I’ve got the stay at home mom blues | I don't blog, but if I did...

I’ve got the stay at home mom blues

me and the kidsI’ve spent the last 2,731 days as a stay-at-home mom. For awhile, I was an on-maternity-leave mom, and for awhile I was a work-at-home mom (while I had various businesses), and now I’m a part-time-freelance-writing-and-blogging-stay-at-home mom. But basically, I’ve been a SAHM as my primary role is the care of my kids, and the maintenance of my family home, routine, schedule and everything else domestic.

I am the one who makes appointments for the kids, and takes them to these appointments. I’m the one who manages their follow-ups with specialists, their yearly visits, their health in general. I’m the one who gets them up, fed, out the door to school every day. I book their activities, buy their wardrobes, I make the lunches, I manage the multitude of forms that come home from school. I do the homework, I schedule the teacher visits, I make 98% of the meals, and do 99% of the housework. I’m also the one on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days per year, no matter what. Through sickness and health, I’m the one who cares for my family. And I do so very, very happily. I’m so thankful I can be here for them, that I can have this role, I really am. But sometimes I feel blue. I feel wrung out and spent and all done being everything to everyone. And then I feel guilty for perhaps not feeling appreciative enough of my life here at home. And then I feel angry at myself for feeling guilty, because I am thankful every single day for the opportunity to stay home, volunteer my time, and be here for my family. And to wear pyjamas all day if I so choose.

Even better, now that my kids are in school full-time (she writes as her two kids are home sick, as they have been for three solid days now), I have time to use the washroom alone (imagine that!), and enjoy the utter silence in the house. I even drink hot coffee and have baths! But I’m still on call. If the kids need me, I’m the one they call because my husband works an hour and a half commute away from home and couldn’t be there if they needed him in a hurry. Every sniffle in the middle of the night still wakes me, every tiny cry is my name, needing cuddles or tissues or help in the middle of the night. I repeat: these aren’t complaints: I absolutely love my life, and wouldn’t trade my position for anything in the world, but I certainly have the stay-at-home mom blues lately. My nerves feel raw and I feel like an empty balloon.

When people ask me what I do, I find myself saying, “Oh, nothing. I stay home with the kids. Or, rather, I stay home alone most days, waiting for my kids to be finished school for the day.” I downplay my life, I say I have too much time on my hands, or laugh off my role. I have taken on numerous volunteer positions this year, just to be able to justify my time at home. They say, “You’re so lucky!” and I agree, I am, but it’s not always what you think, you know? I went to university for an awfully long time to end up staying home with no “real job”, didn’t I? And then I want to smack myself for downplaying my important role here, for negating all the skills I have, for damaging feminism this way. I have value! The work I do here is important to my family! I am an integral part of this family machine! But… what about the work-out-of-the-house moms? Surely they do it all, right? They work together with their families to keep a household running smoothly, while balancing more than I do, right? While I “just” sit here cleaning the house day after day, menu planning, and doing things that make me feel like the proverbial 50s housewife? There I go again. Blah.

This morning, I read a post entitled Why My Wife’s Job is Harder Than Mine, and it struck a chord with me, because I’ve had a particularly crappy few days, emotionally speaking. I’ve spent a fair bit of time crying this week, pondering my position here at home, wondering if I am squandering my degrees by being here in this house all day, every day. Feeling like the family maid, cook, servant and not very valuable. I’ve been wondering what my value is, wondering why I’m wondering about my value, blah blah blah. I’ve been feeling guilty for asking for help, for saying no, for not being able to continue to give the 150% I expect of myself. I’m burnt out, and feeling like I have no right to be burnt out. I only have two kids, why can’t I keep up the pace?

My husband is a partner at a finance-related firm, and his career is demanding of his time and attention. When we decided I’d stay home, great thought and worry went into the decision. At the time, it was a huge financial burden for us. After all, we were losing my salary of about $50,000 and it sent us into debt. But now, if we had to account for before- and after-school care, transportation, a work wardrobe, and all the other expenses that come with working full time, it isn’t even financially worth it for me to get a full time job. For that I am both thankful, and sort of sad. Rationally, I know I contribute a lot to my family in all the important non-financial ways, but I struggle to find purpose and meaning in what I do here. It’s hard to accept that whatever income I could generate “isn’t worth it” in the end. It isn’t worth the hassle, it isn’t worth the inconvenience. It makes me feel like I’m not worth it, know what I mean? And in no way does my husband perpetuate these feelings. Countless times he has thanked me for being here, he has even broken down the costs we would incur if I worked outside the home to show me how important my role is here. He is a great Dad, a supportive partner, and truthfully, I couldn’t be more proud of him for balancing his work and home lives the way he does. But. Still.

