Before I say a word, I want to make something really clear. I know that I am incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom. I know how many women would love to be in my position. I do not take for granted the amazing gift I have been given, and I really try not to complain about this. That being said, being a stay-at-home mom is probably the most tiresome, nonstop, and lonely job I have ever held.
I worked for a few months after maternity leave while I was finishing the school year. It wasn't a long time, but I can say that I have experienced both sides of the coin, even if just for a little bit. I know what it feels like to have to leave your baby every day. I know what it feels like to know that someone else is snuggling with your little one and experiencing their milestones while you're out there hustling. I know.
I never planned on being a stay-at-home mom. I always dreamed of being a mom. But from the day Eddie and I were married, he always said he wanted for me to be able to stay home with our children. His mom worked from home for most of their lives, and he loved knowing that his mom was there for them and able to drop them off in the mornings and pick them up in the afternoons. I willingly agreed, dreaming of days at the park, snuggling in bed, being in the best shape of my life, and having a perfectly clean and organized home. When I finally started telling people I was leaving my full time job to raise my son, the moms who had been there would constantly tell me, "It's the best thing you can do. You're going to love it." I think that they really meant it, but I also think they were hiding something from me - something that you can only understand when you have been day in and day out with your children. So I kept dreaming of sunshine, daisies, lazy mornings, and cuddles.
Well. This turned out differently than I had planned.
The first few months were like a vacation. Sleep in late, go for walks, have lunch with friends, schedule playdates. Those first few months were the stuff my dreams of being a stay-at-home mom were made of. But Caleb was barely mobile then. The older he gets, the harder it is to keep him entertained.
We go to the park, but we also live in South Florida, which makes it a little unbearable to be outdoors for extended amounts of time for a few months of the year. Playdates have become more sparse as more friends start daycare or mommies return to work. Snuggling in bed usually means I'm getting beat up or jumped on. Those dreams of being in amazing shape? My gym didn't include childcare, so it was an additional expense I didn't want to incur. At-home workouts do not work for me, and I feel bad dumping Caleb on Eddie when he walks through the door after having been at a stressful job all day. And that perfectly clean and organized home? Well, let's just laugh about that together, shall we?
It's also much more lonely than I had imagined. I never realized how crucial those lunches with my coworkers were. Or even the conversations I would have with my middle schoolers about current events, sports, travel, or food (for middle school students I had some pretty big foodies in my classes). Sometimes I start chatting with a neighbor or with someone I bump into while I am out, and I talk their ear off. Afterwards I feel like the awkward kid in class who said way too much. But sometimes, that's the only adult interaction I have had all day. So I'm sorry for talking your ear off, neighbor, but I'm losing my shit over here.
Being a stay-at-home mom is a lot like running the longest marathon ever, one in which there is no end in sight. Once he started sleeping through the night it was a little more bearable, but this kid still wakes up around 6 each morning. He's nonstop until about 11, when he naps, and then he's up at 1 and is nonstop again until about 8. I never thought I'd miss my commute to and from work, but truth be told, those 20 minutes to myself twice a day would probably be my favorite time of the day right now. I also had time to read the news when I got to work, sit and drink my coffee or tea, and enjoy my break. But now, I never stop. These posts? I usually write them during naptime, in between switching loads of laundry or loading the dishwasher, or between trips to pull my toddler down from whatever dangerous precipice he has decided to dangle from. Even going to the bathroom is an exercise in being more slick than your one and a half year old. The point is, I don't ever stop.
As a matter of fact, Eddie was home a little earlier than usual yesterday, and Caleb was in his prime hour of being cranky and clingy. After playing with him and trying to distract him for a little bit, Eddie turned to me and asked me, "Is he really like this all day? Are you sure you don't want to send him to school?" We laughed it off, but no joke - I thought about it!
And before you judge me for being whiny, I'm not even complaining - I swear, I am not. All I'm saying is that this isn't exactly the dream life I had imagined in my head. I'm keeping it real out there for anyone who thinks being a stay-at-home mom is easy, and that all I do all day is sit on the couch and watch TV (hello, dream day).
I wouldn't change this life for anything in the world. Because in between the loneliness and the tantrums and the 576,257 hours spent in the kitchen, sometimes (just sometimes) I do get hugs and I do get cuddles and I do get to experience all the great moments I always wanted to experience. And there is nothing that can replace that.
And you, mama - if you're a stay-at-home mom and you're feeling the weight of never having time for yourself - know that I'm right there with you. So go find a neighbor whose ear you can talk off, and have zero apologies for it.