Can I just tell you that some of my favorite topic ideas come from you guys? It isn’t surprising, as those are the posts that feel like a simple conversation between friends with each of us just sharing our outlooks. So when I started responding to an email from a reader asking about coming to terms with her role of being a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM), I realized it could made for a good blog discussion and asked if she minded if I shared. She kindly said to post away, so here we go…
For context, here is a snippet of her email.
I recently became a SAHM and I am still working on “accepting” my role. My baby recently turned one this month since we have 1-year mat leaves in Canada, it has really been the last month where I can no longer say I’m on mat leave…I’m a SAHM. Honestly, I love it, however I feel like I am still coming to terms with this role publicly. I feel so many conflicting feelings of female empowerment and ‘leaning in’ – am I doing our future generation of women a disservice by choosing the traditional role of staying home and being a mom? I left a high profile job in the corporate world for this and could not be more grateful. I truly love staying home and I recognize how fortunate I am to have the choice to do what my husband and I believe is best for our family. Yet I am having a tough time being outwardly proud of this new role as much as I love it, so it was so refreshing to read your post and see you beaming with pride. I am curious whether you ever dealt with these feelings?
Absolutely I’ve dealt with those feelings. I believe that those feelings are so incredibly normal. Some women have dreamed their entire lives of being a stay-at-home-mom, others become one by circumstance and others fall somewhere in between. I imagine no matter how we’ve come to be SAHMs, we all have struggled with feeling our worth at some point or another. But why?
First all, being a full time SAHM does not offer the same tangible milestones for success as other jobs do, which can take some serious getting used to. In the beginning your days are truly filled with keeping the baby fed, clean and well-rested, which can make life feel like one long replay of a sleep-deprived Groundhog’s day. There is literally no time to do anything else and listing off what you “accomplished” can sound disheartening because it’s intangible. Monotony and lack of traceable success don’t take long to wear us down to wondering what the heck happened to our lives.
But what about after you make it through those days? The kids are a little older and you start every response to the what do you do question at social functions with “I’m just…”. It may be tough to find justification for your role and saying I’m a SAHM doesn’t feel as exciting as your previous work title.
Though I could write an entire post on the idea of dropping the “just” in any kind of answer (stop selling yourself short!), I understand, as I struggled a little initially with embracing my role as a SAHM. Honestly, it’s what took me so long to close NEW Lifestyles, my nutrition and metabolic testing company, after Hailey was born. My identity (and even this blog and its content at that point) was tied up heavily in my professional title. But here I am, 4 years into this SAHM gig, and I feel fulfilled and proud of my role.
So how did I get here?
Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but a few things helped me to fully embrace and love my role:
A very supportive husband. David is awesome because he only wants me to be happy. If that meant a full time job, he’d support it, and he fully supports me being a SAHM. My “love language” (though I’ve never actually read the book- oops) is words of affirmation. I need to hear that what I’m doing is worthwhile and appreciated. He tells me all the time how much he appreciates all I do, which allows him to more fully concentrate on his work. We really believe in the partnership of marriage and both feel we contribute equally in different ways to our family’s function and success. With this set up, we are able to accomplish goals for our family that we might not be able to otherwise – (financially, activity-wise for the kids, possible homeschooling, etc).
Finding something that is just for me. This is why I love blogging. It started as a creative outlet, but as it’s grown it has become so much more. It’s my “me time,” my creative outlet, my community and even brings in income. Having a hobby, volunteer position or small job (a good SAHM friend of mine works 2 days a week in a local boutique because she loves fashion and just needed something that was all hers) can give you a time and space that allows you to explore and partake in interests that excite you outside of motherhood.
Having friends in the same boat. We have a ton of activities and play dates throughout the week with other moms (here is how I found them) and we all keep each other sane. I’ve found so many incredibly intelligent, kind, wonderful women that are SAHMs (or part time working moms) and we all act like a support system for each other. There is the emotional support of making it through the tough days and the physical support of trading off childcare duties when needed.
Taking inventory of what I do. Does anyone else fold the laundry, then go back to their to do list and write fold laundry on it just so you can cross it off? Anyone…? Ok, maybe just me. It may sound silly, but sometimes I need to recognize all I am contributing that might be going unnoticed. Meal planning and prep? Cleaning the house? Ensuring everyone has clean clothes? Taking care when kids get sick? Handling all appointments? Taking care of home maintenance? Tracking the finances? These things are incredibly valuable. I’ve heard people call it being the CEO of the household and I don’t think there could be a more accurate description.
Stop trying to convince others of my worth. I once read that the more confident you are in you choices, the less you need other people to love them. I fully believe that. I am confident that our choices are right for our family, so I don’t feel like I need to explain them to others. If you aren’t fulfilled on a consistent basis (a couple of rough days doesn’t count!), then take some time to find out why and take steps to fill the void- social interaction? Financial contribution? Needed alone time? Don’t feel guilty for having needs.
Giving myself a break. I used to have such guilt about taking time for indulgent activities, but I’m OK now hiring a babysitter occasionally to do nothing more than get a cup of coffee and a pedicure. You can’t give from an empty cup, so you have to take care of your sanity and happiness first.