I wouldn’t have had any children. My younger self would have laughed at the idea of being a SAHM, I didn’t see the value of staying home and doing nothing but caring for children and housework. Funny how life works sometimes, look at me know.
I didn’t become a doctor, I became a Chemical Engineer, but I never went into the workforce as an engineer.
I had my daughter a week before my college senior year started. That whole year is a big blur. Once I graduated I couldn’t fathom the idea of leaving my daughter with someone else. Children do things to you emotionally that you can’t explain, so I naturally felt a very strong pull to stay home with my daughter. I wanted to enter the workforce so in a way I could become someone of importance. I wanted to show people that I could make a difference as an engineer, but I felt a need to care for my baby so I decided to stay home. It has been an emotional struggle, a battle with myself to find value in staying home and not being able to help our family financially. There have been times I felt being a SAHM didn’t have any valuable contribution to society or anything. I can’t count the times people have said “wow, a chemical engineer! Why do you stay home?” “Don’t you want your kids to be proud of you?” I usually say, I love being the one to care for my children, I oddly enjoy it.
I didn’t realize that having children meant I was going to give up my privacy. Being a SAHM makes privacy and alone time almost nonexistent. I find myself leaving the house ten minutes early to go pick up my five year old son so I can have ten minutes in the car to myself while my two younger girls nap. My kids nap time used to be my sanctuary, but our schedule is so crazy now I don’t even get the luxury of nap time other than the times when they nap in the car. It gets emotionally overwhelming, children will drain your energy just by saying Mom over and over again. Imagine never getting a break from that, constantly hearing mom and always having a little one attached to your leg or on your hip. I never get a chance to relax or sit down without having someone on me wanting my attention. I secretly love it and wouldn’t have it any other way, but it does take a toll on you. I have gone days without talking to another adult. I get so out of touch that one day I actually told someone at the library I needed to go “potty.” I realized after the odd look she gave me that she didn’t have any children. I find it hard to find something to talk about that doesn’t involve my kids, but my life right now is my kids. From the moment I open my eyes to the moment they close their eyes I am consumed by their presence.
I spend all day picking up messes, cleaning things multiple times a day because a one year old and a three year old can create mayhem in seconds. Then the five and seven year olds get home from school and it turns into a crazy storm which makes me feel like everything I do during the day is pointless because at the end of the day it feels like I’ve done nothing. The house is still a disaster even though I spent all morning tidying up and putting things where they belong. What gets to me sometimes is the monotony of things. I wake up, make breakfast, clean, get kids ready, clean, make lunch, clean, clean, pick up kids, clean, clean, help with homework, clean, and clean some more. I wipe the kitchen counter what seems an infinite amount of times per day. The bathroom is another monster I need to conquer every day, full of toothpaste and urine because apparently peeing in the toilet is a challenge. Usually we are home all day so the house gets pretty messy. I find it is much easier to keep the house clean when nobody is in it. It would be ideal to get out of the house and do some sort of fun activity, but somedays it feels like gravity is pulling me down a little extra hard and I can’t muster the energy to get us all ready and out.
Society paints an image that correlates success with being the one that brings in the money or gains prestige in your career. So it has taken me a long time and a lot of self-reflection to realize that I am successful even if nobody will ever see what I do every day. Even if I don’t help our family in a financial way, I contribute in so many other ways that wouldn’t be possible if I wasn’t staying home every day. As a stay at home mom I struggle a lot emotionally because I find it extremely hard to find the value in something that nobody else can see, everything I do is just between me and my children. Nobody knows how many times I’ve sat with my three year old on the floor hugging her for ten minutes trying to help her find stability with all her emotional chaos. Meanwhile I was trying to deal with my own emotions. Nobody will ever recognize that I’ve sat with my son for hours explaining something five different ways to make sure he understood something.
Being a stay at home mom has taught me many things, one in particular is to not focus on what other people think. I used to crave the acceptance and recognition from people. I wanted them to know what I was doing and wanted them to say that staying home with my children was worth something or to give me credit for my kid being so well behaved or being potty-trained. The reality is that nobody is going to validate anything that you do as a SAHM because every mother has done what I am doing, the difference is I do it without a break from motherhood. People don’t realize how not being able to get away even to work can make you look down on yourself. Makes you feel like you have nothing to contribute. Now I would never take a break from what I do because I love it, but I’m simply trying to explain that it can get to you. The zero alone time gets to you, the no adult contact gets to you, you forget how to be you. Sometimes completely neglect your looks because it’s so hard to get out of the house so you never leave and don’t pay attention to getting yourself ready.
I’ve learned that success is dependent on you, it doesn’t have to be measured by anyone else’s standards. Success should be measured by the fulfillment you get from what you do. My biggest struggle has been finding meaning or purpose because I don’t get recognition for my hard work, ever. People don’t see the patience. They don’t see how I take the time to sit with my children and teach them endless topics of scientific value such as planets, gravity, volcanoes…. The list goes on. All my children start school having a vast understanding of the world around them and the universe. My main goal is not necessarily to cram all this knowledge into my children but to get them to love and enjoy learning. We do experiments and I walk them through the scientific process of analyzing things, I help them see the beauty in science, art, letters, math, and the importance of communication. None of this would be possible if I wasn’t a SAHM.
We all face parenthood differently, but experience many of the same challenges that come with it. If you are a stay at home parent, know that what you are doing matters. You are making a difference in your child’s life by always being by their side. They are learning everything from you therefore you are the greatest influence in their life and you are helping them develop their character. You are helping your child become someone that will become a positive influence and will contribute something meaningful to society even if they decide to become a stay at home parent.
Things that have helped me get through this crazy mess of being a SAHM are library trips, a zoo membership, mom groups, parks, and walks. Try to reach out in the community around you for things to keep you and your little ones connected. It’s also easy to forget about you. After a while of not going anywhere it becomes customary to wear pajamas, no makeup and messy hair. Don’t forget about you, do your hair, put makeup on, do whatever you need to do to feel good about yourself. Getting out of the house is a challenge but sometimes it’s a necessity to keep your sanity. At one point I started my own mom group with all the moms I met at the library, we would let each other know when we were going to the park or doing an activity. Just remember being at home with little ones every day is tough, and you are doing something amazing.