For a twenty-four year old, I’ve held a fair amount of jobs. I’ve life guarded; worked retail; played at summer camps; and taught in after-school and special education. All were fulfilling, yet challenging…however, none compare to my current job. I am a mother.
I had never dreamed about being a stay-at-home mom. School and work were the two things I did really well so when I finished college armed with two degrees, I knew I’d soon be working abroad (my concentration was in African Studies and I hoped desperately to find a job working on the beautiful continent). Little did I know that I’d fall hard for my now sweetheart husband and end up staying in my hometown since that is where he found work. I got pregnant before I found a career oriented job and not wanting to be unfair to future employers by taking immediate maternity leave, I stopped the job search. Knowing the positive impact that staying at home with my child would have on his life, I resigned myself to the fact that I would be a stay-at-home mother and unemployed, at least for a year.
Staying at home was (and is) tough. The first month and a half of Bug’s life we were in between homes, renting my church’s manse until we closed on our new house. Living out of boxes in a house I knew wouldn’t be our home meant that there was very little for me to do–no unpacking or decorating. I watched a lot of TV. When my husband went back to work after two weeks, I cried. Being at home with a non-conversational sleeping or crying infant was not my chosen path. I struggled.
But there have been two women who have changed my perspective on being a stay-at-home mother. The first is my darling friend Catey–I babysit her little Cricket a couple times a week. We were talking one day when Catey confessed to me that being a mom is the toughest job she has ever had. A job? Until that moment, I had only thought of myself as unemployed and, as an independent woman, I resented the fact that I wasn’t helping “bring home the bacon.” It wasn’t until Catey referred to motherhood as a job did I realize that she’s right! To be fair, my sweet husband has constantly thanked me for my “sacrifice” and for taking so much on–but it took someone outside of the family for me to realize that I do have a job…one that runs 24/7 with no weekend or vacation. I’m a hard worker, danggit!
The other perspective altering advice came from a friend and mother-like figure in my life. Loren, who was my mentor in college, responded to a whiny Facebook status I had posted about how I wasn’t supposed to be a stay-at-home mother or a housewife. “Redefine the role,” Loren told me. It was then that I realized I had been struggling more with being a housewife and less with being a mother. I needed to redefine the role. Since her advice, I’ve started feeling less sorry for myself (though I’ll admit that there are days I want to cry from being stir-crazy) and have started searching for a way to break my role of being the traditional homemaker. I’m focusing on and embracing the “mother”
aspect of my role and have begun finding small ways to help support the family financially. I’ve recently embarked on another adventure that will hopefully help support the family as well as be a creative outlet for myself (more on that later–but I’m super excited!). Now, it’s hard to picture myself leaving my son to work a different job. I love the fact that I’ve never missed one his “firsts” and, even though his clingy-ness sometimes hinders me, I love being his favorite person.
As a stay-at-home mother I’m learning that to be the superwoman I want to be, I need to take care of myself. It has been tough for me to learn how to rely on others for help—you’d think after I had to nurse my son through a dentist visit or had him perched on my lap for an hour while having my hair lopped off that I would take Catey up on her offer to babysit Bug for me. Mamas, I’m telling you, rely on family and friends to help when you need a moment to yourself. This 100% independence thing I think I need isn’t worth the added stress. We can still be superwomen…in fact, we’ll be even more powerful because we’ve taken care of ourselves.
If you’re like me and sometimes struggle with being a stay-at-home mama, join me in remembering that we are HARD WORKERS. We work FULL-TIME. “Housewife” does not have to be your defining role (unless that’s what you want). And moments with your sweet ones make it worth it.
I wouldn’t trade watching my sweet one’s face change into a newly crooked smile as he gets his first tooth.
*For all parents and the hard work you do–working or stay-at-home; mothers, fathers, and guardians.