When I had my own business, I felt challenged and fulfilled. Now, instead of marketing and business plans, I write grocery lists and challenge myself to keep the house super tidy. How utterly depressing. It all seems so trivial. I get up, get dressed, put makeup on. I get the kids up (a fight), get them breakfast (a struggle) and out the door (a rush). I come home, do the chores that need doing and write the articles that need writing, and wait for my family to come home so we can argue about screen time, what’s for dinner, and why they have to go to bed at 8pm because it’s just so not fair. How can I find the balance I need to feel vibrant again?

I think it’s time I find a new challenge and shake these stay at home mom blues.

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42 Responses to “I’ve got the stay at home mom blues”

  1. angela

    revisit what you love. you are a creator, a maker and maybe this is what you are missing. i am about to calculate my days as a SAHM ( it will scare you ). i have my photography and while some days it sucks ( like my parenting;) ), it provides me an outlet…a life preserver for me, reminding me that i am still me in the middle of the lists and the fights and the cleaning and the tedium. feel better. i have my guy home today too. feels like i always have someone home. never getting on top of things. glad i am in good company with you:)

    • alex durrell

      I think you’re right. I’m missing that creative buzz. I got so lost in my family stuff this year, with our move, meeting my birth family, resettling in a new town, supporting the hubs in his new job… I lost me somewhere.

  2. Standed in Suburbia

    Amen sister! I will be in the same boat as you are next year when my kid is in school full time. I think the problem is the work never ends. The house still needs cleaning, the kids need food and there isn’t much appreciation.

    Good for you for realizing it and I can’t wait to see what you come up with next.

    • alex durrell

      You’re right — it is just never, ever, ever ending, isn’t it? There’s no end project to revel in, no final moment to enjoy. Just a never-ending loop of the same ol’ same ol’. Gotta shake it up a little.

  3. Sarah

    I feel you! I’m right there with you- although I work from home, I am responsible for 100% of childcare, meals, cleaning, etc. as hubs works downtown Toronto.
    And I love it… but sometimes I’m lonely and bored and just want a change. Writing/edit from home has been amazing but it doesn’t always come with the “fun” of working outside the home (coffee/convo with co-workers, etc.).
    So, ya, I get it!

    • alex durrell

      When I ran Clippo, it was far more than a full time gig (despite the crappy pay), and I felt run ragged all the time. Working from home means you sorta have to do it all anyhow, since you’re always there. I found it so hard! But now… well, now I miss the challenge I had with Clippo (or any creative pursuit), and long for that. I think maybe balance doesn’t exist.

  4. Louise

    I don’t know what to say except that this strikes a chord for so many of us. I try to focus on the growing I did through the many, many, many, many years I spent in school. For some reason, I fixate on the all-nighters. “But what about all those all-night-cramming-sessions? Why did I do that? What was the point?” And only when I come out of my blues, can I see how much they built character, tenacity, determination and how valuable those traits are in parenting my children. I think you are doing great things, Alex, especially with your advocacy for allergies role. Do you know how much your son will appreciate that passion some day? I’m here in my very untidy house (can you write a motivational post for those of us who struggle with that aspect of being at home) in solidarity. Much love, Lou xo

    • alex durrell

      I appreciate you more than I think you’ll ever know. Thank you. xoxoxoxox

  5. alimartell

    I have no answers, really, but I absolutely love reading your honesty. I think these discussions are so important. They are not judgy, they are not the mom olympics, they are just honest feelings from you.

    I have done the work at home mom thing and the work out of the home mom thing. I have never done the sahm thing because unfortunately our finances just did not allow this. They were both really great, and they were both really hard. In completely and totally different ways. And I had many days of that I love my life but I’m blue right now.

    One thing, though, lady.
    DO NOT DOWNPLAY WHAT YOU DO. And don’t compare it others. It’s very important.

    • alex durrell

      I can’t promise I’ll try, but I’ll try to try. (Bart Simpson) πŸ™‚

      I miss being a WAHM, truly.

  6. Javamom

    I live the life of conflict and have never been happier and unhappier at
    the exact same time. My degree and diploma seems to mean nothing yet it
    means everything to me. I feel taken for granted and know I’m not. I want
    more for less and can’t find the time or energy to take on just one more
    thing. I want it to end, and I can’t imagine what will become of me
    when it doesn’t. Basically I just want to cry. So…you’ve taken the
    words out of my mouth. I get it. I’m in it. Sigh.

    • alex durrell

      I spend a lot of time crying. You’re not alone in that one.

  7. Cindy Roberts Buchanan

    I know you’ll figure out how to shake the blues! As a working mom that worked all thru my kids’ childhood, I do envy you getting to stay at home. Working moms may have to do “it all too” but I often felt I didn’t do it as well. I didn’t make snacks to send to parties or volunteer and I missed the activities I couldn’t attend. I often forgot to sign and return papers and had to rush to school to deliver lunch money – that list could go on and on and on. I once had a teacher ask, “Can you just… get… organized???” eeeek

    • alex durrell

      I still don’t feel I do it all “properly”. It’s never enough.

