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.
Brittany @ Delights and Delectables says
Love this my friend. I’m at the point of trying to embrace my new role. I do have mom guilt when I get a sitter or… put Baby D in mother’s day out. It’s hard when people tell you that you’ve thrown your education away, but I can’t imagine leaving my babies. Not that I want to be a helicopter parent or working is wrong, but my heart just can’t take leaving them right now.
Emily @ Perfection Isn't Happy says
Someone once told me that your education/degree is one thing that no one can ever take away from you. Plus, it’ll always be there if you want to use it to go back to work once your kids are grown up!
Brittany Dixon says
It makes me sad to hear people have told you that you are throwing your education away. Hope you are able to shake them off, know that you always have your degree in your back pocket, and embrace this crazy, exhausting, wonderful new role you are in! <3
It’s almost absurd how both working moms and stay-at-home moms feel like they need to justify their choices. I’m a working mom and I shouldn’t understand what you’re talking about i your post, yet I kept nodding throughout it. The truth is we aren’t in too different situations – we all need supportive husbands, and we all need to make peace with our choices.
I think the most crucial step is to realize what we want – irrespective of what others say – and then to own that decision. Happy mom – happy children…!
And yes: I totally add to dos on my list after I’ve done them so I can cross them off!
Brittany Dixon says
Yes, isn’t it funny when people sit down and talk how much more in common we all have with our struggles and joys instead of what we differ in? I couldn’t agree more that happy mom = happy kids whatever form that takes. And I must say I’m thrilled that I’m not the only one who writes things they’ve already done on their to do list 😉
Removing the “just” is so powerful, I love that! I really struggled when I transitioned to being a SAHM. Funny enough, I was working from home prior to becoming a SAHM, but found others labeled me once I had my son. It was a tough transition as someone who was used to being known for my work. But I also viewed it as a way to redefine myself. After eleven months at home with my son, I am now back in an office setting full time and struggle with that as well. The struggle within and stigma of a working mom or SAHM is never ending.
Brittany Dixon says
I think you highlighted it with the “labels” and “stigmas” that others put on us. Those are exactly the reason I stopped explaining and justifying. I figured what other people thought about me and my choices was none of my business and I’ve been so much happier since I let it go (cue the Else crescendo). I hope you find what feels best for you and rock it <3
I’m a new WAHM but find I’m often taking care of my little one way more than I work, which I am okay with!! I’m surprised at how much I love the at-home life, and am learning to find value in at-home milestones. Thank you for this list! I’m still new at this (my babe is 4-mths old) but see how I already struggle taking more than an hour of “me time” away. Must work on that!! 🙂 Thanks again!
RE mommy wars – It’s funny, I have friends who stay home and friends who work and we are all very respectful of each other’s choices. In my experience, it’s the people who *don’t* have kids who seem to do the most judging. Really annoys me because they have no idea and probably can’t even imagine how difficult it is, this parenting gig.
Brittany Dixon says
Yes, yes, yes- this! I have mom friends from all walks of life too and it’s amazing how supportive we all are of each other. I’m so glad you have the same experience and awesome friends in your life! <3
Emily @ Perfection Isn't Happy says
I am a stay-at-home/work-at-home mom, and I love my role. One thing that bothered me was that everyone expected me to go right back to work after having the baby. No one ever asked me “What are your plans after you have your baby?”, instead they asked, “When are you going back to work?” And then I felt awkward explaining that I wasn’t going back, and people’s reactions are so strange, almost like they pitied me. But I LOVE being home, and I wouldn’t want it any other way!
Brittany Dixon says
I had to laugh at your comment about feeling pitied, because I always thought that was so strange when people pitied me too! It would really confuse me, but that’s when I decided to stop trying to explain or justify it to anyone. Thanks for your input Emily!
I always appreciate how well you address these types of topics (which can sometimes get people ALL sorts of riled up!) I work 32 hours a week and definitely struggle with my roll. Sometimes I feel like I’m not very effective in either role (working professional or mom!) but we all
do the best we can, right?
Brittany Dixon says
I want to hug you because I know exactly what you mean! I’ll get in slumps where for a week or too I feel like I kind of suck at everything, ha. I just trudge through them and hope the time where I feel like I have it all together comes quickly. You’re doing a great job!! Keep it up 🙂
Thanks for sharing! I always enjoy your posts about motherhood and think you have a great perspective on it. I have been a SAHM for 5.5 years now and getting a part time job this past fall was a game changer and also helps make me appreciate more the time we do have together instead of it feeling like a never ending cycle of the same thing.
