My Husband Was The SAHP While I Worked––Then COVID-19 Happened

I grew up in a big family. Four children, two parents, eight sets of aunts and uncles. I have four cousins on my mom’s side and even more on my dad’s.

My mom’s mom, our grandmother, was our matriarch and she earned it by being loud, welcoming, and wild. Her life motto was “Be a bother!” and she often joked that her first marriage was for procreation and her second marriage (which started well into her senior years), recreation. She was one of the first women in her community to go to college – at age 16. When her first husband passed away, she went to work as a secretary and then built herself a career in real estate so she could take care of her five children on her own; three of whom were still living at home.

Her only daughter, my mother, followed in her footsteps. For as long as I can remember, my mom was a managing partner in her own accounting firm. Both my parents worked, but it was clear that my mother brought home most of the family income in our house. My dad was the one whose career was a little more… “flexible.” His time was more geared towards field trips and dinner duty rather than long hours in the office for which my mom was known.

I was born in the 1980’s and this is how I formed my world view. Moms were kick ass. They got shit done. They worked hard.

Dads did, too, by the way. But, if there was volunteering to be done or dinner to be cooked. it was dad, not mom, who came to the rescue. Even so, with both parents working, summers were spent at babysitters’ houses or Girl Scout Camp until we were old enough to just look after each other at home. Parents were there for the big things, but it was rare to have a parent home all. Day. Long… on a random Tuesday, no less.

A Shout-Out To Stay-At-Home Parents Everywhere
Halfpoint Images/Getty

This all formed my attitude about what it meant to be a stay at home parent. I spent late summer nights as a pre-teen guffawing at the housewives I saw depicted on Nick at Nite reruns of the Dick Van Dyke Show.

“How could they!?” I’d wonder out loud. “That will never be me,” I vowed. I didn’t understand how someone could subject themselves to that fate.

Here’s the thing, though… I was wrong. So, so wrong.

In 2017, my mom sadly passed away. Our daughter was three at the time and my family had moved in with my mom six months earlier to help as her health quickly declined. My dad had passed away six years earlier. It all felt too much for me to bear.

My husband and I both took a year off from work following the death of my mom. We healed. We traveled. We connected for the first time in years – having normally been too busy taking care of our family, the everyday grind, or my mother to even think about ourselves too much.

After a whirlwind year, it was time to get back to real life. Our daughter was starting Kindergarten in the fall, and we needed to find our footing again. I eventually went back to work. But, my husband? My husband stayed at home.

Let me just say: the contribution of a stay at home parent is nothing short of earth angel status.

For two years, while my husband’s main responsibilities centered around managing the household, I had never felt more supported and more in synch as a family. His role allowed me to dive head first into mine. Promotions, new opportunities, travel, and professional development – all of this soared while our home was single-handedly well managed by my husband. We never scrambled for childcare for things as simple as school pick-up, the grocery shopping always got done, dinner was almost always home cooked, our house was a home, and I was able to be fully present in my professional life through it all. Hell, we even moved internationally for a new job opportunity of mine.

A Shout-Out To Stay-At-Home Parents Everywhere
MoMo Productions/Getty

I felt incredibly lucky to have the role of “breadwinner” in the family. Sure, work could be stressful. Of course, there are ways that working outside of the home can be challenging. But, in the meantime, I got to feel fulfilled in my own identity outside the home. I had a purpose and meaning beyond my title of “mom” or “wife.”

Instead of viewing my financial contribution as the important one, as I had been indoctrinated by society to believe was the only one that mattered, this set-up allowed me to see it as just one part of a winning combination. I immediately realized my husband’s role was just as important and key to our success as a family as mine, and I was baffled I could have ever looked down on such a sacred responsibility. I started reaching out to all my friends and family who were their own family’s stay at home partner or parent, and giving them unsolicited praise for the major contributions they provided their household.

Even so, my husband did so much, and so seemingly effortlessly, that it was eventually easy to overlook all of the effort that went into keeping things moving so seamlessly every day.

Then COVID hit.

We live in Italy which was the world’s first hotspot outside of China. I had just gotten major surgery right before they announced the country-wide lockdown. It was clear I wouldn’t be going back to work for a long, long time.

Like most, at first our family was at home together 24 hours a day. What became the norm was the “stay at home parent,” or the “work at home parent” for those fortunate to have kept their jobs. The only outings we were allowed were trips to the grocery store or pharmacy. Given my lowered immune system due to recent surgery, my husband managed all of those.

As we’ve finally crawled out of lockdown, our roles have now reversed. I’ve been furloughed, and it is uncertain if there is a job waiting for me on the other end of all this. My husband was able to find work outside the home and I now suddenly find myself in a role I never thought I’d have: I am a stay at home mom.

The cliché rings true: it is a very tough job, certainly not for the lazy or unmotivated. What I find particularly difficult is feeding my family. The decisions on what the menu will be, the act of buying the right ingredients, the fear my cooking skills aren’t up to par with my husbands (they aren’t) – all of this sends me into a tailspin before noon.

I am also not a very natural homemaker. Sure, I can keep a place tidy – but does our house look like a home? The jury is still out.

I absolutely love love love all the time I get to spend with my daughter. But some days, keeping her entertained is not so easy and my capacity to focus most of my attention on her can easily wane. This is especially true when I hear the words, “Mom! Watch!” seventy times a day, only to look over at her doing something that can only rationally be described as nothing, but since she clearly needs the attention and love, I oblige — trying to maintain enthusiasm. It can be exhausting.

So, this is my ode to the stay at home parent.

Whether the house is spotless, or filled with loving chaos… You are amazing.

Whether you are left standing at the end of the day, or regularly sink with the sun into a wine-happy bundle on the couch… You are unstoppable.

Whether you have chosen this role, or have been pushed into it by unforeseen circumstances… What you are providing your family is valuable beyond comprehension.

Whether society would look at you and pin you as the “breadwinner” or the “homemaker…” You are the perfect person for this job.

Whether your partner regularly says this or not… It is because of your dedication to this role that they can be fully realized in theirs.

