I’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.