Now that I have several months of being a stay-at-home mom under my belt, I feel like I have the experience to say this: being a mom is hard. It doesn’t matter if you work out of the home, in the home, or don’t “work” at all; being a mom is hard. No matter in which category you might find yourself, you will have moments where you are overwhelmed (or entire days, weeks, months?). You will doubt your abilities. You will feel like you are letting your children down, your husband down, yourself down. You will feel like you’re missing out. You will wonder if you made the right decision. You will feel like you’re not good enough.
We all feel that way some of the time. When I was working in my office, I felt like that. When I was working at home, I felt like that. Now that I’m home with my children, I still feel like that. It seems that these thoughts and feelings are just part of the motherhood package. Some of them are truths- we will be overwhelmed from time to time, we will miss out on some things (because let’s face it, you really can’t have it all- no one can), and we are not perfect, so yeah, sometimes we do let people down. Some of these thoughts and feelings are true, but many of them are lies. I might not be perfect, but I am a good mother. I am good enough. I have been given the gifts needed to be a good mother. If you are acting out of love, you have made the right decision. And even if you rethink your decision, nothing is set in stone. We are all capable of withstanding and surviving change.
I was a working mom for the first two and a half years of John’s life. I left my position just three weeks before Felicity was born in order to stay at home with my children. Just four months into my time as a SAHM (stay-at-home mom), I found myself working five and a half hours a week again. Apparently, being a SAHM was harder than I thought.
When I was working, I felt guilty about the time I was away from my children, but more than anything, I just wanted to be home. I was satisfied with my work, and I enjoyed my time with the youth, but when I was at work, there was always a whisper telling me that I would rather be at home. As much as I loved my job and my students, this whisper was a one-way street. I never heard anything of the sort while I was at home (maybe that was because John doesn’t know the meaning of ‘inside voice’ though…hm). There was some guilt about missing out with my kids, yes, and a great deal of stress as I struggled with balancing home and work, but more than anything there was just a profound yearning and desire to be with my children.
When we learned that we’d be moving to Virginia for Andrew’s new job, I knew that I would need to leave my old position, and with Andrew as the primary breadwinner, I didn’t need to work anymore. I jumped at the chance to be a SAHM. It didn’t take me long to realize that this came with its own unique challenges.
As a working mom, I dealt with guilt about leaving and a vague sense that I was missing important moments in my son’s life because I wasn’t always there. When I wasn’t at home, I wanted to go home, and when I was home, I wanted to be able to give my son more of my time. Unfortunately, all of my free time was spent catching up with work emails and lesson plans, and I rarely had time to just be with John. Those stolen moments snuggling on the couch were wonderful, but I paid for them later, when I rushed to meet deadlines for work during the quiet time after John went to bed. And free time? That was a long-lost memory from a distant past.
I really didn’t like dividing my time between work and home. I enjoyed my work, but I just wanted to be home, and so when the opportunity showed itself, I took it. I absolutely love staying at home with Felicity and John, but I have already faced some challenges, and I am willing to bet that I’m not the only working mom-turned-SAHM that has faced them.
I didn’t leave the guilt behind when we moved to Virginia and I began my life as a stay-at-home mom. It just transformed. Now I feel guilty that I have free time. I’ve read about twenty books since moving to Virginia. I work out nearly every day of the week. I have started learning recipes that require additional prep time, and not just the 20-30 minutes that I’m used to. I’ve watched a decent amount of TV, mostly while I check email, answer surveys, scrapbook, and of course, blog. I have carved out some quiet time every morning before the kids wake up, every afternoon after lunch while they nap, and every evening after they’ve gone to sleep. Now that I don’t need to work during that time, the options just seem endless.
When I talk to my friends who work at home or in an office, there’s always a small pang of guilt. Their lives just seem so much more stressful. I remember those days of constant work, and I don’t miss them. This transition definitely took some getting used to though. There were days that I would watch entire naps go by while I tried to figure out what to do with myself. Now I have a planner filled with tasks that need to be accomplished throughout the week, and when they all get ticked off, I can always read or write, but this new abundance of free time (compared to the small amount that I had as a working mom) can still be a little overwhelming at times.