  8. Lindsay Brewda

    I can relate to so much of this Alex, I think so many of us moms can. I agree with some other commenters that I think you need to find a little time for you and your creativity. I know that the writing is part that, but maybe you need a little more. Start small and find that perfect amount.

    As a mom who works at home I find that I am always struggling to do it all well, honestly my house is always messy, my fridge is always empty, my dinners are always late, my kids are always awake at 9pm and my business to do list is always growing and never shrinking. I know that I need a better balance to at least be able to do it all part of the time.

    • alex durrell

      This is exactly how life was when I had Clippo. I always felt three steps behind. But now… now I miss that, somehow. Or something. I miss something. It helps to hear I’m not alone though!

  9. 06Emma06

    It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. What about a part-time job that fuels your creativity? I work part-time hours and am a full time Mom. My HB works as a farm labourer and his hours are unpredictable so I am in charge 24/7 also. I enjoy my job, but it is not a big fancy job, with a big fancy title, and a big fancy salary.
    Also, just because your working outside the home doesn’t “make money” how much is your mental health worth? I am a better Mom for being a work outside the home Mom.

    • alex durrell

      You’re right, it absolutely does not have to be all or nothing, and I need a challenge like a part time job. That’s why I took on the allergy blogger role, and why I’m a Brownie leader, and volunteer at my kids’ schools. But there needs to be something else… it’s like eating all the salty snacks when what I really wanted is something sweet. Nothing I’m doing is scratching the right itch these days.

  10. SL

    Hi! Great post! *waves from Blizzardy NS*

    I, too, am “home” all day with my kids who are in school and it feels silly saying I am here *for* them, but it is true. The financial burden of a single income family is stressful enough in the middle of the country, but head to the East Coast and, let me tell you, it is downright scary! πŸ™

    After all these years at home I find myself *needing* to go out and find a job and my resume is ridiculous! I can do so many things. Not a damn one of them is worthy to the world of “work”. Or.. at least that is how it seems.

    You have my empathy on the blues front. I don’t have a solution that will fix everything, but I have lots of little “tricks” that make me feel better when I would rather hibernate. Simple things like looking up. Seriously. Face the sky! You are *SO* worthy and in order for others to see that- *you* have to see it yourself.

    Keep writing. I have a sneaking suspicion that something amazing will come of it.

    Thanks for sharing and for being so honest. It’s extremely refreshing!

    • alex durrell

      You are the very, very best cheerleader, you know that? Thank you. <3

  11. Sara Hawkins

    I went back to work full time after spending 2 years home with my daughter. And while I love my work and find it fulfilling, I feel major guilt leaving my daughter with a sitter. Maybe that will change once she is in school but right now I hear ya. You need to make sure you make time for you.

  12. Sharon

    I think what you need to ask yourself is “what is it that I would LOVE to do”, make a list and then call me and we can brainstorm on how to make it happen.

    • alex durrell

      You’re right. And I know what I want to do. Now to make it happen.

  13. Diane

    Oh boy do I hear you! And it seems like a lot of others do too. Being a SAHM is tiring, physically, and mentally. And although some of us try to fix the physical aspect like getting more sleep, eating well etc, we also need to fix the mental part. Get a hobby, or a part time job that allows you to do the morning drop off and afternoon pick up. Join a group during the day and get out of that house. It can feel like a prison with doors and windows we can get out of, but we still feel trapped inside of.

    Each one of us SAHM’s ARE VALUED! We are super moms! Keep thinking of what you need to do to fulfill that hole you feel. Maybe volunteer for meals on wheels during school hours. Never think you aren’t valued for all that you do. We don’t get to leave our work at work, we live in it, and our children love us for it.

  14. Janaki Kuruppu

    I am in awe of your 2,731 days (and counting)…I managed 2 weeks when my daughter was an infant before I found myself going stir-crazy, and her dad and I split our time, and managed crazy schedules to allow both of us to work (at the time, it was economically mandatory that I earn to help support us). I am now the mom (the second time around, with my daughter grown and married) of two young boys, and I stayed home with them for about 12 weeks, although I resumed a small part of my regular work schedule after 4 weeks of staying home 100%. It’s not that I don’t love being a mom, and interacting with the kids, but I need regular non-kid contact!!

    My sister has two boys, and she was a SAHM for about 7 years total, until the younger one went to school, and then she began recovering her professional identity.

    I personally don’t know how you do it. For one thing, it’s not like it was in our mother’s time, when there were lots of other moms staying home, and there was a community to keep one grounded and sane. I think it must be very isolating these days, as so many folks work.

    Good luck to you!!

