Courtesy of Gemma Hartley

Dear Stay-At-Home Moms: I See You

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Dear stay-at-home moms,

When I first decided to be a stay-at-home mom and I imagined what my life would be like, I'll be honest: I thought it would be a “break.” I knew it wouldn't necessarily be easy all the time, but I thought it would be a step down from my life of taking full-time college courses and working late-night retail shifts. I had visions of lots of tranquil naps with my new baby and getting lots of writing done and trying out new recipes that I never seemed to have time for in my pre-baby life. But of course, that's not what it's like at all, which is why I wanted to write this letter to say to stay-at-home moms: I see you. I feel your struggle.

I didn't realize the truth: that being a stay-at-home mom would make my life feel incredibly full and incredibly lonely at the same time. How every minute of the day would be used up, yet I’d end most days feeling as if I had achieved nothing. How I would feel completely invisible as I went from a life filled with social interaction, to one spent staring at a tiny human who couldn’t talk yet (which then turned into three little people who never stopped talking to me). How I would wonder, quite often, if it would ever get better; if I would ever enjoy being a stay-at-home mom like I was supposed to.

I know how hard it is to transition into a life that isn’t filled with as much magic as you were promised. I know what it’s like to think about life with a new baby, and how different it is to actually live that life with a new baby. I know how it feels to watch your life evolve into something you never imagined, something that doesn’t look anything like the vision you had in your mind before it became a reality.

Courtesy of Gemma Hartley

I know how the mom you thought you would be suddenly gives way to the mom you are. I know how all the work you do for your kids never feels like enough. You don’t do enough crafts or baking or putting on pants (yours or theirs). You let them watch too much TV. You let them eat too much junk food. You yell too much. You’re tired all the time. You don’t read enough or exercise enough. You make too many mistakes. You’re so far from the mom you thought you’d be, the mom you want to be, that it hurts.

No matter how much you sometimes envy your partner as he goes off to work, you don’t want to trade places with them. Because you get to see those moments of magic, when your child learns something new or says “I love you” for the first time or simply snuggles beneath your arm.

I know what it’s like to start your morning bombarded by requests before you’ve even had a chance to get a cup of coffee. It’s only 6 a.m., but everyone needs breakfast right now and everyone wants to eat something different and one of them would like macaroni and cheese and also he took that toy from me and god there is so much screaming and how is this my life? If anyone else started their work day with this much stress, they would quit on the spot. Some days, I seriously want to yell, “I quit!” before 8 a.m. (And some days, I do actually yell that).

Courtesy of Gemma Hartley

I know what it’s like to go to a party or meet up with an old friend and feel utterly frustrated when asked “So what have you been up to lately?” or “What do you guys do all day?” The truth is there is no satisfying answer, because being a stay-at-home mom is all about survival. It means you’ve been doing a million little things that amount to nothing, except keeping yourself and your children alive. You’ve been cleaning up the same areas over and over again in an endless loop. You’ve been making meals and fetching snacks and wiping noses and getting Band-Aids for non-existent wounds. You’ve been reading the same book that you hate 12 times in a row and playing board games that make you want to pull all your hair out — and none of these things are particularly noteworthy, especially when your childless friend wants to tell you all about their recent trip to Guatemala.

You yell too much. You’re tired all the time. You don’t read enough or exercise enough. You make too many mistakes. You’re so far from the mom you thought you’d be, the mom you want to be, that it hurts.

Yet I know, in spite of all the frustrations that make up your life as a stay-at-home mom, that you’d choose it again. No matter how much you sometimes envy your partner as he goes off to work, or wish you too were jetting off to exotic locales sans children, you don’t want to trade places with them. Because you also see those moments of magic, when your child learns something new or says “I love you” for the first time or simply snuggles beneath your arm. I know those moments of clarity that stop you in your tracks and overwhelm you with gratitude for the life you’ve created. For the life you get to witness - even when no one else does. Even when no one else “gets it.” I see those moments too, stay-at-home moms. I see all of them.