There’s no denying that being a stay at home mom comes with challenges. Today, my amazing sister-in-law, Kelli Hrivnak (of Auptimist) shares part of her story of becoming a stay at home mom. When her twins Myla and Damian were born, Kelli went back to work (and was mostly telecommuting), but unexpectedly ended up becoming a full-time stay at home mom before they turned one. Now a mom to three, and a SAHM for nearly four years, Kelli can describe the challenges and joys of being a stay at home mom. Here, she shares her story about how she ended up being a stay at home mom. She also speaks honestly about the challenges that go along with being a stay at home mom, the hardest parts of being a stay at home mom of three, why being a stay at home mom means you need breaks, the importance of self-care, and why, despite it all, she’s happy she gets to be at home with her babies…
I quit my job when I started suspecting that my son was on the autism spectrum.
I knew my son needed me to advocate for him, and I didn’t think twice about putting in my resignation to focus on his needs.
And initially, after making this decision, I freaked out. Ever since I was a teenager, I have held down some form of employment. I enjoy working. I enjoy the constant “go.” (Plus the income doesn’t hurt either.)
But I couldn’t fathom just being a stay at home mom.
Before my two week notice was up with my staffing firm, I even interviewed with a few local restaurants for a bartending gig. After I realized that idea was insane (clock out at 2 a.m. and wake up with my kids at 6 a.m.? Not even 8 cups of coffee can cure that kind of tired), I tried to embrace the transition into being a stay at home mom. I was even eager for some of it:
- No more daily inbox of emails to check.
- No more sales quotas.
- No more unproductive business meetings.
- No more end of the year goals and assessments.
But while I wasn’t clocking hours on the phone everyday, my new job being a stay at home mom required implementing a routine.
I was clocking time at the library, playgrounds, open gyms, and at therapies. I also took on the job of family schlepper, lugging my kids from one place to the next just to break up the monotony of our typical day to day. (The lack of variety was a huge challenge for me, and at times was very isolating).
(My new job was also making sure I wore my kids out enough that they would take solid naps… so I could finally have some me-time. My twins’ naptime became my new happy hour. Minus the Chardonnay, and sub-in a shower and house chores. And that “break” was everything.)
Before I took on the position of being a stay at home mom, I remember reading an article stating that SAHM’s should earn six figures based upon the value of their work. And I remember thinking that was BS.
I had been a caregiver to children in high school and college, so I thought I understood what went into being the responsible party for children. And I couldn’t see how that could compare to a high level business executive’s career.
But now… I got it.
When you’re a stay at home mom, you are a chef, housekeeper, educator, nurse, psychologist (and all of this is expected and served with the frequent side of disrespect).
And, there is this domestic housework component that is expected of moms (whether you receive a W2 for it or not). I even used to believe that if I was home with the kids, I would be able to have a Pinterest-perfect dinner on the table and a clean house every day.
Wait, they actually needed me to read them a story? And play Pop the Pig with them? And chase them around the house? They need to be engaged? Wasn’t I supposed to be watching Dr. Oz and baking cookies? Silly me, to think that my three kids under three would allow that to happen.
I realized that if your kids are occupying your home, your house will NOT be clean. Not even for 5 minutes, unless you have them caged. (Guaranteed: the Legos you just stowed away in a bin will be shrapnel projected all over your basement, the moment you walk away. Annoying AF, but truth.)
And by the way, being a successful saleswoman with a plethora of accolades holds no value when you are negotiating with your child to clean up their Playdoh.
Being a stay at home mom, I have felt it all. Exhausted, envious, alone, resentful, bored, ignored, guilty.
I’ve felt exhaustion, both mental and physical, to the point that I have nothing else to give to my husband and kids at the end of the day. (Children are overwhelming, and our own needs and wants get kicked to the curb… stay at home moms need breaks!)
I’ve felt envious of my husband, who is able to further develop his career.
Felt alone after I have spent an entire day with 3 kids, with limited adult dialogue.
Resentful toward other women who look like they are killing the stay-at-home mom game while I feel like I’m drowning in a pool of inadequacy.
Boredom, because parenting isn’t always that intellectually stimulating.
I’ve felt ignored, because motherhood can be a thankless job. A mother is many things, but most of all, she is self-sacrificing. But my kids don’t care about my sacrifices (nor should they). You are told no 73 times a day or ignored altogether. When you put your kids’ needs first, and it can be so easy to lose your identity. When you put your kids’ needs first, and it can be so easy to lose your identity.
And guilt, so much guilt.
