After more than a decade running my own business, I closed up shop and decided to launch myself into the stay-at-home-mom world. Family and friends supported my choice, but now that the mental fog of toddlerhood is clearing and my son is in preschool, I’m not 100% sure if it was the right decision.
I have very mixed feelings on the stay-at-home-mom thing. On one hand I’m very glad that I chose to do it, but on the other hand I never felt so miserable in my life for such an extended period of time. Like seriously, “Dear God what have I done” kind of misery. With a husband that travels often and no family close by, I may have underestimated the stress that compounds when you basically never leave work.
But here’s the thing – I know that if I hadn’t tried to be a stay-at-home-mom, I would always wonder if I had missed out on something, and wish that I had done it.
I love my son dearly, but he can be a challenge both mentally and physically. But I know he will be my only one, so I wanted to make sure I missed nothing. So no matter what, I kept pushing through the feelings of isolation and depression and sticking with my SAHM plan. But a little voice inside me suggests I might have been a happier mom if I had given in and just sent him to daycare.
I can securely say I didn’t miss any milestones. Rolling over, crawling, walking, talking and riding a bike. I was there for them all. But I was also there for every tantrum, screaming, crying, awful fit. It wears at you, and when subjected to it day after day without relief, it starts to suck the joy out of life. For a while there was a time when I dreaded waking up, because I knew it was going to be another 12 hours or more until I’d get a moment of peace.
Stay-at-Home-Moms get to have all the fun? Right?
I went into it with idealized notions that we would have fun every day and do all the things I loved doing as a kid- draw, swim, read books, do arts and crafts, etc. The reality is that for every activity I tried to do, it started or ended with a fight. Usually a fight about something ridiculous like not letting him squeeze out all the paint or trying to read him a story without him grabbing the book and throwing it.
So if someone asked me if I would recommend being a stay-at-home-mom, I don’t know what I would say. I’m sure not every experience is as torturous as I often found mine to be. I’m sure many people have kids that don’t have multiple tantrums on a daily basis throughout their toddler years and might actually do things without intense negotiation every single time. Or maybe they had family nearby that could help out and watch their kid, and it wasn’t $50 every time they wanted to do something child-free.
Everyone’s experience will be different, and everyone will have their own set of child-related challenges.
My son is now in preschool five days a week and life is so much better. I’m starting to feel like myself again, rather than the frazzled angry mom person I’d become. I am happy to see him when I pick him up. I’m excited to hear about his day. We get along better and when he does have a tantrum, it doesn’t last as long and it doesn’t drain me like it used to. Him being in school gives me a chance to recharge and be ready to face the challenges of having a very active, alert, intelligent child. I’m learning I’m a better mom when I have a little time off from “being mom.”
I’m thankful I got to make the choice to stay home and be with my son. My only regret is my stubbornness to give in and seek help when I needed it.
I felt like daycare five days a week would have meant I was a failure and I couldn’t handle the full-time mom thing. I know now that even just a few hours a day would have given me the time I needed to do the things I needed to do, and then be able to fully focus on mom time.
So if you are weighing the decision, I recommend having a back-up plan and go into it knowing you are going to do your best, but being miserable every day is Not OK. If you need some space, do what you need to do to get that space. You’ll be a better mom for it in the end.