Balancing expectations as a stay-at-home-mom

The other day on Facebook I shared this link to an article about how stay-at-home-mom’s (SAHM) really need help.

And (and I know this will surprise you — not), it really got me thinking about the validity of the points the author mentioned.

As I’ve mentioned before, my crazy brain always tends to think about how people used to live ages ago and how they dealt with (or didn’t have to deal with) the things we do today.  Maybe I should have been an anthropologist.

Eons ago, women weren’t raising kids alone.  Or even with just their husband.  They lived with parents, aunts & uncles, siblings, cousins, and anyone else who needed a place to live and a family to take care of them.  It wasn’t just mom’s job to raise the kids, keep a tidy house, cook food, etc.  Everyone pitched in and helped out.  It wasn’t out of kindness, it was just what was done, what was expected.

Everyone helped look after children, keeping them out of harm’s way, teaching them, helping them to learn how to contribute to the family dynamic.

But these days, if you’re a SAHM, the load is all on you.  It’s up to mom to get the kids up, feed them, clothe them, get them to and from school/activities/playgroups, shop for food, cook dinner, do the laundry, change the sheets, tidy the house, holy cow I’m exhausted just typing that.

Now many SAHMs have very helpful husbands who do their fair share of work around the house.  I’m one of those.  My husband is wonderful at helping out when he comes home.  And if he’s not helping with something where I really need his help, I know I can tell him I need help and he’s more than willing to help with it.  Sheesh, can I say “help” more times in one sentence?

Wait, help help help help help help.  Yep, I can.

Sorry.

Anyway, my point is there seems to be an expectation these days for moms to be and do everything.  And let’s not forget the SAHMs who are also WAHMs (work-at-home-moms) who not only do all that, but also find a way to do something to generate income for their family.  So another added responsibility to the already floor length laundry list.

My question is where does this expectation come from to be super-mom?

Do we put it on each other?  Do my friends and family and neighbors think that I need to have a super-clean house and super-happy kids who eat super-healthy food all the time and have super-cute clean clothes?  My personal opinion is no.  And maybe that’s just me.  Maybe I’m just lucky that I have such a wonderful community around me that doesn’t expect that from me.

Does it come from media?  Do we see TV shows or read magazines and books and see what the media portrays as “perfect” and so we feel we must strive to be that?  Personally, I think that’s a huge influence.   How often have you picked up Better Homes & Gardens and thought “Wow, I wish my house looked like that?”  And consciously or subconciously I believe that registers in our minds as what a home should look like rather than what a real home looks like.  And it causes us to go buy things to try to be more like that version of perfection we now have in our heads.

Now I’m not blaming the media or BH&G for all SAHM woes.  I love looking at magazines and watching HGTV for ideas for how to make my home look nicer.  But I’ve chosen to not let it weigh on me.  I have a nice home that I try to keep tidy and neat (as best I can with 3 kids ages 4 and under) but I’ve decided that my priority in my life today is NOT my house.  So my decor may be outdated, my shelves might have some dust, and you will step on a toy at some point if you’re walking around my house, but that’s because we LIVE in our house.  It’s not a museum, it’s not a show home.  It’s our home.  Which includes three little girls who love to play and make messes the way little kids should.

I hope other moms out there are doing the same thing I am.  Not necessarily with their homes, but I hope they’re evaluating their lives, deciding what is important to them and focusing on that while letting the rest fall to the bottom of the list.

For me, eating healthy and keeping on budget within our household is important to me, so I spend time planning meals, making grocery lists that keep within our budget, researching benefits of eating natural and organic, and finding other ways to live within our means like buying consignment clothes for my kids.

For others, developing their childs artistic side may be very important so they spend time and money coming up with crafts and projects for their children.  Or perhaps athletics is a top priority for some moms, and participation in various sporting activities is what they choose for their families.  And maybe for some having a nice home that is organized, neat, and clean is a priority, and that’s what they choose to spend their energies on.

The article hits a lot on the topic of moms needing needing help with the kids.  While I can empathize with that, I will say I do get breaks during nap and in the evening, so I manage okay.  But I imagine there are moms out there who don’t get a lot of down time that could really use a helping hand.  And I have my husband’s parents in town who babysit whenever we need help.  Others don’t have that option.  Eons ago you raised kids with a large extended family, so raising kids was everybody’s job (my reference to “it takes a village”).  Now it’s just mom (or dad) and kids at home and it can be very isolating and depressing, even with school and playgroups and activities.

And moms don’t get a “vacation”.  I joke with Chad that when he leaves work, he’s done working for the day.  My work is never done.  I’m always doing something for my “job”, from the time I get up to the time I go to bed.  And when he’s home I do get a break since he can help out.  But it’s not the same as leaving your 8 to 5-er.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, per se.  I wanted to stay home with my kids.  We chose this life.  I could have very easily stayed at my job.

I just think stay-at-home-moms don’t get even close to the credit they deserve.  When you mention that you’re a SAHM you get responses like “Oh, you have such a hard job!” or “Oh, staying home with kids is so rewarding!”.  But I often feel people say it just because they “have to”.  Because they don’t want to look like a snob by saying what they really think “How hard can it be to stay home with your kids?”  (Except for those moms who have stayed home with their kids.  They know.)

Well if you’ve never done it, you don’t even know the half of it.  It is without a doubt the hardest job and yet the most fulfilling job you’ll ever have.  And I’m so glad that I have the opportunity.

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2 responses

  1. Great insights, LeeAnn! I especially identify with the perspective on SAHM’s never getting a vacation and always being at their job.

  2. I too have a helpful husband, and it makes a world of difference. I am still exhausted though! :) It’s definitely a tough tough job, but we only get our kiddos for a little while – I want to be with them while I can!

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