I don’t hide the fact that it was basically my life’s dream to be a stay at home mom. (In fact, it was one of the reasons I never went to college or university – I “planned” for this future… but I didn’t really understand at 18 what being home all day with kids would entail.)
It’s easy to wish for something when you don’t know the reality of what it looks like on a day in and day out basis.
I don’t want you to think I hate being a stay at home mom – far from it!
But, I’m not remotely immune to the challenges of it. I’ve had to work on learning how to enjoy being a stay at home mom.
I can genuinely say that I love being a stay at home mom – BECAUSE I can pinpoint one big thing in my life that literally makes the difference between being able to say that I enjoy being at home… and that I don’t.
Yes, I know being a stay at home mom is real work
I know, I know. I am not saying in ANY WAY that being a SAHM isn’t work.
I do it too!
I wipe bums and noses, feed all the people all the meals (well, sorta… when they’ll eat). I pick up all the toys 17 times every. single. day.
I run to appointments, keep the house together, find the shoes. I make sure all the naps happen, I never pee alone, and certainly, I haven’t stayed seated through an entire meal in over three years.
Once I told my husband that he didn’t understand that he got two “breaks” each and every day – on his drive to work and on his drive back.
Because for a stay at home mom, there IS no break. It’s real work, 24 hours per day.
There is no 20 minutes where it’s just you and your thoughts and you KNOW no one is going to need you.
I truly am a stay at home mom, I truly do understand that it’s work.
But I “work” in a more traditional sense also – and that allows me to ENJOY being a stay at home mom.
Now, before you tell me there’s no time to have a job (I know that too), just hear me out.
Why is it hard to enjoy being a stay at home mom?
Well, we’d be foolish to say it’s just ONE thing.
It’s lots of things, actually.
And even if not all of them apply to every stay at home mom, at least some of these big ones apply to most stay at home moms.
1. Stay at home moms are “wasting” their education / struggling to find a new identity
Years ago, before I had kids, I visited a friend who was at home with her kids.
She had been depressed for a while and recently started seeing a psychologist. He had told her that in his experience, educated women were likely to become depressed as stay at home moms because they aren’t using their brains at the level they’re use to. They’ve gone from actively problem-solving at an adult level to watching mindless kids cartoons. It’s boring, after what you’re used to.
And you can totally see how that would be the case. And it’s more than just boredom. It’s loss.
You’ve spent YEARS of your life (not to mention thousands of dollars) becoming what you are. You’ve created an identity around this thing you do – before you have kids, when you describe yourself you said: “I’m a lawyer”, or “I’m a nurse” – after you transition to SAHM, you just suddenly…. stop saying that.
If your chosen career was something you felt passionate about / enjoyed, there’s a sense of loss when you stop doing that thing to start staying at home.
2. Stay at home moms are bored and isolated
I touched on this back there, but it bears pulling out into its own point.
Building block towers, making grilled cheese sandwiches and pushing kids on the swings are great. Until you do those things day in and day out for three years in a row with no other pressing projects.
I was leaving a friends house – it was time for all the kids to have their naps, and I asked her what the rest of her day held.
She looked around and shrugged.
“Guess I’ll clean up and then maybe have a nap?” (She has to stay in the house during her only hours to herself – because her kids are there sleeping. It’s not like she can meet up with a friend.)
Alright – I know the nap thing sounds amazing depending on how the kids are sleeping, but the truth is that she wasn’t napping because she’s exhausted.
She was napping because there was nothing else more interesting that needed her attention.
I know this, because I have small kids, and every day I have the opportunity to nap when they nap… but I NEVER do.
Hang tight – I’m getting there.
3. Stay at home moms feel more financial pressure
The average stay at home mom belongs to a lower-income family (source).
Well, of course.
Only one parent is working. That’s automatically going to lower the family income. This report states that men in the USA earned a median salary of $52,208 annually in 2019.
That means that a heck of a lot of men earned a lot less than that. (And it’s good to note that a majority of men making MORE were men aged 55 to 64. Not “young family” men.)
