Dear Stay-at-Home Mom:
I know if you are reading this you are probably at your wits’ end. If you are lucky, you are tearing out your towel-dried hair while scouring the internet to read something from someone, anyone who feels like you.
(And, if it has been “one of those days,” you are probably ripping at hair that is bogged down by oil and three-day-old product.)
There may be tears in your exhausted eyes and stains on your shirt, but you are staying awake, desperate to find companionship or to learn child-rearing secrets or to hold a conversation more meaningful than “How do you like your jogging stroller” or “Is your child sleeping through the night?”
Maybe, like me, you are desperate to learn you are not alone.
I can’t tell you I have any answers — I don’t — but I can tell you that you are not alone.
I know being a stay-at-home mom is challenging. It is isolating and lonely. Painfully lonely. I mean, you are never physically alone — you share every meal and every moment with your little munchkin — every trip to the bathroom becomes a full-on family potty party — but that doesn’t mean you don’t feel alone.
In all honesty here, there are days I wander the aisles of my neighborhood drugstore hoping someone will smile at my daughter, hoping I can use that subtle interaction as a segue into a full-blown conversation.
Now, I know you are tired of hearing people tell you how blessed and lucky you are, how it’s all worth it. It doesn’t help, period. And it probably only magnifies that newfound mommy-guilt most of us experience (because why don’t you feel blessed, after all).
I know staying home isn’t always a choice. Everyone says it is: “Oh it is so nice you are able to stay home with your child; I wish I could!”
Child care is expensive, and sometimes it simply doesn’t pay to work outside the house — some salaries only cover the cost of child care and your commute. I get it. I understand.
I know you never enjoy a hot cup of coffee and rarely enjoy a shower. I know your child’s nap time isn’t “your” time. Rather, it is time to pay bills, do dishes, clean the house, prep dinner, or plunge the toilet that has been backed up since 8 a.m.
Maybe, just maybe, you can sneak in some food before the kiddo wakes up, but I’ve found the ding of the microwave always coincides with crackly “I’m up” coos and cries blaring over the baby monitor.
I know many people joke at your expense, minimizing the work you do or envying your ability to rock PJs at 2 p.m. on a Tuesday. And I know you smile and laugh, perhaps pointing to their jealousy, but I also know it is fake.
The smile, the laugh, everything. Inside you are seething. Inside you are angry at their blatant disregard for the work you do, for what their mothers probably did for them. Inside you are crying.
I know this is why you don’t ask for help. You are afraid, afraid your needs aren’t enough — afraid you are a failure.
You are not.
Has anyone told you how amazing you are, as a mom and a person? No, really, you are the world to a little person, or persons.
You are their cook, their teacher, their playmate, their companion, their protector, their dictionary, their comedian/personal entertainer, and their mom. I know being a stay-at-home mom can feel thankless, but what you do is amazing, and you should revel in that.
I’ve heard some suggest that if you are unhappy with your newfound role you should get a hobby or “go do something,” but I know it isn’t that simple. It isn’t that easy. There are a slew of considerations, some actual — like money and child care — and some self-imposed — like feeling too guilty to go because when you try to walk away your child screams and cries “mama” while they reach their little arms out and lunge their whole body forward. And even the best-made plans, even the most hardened resolve, can fall apart thanks to an unexpected illness. (Thanks, pink-eye, for keeping my raging toddler home today!)
You are not a terrible person for missing those strange, semi-silent moments stuck in rush-hour traffic, for longing for an angry stare or flat-out “F you!” from the car beside you. You are not a bad person for lamenting the loss of you, for yearning for the person you were before you were a parent — before you were “so-and-so’s mom.”
And you are not the only person who has questioned their decision to become a parent. I don’t know if you have, but I share this because I have. I share this because there are moments, days even, when I have regretted having my child. And these thoughts and feelings made me crumble. Who the heck was I, I thought. How terrible am I? I don’t deserve to be a mom. But you are not alone.
These thoughts happen and they do not make you awful or inadequate. They keep you sane. They keep you honest, and they will help you.
They will help keep you, you.
For more from Kimberly Zapata, visit Sunshine Spoils Milk.