Let’s say a woman lands her absolute dream job. It’s the job description she wants, the salary she wants, the hours she wants, the location she wants. Great boss, great benefits, great perks. She’s happy and fulfilled at her workplace and feels very lucky and grateful to have this job. She will still have a bad day now and then. She will more than likely encounter tasks she has to complete that she doesn’t enjoy. She may have to work late some days, she may have a co-worker that she doesn’t get along with, she may have a stressful deadline. Even though this is her DREAM job, it won’t always be perfect.
I imagine that this girl would still have days where she just wants to vent to a friend about a bad day at the office or complain about a particular aspect of her job that she dislikes. I would never expect her to always be 100% happy and never issue a single complaint just because she landed her dream gig.
So, why do I put the pressure on myself to always be 100% happy about my job as a stay at home mom?
The answer is multi-faceted. Before becoming a mother, I taught special education for six years. I truly enjoyed teaching and loved my students and co-workers but in my heart I always knew I wanted to stay at home with my kids one day. Justin was always so supportive of this dream of mine and we worked really hard to make it happen. We set aside my salary to have as an emergency fund for when we no longer had my teaching salary. We got creative with our budget. Justin was willing to pick up the occasional extra shift and I transitioned to a part-time work from home job. The decision to resign from my teaching job was not without sacrifice but we both felt it was worth it. On top of that, I am very aware that not everyone who wants to stay at home with their kids is able to, whether for financial reasons, health insurance reasons, family dynamics, or other reasons. I do not take for granted the privilege I have to be able to make this choice and I’m so very grateful to be able to stay home with my children.
Knowing all that, I find that I put this crazy amount of pressure on myself to always feel 100% happy and fulfilled every day. I wanted this life! This is my dream job! We sacrificed, I’m lucky to do this, I should be thrilled and grateful!
I am grateful. Of course I am. I get to help LJ practice learning to count. I get to watch Vi’s first roll. I get to be present for so many moments in their childhood and I get to watch their sweet little sibling bond develop. I love my job! But my dream job is not perfect. I have a two year old and a six month old and these little people years can be exhausting and demanding. Some days are just really freaking hard.
Justin comes home from a long, hard day at work and can vent to me about his stress or things that went wrong at work and I never once think he’s ungrateful for his job. I can easily give him grace to know that it’s not a bad job, it was just a bad day. And yet, I have struggled to give that same grace to myself. I struggle to let myself really feel all of my feelings as a stay at home mom without feeling guilty about them.
I feel guilty for the days I keep looking at the clock, counting down the minutes until Justin comes home. I feel guilty for feeling annoyed on days when my kids alternate naps and I never have a minute to myself. I feel guilty for the times I wish I could just zone out and read a book instead of play with trains on the floor again. I feel guilty for getting frustrated by tantrums, irritated by fussiness, or exasperated by irrational arguments (yes, you have to wear pants to the grocery store!) I feel guilty for complaining when I’m completely drained at the end of the day but there is still a pile of dishes to wash and toys to pick up and oh yeah, I’d also like some energy to do something I want to do like get my workout in or read a book or just hang out with my husband.
I feel guilty because I know there are others thinking “wow, must be nice to get to stay home with your kids.” And it IS nice. I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else right now. But it can be both wonderful and difficult. It is both fulfilling and exhausting. There are moments where I hold both babies on my lap at the same time and just cover them in hugs and kisses because I’m so. very. grateful. to be with them. Then there are other moments where I think I might scream if I don’t have at least 5 seconds without someone touching me/pulling on me/demanding my body for breastfeeding or to get up and get them a snack. And sometimes, those moments happen in the course of the same day.
I’ve talked before about how much I loved Molly Millwood’s book, To Have and To Hold, and she wrote something that stopped me in my tracks and summed up all my feelings so perfectly. She says: “As mothers, we sometimes want so much to savor the precious moments of caring for little ones before they’re no longer little. On the other hand . . . we sometimes want to fast-forward into a future we envision as more comfortable and more productive. We long for escape from the truly grueling work of caring for infants and toddlers” (page 76).
This is not only how I feel as a mother, but how I specifically feel as a stay at home mother. I want to cherish this time, because I know in the grand scheme of life, these years at home are fleeting. But there are also days where I can’t wait for some relief. Where I long for LJ to be in preschool so I have a few less hours with the demands of two children at home. I know the days are long but the years are short and I want to savor every moment, but I also know I can’t always do that because some moments are just really challenging.
It’s hard for me to put all this out there, but I truly believe it’s not talked about enough. Society acknowledges that stay at home moms work hard and that their job isn’t easy, but I have always felt like there is this underlying sense of “well, yes of course it’s hard, but you chose to do this and you’re lucky to even get to so you shouldn’t complain.” And I just think that’s completely ridiculous. EVERYONE has bad days. EVERY job has difficulties. EVERYONE has the right to express their feelings, both on the good days and bad. And that includes stay at home moms.
I am working hard to embrace the truth of my feelings. I don’t always do this perfectly, but I’m really striving to just accept and give myself permission to own my feelings without judgement or guilt.
I have dreamed about staying home for years, my husband and I worked really hard to make this dream a reality, and I know that there are many people who wish they could stay at home but aren’t able to. I have landed my dream job as a stay at home mom – I love it and feel profoundly thankful for it.
But I don’t always enjoy it, and some days are really hard.
And as Millwood so eloquently puts it, “relief comes when we embrace the paradox. It’s both.”
I’m working to embrace my paradox, and I hope this encourages you that it’s okay to embrace yours too.