So stay at home moms are dealing with less money.
There’s generally relationship stress when there’s money stress – and relationship stress never helps anyone enjoy anything.
Having no extra cash around really does hamper the enjoyment of stay at home mom life – imagine if you could afford to get a baby sitter to come in, even just once per week – say on Thursday afternoon when the week already feels like it’s gone on forever – and you could just have three hours to yourself.
Imagine if you could afford to get take out on a night when the whole day had been derailed 4 times before 6 pm.
Imagine if you had a family holiday coming up in January to look forward to.
Or heck, if you just didn’t have to try to justify your Starbucks budget to your husband.
4. Guilt, guilt, guilt, guilt
In basically every paragraph above, we can find guilt.
Guilt over the wasted money on an education we aren’t using.
Guilt over feeling bored, because we know other women wish they could be with their kids.
Guilt over not contributing to the financial situation.
Guilt over whatever you bought for yourself this week because you know you can’t afford it.
Guilt over not enjoying being a stay at home mom, because your kids are the single best thing that ever happened to you, and you can’t understand why you’re not happy.
And it doesn’t help that society, in general, doesn’t recognize the value of stay at home moms.
WE might know there’s value in being a stay at home mom (and if you don’t you should – educate yourself on the negative effects of daycare on children, for instance), but as humans, we want others to recognize the value in what we do as well.
I’ve found a single thing that covers over all the above giant negatives about being a stay at home mom:
I have a stay at home mom job.
I use my brain daily – I always have a task that I enjoy doing, that engages my adult capabilities. When I introduce myself, I do say “I’m a stay at home mom”, but I also say “I’m a professional blogger“.
My work gives me a sense of identity outside of JUST “mom”. It gives me a community of other women (and a few men) who do the same thing.
I am NEVER bored. When the kids go to sleep, I don’t have TIME to nap.
I can’t wait to get to work – because I love my work!
Contributing to our family’s financial bottom line eases the burden on my husband. He doesn’t have to work overtime just to pay bills, and he doesn’t have to stress about taking a day off when something comes up. It makes our relationship easier.
I don’t feel guilty spending money – because I help make money, and because with two of us working, there IS wiggle room in the budget. My work pays for holidays we wouldn’t have otherwise.
Plus it gives me ME time – maybe it’s not the same as a long hot bath or a massage, but girl, it is a breath of fresh air to sit down for an hour at a time uninterrupted, and do something that I love, that is REWARDING, and to not even entertain the thought that it’s selfish doing it.
MOMS NEED THAT – to be honest, that really sums up what stay at home moms are missing.
How to enjoy being a stay at home mom:
Consider getting a stay at home mom job.
I don’t work outside the house at all. I’m home with my kids 24 hours per day.
I have all the benefits of being a stay at home mom, WITH all the benefits of working.
I ENJOY cuddling with my kids watching a TV show for half-hour or playing blocks for 20 minutes, knowing that I’ll get an adult-brain-break in the afternoon when the baby sitter comes over so I can work.
Knowing I have a project that I’ll be tackling takes the tedious out of my day.
Sure, compromises are made – like, my kids watch some TV – but when are compromises NOT made? (No situation is perfect, and if you’re reading this because you’re trying to figure out how to enjoy being a stay at home mom, you already know that.)
The biggest challenge of working from home with kids is, of course, TIME.
There are plenty of things you can do as a stay at home mom that earn real money, engage your brain, and can be squeezed in while the kids are napping, at school, or before they get up/ after they go to bed (depending on if you’d rather get up early or stay up late).
For moms whose kids are not in school, there is ONE caveat – you can’t have it all, and so some sleep will probably be sacrificed. Know that going in! I’ve tried to find other ways, and sacrificing sleep is generally the only way. But it’s been totally worth it!
I’m not saying that working makes your stay at home mom life easier – perhaps in some cases, actually the opposite (except for the extra money thing). But it certainly does make it MORE ENJOYABLE.