I do look forward to going back to work one day and putting the stay at home parent status firmly behind me. But, for now I know it is the very best thing I can do for my family.

And it is an absolute honor. 

The post My Husband Was The SAHP While I Worked––Then COVID-19 Happened appeared first on Scary Mommy.

I Was A Stay-At-Home Mom For 17 Years And I’m Done Making Excuses For It

Something’s been bothering me and I have to get this off of my chest: I was a stay-at-home mom for 17 years and I’m proud of it. I feel really lucky that I was able to stay home. I’m so tired of other moms giving me that deer-in-the-headlights look when I say it. Yes, I graduated from college (UCLA, no less!) and yes, I had a career before I had kids and I am back at work now because my kids are moving out and attending college.

I didn’t stay home because my salary didn’t cover the cost of daycare. I didn’t stay home because my husband wanted to keep me in the house. I stayed home because my own mom worked when I was a kid and it was difficult to not have her around. So, I made a choice that when I had kids of my own, I would stay home if I could. It was as simple as that. Don’t look at me like I’m stupid, lazy, and unambitious. Just being a mom is ambitious. Raising a human being is freaking ambitious.

And, you know what, staying at home was hard, like really fucking hard. You can’t be good at it every single day. You don’t have any training or review process to improve your skills. There isn’t any data to evaluate your performance. You wing it every day. Day-in and day-out you’re guessing what the hell the right thing to do is. The worst part is, no one is right all of the time, because everyone has a different version of the “right” way to parent.

It’s freaking miserable and super challenging and I had a lot of days where I thought “Jesus, I am failing at this.” And then in an instant, you get a thrill because your kid aced a spelling test you helped them study for or finally hit a solid single at their softball game after hours of practicing hitting with you in the yard. And you’re back, killing this mom thing. I doubted myself a lot over those 17 years, so I really don’t need someone I don’t know looking down their nose at me because I didn’t work.

I’m not a prima donna looking for a free ride, weekly manicures, and trophy wife status. I worked as a newspaper reporter and an editor at a publishing company before I opted for mom-life. I was trying to raise compassionate human beings that knew who they were and knew that their parents loved them. Shove your judgement up your ass. I don’t need it, and frankly, your judgement holds women back from doing what THEY want to do. Yes, some women want to work and guess what, some don’t. Deal with it.

There is a saying that you either parent exactly as your parents did or you parent intentionally different than your parents did. I veered off from what my parents did. I remembered many times wishing my mom was home when I was a kid or on a field trip with my class or at our swim club and she wasn’t. She worked. She worked a lot. I wanted to be the carpool mom and the field trip mom.

I scrapped my career and bought some loungewear and hunkered down for 17 years and I loved it. I exercised, I cleaned my house, I worked in the yard, and volunteered in the classroom. It was hectic and simple and great. So roll your eyes at someone else, angry lady. I support your decision to work. Keep your “well, you don’t work, right?” comments to yourself. Yes, my dinners sucked. My cupcakes weren’t the best looking things. A Pinterest mom? Not a chance. A dedicated mom? Hell yes, so back off.

Financially we sacrificed my income when I chose to stay home and that meant going without some conveniences we were used to, but my husband and I agreed it was worth it. We felt if we were going to have kids, one of us should be present and available to them all of the time. I earned less money, so I quit working. We also felt we were the best people to raise our kids. I didn’t want to farm my kids out to daycare or babysitters. It was a choice I made. It’s not the only way to raise kids, but it’s how I wanted to do it.

Now that I’m back at work with one daughter at UC Berkeley, one daughter off to UCLA in the fall, and one daughter still in high school, I miss those long days in sweatpants and those afternoon playdates. But I love being back in thick of working and seeing adults everyday. I swapped out my slippers and flip flops for high heels and cute wedges, and it’s good!

So hey you, stay-at-home mom, I see you, and I applaud you for making that choice. No judgment here. Net-Net: live your life the way you choose to and don’t make any excuses for it. So, to the mom that gave me the condescending glance every morning as I walked my kids to their elementary school classrooms, direct your judgment at yourself. I’m older and wiser now, and I don’t give a crap what you think about my choices.

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Dear Husband: This Is Why I’m So Grumpy All The Time

husband-makes-me-grumpy

Why am I grumpy? Why am I in a bad mood? Why don’t I seem happy at times? Why am I so snappy? To put it candid, it’s because of you, my dear husband. 

Because the weight of my world, our four kids’ world, and your world seems to fall on my tired shoulders entirely, and the load is getting heavy. 

I love being the one our children run to when they need something, because it’s reassuring to know that I am (and will always be) their source of comfort and safety. But it’d be nice to not have to do it all and be it all by myself. I didn’t make them by myself, and I sure as hell will not do everything by myself with a happy-go-lucky attitude. 

And if that’s what you want, well… you picked the wrong one. 

So, just once, when I’m in the bathroom, it’d be wonderful if you could put down the virtual world you’re fighting via video games and get our kids a freaking drink while they are bugging my half-naked ass to do so. “Mommy, I need this. Mommy, I need that. Mommy, help me.” All while I’m trying to pinch one off and finish wiping my ass. 

So why am I so quick to snap or so tired that I’m constantly edgy around you? Because I don’t have your help the way I need it. 

It’s like my cry for help goes in one ear and out the other. Because, no matter how stretched thin I may be, this mom always gets shit done, and you know it, so you don’t hear my pleas. 

Yet, you don’t worry about my state of being — emotionally, physically or mentally — because I love the kids enough to do it all and be it all, even when it feels like I will fail time after time again. And even when I desperately need, not want, help. 

You’ve used my own strength against me. You see how I bust my ass around here, even complaining from time to time, and you don’t take me seriously. Because you see that I always manage to parent through the struggle. I feel like I pour out, give up, and rip pieces from myself for all of you, but the favor is never reciprocated.

I am running dry, and it is not okay. 

