"If I get to stay home, the house will always be clean, and I can learn to cook such great food," I said to my husband, Scott, at some point in the distant past. This was before I even got pregnant. So, like, back when I was a perfect mother.
We weren't sure I would be able to stay home with our first baby until right before he was born and we got the ok to move to Dallas from Northern Virginia. There was no way we could live off of one income up there, but in Dallas it became a reality. Sacrifices had to be made, for sure, but it was workable.
We moved into our house down here when Kendall was 8 weeks old. He was not an easy baby. Sleep was not bountiful. I spent much of the first year of his life a shade of my former self, stumbling through my days exhausted, catching naps when I could. The dishes didn't get done regularly. I didn't learn any new cooking skills. I didn't clean toilets. And many days, my husband came home to find me still in my yoga pants with no makeup on.
For a while, this caused me great guilt. What on earth was wrong with me that I couldn't get it together? This was my JOB now. I was a Stay At Home Mom, and I felt like I was failing. Looking back, I'm certain I was dealing with some postpartum anxiety, too.
Be sure, this was not because my husband made me feel this way. In fact, he'd often be the one reminding me that this was a huge adjustment for us, and that my only real job duty was to take care of our son. Everything else was gravy. I was a Stay At Home MOM. I was not a Stay At Home Mom/Maid/Cook/Supermodel.
When he got home from the office, he jumped right in. We split housekeeping duties 50/50. If we had a particularly sleepless night the night before, we'd alternate afternoon naps.
During work hours, we both had a job to do. His in an office, mine at home with our son. After work hours, we split parenting and everything that came with that (including housekeeping). It was, and still is, a true team effort.
I say all this NOT to tell anyone how to do their job. If you are a Stay At Home Parent who can manage to care for your children, your house, and your appearance all in an 8-hour work day, I applaud you. If that setup is truly filling your emotional cup, and making you feel great about the job you do, that is fantastic. But please, do not assume for one second that the parent who can't take on all these extra roles is somehow failing.
If striving to be the kind of stay at home parent who does it all is making you crazy, leaving you exhausted, and feeling like you're falling behind, I urge you to reconsider exactly what this job needs to entail. Then have a conversation about realistic expectations with your partner.
If you're struggling with what being a stay at home parent should mean, I want to tell you that I promise you're doing a better job than you think you are. I want to tell you to ignore blog posts that tell you you need to have full makeup on and a spotless house when your husband gets home from work.
I want to tell you that it says a lot more about a man's character than your mothering abilities if your husband thinks less of you for not changing out of yoga pants all day.
Give yourself some grace. Of course, strive to do the best you can. There will be days you do get it all done. It's an amazing feeling! But don't let it make you feel bad for the days you can't get it all done. Some days your biggest accomplishment will be rocking a toddler to sleep for a hard-fought nap. And that's nothing to be ashamed of.
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