Guilt that I got sucked into an Instagram rabbit hole for 15 minutes while my kids ran amok in the house. Guilty that there are days I yearn to be in an office. Guilt that when I yell at my kids, for the eleventh time that day. Guilty for not making them eat a well-balanced meal. Guilt that my 1 year old still wakes 3-4 times a night that I have enabled it.
Guilty that I am not constantly overjoyed to have the opportunity to stay home and raise my children.
And I wasn’t prepared for the “mom battlefield.”
Even being employed in a competitive sales environment for 10 years didn’t prepare me for the mom battlefield I had unknowingly infiltrated.
Breastfeeding vs. Formula. Epidural vs. non-medicated birth. Homemade vs. store-bought food. Cloth vs. Disposable. Pacifiers. Organic. Screentime. PTA.
And unfortunately, some moms judge stay at home moms. Caregiving earns little respect. Many women who call themselves feminists shudder when ambitious, well-educated women abandon their careers and rely on their partner financially. Changing diapers is certainly not the pathway towards shattering the glass ceiling, right?
But we do need to stop judging and competing.
I would be lying if I said I don’t also judge. I myself actually had a difficult time relating to other mothers in storytime. (Perhaps it was because I had a child with special needs, so my priorities had shifted.) But I recognize now that we are all just craving that adult interaction, and connecting on our one common ground — our children. I now try to be conscious and kick myself off my sanctimom pedestal.
(Look, I’m not starting a debate about who has it harder, working moms vs. stay at home moms. I know the grass is always greener, and that the pros to each situation always seem attractive. But I have played on each team. And the decision to work professionally or not is a choice made based on what is best for your family dynamic. Financial, emotional, cultural… whatever the reason, it should never have to be justified… As if you have grudgingly accepted a demotion into the role of stay at home mom. I wasn’t oppressed into my decision!)
Breaks can help.
After having the twins, I had returned to work (mostly telecommuting). I worked for about 7 months before ultimately quitting. But now, I was on 24/7, and I needed to recharge. I recognized I was missing a break. I was missing the moments to myself that I was able to take advantage of before quitting my job.
- Like the solo commute into work, without listening to The Wiggles or babies crying.
- Sipping my morning cup of coffee while checking emails at my desk, without a child crawling up my leg.
- Taking a lunch break with my colleagues. Or, seizing that time to run an errand… An errand without buckling and un-buckling children out of their car seats, and wrangling them into a store, accompanied with the chronic meltdown.
Sure, during that short time frame, Monday morning was my new Friday night. (Looking back, that is pathetic, since commuting in rush hour traffic, and sitting in a cubicle is the worst.)
But it was a break.
And being a stay at home mom means you need breaks, because our Groundhog day is relentless.
The days are long, and the repetitiveness is draining. I found myself hitting a 3 p.m. slump everyday and I realized that I had put in my 9 hours of “work” by that time. But I wasn’t ‘shutting down my computer for the day.’ I was prepping myself for the witching hour (dinner, bath, and bedtime). And it would all be echoed again the following day.
When I’m ready to lose my shit on any given day, a break lets me renew myself and become a normal human being again. A simple trip to the grocery liquor store, or a run outside will suffice. Self-care is critical, and your kids need you sane.
Despite all of the woes, I am confident I won’t regret taking this short period of time in my life to focus on my children while they are so young.
I don’t know if I could say the same if I had continued to work outside the home. I am on the front line to call the shots on everything, like discipline, diet, routine, and to intervene on problematic behaviors. (“No Myla, do not pick your nose and eat it” or “Damian, you can’t pee in the toilet and make the doll swim in it”).
My iCloud is filled with memories I have been able to capture.
When the weather is perfect, I can savor a day at a park rather than stay enclosed in an office.
I get to love on my babies all day.
I laugh a lot, because kids say and do some funny shit.
So for now, I will carpe diem the hell out of my situation, and choose to acknowledge that my kids are happy, spirited little humans. That itself makes it all worthwhile.
But you better believe I am more excited than the kids when I see dad roll into the driveway on a weekday evening.
Are you a mom? In response to the “mom battlefield” Kelli mentioned: How can moms support other moms? (Let’s show our solidarity and make this a judgment-free zone). 🙂
P.S. – If you missed it last week, Cherie, who’s new to being a stay at home mom, shared why becoming a stay at home mom was so life-changing and challenging. Also, here are 7 things a “sanctimommy” might say. And here’s a relatable comic on trying to make professional calls as a work at home mom.
(Photos courtesy Kelli Hrivnak. Kelli is the founder of Auptimist, a website that aims to provide families of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder with resources, tools, and information about services that may benefit them.)