It’s Totally Normal If Being A Stay At Home Mom Makes You Miserable
I look back at my days as a stay-at-home mom with a certain fondness. I took my daughter to story times and to the park and on play dates. We made crafts at home and cooked treats together and read all of the time. We used to curl up for a nap every afternoon and sometime during the fall of her third year as a human, I perfected my grilled cheese skills. I make a perfect grilled cheese.
With all of this misty-eyed nostalgia, you might find it hard to imagine that I hated being a stay-at-home mom. I complained to anyone who would listen and every moment of every nap that I didn’t participate in was spent looking for and applying to jobs. For three years I did this, becoming more and more frustrated and more and more hopeless. I never wanted to stay at home, and more often than not I felt like I was being punished for something.
My complaints were often met with bewilderment and even suspicion. Everyone from my family to my pack of fellow SAHMs got pretty tired of listening to me gripe. People tried to comfort me with platitudes about doing “the most important job” or telling me to be grateful that I could afford to stay at home. Once or twice someone asked me why I didn’t just go get a job, if I was so unhappy. I felt abnormal and misunderstood. Above all, I felt completely and utterly alone.
I’ll allow that I was pretty annoying. I’m never one to suffer in silence so it isn’t difficult to imagine that people probably saw me coming and rolled their eyes, wondering what kind of screed I had planned for the day.
I made a point to never complain in front of my daughter either, who also had no choice in the matter. This was a kid who would have really dug preschool (and later, she did dig it) and the poor thing was stuck with a mom who insisted on gluing cotton balls to pretty much any surface in the name of enrichment through art and didn’t know how to make anything but grilled cheese sandwiches.
In all honesty, though, I kept the really shitty stuff to myself. I felt like a loser and a failure. I felt like a drain on my family’s finances and above all, I felt like a subpar mother for not loving my child enough to WANT to stay with her. There must have been something wrong with me. I really, truly felt that I was flawed or otherwise broken, maybe even sick.
You probably know how this ends. Eventually I got a job and a clue and stopped hating myself so much and became about as comfortable as possible. Turns out that working wasn’t the adult wonderland I had dreamed it would be and that I was spending more money on childcare and gas than when I had stayed home and that I missed taking naps with my daughter. Or just taking naps. Jury’s still out, four years later.
When I look back, I don’t see the time I spent at home as wasted time. In fact it’s the opposite. I’m glad, ultimately, that I did it. What I did waste huge chunks of time on was hating myself. Googling “am I a sociopath if I don’t want to stay at home with my kids?” and “staying at home makes me want to punch holes in the wall” and “oh god what’s wrong with me?” over and over again.
What I really needed back then was for someone to tell me that it was okay to hate it. It was okay to be miserable, and that it was normal to be frustrated. It seems like a given now, but at the time I was sure I was one-of-a-kind. Everyone around me seemed so satisfied, and sometimes looked at me as though I were saying I hated my child when really I just hated my circumstances.
So if you got to this page by frantically Googling your way down the rabbit hole of self-loathing that never ends, let me be the one to tell you that you are normal. It’s okay to be miserable staying at home. Try to cut yourself a little break, and don’t lose sight of that.
You can’t always get what we want, but if you try sometimes, you can bitch about it guilt-free on the internet, and I promise not to judge you, okay?