When you say you’re a stay-at-home mom people have this image of slippered feet gracefully positioned on the ottoman with toys and dirty diapers strewn around the room.
These misconceptions are not only overwhelming but down right demeaning. So where do the stereotypes come from and what does a SAHM really do all day?
On any given day a SAHM battles a constant struggle about who she really is versus who she should have been. Depending on the day, this can be either motivating or daunting or both at the same time.
Never mind the part of society that looks down on SAHMs as if we spend our days licking the cookie dough off the mixing spoon (note to self: I really need to try living up to these stereotypes).
Staying at home no longer means tending to the children and cleaning the house, there’s a bar that’s been set sky-high and trying to reach such a height can be taxing. Upgrading education, volunteering several days a week, trying to remain relevant, staying abreast of your children’s schedules, homework and social life all while bearing the burden of every task inside the home means most nights I’ll be found folding laundry at 11pm while simultaneously planning lunches for tomorrow, signing homework and responding to emails.
I know what you’re thinking working moms…Welcome to our world! All SAHMs want is recognition, it isn’t all bonbons and daytime TV around here either.
In the US there are over 10 million women-owned businesses (parenting.com). There is a new level of obligation placed on modern day mothers to not only be there for the drop-offs, pick-ups and bake sales but also to contribute to the family financially.
Most nights I drag myself to bed feeling like I haven’t lived up to my fullest potential. Telling myself I’ve failed both myself and the façade I’m teaching my children about putting yourself last, because making others happy will make you happy.
I tell myself tomorrow I will work harder to make my family proud, look my best, bring in more money and be the Martha Stewart my creatively challenged home longs for.
No one asks a SAHM if they need a break because they assume their lives are one giant holiday. The reality is that as a SAHM the finances, itineraries, housework and general happiness of everyone in the family unit comes way before hers. It sounds like a martyr act but it’s the candid reality that was broadly overlooked in the pregnancy books I blissfully and naively read (note to self: add write a book to the list).
Everywhere you turn there are high expectations!
To have the cleanest house on the block because what else does a SAHM do?
To have the time to work out every day and look the part of a trophy wife while creating clean, healthy meals to satiate every palate in the home.
To agree to every volunteer opportunity at your child’s school because what is more important than your children’s relationship with their education, and really what else does a SAHM do?
What happened to my relationship with sanity? (note to self: great title for a chapter in that book)
I remember when I decided to become a stay-at-home parent. At the time I had just gone through a handful of heartbreaking losses. The six months of bed-rest I went through with the one living child I had really gave me a lot of time to think about what mattered to me.
I loved my job but I had worked too hard to bring this child into the world to let someone else spend 40 hours or more a week with her.
I often overhear working moms referring to SAHMs as lucky or worse yet – lazy. What they don’t know is that some of us actually don’t need help ridiculing ourselves it’s bad enough living with our own complexes of inferiority.
I have a few friends who are full time working mothers who recently took a leave from work because they are having a hard time balancing everything. In my mind I’m jealous of them because they have the option of walking away and still have a job waiting for them.
On the other side of the coin, I spent my childhood as a latch-key kid and my children have never had to enter an empty home or attend a field trip without a parent in tow. To be honest, my kids get a little too much “parent-in-tow” and often want more freedom.
It’s the parental catch 22.
But where’s the happy medium?
I know there are people who have assumed I’m milking the mommy biz and living in the lap of luxury, in reality I’ve never been busier in my life and at the end of the day the only thing I have to show for it is fatigue and sometimes, yes I’ll admit it – regret.
As “just a stay-at-home” mom I feel a need to go above and beyond to prove that I’m valuable. At the crack of dawn I’m forcing myself out of bed to make hot lunches to send to school and preparing satisfying breakfasts to start a fruitful day for my children.
When a working parent asks me what my day looks like I find myself over-thinking the answer. If I’m not giving back to society and making a difference in the world I have nothing to contribute to compete with their busy workloads.
Recently, I held a birthday party for one of my kids. An hour into the party I went to my purse to grab a stick of gum and put on some lipstick. One of the children observed me and wandered over to remark, “You only do that so you can be better than everybody”.
Of course the actual reality is that I put on make-up and curl my hair for just the opposite reasons. I certainly don’t force myself out of bed 30 minutes earlier then I need to just to apply my “face” because I see myself as superior.
My oldest daughter later questioned why I didn’t stand up for myself. The sad reality is that I had nothing clever to retort. Either way, that presumption has been made by many I’m sure and really isn’t a debate to be had with a six-year-old.
The world tells us we need to be size four to be desirable, that happiness can only be attained while living in a larger home, with newer cars and a cottage to park your yacht.
Our elders tell us to enjoy every moment.
So while I’m trying to look the part of the perfect wife, be on-call for my family on a 24-hour rotation, keep a relevant resume and a perfect home all while trying to find my place in the world, I will also continue to deliver this message to my children (while I still have them as an avid audience): Never stop reaching for success and happiness, even if you don’t think you deserve it.
Also, under no circumstance should you determine that another woman applied foundation because she is vain. That my dear is called judging a book by its cover and until you’ve read it cover to cover you have no idea what their story entails.
I guess if there’s a moral to this story I would say it’s Don’t judge a Mama by her lipgloss.