Ask 10 different stay-at-home moms about their motivation behind devoting their life to caring for their children and home, and you might get 10 different answers. For some, staying at home with their children is a lifelong ambition. Others are former full-time professionals who gave up a high-paying career to change diapers and clean up after their children. Still others are taking time off from their profession, wanting to spend time at home with their newborn or toddler before returning to the workforce. A 2012 survey conducted by Mothers & More, a support organization that caters mainly toward stay-at-home moms, or SAHMs, found that 82 percent of their members quit a full-time career to care for their children. The United States Census also found that there were approximately 5 million SAHMs in 2010, which is a drop from 5.3 million in 2008. These numbers are compelling, but they don’t begin to explain the life of a stay-at-home mom. Here are five thoughts on the day-to-day turmoil, joys and anxieties faced by many stay-at-home moms.
5. We Have Feelings of Guilt
Many working mothers feel tremendous guilt because they’re away from their children several hours a day. These moms miss a lot of firsts and milestones, but they also believe there is more to life than their baby. Moms who stay home with their children enjoy those precious moments with their children, but many still feel guilty, namely that they’re not contributing financially to the household. This creates more anxiety than their husbands probably realize. A 2012 Gallup Survey of 60,000 women found that stay-at-home moms were more likely to feel depression, sadness, anger and worry than working mothers. To succeed on the home front, attitude is everything. Remaining positive is key to keeping it together, for yourself and your children. If you feel yourself slipping too deeply into guilt or depression, don’t be afraid to seek help. There are several mom support groups, including www.momsclub.org and Life Tools for Women www.lifetoolsforwomen.com that can provide guidance and offer ways to cope with stress, no matter how much time you spend at home.
4. Other People Have Misconceptions About Our Schedule
This is another instance where the conceptions of SAHMs and working moms are warped, strange and generally wrong. Stay-at-home moms see the life of a working woman as a glamorous mix of intelligent adult conversation, workplace intrigue and fabulous shoes. Yes, shoes. Most SAHMs spend most of their day in boring — albeit comfortable — flats, flip-flops or day-old socks. After all, it’s a little difficult to chase after a 2-year-old that has just pulled her diaper off if you’re wearing 6-inch heels. In contrast, many working moms imagine the life of a mom who stays at home goes a little something like this:
7 a.m.: Roll out of bed. The kids are still asleep, allowing mom to enjoy a freshly prepared muffin — because surely all moms who are home all day have plenty of time to bake — while leisurely sipping her coffee.
9 a.m.: The kids are awake, and rise from bed smiling. The rest of the day is filled with laughter, strolls through the park and three-hour naps.
5 p.m.: Your husband is home from work to find a six-course, gourmet meal loving prepared by his perfectly coiffed, clean and amazing-smelling wife. The kids are in bed by 7 p.m. and now it’s time to enjoy some relaxing time with your spouse before the two of you blissfully fall asleep together.
If only this scenario were true …
3. We’re There For the Firsts, Plenty of Laughs And Naps
Sure, there are plenty of challenges, but there is a lot of joy that comes with spending so much time with your children. You get to experience everything, both the monumental achievements and the seemingly insignificant moments. It’s amazing how quickly a child’s perceptions and personality change, and staying on top of these steps is an amazing experience. Nothing is more fulfilling than creating a secret language with your child that no one else understands. Oh, and the occasional naps you take with your child are another big plus!
2. Many Stay-At-Home Moms Are Really Work-At-Home Moms, Too
Office life has its perks, but for all of the benefits, there are several big negatives. There is always an annoying superior or coworker, traffic jams, missed deadlines and missed opportunities to see your child cut his first tooth, or discover Star Wars. This is where working from home becomes a plausible option — but only if you can handle the stress. Much the same as having a job outside the home, working at home is filled with tremendous anxiety, frustration and every other adjective for “impossible situation.” Imagine taking your 2-year-old to a traditional job, and you’ll pretty much get the gist of what it’s like to work from home with your kids. Once again, maintaining a positive attitude is the key to finding a successful balance between doing business at home and meeting your obligations to your children.
1. Where’s Dad?
Dad is at work. Dad is watching a movie in the den. Dad is outside changing the minivan’s oil. Maybe it’s because SAHMs spend so much time with their kids it always seems that dad is somewhere else. This belief that dad isn’t involved enough with the kids, and the inevitable resentment that ensues, is a sure-fire way to create unnecessary tension inside your marriage. Instead of making your husband the enemy, and in turn making yourself the martyr, stop and ask him to become more involved. Many SAHMs fall into the trap of “I can do it all.” Some single moms may not have a choice but to raise their child alone, but don’t be afraid to ask for help from your significant other.
One last message from a stay-at-home mom to all the other moms out there — please remember to take care of yourself. Never be afraid to admit when you’re frustrated, lonely or overwhelmed. You’ll be a better mother when you know your limits, and when you take a few hours off every week to gossip with your girlfriends at the spa.
Jaimie Zinski is a stay-at-home mom.