The Soul-Sucking Life Of A Stay-At-Home Mother

Being a stay-at-home mom isn’t all that everyone thinks it’s cracked up to be

I want to tell you that being a stay-at-home mother is the best gig in the world, but I’m afraid if I tell you that, it’ll completely dissolve any chance I have to also explain the trials and challenges of being in this position.

But then, I don’t want to complain about it too much because it feels ungrateful and that’s the very last thing I feel. What I will say is that being a stay-at-home mother has been the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, and yes, has even felt soul-sucking at times.

Choosing to remove myself from the traditional workforce when I had my first child was not easy for me. I hold two honours degrees and whole lot of potential that I felt may be “wasted” if I chose not to pursue a career. Then there was the other part of me arguing that being home with the kids was the most logical choice for a thousand reasons. It was a constant argument with myself, comparing myself to my peers, ex-colleagues and friends. I was constantly seeking a way to fit myself into society’s expectations of what a stay-at-home mother “should be”.

We’re told to be thankful we can be home, as though it’s some random miracle that our situations have worked out this way.

We’re told our lives are easy, because what’s difficult about wearing pajamas all day and eating PopTarts for lunch?

We’re told that those who work outside the home have harder lives.

We’re told complaining is ungrateful. We’re wasting our education. We lack education. We’re less-than, we’re voiceless, we’re the minivan brigade, bound to our children’s school times and doctor’s appointments. Our job is minimized, our frustrations discounted, our struggles buried.

I don’t like the picture society still paints of stay-at-home mothers and I struggled for years to find a way to happily function in this role. Where would I find challenges I enjoyed? What expectations should I set for myself? What were my new goals? Who was I amidst all the stereotypes and prejudices?

For years, I wrote about having the “stay-at-home mom blues”, feeling overwhelmed and rather empty. Then I felt guilty; so very guilty. How could I not adore being home with my children? Why was I not finding fulfillment?

In 2012, a study conducted by sociologist Adrianne M. Frech demonstrated that “the steadily working mothers were relatively advantaged before giving birth to their first children, and that the advantages, at least in the area of the women’s mental and physical health, did not just continue as they reached age 40, but increased (even when the researchers controlled for other variables).” I felt I’d made a poor choice in giving up the opportunity to be strong physically and mentally—I couldn’t win.

The reality is that being a mother is difficult no matter how or where we work. None of us have made the “right” choice; we can only make the choices that work best for ourselves. We are not the stereotypes, we are not the expectations, we are individuals trying to be ourselves in this crazy parenting role.

We all get to have bad days and there’s no reason all our jobs can’t be a struggle sometimes. Heck, it’s even okay to feel that struggle regularly. The key to happiness in my role as a stay-at-home mom was found in truly knowing myself, and what would fill my “bucket”. I allowed myself to feel the frustrations of my role and stopped comparing myself to other mothers, regardless of their roles. We are not one another.

I reached out to other mothers struggling in their own roles; we created a support structure where, no matter what our employment statuses were, we knew we could rely on one another for support. The bottom line is that it’s not all sunshine and roses, but I’d never trade being a stay-at-home mom for anything in the world.

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