I am not a ’50s housewife, nor do I ever have any intent on becoming one. But somehow, you try to fit me into that mold. So I’m exhausted and angry AF. And you really need to realize that. 

Please, get over the messy house or lend a hand to help fix it. How many times have you done the dishes in the last six years? Maybe ten? Including the times I was admitted into the hospital for surgery or delivery? That’s what I thought. 

You bitch about the laundry, you bitch about the clutter, and now I’m starting to believe that you just bitch to bitch, and I’m sick and tired of your ass. 

So the next time you want to ask why I’m hauling ass around the house rage-cleaning, huffing and puffing while getting housework done, ask yourself this: how have I contributed today? 

I know you work hard while away from the home. You remind me enough, so how could I forget? But dammit, I work hard too. I’m sorry that my job entails cleaning up after our children all day long, so much so that I never have the chance to get ahead. 

But I’ve never been a neat freak, and you’ve known me for how long? So why would I start now? Because I certainly won’t become one for you. I’m not sorry that I value quality time over cleaning time. I don’t want regrets, and I know I will never regret a cluttered house… but I will always regret time missed out on with the kids.

And I don’t think it’s so wrong to ask, since I never do anymore: When will there be time for me to just do the simple things again? 

I know I need to enjoy these fleeting moments, but this mom just wants to wipe her ass ONE time without a tiny human audience telling me how to do so. “Front to back, Mommy. Don’t forget. Do it like you tell me.” 

It’s adorable at times, but I need two minutes of peace. 

I want time with my friends, and it doesn’t happen. More importantly, I want time for myself, and that doesn’t happen either. I’m sick of being the caretaker who doesn’t have anybody to take care of me, and that’s your fault. 

I’m worn out, stretched thin, and seriously at my wits’ end most days. Do you even care, or do you just not realize what it is to be the mom that I am? 

My needs, wants, and desires are valid and worthy. I do enough, I am enough, and my mothering role does not define every aspect of my being. So stop trying to conform every bit of me and then wonder why I’m frustrated with the world.

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How To Manage This Often-Overlooked Challenge For SAHM Moms Who Want To Go Back To Work

I didn’t do the working mom gig for long—only 10 weeks after my first child was born. I was a teacher at the time, the primary financial support for our household, and my husband (a full-time student) and new baby relied on me to not only pay the bills and buy the groceries, but also provide health insurance for us all. So after my maternity leave, I had to return to work and finish the school year.

But we didn’t have childcare. We had searched throughout our pregnancy, finding no in-home centers we were comfortable with and year-long waitlists at daycares. Year-long?! Babies on this waitlist aren’t even conceived yet! We were scared and confused and about to be parents.

Finally, a spot opened up at a nearby daycare, that, to be honest, wasn’t our first choice. Or even second choice. But it was something and we had to take it. Those 10 weeks came and went, and as my husband earned his degree and landed a job, I transitioned into the SAHM life. My child was fine at that local daycare for a couple months, but that experience definitely opened my eyes to how difficult it is for parents to find someone we trust to watch our precious babies.

Yet, this is the reality for working moms everywhere. Especially in the U.S. where we lack maternal (and paternal) leave policies and force moms back into the workforce when they are still recuperating from childbirth, and their babies are still very young.

Working moms also re-enter the workforce after years as a SAHM. Moms who recently divorced, were widowed, or whose spouse lost their job. Or moms who gave the SAHM gig a go and know it’s not for them. Whatever the reason, the bottom line is that moms need someone responsible and caring to watch their young children, or else they can’t do their job.

Because it’s true—raising kids really does “take a village.” And that village includes nannies, babysitters, and daycares. Good ones that we can trust.

Thankfully, some companies out there are recognizing how important moms are to the workforce and working to alleviate some of the challenges they face to getting back into the workforce.

For instance, The Mom Project, which launched three years ago by former Proctor & Gamble commercial executive Allison Robinson, is said to be the “leading career destination for moms.” And in being an industry leader, The Mom Project knows that oftentimes, even if a mother lands a job interview, a giant hurdle to overcome is finding someone to watch her kids. And can she even afford to pay a sitter when she doesn’t have the job yet? So, to overcome this roadblock and get more women to job interviews, a partnership with UrbanSitter was born.

What is UrbanSitter? It’s an online database where parents can find nannies and babysitters, and where potential childcare workers can find jobs. But it’s even more than that.

“UrbanSitter searches for real-world connections and tries to replicate the old, pre-internet, word-of-mouth process,” UrbanSitter co-founder and CEO Lynn Perkins tells Scary Mommy. The site connects you with potential sitters that your Facebook friends, mommy group friends, LinkedIn contacts, or other members of The Mom Project have used. It’s basically word-of-mouth, social media style. And as we all know, the best way to find a good sitter is through a recommendation from someone we trust.

Moms don’t just leave their kids with anyone, though. I certainly don’t. Do you have experience? Will you be on your phone the whole time? Are you willing to wipe my child’s butt if he needs help? Do you know that he’s allergic to nuts and how to administer an EpiPen and that he’s a compulsive liar and will tell you that I allow him to eat 10 packs of fruit snacks for dinner? These are only a few of my concerns when hiring someone to manage my wild kids.

Of course, like any other database/search engine that finds reputable childcare, UrbanSitter uses background checks and posts parent reviews. But the site also uses video clips and data about the number of bookings a sitter has had, repeat bookings (always a good sign), how quickly they respond, and whether they have skills like CPR training or are bilingual. Also, UrbanSitter is a babysitting service for the modern age,  using “real-time bookings (a la OpenTable) and payment (a la Uber),” they tell Scary Mommy.

Here’s how it works: Through its network of over 100,000 talented professionals and more than 1,000 companies, The Mom Project helps mothers find jobs. And, anyone who secures an interview through this resource will receive a $75 babysitting credit from UrbanSitter. This means they can find someone to watch their kids—for free. Also, this partnership grants every single member of The Mom Project a free first month of membership on UrbanSitter.

This is the village right here. Women supporting other women. Realizing what a mother needs to get back into the workforce. Realizing how expensive, yet essential, childcare is. And making it possible for a mother to go on that job interview and maybe land a job through which she can support her family and further her career.

