When I was pregnant with Ava, there was nothing I wanted more than to be a stay at home mom. I looked at my sister and sister in law’s lives and thought they had it made. While I was tearing myself out of bed at 5:30am to get showered and out the door, they were surely sleeping. While I was sitting in an hour and a half of rush hour traffic, they were surely sipping their coffee while their little ones happily played. While I was rushing to hit deadlines and attend meetings, they were surely preparing enriching activities for their kids or doing yoga. When I was sitting in the drive through Taco Bell line after two hours of evening traffic, they were surely cooking a healthy meal for their family. And at the end of the night, when I was doing dishes and laundry, they must be in bed because they were able to keep up on their chores and shows throughout the day.
After Ava was born, my husband worked incredibly hard to make my dream come true and was able to quit my job and be a stay at home mom. But I quickly realized my perception of life as a stay at home mom was far from my reality.
In reality, I was awake and nursing my baby at 5:30am. I was indeed
chugging sipping coffee rather than sitting in traffic but it was my means of surviving another day of sleep deprivation. Instead of meetings and deadlines I was nursing, changing, rocking, bouncing, swinging, “shhh-ing” my colicky baby and binge watching Teen Mom to remind myself that if they could survive, so could I. Quite frankly the Taco Bell thing didn’t really change because we quickly realized that eating while we took turns driving was the only way we could consume food during witching hour. And when Ava finally went down for her long stretch of sleep (4 hours on a good night), I was showering, doing dishes, catching up on laundry and pumping.
Getting over the expectations vs reality of a day in the life of a stay at home mom was hard. But the hardest part of becoming a stay at home mom was losing my identity.
As soon as I quit my job, I realized that most defining features of my identity as an adult had been my job.What’s the first thing you usually ask someone when you meet them? What do you do? What’s the first thing you ask when you catch up with a friend? How’s work? Where’s the easiest place to make friends as an adult? At work. Work was where I socialized, spent most of my waking hours, achieved my personal goals, made money, and felt a sense of accomplishment. When all of those things were gone in a flash, I was left feeling unfulfilled.
I spent a lot of time feeling guilty about that. I had the most beautiful baby in my arms and she needed me, how could this not be enough? Dustin had worked so hard to make this happen for me, how could I not love it?
As fate would have it, I wound up taking a job interview where I met an amazing person who told me that as long ago as the 1950’s, house wives/stay at home moms have historically been heavily medicated and depressed. I did a little bit of my own research and found that to be true, at least to recent standards. A survey done by Gallup showed that stay at home moms report higher feelings of anger, sadness and depression than working moms. In fact, working moms reported feeling much closer to employed women without children in terms of overall happiness and depression. But worst off were low income stay at home moms. Seeing this information helped me to realize it was ok for me to want some balance in my life. I don’t have to be all mom all the time, I can still be me too.
But taking this time away from work did have a silver lining in that I was able to reevaluate who I am. I now feel like I have a better sense of myself. I’ve learned a lot about hobbies I enjoy and dropped some that I don’t. I’ve learned where my priorities fall and how to live life with less junk. I’ve learned that I didn’t love the career I had been building. I’ve learned that along this journey it’s ok to try new things and decide you don’t like them and it’s also ok to fail. I’ve learned that providing my daughter with a loving home means loving her daddy and making our marriage a priority. Most importantly, I’ve learned that teaching my daughter to be a confident woman means that I have to love myself first.