Hello, friends! It's me, your resident stay-at-home mom. You know, there's a lot that's said about me and my kind, and the vast majority of it is not even remotely true. For example, this whole "we're lazy, vapid, unambitious, anti-feminist, backstabbing, and singularly obsessed with our kids" thing? Not true. That said, some stay-at-home mom stereotypes are totally true, if not universally than close enough that we would all be better off is we just acknowledged and embraced it.
Certainly no two stay-at-home moms are exactly alike. Believe it or not, we are ordinary people just like everyone else. And I'm sure you could even find some among us who conform to the negative stereotypes you hear. But I've been a stay-at-home mom for almost four years now, I've met a whole bunch of other moms who decided to stay at home after having a child in that time period, and I've learned that we're as diverse, nuanced, complex, and simple as any other category of person imaginable. In fact, I don't think I could even come up with a single word to describe all of us that would be particularly accurate (except maybe "tired" and that's certainly not specific to stay-at-home moms either).
That said, even though we're all pretty different, a lot of our lives look fairly similar. In other words, there's some common ground that can, in time, devolve into "stereotype" territory. For example:
We Love Leggings
First of all, can we all just admit that if we didn't have anywhere professional or formal to be, we would all wear comfy clothes all the time? I'm not saying that dressing up isn't fun, but it's as much performative as it is enjoyable. Besides, why on Earth would a stay-at-home mom dress up when the vast majority of her daily activities are going to include crouching down to clean, to pick up a child, to play in the sandbox with them at the playground, or to quickly swoop in to fish something out of a baby's mouth. My pants have to be as flexible as I am, and zippers and non-stretchy material is only going to slow me down.
We Love Target
Have you even been to Target, people? It's so much fun. Besides, we always need something we can pick up from there... and if you're there for, say, pancake mix, wouldn't it be rude not to swing by the home decor section? And the kids' clothes section? And the active wear section (more leggings!)? This is to say nothing, nothing, of the serendipitous majesty of the Dollar Spot. (So funny, I didn't know I needed 10 zipper bags, but apparently I do.)
And if it's not Target, it's a metaphorical Target. Every stay-at-home mom I know has a store she's absolutely obsessed with, and it's almost always a store known for bargain shopping. Listen, when you're in charge of the family budget, every dollar you save feels like a victory.
There's "Gossip" Among Moms
OK. Before you start getting all smug and scandalized, check yourself. Because I've been a working mom and office gossip is exactly the same.
Stay-at-home mom gossip isn't necessarily malicious (sometimes it is, sure, and when it is I highly recommend you steer clear of that nonsense, same as you should anywhere else) but we begin to know each other well enough to know what's going on about each and we discuss it... and sometimes maybe we have opinions.
Let she without sin throw the first shade.
We Can Be A Hot Mess
Which isn't to say we're all running around like chickens with our heads cut off, smeared in baby food and shame. But it does mean that we're surrounded by at least one child pretty much all day, and it only takes one to completely derail all our well-laid plans and send is into a haplessness spiral.
We Hold Everything Together For Our Families
In spite of being a hot mess, we keep our families together. You know why? Because we have to. Because if we don't do it, it won't get done (whatever "it" is, and it's often "just about everything") and this sh*t has to get done.
We Refer To Each Other As "So-And-So's Mom"
It's true. It's shameful, sure, but it's true. There have been times when I've seen a woman and her child at the playground multiple times and never caught her name. Meanwhile, I knew her child's name, birth story, allergies, favorite Sesame Street character, and astrological chart. Because if you don't introduce yourself the first time around it feels awkward to do it later on, as though you missed the opportunity. Or you think, "Crap, did she tell me her name and I just forget it?"
It Can Be Hard To Maintain An Identity Outside Of Our Families
What with being "So-And-So's Mom" and all.
This isn't to say that we don't have identities outside of our children and families, but the truth of the matter is that when you dedicate almost all of your time to anything, it's difficult to extricate yourself from that endeavor. Stay-at-home moms spend almost all their time within their family unit, and many of us will at some point feel a bit lost to ourselves. Maintaining your own identity as a mother is important, but it takes effort under any circumstances. Stay-at-home moms' circumstances often necessitate more dedicated effort.
We Get Burnt The F*ck Out
So, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, sooooooo burnt out. (As do all moms at some point, of course.) But the stereotype of the stay-at-home mom breaking down in her mini-van or at the mall or at soccer practice or sobbing in her bathroom are all absolutely accurate.
We Poop With An Audience
The bathroom is not a private area when you become a parent. Because stay-at-home moms always have to be quickly available (it only takes a moment for small children to start shenanigans) so the door must remain unlocked. Children learn this and feel just fine sauntering up to you while you're on the john. If you're lucky they'll pat your knee and say, "Good job pooping, mommy. I'm so proud of you. You're such a big girl."
Yeah. This actually happened.
As they get older, you can steal a minute or two of privacy to poop, but that just means that instead of an audience you have someone banging on the door crying, "But I want to be with you!"
We Are The Only Ones Who Can Every Find Literally Anything
I don't know if it's a super-power we get when we become mothers, or if everyone suddenly becomes absolutely oblivious to their surroundings, but it seems that no one can ever find anything. Even if whatever they're seeking is directly in front of them.
One day my son asked if we could play Uno and I said, "Sure, the deck is on the kitchen table. Go get it." Approximately five seconds later he called back, "I can't find it anywhere!" So I went to look and it was literally the only thing sitting right there. It's not just the children, either. My husband has begrudgingly acknowledged that's he's mysteriously become terrible at this extremely simply task.
So Much Of What We Do Goes Unnoticed
Back in the age of cathedrals, stoneworkers would create intricate and magnificent statuary for the tops of cathedrals. Human eyes would never notice these masterpieces. They would be visible, they thought, to the Almighty alone, to celebrate His power and glory.
This is basically how I feel any time I clean anything in my house. I know the bottoms of the dining room chairs are clean, and I believe it serves a higher purpose, and that's OK.
But it's not just the little things. Oh no, the big things are often unnoticed, too. So much of our labor is actually invisible that it makes sense. Personally, I'm OK with the specific work going unnoticed so long as I (and my role in the family) am appreciated.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.