I was just thinking about this topic from a working mom’s perspective on my commute this morning. It’s funny that no matter if you’re at SAHM or a working mom, you can feel the need to defend your decision to others–but there is no right answer, only what is right for YOU and YOUR family. As a working mom I feel guilty dropping the kids off at daycare each morning, or going to spend an hour by myself on the weekend, and I question my choice from time to time, but I love my job and I couldn’t imagine doing it any differently. However, over 90% of my co workers are men whose wives stay at home, and I feel the need to defend my choice all the time. I think “Mom Guilt” is felt by all Moms out there, regardless of the situation, and all we really need to do is enjoy the journey, no matter what it looks like. At the end of the day we’re all focused on the same things: raising great kids, taking care of our families, and making sure there is always a glass of wine available after bedtime!
Brittany Dixon says
Beautifully put Allison! I love your last sentence because THAT is absolutely what it is all about. And cheers, from one wine loving mama to another 😉
If there was one thing I was completely unprepared for with motherhood it was the concept of keeping (or losing) one’s identify once you have a child. It never crossed my mind and I have found it to be one of the most challenging things about being a mom. I am an individual, a wife, a mom, a working mom. Everything you wrote about here is so important for a mom in any kind of stay at home or working situation. What you’re really writing about is making sure you find your place of balance and happiness which I think is so important for any mom.
Kelli H (Made in Sonoma) says
I love your outlook on this subject. David and I aren’t there yet on making that decision but I used to always think I’d go back to work as soon as possible. My mom was a full time working mom and I’ve always respected that about her. As having kids has gotten closer and closer, I think I’ve realized that I’ll most likely want to continue working part time for financial reasons and to also have that thing that is still “mine”. Of course this is all up in the air, but I love your perspective on it and that you agree, each family is different and you have to do what works for yours. I’m so sick of reading about “mommy wars”. It sounds really sad, scary, and unsupportive. I think as women we need to lift each other up and support each others decisions. You’ve been such an inspiration in this department to me.
Brittany Dixon says
You know where I hear the most about mommy wars? The media, viral posts, etc. Don’t be too intimidated by them because I’ve found that the moms I know are incredibly supportive of each other, though our situations all look very different. From working to how you feed your child to how you discipline, etc- there are a million different ways to do it well. Find the women that believe that and leave judgement behind. 🙂
Wonderful post! Thank you for sharing. I kind of feel like I have the best of both worlds. I am a full time elementary school teacher, however I am of course home with my kiddos when I have holiday breaks (currently on a 4-day weekend for President’s Day!), spontaneous snow days, and of course 2+ months off in the summer where I get to live the life of a full-time SAHM during the warm months. I think both jobs are rough, yet also very satisfying. There are days when I get home from work totally exhausted and feel so guilty that I have not one ounce of energy left to spend with my kids. But, there are times on long holiday breaks or in the middle of the summer when I am exhausted from running around with my 2 little ones at home all day and think how much of a “break” it is to be at work, not changing diapers or dealing with tantrums. I agree every family is different, and that’s what makes our world so beautiful and diverse 🙂
Heather @ Life In Leggings says
These are all great points and tips, Brittany! I can’t speak from the perspective of a SAHM yet, but my husband and I have always talked about aiming to have me stay home with little ones until they are old enough to go off to school. After moving away from all we knew in Orlando, I was a SAHW for a while and can absolutely relate to all of those feelings of under-accomplishment. But, we all go through different phases in our lives and you make the most of them by connecting with a community! Definitely bookmarking this to turn back to in the future. <3
Brittany Dixon says
You put it so well Heather- we all go through different phases and different times and often times for reasons that others may not be able to see. Doing what is best for you and your marriage and family is what ultimately matters. Thanks for your comment! <3
Julia @ Lord Still Loves Me says
“Stop trying to convince others of my worth” <— PREACH! Not a stay at home mom here, but I completely resonant with this one. Still need to work on it a lot. I love your words and your tell-all mentality in this post. You are such a light!
This was a really good post. I’m a working mom, which is what I wanted… in the beginning. Now I struggle as my kids get older because I feel like I’m missing out on so much and wish more than anything that I could be a SAHM! I think it would fulfilling in such a different way, but I also know it would be a struggle as well. I like the idea of having a part-time job doing something I like to get out of the house a couple days. Hopefully it’s something I can still make happen before my son heads off to kindergarten and my daughter starts preschool.
Alyssa @ renaissancerunnergirl says
I love this post, because it speaks to everyone – there is no need to justify ourselves to other people who feel like they can judge our lives, because as Dr. Seuss says, those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind. It’s taken me a long time to fully appreciate that statement and take it to heart but I’m getting there 🙂
Ai these “mommy woman wars”…I mean come on every one is different, embrace each other and learn from each other.