It’s not just about helping women land a job, either. We need to work for companies who get that we have two jobs—the one they hired us for, and as mom at home. And who understand that our kids come first. That’s why “the opportunities you’ll find at The Mom Project are curated with progressive employers who totally ‘get it’ and are passionate about supporting and respecting working parents,” their website explains.

The folks at The Mom Project help women find part time and full time jobs. Jobs in offices and jobs working from home. Jobs with traditional 9-5 hours and flex jobs. And more and more companies are realizing that allowing women—women who are also mothers—to work flex hours, work from home, or both, means greater overall productivity. I mean, who works harder, can multi-task better, and knows how to work through sickness, noise, and exhaustion better than a mom? Nobody.

Whether you’re re-entering the job circuit after staying home with your kids for 10 years, or you’re forced to go back when they are babies for financial reasons, or you realized that stay-at-home life isn’t for you and you need a job that forces you to put on real pants and interact with adults everyday, it can be a challenge to find a job when you’ve got littles at home. Moms should know their worth and have the resources and support they need to get back in the game so they can kick ass when they get there (which they will.)

So if you’re ready to take the step and you’re asking yourself, can I do this? The answer is yes, you can, Momma. Because there are a bunch of other working moms out there, just like you. And they got your back.

The post How To Manage This Often-Overlooked Challenge For SAHM Moms Who Want To Go Back To Work appeared first on Scary Mommy.

This Is What It Means To Be A Stay-At-Home Mom Battling Depression

First, and more important: You don’t hate your kids. In fact, you love your kids so much that every day, even though you may be suffering from low-grade death wish (or worse, in many cases), you make yourself get out of bed.

You make yourself pour cereal in the morning. You make yourself smile at pictures drawn, at balls bounced, at toys brandished. You force yourself to throw in laundry, and then you force yourself to fold it. As you walk through the house, you make yourself pick up small items — a toy, a book, a sticker — and you make yourself put them away.

You will yourself to get dressed, because the kids need to go to the park. You dress your children. You make your hands kind while you shove octopus arms into sleeves, while you locate the inevitable lost shoes. And when a lost jacket makes you cry, you make yourself stop.

You tell your children that Mommy gets sad sometimes and it’s okay and you swallow it, swallow it, swallow it hard; you hug them and you make yourself find the jacket and you know deep down that this is not about the fucking jacket at all.

This is a stay-at-home mom battling depression.

Every other stay-at-home mother does the things you do. But you do them harder. You can only do them out of a sheer force of will and an incomprehensible depth of love. Because to be depressed means to not want to move. It means to want to curl in front of the TV. The way you relate to the couch is unknown to anyone but those who have battled depression: the sheer pull of it, its relative safety from a world intent on pain. Depression whispers at you to sleep, sleep, sleep.

Everything is fuzzy. Your whole body might ache from the exertion of getting up in the morning. But it doesn’t matter. You are the stay-at-home mom. So you get up anyway. You get up through the pain, through the haze, through the sleep. You comfort small children when you are so tired you want to cry.

Other people, when they get depressed: someone notices. Someone in their lives, a co-worker, a friend, they say: so-and-so isn’t themselves. But you’re a stay-at-home mom, and your “co-workers” think an Elsa dress is acceptable attire for the grocery store. There is no one to notice you, unless you are lucky. And even if you are noticed, even if you are called out, even if someone in your life says, “You are depressed. You need help,” there is no help.

You have no one to call. Your friends can only help you so much (if you have them). They cannot pick up your children every time they hit their head on the table and scream. They cannot cook hot dogs for lunch. They cannot clean up the ruins of Play-Doh and then scrub down your bathroom. Or maybe they can do one of these things, but then they vanish again, and you are alone.

Other depressed adults see other adults. You do not. You see small people staring up at you, making demands, then saying, “Mama? Mama? Why are you crying, Mama?”

Because you cannot hold it together all the time. You snap more easily and when you snap more easily depression tells you that you are a terrible parent. You believe this depression monster the way you believe your own self. You are more impatient. You are more resentful; you are more angry. The depression monster mocks you: this is because you are deficient and broken. You believe it. You become more depressed. You do not deserve your children, you think. You do not deserve these sweet creatures who are only asking for you to love them when you scream at them for losing their shoes. When you make them cry because they left toys on the floor. When you plop them in front of a movie and ignore them for two hours because you just fucking’t can’t anymore. This is because you are a horrible person, your depression monster says. And you believe it. You believe it in your soul that you are actively hurting the very people you love the most. And you cannot stop.

But through all this terrible pain, through this haze of misery, you must add the everyday duties of motherhood. You hurt. But help isn’t coming. No one can hear your SOS call; they’ve stopped looking for the life raft; they called off the search parties. You must carry the weight of your children and the weight of your own pain. You must struggle under both.

Ordinary mothers, healthy mothers, they struggle to balance it. They complain of loneliness. They talk of how hard it is to be a stay-at-home mom: how isolating, how difficult. But they do not carry your darkness. Their pain does not whisper to them all day long. They do not struggle with tears when confronted with a messy room, with a pile of laundry.

They do not have to fake it because they are afraid of what their depression will do to their children if they see it day in and day out. Because you have read the statistics. You know that having a parent with a mental illness counts as an “adverse childhood event.” You, personally, are a walking adverse childhood event. You know this and it hurts you every single day. You hate yourself for it. If you were better, your depression tells you, you wouldn’t feel like this. If you were stronger, you wouldn’t act this way. If you were happier — and you would be happier if you just accepted life as it comes — you would find peace. Your depression tells you that this is all your fault.

Your depression is a fucking liar.

But you cannot drown it out. You have another toy to pick up, another face to wipe, another juice to fetch. You are too busy getting your ass in gear to do more than the bare minimum, and the bare minimum is survival, not metacognition. Your depression knows this. You cannot outthink it. You cannot outrun it, especially with children clinging to your legs.

