Last week I battled several days of depression and listlessness. I felt like a failure as a mom but didn’t know why. My kids were thriving. My house was clean. My hair was washed. I was even doing some paid work on the side. I had my shit together. Except I didn’t feel that way, I just looked that way.
When my world starts feeling topsy-turvy, I turn to Google. It is like my adult magic eight ball – just keep shaking/searching until you get the answer you want. Except this time I wandered onto several posts that didn’t give me the words I wanted to hear. They said things like, “Being a SAHM is not a job. It is an expensive, irritating… hobby.”
It is true that being a parent is usually voluntary. You dream about creating a family with your loved one. You gently hold tiny shoes and socks and envision the feet that will fill them. You even willingly submit to the painful and arduous process of birth or adoption.
If you stay at home you face unique challenges. The first challenge being that the “decision” for you to be the stay-at-home parent may not have been voluntary. Most women who are SAHMs nowadays do so out of financial necessity. Even if you do volunteer for this position, you still miss co-workers, the blessed lunch hour and feeling like you actually accomplished something during the day. You also miss your paycheck. Like, really miss it. You battle it out with yourself, your partner and the world while you come to terms with what it means to be a SAH parent.
So, yes, being a SAHM could be described as an expensive and irritating hobby, like doing a slow motion triathlon, non-stop, for the rest of your life often on 5 or less hours of sleep a night. It isn’t something you do for fun in your spare time, which you can just quit. Being a SAHM is something you do all the time, whether it is fun or not. I once described it to my husband as a never-ending workday with an adorable boss who screams.
It always astonishes me when people wonder how SAHMs don’t get bored. I have had a family member ask me more than once what I do with all my spare time. (Awkward pause.) We do get bored, but not because we don’t have things to do. We get bored because we are interacting all day long with someone who can’t form complete sentences or with children who can form ALL THE SENTENCES.
I have been a working mother, I have been a work from home mother and I have been a stay at home mother and I can say with complete assurance that it is all fucking hard. The only difference is the paycheck and that seems to be how many people evaluate whether an activity is legitimate labor. More lies.
Being a SAHM is a job, not a hobby. If you weren’t caring for your child you would need to pay someone else to do so (unless you are lucky enough to have an extended family member who wants to watch your child 8+ hours a day for free). So just stop internalizing how people unintentionally (and intentionally) demean your work. Also, know you are not failing just because this is a tough job. Allow yourself to feel that it is tough and to acknowledge that that’s okay. Tough doesn’t mean failure. Tough means growth and you are doing it.