My mind knows enough to recognize that this guilt is just a lie, but my heart sometimes has difficulty accepting that fact. I know that I don’t need to feel guilty that I have more free time than other moms might. In fact, as a former working mother, I recognize the value and beauty of free time, and I wouldn’t wish the lack thereof on anyone. I spent all my working years wishing I could have a bit more time to myself. It’s healthy, and good for everyone at home. I shouldn’t feel guilty that I got my wish. I just need to be grateful that my husband is in a position where he can support our family without my additional income. Not everyone is called to be a stay-at-home mom, and that’s absolutely fine, but for all those moms who would like to stay at home, but can’t, I can sympathize, since I have felt their pain.
More than anything, I’ve struggled with how to use this free time that I have been given. The temptation to just sit back and watch TV for an hour in the middle of the afternoon is a strong one. It’s made even stronger when I know that I have nothing pressing in the near future. Most of my cleaning chores are generally done when the kids are awake- John enjoys helping me to “dust,” to “clean” the kitchen, and to unload the dishwasher, and Felicity is a fantastic companion when I need to fold laundry (John, not so much, unless I want someone to undo all of my efforts). I really do make an effort to keep nap time quiet and restful, even for me. That usually means the time is spent watching TV and answering surveys, writing, or reading.
I know many moms who use afternoon quiet time to engage in their passions. Some of them use that time to paint or draw, to read or write, to knit or sew. My artistic abilities are rather limited, and I am useless with a needle and thread. I’m not 100% sure where my passion lies. I enjoy reading and writing, and I really like working out, so those are the activities that I have chosen to engage in most often during nap time and after bedtime.
I think the most difficult thing that I have needed to face as a stay-at-home mom has been adjusting to the fact that I do not provide an income. When we moved, Andrew became the sole breadwinner in our family. When I spent money, I had to resist the urge to think that I was spending Andrew’s money. We called it ours, but I really struggled to accept that Andrew was solely responsible for providing for our financial needs. I had nothing to contribute to our bank account, and that fact really bothered me. It bothered me so much, in fact, that when we were faced with some additional medical bills and living expenses, I jumped at the chance to do my part.
I was fortunate enough to secure a part-time tutoring/babysitting gig for a few hours in the afternoon, two days a week. Even better, I can bring both of the kids with me, though Andrew picks up John on his way home. It’s not a very demanding job, but I felt comfortable taking it. We are able to earn a little bit of extra cash, with little to no inconvenience for our children or my husband. It was the perfect fit for what we needed at the time, and for now, it works for us. As Andrew puts more time in at the college and John begins his education, we might rethink our arrangements, but for now they work for us.
It’s hard to be a stay-at-home mom in our culture. It’s hard to be a working mom in our culture. It’s just hard to be a mom in general. I had more than two years to become acquainted with the unique challenges that come with being a working mom, and now I am becoming more familiar with those challenges unique to being a SAHM. I have felt the guilt that comes with actually having leisure time in my life, as well as the pressure to support my family financially. These challenges can be hard to face, but they serve as reminders that gratitude and humility are essential to motherhood.
I am grateful to my husband for giving me the opportunity to stay at home while he works so hard to support our family. I am also shown the value of humility as I face the reality that I have not really “earned” the money that I spend on a daily basis, that whatever I spend has cost Andrew’s hours, if not days, of hard work. While I might be dependent on Andrew to support our family financially, I also know he is dependent on me for other things, especially at home with our children. We are dependent on one another, which can sometimes feel like a foreign concept in our culture. He needs me just as much as I need him. We need each other. It’s not a sign of weakness, but a reminder that we are both human. And if our dependence on one another is not enough of a reminder that we’re human, then the two little ones who depend on us definitely are.
Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!