You are alone. You are a caregiver, and you must care for others before you can care for yourself. You get shoved to the side. This is both your towering strength — you cannot develop a close, personal relationship with your couch — and your terrible weakness: you cannot breathe, cannot spare a moment to give yourself the care that others demand from you.

You are a stay-at-home-mom battling depression and it is so fucking hard.

You are a stay-at-home mom battling depression and you feel so alone.

You are a stay-at-home mom battling depression and you feel unseen.

You feel unloved. You feel unappreciated. You feel unworthy. You feel hurt, broken, afraid.

And yet you get up. You pour the cereal. You comfort the sick child. You ooh and aah at the crayon drawing.

You are a stay-at-home-mom battling depression. You do not know it, but you are a damn hero.

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Stay-At-Home Moms Are Still Equal Partners

My husband would agree that I am every bit an equal contributor to our family. Maybe I don’t offer much in the way of finances, but there is more to running a household than providing money. In fact, the contribution of money is really not the most important thing when you factor in all the other things it takes to raise a family.

Breastfeeding

This isn’t to get into a debate about breast or bottle, but for myself I hated pumping and couldn’t have kept it up enough to have a supply for my child to last more than 6 months (if that). In fact, the only time I bothered to pump was in the first 6 weeks when my milk supply was still regulating itself and I had to express some of the milk just so that my nipple would fit into my baby’s tiny mouth.

Once they could latch on and drain the whole breast in one feeding, my pump collected dust in the cupboard. I also hate cleaning bottles, so breastfeeding exclusively for two years and never spending a dime on formula was at the top of my list of priorities. While breastfeeding might not be of value to some mothers, it is to others, and pumping and supplemental feeding is often a reality for moms who go back to work. I don’t even know how much formula costs or how much I would have to buy every week, but it’s for sure more than the zero dollars I spent breastfeeding, so I would say my contribution at home was equal to whatever monetary amount that comes to.

Sleep

Sleep training was something I was very much against, but I also like sleep. My solution for at least the first four years of my children’s lives was to bed-share and nap during the day with them. I don’t think anyone can put a price on a well-rested parent, but it’s probably equal to the therapy bill my kids and husband would have had if I had been functioning without sleep for five years.

Consistent Childcare (even when the kids are sick)

I could count on my fingers how many times we’ve actually paid a babysitter. Most often we have family watch the kids every once in a while in the evening while we go out. During the day, I’m home with them. My husband can go in to work whenever he needs to, regardless of daycare hours. We can live life on our own time and our own schedule, only taking into consideration school hours.

When the kids get sick, I’m already home with them. We get to just roll over and go back to sleep, or not wake up early at all if I sent a notification to the school the night before. It’s my understanding that sick kids are sent home from daycare and you still have to pay for the days they aren’t there because it’s a flat monthly fee. So the value of not having to pay for backup daycare, the value of not having a panic attack trying to find someone able to take the sick kid, and the value of not having to tell a boss that I can’t make it to work because my kid was throwing up until 4 a.m. outweighs the value of dragging my tired ass into work after such a hellish night.

School Events

My firstborn started kindergarten this year, so naturally there are all kinds of fun events happening in his class of which they need parent volunteers. I also have a toddler, so I can’t go to all of them, but I do attend quite a few. My son’s eyes light up when he realizes I’m staying for the special reading time, art projects, or field trips. I get to share in my son’s learning experience and contribute much-needed help for the teacher. I would say the value of volunteering in the classroom is equivalent to how much I might be paid as a part-time teacher’s assistant, but the real value of sharing in that aspect of my child’s life has a much higher value both for me and for my son who will remember that I was there with him.

Day-To-Day Housekeeping

Last, there’s the overall upkeep of the home. We only have one vehicle, so I am without transportation during the day and can’t run errands, but everything that can be done at home is done by me for the most part. My husband doesn’t even know where we keep certain things because I’m the interior decorator and organizer. I switch out the seasonal wardrobes, vacuum behind the couch, find the lost objects that nobody else in my home is able to find, make sure there are clean clothes in the closet, and ensure that we have clean dishes to eat off of. I got into minimalism, and the only one who has time to purge our unneeded items is me. My husband would probably have to hire people to do all these things if I were to step off the curb and get hit by a bus tomorrow. But because I’m home he gets to leave those things to his capable partner and trust that the day to day running of the household will happen, even if he has to work late or go in on the weekend.

The bottom line is that a stay-at-home parent is just as equal a team member in the family as anyone making a financial contribution. There are all kinds of work that are valuable but don’t pay very much or at all. We need volunteers for non-profit charities and other organizations, we need people who are willing to clean up our messes in restaurants and hotels, and we need stay-at-home parents. Not everyone can afford daycare or even wants to put their kids into daycare. Some kids benefit more from having their parent at home and some kids do better with peers. Some moms choose to go back to work for work’s own sake, and some find more fulfillment at home with their children.

If we truly want equality, then we need to recognize the value in unpaid work and the important contributions of that unpaid work. I may not get paid to stay home with my kids, but in doing so I have contributed to our family as a whole, and my children will grow up knowing how important it is to look at contributions not in terms of how much money they make from it, but in how much it benefits their family and their community.

The post Stay-At-Home Moms Are Still Equal Partners appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Why I’m In Awe Of Stay-At-Home Parents

We all have this vernacular when we talk about our professions. Take this for example: I have a job, and my wife is a stay-at-home mom. We understand this to mean that I leave the house to go to a place of business while my wife stays home to raise our child. Culturally, we think of this as “Brandon goes to work. Sonja doesn’t.”

Once upon a time, I really wanted to be a stay-at-home dad.

Years ago, when Sonja and I would daydream about our future, I was really pushing to become a stay-at-home dad. See, Sonja was very career-driven and couldn’t picture a future where she wasn’t going to work. I, on the other hand, could very clearly imagine a future at home. Waking up early to make breakfast for the family, sitting out on the back patio with a laptop and a cup of tea, taking a good two-hour nap in the afternoon, then starting up the grill to have dinner ready when my wife got home. Come on, tell me that doesn’t sound amazing.

