No one truly prepared me for what the first year of parenting would REALLY be like. I knew it would be challenging but I never knew just how challenging it would actually be. I had this vision that my delivery plan would be followed to a T, breastfeeding would come naturally, I would be ready to work out not too long after delivery, and I’d be heading back to work 12 weeks after I gave birth – basically, just picking up my life right where I left off and kicking motherhood’s butt along the way. Daycare wasn’t a fear of mine and because I’ve always been so in control of my emotions, I never batted an eyelash to the thought of postpartum depression. But really, someone should’ve slapped me. I WISH someone would’ve slapped me and told me that my kid won’t be sleeping normally in the foreseeable future, you’re most likely going to have latching problems (and that it’s OKAY), and that your emotions will no longer be in your control until who knows when. I also wish someone would’ve told me that if life throws you a curveball, like deciding to be a stay at home mom, it’s totally okay.
In the past, I never desired to be a stay at home mom. I even joked at the idea, hinting that they were lazy or lacked ambition – I’m sure a lot of people thought that of me when I decided to put my career on hold. The truth is, whether you desire to be a stay at home mom or not – it’s OKAY. But, why does society almost frown upon a woman who WANTs to just be a wife and stay at home mom? Why is it that the first thing people ask, after they found out you’re staying at home with your baby, is, “When are you going back to work?” When I ask those questions, I don’t ask them with confidence because I have an answer, I ask them because I’ve gone back and forth in my own head, debating if I was doing enough for myself and for my family.
I’ve worked since I was legally old enough to have a job. I’ve been go-getter my whole life – if I wanted something, I would work hard enough to get it. So, I almost lost my sense of self when I could no longer define who I was with my current employment status. It’s taken me a while to figure out why I felt so empty for so long. In the beginning, my emptiness came from a slight bought of postpartum and a dash of new mom anxiety. But later, as my social life began to flourish again, I found that I dreaded meeting new people and reuniting with old friends, not because I wasn’t confident that I hadn’t lost all of my baby weight yet, but because I felt inferior telling people that I’m a stay at home mom.
All of my friends are at a point in life where their careers are flourishing. Combine that with the fact that I live in the DC metro area, where the majority of the female population is extremely career driven, and it’s not hard to forget why you chose to stay at home with your baby or to feel inadequate in only being a wife and mother.
I’ve never really spoke about any of my feelings of emptiness or sense of inadequacy with anyone besides my husband but lately, I came across a Facebook post where an acquaintance of mine who currently works in advertising and has a child about the same age as mine was asked to describe her dream job in three words – she answered, “anywhere but here.” She said it jokingly but it caught the attention of her coworker who said, “then dream bigger!” She responded with, “I really just want to be a mom but the independent woman side of me won’t let me.” Wait, what? She’s in a healthy marriage, has a beautiful daughter, a blossoming career, and she wants to be a stay at home mom?! My mind was blown. On most days, I WANT TO BE YOU. That one little Facebook status really touched me.
To my fellow stay at home mama’s: don’t let society tell you that being a mom isn’t enough to satisfy you as an independent thinker or woman. You made this choice selflessly and you are right where you need to be. It’s normal to feel like a giant failure every now and then because the dishes aren’t always done or the laundry seems never ending. Life is not what it appears to be on social media or television – even my smile filled pictures crop out the giant pile of shirts and socks that still need to be sorted and put away. You may lose yourself but remember how much value you are creating. The mess can wait, the career can wait, but your family will always appreciate the sacrifice you made. You are enough, Mama.