I know if you are reading this, you are probably at your wit's end. If you are lucky, you are tearing out your towel-dryed hair while scouring the Internet to read something from someone, anyone who feels like you. (And if it has been "one of those days," you are probably ripping at hair that is bogged down by oil and three-day-old product.) There may be tears in your exhausted eyes and stains on your shirt, but you are staying awake, desperate to find companionship, to learn child rearing secrets or to hold a conversation more meaningful than "how do you like your jogging stroller" or "is your child sleeping through the night?" Maybe, like me, you are desperate to learn you are not alone.
I can't tell you I have any answers, because I don't, but I can tell you that you are not alone.
I know being a stay-at-home mom is challenging. It is isolating and lonely, painfully lonely. You are never physically alone -- you share every meal and every moment with your little munchkin, i.e. every trip to the bathroom becomes a full-on family potty party -- but that doesn't mean you don't feel alone. There are days I wander the aisles of Walgreen's hoping someone will smile at my daughter, hoping I can use that subtle interaction as a segway into a full-blown conversation.
I know you are tired of hearing people tell you how blessed or lucky you are, how it's all worth it. It doesn't help, period, and it probably only magnifies that newfound mommy guilt most of us experience (because why don't you feel blessed, after all?).
I know staying home isn't always a choice. Everyone says it is, "Oh, it is so nice you are able to stay home with your child; I wish I could!" Childcare is expensive, and sometimes it simply doesn't pay to work outside the house; some salaries only cover the cost of childcare and your commute. I get it. I understand.
I know you never enjoy a hot cup of coffee and rarely enjoy a shower. I know your child's nap time isn't "your" time: it is time to pay bills, do dishes, clean the house, prep dinner or plunge the toilet that has been back up since 8 a.m. Maybe, just maybe, you can sneak in some food before the kiddo wakes up, but I've found the ding of the microwave is like an alarm clock with my daughter.
I know many people joke at your expense, minimizing the work you do or envying your ability to rock PJs at 2 p.m. on a Tuesday. And I know you smile and laugh, perhaps pointing to their jealousy, but I also know it is fake. The smile, the laugh, everything. Inside you are seething. Inside you are angry at their blatant disregard for the work you do, for what their mother's probably did for them. Inside you are crying.
I know this is why you don't ask for help. You are afraid, afraid your needs aren't enough -- afraid you are a failure.
You are not.
Has anyone told you how amazing you are, as a mom and a person? No, really; you are the world to a little person, or persons. You are their cook, their teacher, their playmate, their companion, their protector, their dictionary, their comedian/personal entertainer and their mom. I know being a stay-at-home mom can feel thankless, but what you do is amazing, and you should revel in that!
I've heard some suggest that if you are unhappy with your newfound role, you should get a hobby or "go do something," but I know it isn't that simple. It isn't that easy. There are a slew of considerations, some actual -- like money and childcare -- and some self-imposed limitations, like feeling too guilty to go because when you try to walk away, your child screams and cries. And even the best-laid plans, even the most hardened resolve, can fall apart thanks to an unexpected illness. (Thanks, pink-eye, for keeping my raging toddler home today!)
You are not a bad person for lamenting the loss of you, for yearning for the person you were before you were a parent -- before you were "so-and-so's Mom." You are not a terrible parent because you'd rather go to the dentist or have an outpatient medical procedure than watch "The Wiggles" for the fiftieth time this week. And you are not the only person who has questioned their decision to become a parent. I don't know if you have, but I share this because I have. I share this because there are moments, days even, when I have regretted having my child. And these thoughts and feelings made me crumble. But you are not alone. These thoughts happen, and they do not make you awful or inadequate. They keep you sane. They keep you honest, and they will help keep you you.
It isn't all bad. You know there are amazing moments you wouldn't trade for anything, but the thing is you know that. I don't need to tell you that nor do you need to read another post about the "sunshine and rainbows" side of parenting. I am thankful I heard my daughter's first laugh and saw her first steps. I am thankful we get to sit on the floor and share "'nanas" every morning and cookies every night. I am thankful for story time and "Sesame Street" and spontaneous dance parties. But that doesn't mean you can't have bad days, or dark days. That doesn't mean you have to punish yourself for feeling differently, for feeling frustrated or angry or sad or indifferent.
What you need to hear is that it is OK to let the dishes stack up. It's OK be pissed at your significant other simply for having a life outside the house. It's OK to loathe silly songs -- I for one wish that the wheels on that damn bus would fall off. It is OK to miss the woman you were. Whether you worked outside the house or not doesn't matter, everything changes when you become a mom and when you stay-at-home, there is nothing to you aside from mom, or so it seems at times.
And these are the things no one tells you, but these are the things you need to hear.
But it's OK. You are OK and you are enough.
A version of this post originally appeared on Sunshine Spoils Milk.