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Some of you are ahead of me. You’re saying, “yeah, but you didn’t mention your kids in that little fantasy.” Well, you’re right.

My fantasy describes retirement, not stay-at-home parenting, which I learned firsthand during some time off a few weeks ago. While Sonja was away, I finally got the chance to stay home with Jebecca for a few days in a row.

What it’s really like to stay at home with a child

I’m struggling with the best way to describe the experience. Imagine you’re the pilot of a Boeing 787, except instead of having jet engines, you keep the plane in the air with two bicycle pedals at your feet. Despite everything stacked against you, with great effort and motivation, you’re miraculously able to keep the plane in the air. But each time you slow your pace, even a little bit, all 250 passengers scream like they’re going to die. You muster every ounce of strength and pedal back up to speed, but they continue crying.

When you finally land at the airport after 8 hours of continuous, strenuous pedaling, you’re tired and drained, emotionally and physically. The passengers don’t thank you, they don’t mention how amazing it was you kept a 545,000-pound aircraft in the air. They don’t even acknowledge you. Instead, you discover they pooped their pants, and it’s your job to clean them up.

That’s being a stay-at-home parent. And I only did it for three days.

Heading back to work was like a vacation. Yes, work was my vacation. Parenthood makes things opposite.

My wife lives this pedaling-a-Boeing-787 existence every single day. I have absolutely no idea where she gets the strength to take care of herself and another human being, let alone the rest of our household. And me!

The other day I got home from work and she asked me how it went. “Oh exhausting,” I said. “I was in back-to-back meetings all day and the catering they brought in for lunch…well, it was okay, but the chicken was a little dry. I’m just so tired.” Then I laid down on the floor, face first, like I was run over by a bus.

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Cue the Charlie Brown song.

With my face pressed into the floor, I asked her with a voice muffled by carpet, “And how was your day?”

“Oh, it was fine,” she responded. “Jebecca was a little fussy.”

The definition of “a little fussy”

Before my stay-at-home adventure, I thought this meant exactly that: the day was good, but Jebecca fussed. I now know that “Jebecca being fussy” is much more than that. She was fussy one of the days I stayed home with her. Being fussy means that she whines and cries pretty much all day, except when you stumble on these tiny bursts of happiness when you read her a book or give her a snack. So what happens when you get that burst of happiness? You repeat said activity over and over again until she inevitably dives back into fussy territory.

So what Sonja really meant when she said “Jebecca was fussy” was that she read the book Don’t Push the Button 627 times. She walked with Jebecca in her arms in an endless loop around the house 2,134 times. She made funny noises until her throat was scratchy. She fed Jebecca so many Cheerios, General Mills will celebrate the profit bump in their next earnings call. She dressed Jebecca and went outside, only to realize Jebecca wanted to go back inside, only to then realize she was less fussy outside. Between the bouncing and rocking and reading and singing, somehow Sonja managed to get dinner started, do the laundry, catch up on bills.

And what do I do? I come home from my day job, complain about being in meetings – where my co-workers neither fussed nor messed their pants – then I collapse on the floor like I don’t even have enough strength to keep my head on my shoulders. Meanwhile, Sonja is so composed, so full of patience and motherly skill, that her day doesn’t even register as exhausting to her. It’s just a day where Jebecca was “fussy.”

Superhuman strength

As a stay-at-home mom, Sonja summons strength I’ve only read about in Marvel Comics. The only reason they haven’t introduced Stay-At-Home Parent as a superhero is because she could easily wipe the floor with any of the Avengers, she would dish out fair and balanced discipline to the villains, and she’d still have time to make dinner. This much success makes a very uninteresting plotline. Plus, you really need a weakness to make a hero compelling, and I’m not sure stay-at-home moms have any. Well, unless you count house centipedes.

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Upon seeing this picture, I guarantee Sonja just threw her phone down. I can now say anything about her I want.

Sitcoms have always based entire plotlines on “which parent really works.” If we had an easy answer to that, I don’t think “Everybody Loves Raymond” would even exist. It’s an endless debate because the amount of effort it takes to raise a child at home is relative. For example, the very fabric of my being would unravel if I was a stay-at-home dad. I would play along, teaching my daughter her alphabet and singing songs, but I know within a week, I’d be plopping her down in front of the TV while I give myself a mental break.

I have so much respect for my wife and her ability to manage everything at home. No, she doesn’t have a traditional, conventional job. She doesn’t drive to a place of business. She doesn’t have co-workers or performance reviews. There’s no office with a window or stale cafeteria food.

Yes, she gave up office-life to be a stay-at-home mom, but she absolutely did not give up working.

I’ve since learned to appreciate all my wife juggles to keep our home running. And while she spends most of her time with our one daughter, she spends many days also babysitting our nieces, nephews, and our friends’ kids. Some days, she’s watched up to eight kids at a time. At the end of the day, she was great – still energetic and happy. If that was me…well, I think I’d last five minutes then I’d run out the door like Forrest Gump.

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Me: “Bye, y’all.”

Not all of us are built to be stay-at-home parents, and that’s perfectly fine. It’s not a lifestyle suited for everyone, and because of that, we have even more reason to admire and praise those who stay home.

This is a job for which you don’t earn a paycheck. This a job for which you don’t get merit awards. This is a job without sick days, without vacations, and without perks. That’s why small gestures of appreciation can go a long way, and while I know they in no way “pay her back” for the work she does, I like to think I play a role in keeping her motivated to tackle each new day – regardless of the level of fuss.

How to support your stay-at-home spouse

Here’s my advice for any spouses of a stay-at-home parent. Audibly notice work being done around the house. Don’t try to empathize with their challenges. Offer to do chores when you have free time. Be extra generous with back and foot rubs. Offer to take the kids off their hands for an evening. Above all, say thank you.

When you’re heading to your office, tired and cranky, take a moment to appreciate that you’re only able to go to the office peacefully because your spouse is home counting the number of plums the caterpillar ate for the 59th time this morning.

