This isn’t going to be a blog post with a surprise ending, “JK, I LOVE being a stay at homie”.
Today I sit with this sense of failure, this sense of feeling trapped, this fear of judgement. I can be brave, my brave comes from these places:
- God. Because he is neither surprised or angry by my despair, my bad day (or days). He is beyond this moment in time. He allowed prayers that end in grief and violence to be written into the Bible (Psalm 137 is the most famous example), giving us space to be only sad or angry, giving space for hope deferred, for the conclusion to come later and not today. If I didn’t have either of the things below, this would be enough to know it’s ok to not have the answers and the hope today.
- My husband is a good listener and doesn’t try to fix me in grey seasons. He tells me the truth (“you are not a bad mom, you are a good mom”…just as a random example…) but also lets me sit with and process my feelings and thoughts. He doesn’t hurry me to conclusions, he doesn’t sweep my sadness or fears under the rug.
- I have a tribe of women who I can weep to. They are mostly in my Facebook Messenger inbox due to all of us being trapped at home with kids or living continents apart – but they are there. And one of them responded to my venting on our group chat by telling me to take today to feel these things, tomorrow I can be strong again. And she told me to blog. Because she knows me.
Today my turmoil is I want to change jobs. In the sense of a clawing frantic desperation, like being trapped in a box with the oxygen supply running out. Laugh if you want, but it’s a scary feeling to see no end in sight, to feel like parts of you don’t exist any more for lack of use and sunlight.
Don’t get me wrong, being a stay-at-home-mom is objectively wonderful, a calling, a privilege, a season I will desperately miss when it’s over, etc. I know these things, I BELIEVE these things. The value of being at home with my kids is not lost on me. No one needs to tell me how grateful I should be, how sweet and important this job is. Preaching to the choir.
And on top of that, I chose this job a year ago when we decided to have our second baby with the assumption that I would stay home with our toddler and baby. There is a part of me worried that you will think it’s petty to complain about a choice I made with my eyes wide open: it was my SECOND, did I think it would be any easier than with just one?!?!
Here is what I’ve discovered in my almost three years as a SHM: I am not in my “sweet spot” being home with my kids all day, every day. Two kids later I still feel so unsure, it doesn’t get easier, I am not confident in this role. And I am usually guilty of being overly confident in most roles. I am looking forward to the end of this season. Knowing I will cry over my babies growing up so fast, I am still looking forward to having deadlines and meetings and demands beyond my family again. Why does it feel so scary to admit that? Maybe societal gender roles or patriarchy or Christian culture…I don’t know, maybe one or more of those things, maybe other factors…
Being a stay at home parent is a challenging job for ANYONE, it’s a job for superheroes. And our current Western model makes it even harder, with each parent-kid unit isolated in their own home with little to no community invading your space (which is a GOOD thing, fraught as it can be). The irony of me saying all this is that before I had my own kids I was Mary freakin’ Poppins and nannied for a living and LOVED it. But you know what? That just means that I would now love to hire a full-time nanny! *manic laughter*
There are personal things at stake too. My family’s reality, which is that after two years being a grad school family, we need some financial stability and my husband with his freshly minted degree and more recent work experience is the top candidate for finding a job to support us. Then there is my embarrassing little secret that I have been job hunting since before the baby was born and keep hitting brick walls. My confidence is shot to hell when it comes to being a professional. I’ve even applied to a bunch of masters programs (something I put on hold to have kids, a decision I don’t regret but…well, it’s a whole thing now obviously) but get rejected from anything that has decent funding options. This is not a feel-sorry-for-me confession, I’m letting you in on what is making me feel trapped. It seems like the only job where I’m needed or wanted right now is as a mom. I love being a mom, but I love being other things too.
There are books-worth of good advice that anyone could give me in response to this venting and confessional. There is scriptural truth to uplift the role of parenting, remind me of its eternal worth (which as another dear friend pointed out, can land very differently depending on the day you’re having….ha ha…). I’m going to go out on a limb and say, just sit with me in this today. With any mom or parent you know who might feel this way. Trapped by the delightful dictators they birthed, scared that the years away will make re-entering the workforce impossibly hard, desperate to use their skills and talent beyond mothering.
The end is not in sight. I might have a few more years of this stay at home gig, I might only have a few months. But instead of living with the vicious guilt cycle of admitting my feelings then feeling like crap for not loving my current role, I’m just going to put them all here today.