Stay-at-Home Mom is the Best Title Ever
We were lucky we could make the choice
There is so much written about the very real struggle and balancing act of being a working mother, and for good reason. Moms who change diapers, feed their babies and pack lunches all before dashing out to the office — where they work a full day, then go home and do it all over again — earn the respect of many and need the support and recognition of other moms in the same boat.
But as a stay-at-home mother, I can say that nothing prepared me for this job, and it is one that is often underappreciated.
For new moms just embarking on this journey, I will say this. The job is hard. It is relentless. It is thankless. And it is important. What you are doing matters, and it will make a difference in your child’s life, each and every day, for many years to come. Staying home to raise children means financial sacrifice, foregoing or delaying a career, and trading business suits for yoga pants. It also means being present for all of those milestones, big and small — being there for the boo boos, the illnesses, the high fives and the belly laughs.
This job runs on a 24-hour cycle, with no shift breaks. With babies and toddlers at home, this means you are required to meet every physical and emotional need of that child. All day long.
Naps become the center of your life. Not your own naps — whoever gave the famous advice to “nap when the baby naps” clearly did not have a house to care for, meals to prepare, or another child to tend to. But the baby’s nap schedule will rule your life. If that baby doesn’t nap, it means you are working overtime and everyone is overtired.
My first child would only nap if she fell asleep in the car and then was carefully transferred to her crib. It sometimes took 45 minutes to an hour for her to fall asleep. However, her baby brother, just 13 months younger, would be up for the day if he slept more than 29 minutes in the car. Which meant I was trying to keep him awake while waiting for her to fall asleep — all while driving around town. Crazy.
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The relentless nature of this job can also be very isolating. When I was pregnant with my first, I envisioned daily walks and visits with friends in coffee shops, bouncing our babies on our knees while enjoying adult conversation. In reality, while there were play groups and the occasional coffee date, many days were spent inside the house, alone.
I made a point to get out every day when they were babies, usually to run an errand, but adult interaction was lacking and I became lonely. I was desperate for my husband to get home from work each evening, but inevitably instead of stimulating conversation, we wrangled two tiny ones through dinner, bath and bedtime, before passing out in front of the TV.
Our connection to each other suffered, and we found it more difficult to relate to each other as adults and partners, because our daily lives were so vastly different. He was out there building a career, working with interesting people, having fancy lunches, putting on a suit each day. Meanwhile, I was at home making bottles, potty training, watching Nick Jr., and fielding tantrums.
It was not a rosy picture, but there was never a time when I regretted my decision. Staying home with my kids was absolutely the most important job I would ever take on, and the value to our family was undoubtedly tremendous.
The rewards far outweigh the demands, and I realize how lucky I am to be able to stay home. My children had the consistency of Mommy’s presence daily while they were experiencing all the changes and newness of young childhood. This helped build their self confidence and sense of independence, making the transition to preschool an easy one.
They rarely got sick, because we had the luxury of staying home or avoiding situations where kids tend to spread germs. I was able to help navigate them through early social scenarios with other children and adults, and instilled respect and manners early on, emphasizing these lessons daily.
My respect for working mothers is enormous. My sister has a demanding job, and is one of the best mothers I know. I don’t know how she does it all. I recognize that many mothers work out of financial necessity, and while my staying at home has been a financial juggling act, we were lucky we could make the choice. But while our culture celebrates women “doing it all” and balancing career and family, I want to reach out to other stay-at-home moms on this: Your choice, your sacrifice, is valid and should also be celebrated. I am raising a daughter, pushing her to learn all she can, to strive to be anything she wants to be.
And yes, part of me hopes she will want to be a mom who stays home with her kids.