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“I can’t wait to go back to work so I can get some rest.”

The post Why I’m In Awe Of Stay-At-Home Parents appeared first on Scary Mommy.

If My Kids Are In School, Why Am I Still At Home?

For as long as there are stay-at-home moms, there will be moms that question that decision.

I had to be a stay-at-home mom.

I still remember it, the feel of it, the heartbreak of it. We were living in Alaska at the time, and after work one day, I headed off to pick my girls up from daycare. As we stood by the door chatting and talking about the day, the sitter handed me my sweet baby, Grace. As our conversation went on, Gracie reached back out of my arms for the babysitter. She reached back like that was where she was comfortable, like that was where she belonged, like that was her mama. And I was just a stranger passing through. That moment forever sealed itself into my story.

On the drive home, my babies in the back seat, I cried. That was my baby. I’m her mama. I knew at that moment I had to be a stay-at-home mom. After the sting of it wore off, I started planning. If I worked x amount of overtime for x amount of hours for x number of months, we could pay off the car. I spent the rest of the evening with my mind spinning. Surprisingly, it wasn’t a difficult conversation to have with Lou. There was no pushback. It was decided: when we left Alaska (we’re a military family), I would officially become a stay-at-home mom.

And a stay-at-home mom I was. My babies were ages one and two, they needed me. We bought our first house, the house needed me. I started couponing to help out however I could. All said and done, we were fine. There was so much to be done. School enrollments, drop-offs, pick-ups, potty training, home decor: the list was endless.

But it seems that while I was cleaning the bathroom, the world had moved on.

What now?

Once the girls were in school full-time, I found myself wondering what I should really be doing all day long. I plan meals, run errands, bring lunch to my husband when he can’t get away. So what? How did I get to the point where what I do seems so unimportant? Did my importance boil down to whether or not I had hand soap in the house? And yes, one day when my husband asked me for soap, I cried.

I briefly thought about returning to the workforce; however, I was quickly hit with the realization that the band played on and whatever I could bring to anyone’s table was just irrelevant. How can that be an example to anyone?

I encourage my girls to be something, to do something, and to rely on only themselves. When they say they want to be like mommy and stay home to take care of their family, I don’t feel the sense of pride that I think I’m supposed to feel and it makes me sad. I don’t want them to ever wonder if they are enough. I don’t want them to ever feel as though the world has moved on. I want them to do and be so that if someone ever tries to pull the rug out from under them, they will land on their feet.

My mother raised my sister and me to be women who don’t have to stay (something that has proven priceless once in my life already). I want the same for my girls. I struggled to reconcile how I can be for myself and still be there for them.

Raising my kids is the most important thing I could ever do.

After some serious soul searching, I realized that what I am doing is so much more. I am there to hold my babies when they are sick or there to hold them just because. I get to spend the time with my children so many other parents long for with their own. Still, with all the time I am given, I find myself wondering where it all goes, and why so fast.

Being present is important, but so is being an example. I have shown my girls how to be kind and empathetic towards others. I have shown them how to keep a home, not just a house. I have even shown them how to make a chicken dinner on their own. Now, as they grow older, I want to show them what being proud of yourself looks like, and selfishly, a little part of me wants them to be proud of their mom.

Having something beyond motherhood is good (for everyone).

I decided to become a freelance writer and blogger. It’s the perfect storm, really. I could write about the things I love and maybe help others in the process. I am able to work on my terms, and still be available for my kids and my husband when they need me. Writing, researching, and blogging have given me a newfound purpose. I am excited to work on my blog every day and I go to bed every night unable to fall asleep because my mind is spinning with new ideas. I have something to pour my creativity into, something that is mine. I found my happy medium.

And as I sit here writing this article, my daughters are sitting at the table with me, working on their own “blogs.”

My cup runneth over.

This piece was originally published on Her View From Home.

5 Ways I Suck At Being A Stay-At-Home Mom

Back in the early ’90s, if anyone had suggested that I, an independent, career-driven feminist, put my gazillion dollars’ worth of education on hold to be a stay-at-home-mom, I’d have jacked them. That’s not how we were trained to roll. However, one thing my younger self didn’t realize is that sometimes circumstances make your choices for you.

In the eight years I’ve had offspring dependent upon me for their survival, circumstances have dictated that I take two tours of duty as a stay-at-home mom. One turned out well, the other, well, not so much.

My first tour was in Turkey with my oldest son. A full-time teacher in a Turkish school, I taught up until my due date and planned to return the next school year when, my husband, the Turk, got a job transfer requiring us to depart our bustling metropolis for a village in the middle of bumble. With a new tiny Turk in tow and stuck in a seaside village, there was absolutely no place for me to work. It was harrowing, but with the help of my lord and savior Martha Stewart (her reruns were some of the only English programming available and thus I became addicted), my neighboring Turkish moms and the interweb, I made it through that tour. By the end, I’d become a pretty bad-ass Turkish-style mother, but it wasn’t enough to turn me and after our repatriation two years later, I ran back into the workforce like my ass was on fire.

I didn’t voluntarily re-up for this second tour of duty. I was drafted. I probably should’ve trained before returning to the trenches, but it all went down too fast. My recruiter—aka The Turk—sucked me in by suggesting I was just taking a couple months off to get our 2-year-old through a major surgery. Unfortunately it’s morphed into an open-ended tour. In the months since being deployed to the front (aka school drop-off, playground, library), it’s become clear that being a stay-at-home mom in Turkey is vastly different than doing it American style, and I suck at American stay-at-home momming.

1. I don’t have enough exercise-wear. 

In our Turkish village, you never left your home because there was no where to go. If you went outside to play or walk, you wore the standard Turkish mom uniform: a floral scarf jauntily covering your bad hair day and a sweater vest (I never got down with either, but I enjoyed the low fashion bar). Here in the United States, every damn day school pickup requires a new look in color-coordinated workout gear. Last week, I even overheard one mother mention she was wearing a yoga-dress. I don’t even understand what that is. While it’s clear most of these mothers did not just dash over from the gym, in their matchy-matchy Sporty Spice outfits, they all look good in their attire. I can’t rock that look. I tried. The Turk laughed. I’ll just wear my jeans.

