When you're wiping poop off of every board book in your house, it's hard not to think that your master's degree was a total waste. It takes a special kind of person to take on the thankless role of unpaid home engineer. You're looking at 24/7 responsibilities, constant demands on your time and energy, plus all those assholes who think it's "not a real job." I'm sure working fathers have their challenges, but unless you're managing a rodeo of feral cats every day, I'm going to go ahead and say being a stay at home mom is harder than being a working dad. Like, way harder.
After 13 years as a classroom teacher, I was ready for something different. When the birth of my child coincided with a family move to another state, it seemed like the perfect time to try out something new. So I became a stay-at-home mom, and it was... different. As a third grade teacher, I was rarely at my desk, but mom life was infinitely more physically and emotionally draining. I was simultaneously trying to keep a newborn alive and maintain my household. My working husband made the mistake of complaining that his friends' wives did their laundry, and I informed him that they didn't have an infant.
I was a stay-at-home mom for the first 18 months of my daughter's life. At that point, as exciting job opportunities started to crop up, I decided to put her in a preschool program. I love the balance that working part-time has brought to my life. Don't get me wrong, I am beyond grateful that I was able (financially and otherwise) to be at home with my daughter for so long. I think it was a gift to both of us, and I wouldn't take it back. I just think it's a sacrifice that deserves a little recognition, especially from people whose coffee is always hot.
This is the big one. No matter how much you hate your job, you know there's a paycheck coming at the end of it. I remember temping during summer breaks in college, and after an hour of filing, I'd think, "Well, at least I made $7.50."
The fact is, you can't afford us stay-at-home moms. According to Salary.com, we should make $143,102 a year (it's essentially 10 jobs in one with a sh*t ton of overtime), but I don't see that happening any time soon (read: ever).
As a captain in the Army, my husband works pretty awful hours, but you know what? He doesn't have to go in and wake up any of his soldiers in the middle of the night and carry them to the potty so they can pee slumped over his shoulder. At least I don't think he does.
From the moment I get up in the morning to the moment I lay my head on the pillow, someone always needs something from me. The toddler needs a story, the dog needs to go out, and the husband needs a file emailed to him. Even nighttime is not my own because all baby wake-ups are and have always been in "my lane."
Maybe you think picking up your boss' dry cleaning is below your pay grade, but least you have the option of saying, "That's not in my job description." When you've scooped a warm poop out of a bathtub with your bare hands or cleaned maggots off the floor because your toddler hid a piece of salmon, then we can talk. I'm going to need you to get on my level before you bitch about making copies.
One time, during one of my lamentations, my husband exclaimed, "But you can take a nap!" Yes, occasionally, when my daughter goes down for her siesta, I have a little lie-down. But that's after I've cleaned up the lunch dishes, folded the laundry, mopped the floors, made a dentist appointment, and prepped dinner... all while I was on hold with the insurance company.
And when the kid is awake? Forget about it. I'd love to chat over the water cooler, but I can't even go to the bathroom without company (although I do appreciate a nice "Yay, Mommy! Peepee! Good girl!")
I know that not everybody feels appreciated at work, but at least there's a chance for some recognition. You might get a heartfelt email from your supervisor or positive feedback from a client. You could be named Associate of the Month or Teacher of the Year. You could get a damn bonus.
No one is going to give you a trophy for power pumping, making your own organic baby food, or scrubbing a toilet. I love hugs and kisses from my little girl, but I'd love an unprompted "the house looks great, babe" and maybe a plaque. Yeah, definitely a plaque.
Sadly, this criticism often comes from working moms. I hate it because we should all be on the same side (notice I said stay-at-home mom life is harder than a working dad's life, because I know as a working mom, you still do more heavy lifting — staying home with a sick kid, attending school functions, chores — than your partner).
So let's stop focusing on how "real" it is. Sure, I can get away with leggings every day and I don't have a retirement plan, but none of that takes away from the importance of what I do. I'm raising a human child to be a fully functioning member of society, and that's about as "real" as it gets.
Most employers provide some kind of lunch break, whether paid or unpaid. According to U.S. Legal, 19 states require a meal break for adults. A lunch break for stay-at-home moms? Ha. That's so cute, you guys. My lunch involves standing up in the kitchen eating the leftover toast that my toddler licked all the peanut butter off of... at breakfast. Duty-free lunch? I'm lucky if it's doody-free.
You know that co-worker who continues to tell you about their most recent Crossfit workout as you're backing out of the room? I bet they'd start to look really good to you if you spent the day trying to explain to your 2-year-old that poop goes in the potty only to have her answer, "Yeah. Cat meow." At least you have someone to talk Game of Thrones fan theories with after you go over that TPS report (someone whose vocabulary isn't limited to "I farted, Mommy").
I'd really like to pretend I'm in charge, but we all know who's really running the show. I've worked for some demanding people, but they never threw a tantrum because the goat ate the goat food out of their hand. You think your boss is manipulative? ("I see you're ducking out early again.") Try being called a meanie-head because someone ate all the peanuts (it was her).
When you're a stay-at-home mom, there's this terrible assumption that you don't know what you're doing. Screw maternal instincts, the scientists/doctors/lactation consultants/sleep experts/potty trainers/teachers obviously know more than you. It's like no matter what you do, your performance review always reads "needs improvement."
The stay-at-home mom gig is tough, but take comfort in knowing that according to the only evaluation that really matters (the one with Elmo stickers and sticky fingerprints), you're doing a bang-up job.