I love your blog and your outlook on life you are so inspiring in so many ways and always make me think for days after reading one of your posts 😉
We dont have our babies yet and I know that for financial reasons I will have to work, luckilly my mom in law was a SAHM and she is still at home and already offered the role of being Granny at home SAHG 😉
I feel bad most days because of having to work overtime and mostly feel as if I drop the balls at home, hubby is very supportive and helps out a lot but I cant help but feel guilty…
Brittany Dixon says
I hope you can let go of the guilt! Know it’s something every woman struggles with, but I believe if we are aware enough to even feel guilt then we must already be doing a better job than we are giving ourselves credit for 🙂 Also, I love the SAHG- haha! So cute and how wonderful that she’ll be there to help. That sounds like a win for everyone!
This post is great. I am currently working full time, but the older my daughter gets, the harder it is for me to leave her at daycare. The thing that would scare me the most would be the loss of financial independence. I was raised by a single mom more or less, and I cannot imagine what it would be like to stay with your kids, then have your husband leave and have to re-enter the workforce with all of those years of income lost. Our society is not kind to moms returning to the workplace and I wish that would change. I would love to stay home while my kids are young, but I worry that I will be so “behind” career wise once they are old enough for school. Such a hard choice but after 2 kids daycare will cost more than my salary sooooo that will make the decisions easier! 🙂
I am so glad you wrote this, and I saved it to read In the future. I do not have kids yet, but I’ve always dreamed of being a stay at home mom. When I met my husband it was one of the first things we agreed upon when we started talking about a family. As we get closer to starting our family I am still confident in that choice, but I still worry that I will miss the successes of working in a profession. I hope to embrace the choices such as you, and I saved this post to remind myself in the future that it is a choice that I can be proud of. Thank you for your constant encouragement for happiness.
I loved this post! Speaks to my mama heart. I have been working since I was 15 and the transition to SAHM was hard for me. I LOVED being with my daughter but I also kind of mourned my old independent self. It seems as though the role of SAHM isn’t valued as much as it used to be. I’m so glad I stuck it out because there is nothing in the world I would rather be doing than spending my time with my best girl 🙂
I also love being a SAHM. Of course, I’m 6mo. new at it, but I love being at the heart of my family. The hardest part at first was feeling like a failure every day. Going from working and being told what a great job you do to taking care of someone that screams at you every day, multiple times a day is not easy. However, I love taking care of the little one and my husband.
Heather @ fit mama real food says
I totally agree, every mama just needs to find a mix that works for them. Growing up I always images myself as a stay at home mom, but the reality is that I love teaching fitness classes part time and getting to be with my kids the majority of my days. I get a little me time in, my workout, then it’s back to mom life. Love every aspect of it. Great topic!
Katy H says
I have a 9-5 desk job and the biggest guilt I struggle with is that I really have no desire to be a SAHM. I feel like that’s a little taboo to say. Most of the time I hear from working Moms things like, “Oh I’d love to be a SAHM but…I just love my career too much OR we can’t afford it.” But for me, I just don’t think I would personally enjoy being a SAHM. I feel guilty about that because I feel like I’m supposed to say “OH I WOULD LOVE TO BE AROUND MY KIDS ALL THE TIME”, but that’s not true.
I think every Mom in every situation has some guilt. The best thing we can do is support one another and make sure everyone knows that there is no one “right” way. Every Mom is different and every situation is different. As long as you’re doing what’s right for YOU, that’s all that matters!
Amanda @ Cheers to the Weekends says
I am not a mom, but I have so much respect for SAHMs! Such a hard job taking care of kids. I’m sure it is super rewarding though. *applause* *highfives* *smiles*
I am a SAHM to a 3 year old and 16 month old. It’s funny, because whenever I meet other mom’s out and about, “Do you stay home?” Is always one of the first questions that I get asked. I love being able to say yes!! It definitely wasn’t an easy transition, but then transitioning to being a parent isn’t easy to begin with. I think the first 6 months were the hardest, because there’s almost no validation or reward, just endless nursing and diapers and laundry and crying (both me and the baby!). After that it got much easier, and then we had our second and things changed again. I feel really, really lucky that I have the opportunity to stay home. I also feel like my husband and I both appreciate each other more than we did when we were both working, because he knows how much I do at home, and I can at least try to understand how hard he works to provide for our family. I do see myself getting at least a part-time job once both kids are in school, but for now we stay busy and I couldn’t imagine things and other way.
Lauren Brennan says
Excellent post Brittany! It’s so comforting to read as a fellow SAHM, to know that I’m not alone and I need to give myself a break on the guilt trip of needing “me” time. Thank you for sharing your insight! 💕
Lena Fishman says
Thanks for discussing this issue. I work part time as a special education tutor and I am working on starting a subscription web site for parents: http://www.koalacoach.com
I chose a job that could allow my work schedule to work schedules for my kids. One challenging thing is that other people assume that I also have a flexible schedule for everything they need — I end taking care of other people’s kids, driving other people’s kids to tennis lessons and so on… It’s hard to get others to take your family and work choices as serious choices that take up as much time as a job outside of the home.