2. I hate playgroups.

In Turkey, the closest thing to a playgroup was the people you might run into on the beach or playground. The kids would play, you’d chat, and you’d never see them again. That is social interaction the way I like it. In America, it’s a different story. It seems if you don’t want your kid to act like he’s been raised by wolves, you need a playgroup to socialize him. But playgroups are full of people who don’t get out and do much besides playgroups so before one is over they are already planning the next, and soon you’re sucked into regular dates and forced friendships. This is not conducive to my personality. I like to socialize sporadically and remain anonymous. Thank you.

3. I don’t enjoy mom-talk.

Back in Turkey, when you got together with the other broads you gossiped. None of this “let’s talk about motherhood” crap. Here, I’m overloaded with mom-talk. From the playground to the library, there are millions of Chatty Cathys waiting to pounce. (Full disclosure: Sometimes on the playground, I speak to my kids exclusively in Turkish so moms think I don’t understand English and therefore won’t talk to me.) Sure, I can talk babywearing and lactation like a tree-hugging, granola mama, but that does not mean I enjoy it. I want fart jokes and politics. My soul needs to banter about the business of books rather than the business of boobs.

4. I don’t like to play.

American mothers spend way too much time playing with their kids. Turkish mothers do not play with their kids. That’s grandma’s job because mom is busy. I like that thinking. Ain’t nobody got time to visit the Island of Sodor and chat up Sir Topham Hatt every damn day. Sorry boys, if you want to mount a high-stakes game of Uno or set up a Lego man war room, hit me up. I can orchestrate a deadly attack of Ninjago on Chima that would make Colin Powell take notice, but I’m only giving you 10 minutes.

5.  I enjoy going to work.

In Turkey I felt the same way. I’m not good with isolation. I like having conversations with other grown-ups that have nothing to do with poop schedules (though, full disclosure: I’ve had a few poop-schedule discussions at work, and there were no infants involved). I like to wear work clothes and accessorize with more than a hair tie. I enjoy the camaraderie of voicing disdain for management with coworkers. Isn’t that why we go to work? (I never claimed I was a good employee. I just said I liked to go to work.)

I never guessed I’d be better suited for motherhood in my husband’s culture than in my own. Regardless of my suckage, I’m here now and I’m going to make it through, somehow. And I’m going to need more yoga pants.

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Why It’s So Hard To Re-Enter The Workforce After Being A SAHM

About 10 months ago I started writing again. I hadn’t written anything in probably over 15 years. It was by chance that I started, and it turned out to be something I didn’t even realize I desperately needed to do again. I started writing every moment I could. I felt like, after 12 years of taking care of my family, I had something that was all mine. I started a blog. I began connecting with other moms. It was fabulous. But I wanted to contribute monetarily to my family, too. It would feel so good to make some money doing something I really loved.

I started researching freelance writing jobs. They all had one thing standing between me and fulfilling my goal — a resume. Ugh. Sure, I had been a high school English teacher 14 years ago. But that seemed obsolete now. I also had plenty of life experiences from spending the last 12 years of my life taking care of my family, but none of them would be seen as “professional.”

Why is it like this? Why is staying at home with our families not considered the type of choice that has enough value to be deemed resume-worthy? Have we not been doing something incredibly challenging and useful? Yes! Of course we have! We’re dedicating our time to raising good, decent human beings and it can be argued there is no job more valuable and difficult. But it is not synonymous with mainstream occupations. There is no paycheck, no health benefits, no accolades, and no space for it on a resume.

Some might argue that I knew what I was getting into when I quit my job and decided to stay home with my kids. I knew that leaving the workforce came with sacrifice. I understood that I would have to put some of my passions and skills into storage to collect dust and get rusty. But I also have not been hibernating. I have not been lazy and remote and cut off from the outside world. I am still a creative, intelligent, strong force with which to be reckoned. We SAHMs have resume content that would knock the competition out of the park in manys if given the opportunity to share these life experiences with potential employers.

Do I have an understanding of the updated Excel, Power Point, and other computer programs?

No. But I have learned how to track my kids via GPS a dozen different ways, mastered parental controls, and learned more about technology than I ever thought possible. I’m pretty sure I could become proficient in those other things as well.

Do I handle constructive criticism well?

I have a tween daughter, two strong-willed boys, and have been married for 15 years. I’m gonna go with YES on this one.

Am I a hard worker?

I haven’t slept in ten years and am responsible for the happiness, safety, well-being, and behavior of three growing humans (and two dogs). They can do the math on this one.

Do I have good communication skills?

I’ve been meeting and interacting with moms, teachers, administrators, coaches, tutors, doctors, and specialists for years.

So what do we do when we want to re-enter the “career world” when we’ve been home with our kids all these years? I don’t want to get out there and do something that doesn’t appeal to me simply for the fact that I don’t have the technically “correct” descriptions to put on a resume. I’m going to get out there, keep writing, keep nudging my way in, and demand that what I’ve done for all these years be recognized as more than just a “break from work.” There is no break in what we do. I haven’t been taking vacationing; I’ve been fully immersed in the real world, just from a different setting.

If we decide at some point to re-enter the workforce, we must be empowered by our value. We must remember what we’ve done and go forward knowing that we have worked long hours, dealt with emergencies, acquired valuable tools, created, fixed, grown, socialized, mastered, re-worked, failed, succeeded, worried, cared, learned, taught, delegated, dropped the ball, ran with the ball, orchestrated, and LIVED. We are strong. We are dependable. We are powerful. We will not be ignored and seen as less than. We will get out there and get it. Whatever “it” is, we are worthy and deserving. We are a brave community and warriors of the human experience.

Maybe there is no spot for our role on a resume because what we have accomplished is not measurable. Our cup overflows. Graduate to a bigger cup and keep filling it. We are not done. We are only getting started.

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