  15. ymc_lisa

    Oh man, this is a toughie. I worked outside the home. Now I work part time from home. I had to stay home to care for Avery. You know the story. But now that’s she doing so well, I can go back to work if I so choose. Yay? I thought that’s what I wanted. But once presented with the opportunity, I freaked out. I don’t want to go back. Like, ever. I love being at home. The trouble is, I miss teaching, so maybe I should go back? Oh holy hell. Like I said, it’s a toughie. Gotta say, I certainly don’t miss commuting. So there’s that.

    • alex durrell

      Oh man, I don’t think I’d survive the long commute anymore. I’ve got suburbs soft.

  16. 3under4

    I feel like a newbie with only 1481 days at home! Seriously though, somewhere in your post you mentioned that your kids are sick…..not a single mom in the world finds parenting sick children easy. It’s exhausting & demanding and it always leaves me feeling like my very worst self. You’ve just made it through the holidays & a few other major life changes too. You need some serious ‘you’ time. Tell your husband that you are tired & that you need some time to yourself. Go to bed & read a book or call a friend or a sister tonight. This weekend, take time to go to a yoga class, a walk, a pedicure, the library, a coffee or a date with your husband. Find the time right now to cherish you. Being at home with my children has taught me that when I feel overwhelmed, I have to address it right away so that it doesn’t spiral. My job is my children & I need to be strong to be guide them, love them & care for them. Everyone feels overwhelmed by life sometimes…..working moms & stay at home moms (dads too). We all deserve time to focus on the things that we love & the best way to teach our children to care for themselves is to occasionally put ourselves before them. Good luck. I am sending you warm thoughts.

  17. Julia

    I feel you! I had to laugh at how much your thoughts sound like mine. : D
    You’re not alone!

  18. Kathryn

    Haven’t told you much lately how much I admire you. You are still the sister I never had, and I still wish we lived closer. Lover you, Lexi!

  19. Lisa

    Your post really resonated with me. Most days I feel so lucky to be able to work from home and watch my daughters grow up. Other days are long and tiring and seem to lack purpose…

    Thank you for your honesty and for saying what we’re feeling out loud. πŸ™‚

    • alex durrell

      Thanks for reading. It helps to know we aren’t alone, doesn’t it?

  20. Polina

    Hi Alex, thanks for this article – for being so open!
    I am home stay mom for 3 year old and 6 months old and I have the same feelings every day. I am busy but not productive, lonely but never alone, doing important work but not valued by society.
    What helps me: talk to somebody who understands you feels it (people like you), do something creative or learn something new (it is blogging right now), travelling (leaving in April for a long term trip).

    • alex durrell

      You described it so well — busy but not productive, lonely but never alone. I know this so, so well.

      Finding my creative outlet is SO key to feeling fulfilled, too.

  21. Nicole

    We met when we volunteered at school and I KNEW we should do coffee! lol – I am so late to the party on this post – but this was extremely powerful so i thought better late than never to respond. Thank you for your candor. You are a gifted writer and your honesty has inspired such a response from all of these moms who share your journey. There is such power and strength in that shared experience. I see many SAHMs posted responses, I wanted to reply to thank you, but also because as a “work outside the home” WOTH (I just made that acronym up, and, yes, I know it sucks) much of what you’re saying resonates with me. I know we are often in two polarized camps, but i see more common experiences and feelings than differences. I really think these emotions and experiences of isolation and self doubt are “mom” issues – Whether you work in the home or outside of it. Although I work outside of the home, I am the “primary” parent… so that means yes, i get up through the nights, I do the specialist appointments, I meet the teachers, I do all the piano lessons, swimming, Karate (thank goodness I’ve dodged the hockey bullet so far). I put the kids to bed and then pick up my laptop. My husband works much longer hours, has a 1.5 hour commute each way. Somehow I’ve gotten stuck helping him succeed and I have to wonder, if I’m going to bother to work, and have the guilt of not being “at home”, shouldn’t it be worth more to me personally!? I’m jealous of the passion he feels for his job, whereas mine feels more like “something to do” rather than my passion or calling. I often feel overwhelmed. I often wonder if I’ve made the right choice. You’ve made me think and realize that yes, we need to be happy in our choices, but we also need to have something that resembles “us”. thank you for that reminder. I needed that!

    • alex durrell

      Nicole! It was nice meeting you, I hope to see you again. πŸ™‚

      Thanks for commenting. It means a lot to me, especially to hear from the other camp, you know? I honestly don’t know how you WOTH (I love it!!) moms do it, to be honest. I know that when it’s my time to get a job outside the house, it’ll still be me doing all the primary parent stuff, and just the idea of it exhausts me.

      This parenting gig is so hard, no matter what our other jobs are. And it is so important we find support in other parents, and fulfillment for ourselves. πŸ™‚

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