I know I might regret saying this... but I hated being a stay-at-home mom.
Before you come after me with pitchforks, let me explain myself.
I wanted to stay home. I dreamed of having a baby and staying home, blissfully nursing and cuddling all day. I read all of the published studies expounding upon the benefits for children who have a parent at home.
There have been countless articles written by mothers who cherish their role at home. These mothers beautifully articulate why staying at home is the hardest and most rewarding job in the world.
I agree with everything these women write. But I fear I am missing a SAHM chip, because I did not, and do not, feel the same way. I have gone over my reasons for working in my head a thousand times, and I feel sad because I could not make it work for my family.
I am not part of the mommy wars. I am a regular mom who was self-aware enough to realize I never quite settled into staying home. No matter how much I love my son.
What follows is a non-exhaustive list of my issues with staying home.
Everybody has to think about money, but few people want to talk about it openly. There are many women (and men) out there who simply cannot afford to stay home. I was fortunate in the sense that we could get by on one income.
With that said, living on one income will put a dent in your cash flow. Pregnancy and childbirth are expensive. Raising children is expensive. Staying home can save you some childcare expenses, particularly if you have more than one child.
Personal expenditures become less important when you have a child, but you still want to feel human. I didn't feel comfortable spending my husband's hard-earned money on getting my hair dyed or my nails done. No matter how many times my husband told me he was OK with it, I could not stop feeling guilty. I had trouble buying myself clothing for the same reason.
Other Stay-at-Home Moms
Stay-at-home moms are an interesting subset of the population. They tend to be educated and sociable. But make no mistake -- SAHMs are also subtly competitive.
Whether we admit it or not, we are always comparing ourselves to other women. You know who lost all her baby weight and who is still struggling. You know whose husband is a surgeon and whose husband is a regular Joe. It's a girl thing.
Shows like "The Real Housewives" contribute to the glorification of beautiful, privileged women. Who wouldn't want to be affluent, gorgeous and live in a palace surrounded by beautiful babies? If I could afford a full-time nanny, I would have a whole gaggle of children.
I get that my own insecurities played into this, but I needed some adult interaction when I was at home. Naturally, I gravitated toward other moms. I met some wonderful people whom I still socialize with on a regular basis. I also met some people who made me feel really inadequate.
Staying home was a commitment I had made to caring for my child and managing our home so that my husband could sleep at night and go to work each day unburdened by the nitty-gritty household stuff.
Activities for the week included cleaning bathrooms, the kitchen and living areas. Laundry was done on a daily basis. Meals were planned in advance and prepared every other day, with our family eating leftovers in between. I had it all figured out.
Until I didn't have anything figured out. I started to obsess over the animal hair in my house as well as the quality of the food I served. No matter how many loads of laundry I did, there was always more. I felt like a rat in a maze.
I berated myself for not creating the perfect, dust-free, fully decorated home.
Fear and Loathing
My son was a colicky, high needs infant who screamed whenever he was not being held or fed. I am pretty sure he screamed in his sleep, too, just to keep me on my toes. Assured by doctors that he was healthy, I pressed on nursing him day and night, desperately searching for a way to soothe him.
I spent so much time crying and nursing that I started to believe I was not cut out for parenting at all, let alone full-time. Eventually he started crying less and I started sleeping more, but those early memories have never left me.
When you are alone with your children all day, you have a chance to perseverate and worry about things that you otherwise would not. I worried about BPA. I worried about diaper rash, eczema, fevers and choking. I worried about his developmental milestones and his immunizations, too.
My brain was on fire.
Watching my husband get ready for work in the morning, I felt resentful. He had an escape and an opportunity to interact with other adults, while I did not. He got to sleep at night without anyone chewing on his nipples, too. Everything my husband did reminded me of the contrast between his freedom and my perceived servitude.
Emotions are not rational, but they certainly are real.
After a little over two years at home, I made the painful decision to return to work part-time. I did receive a little pushback in the form of questions. I actually had someone tell me, "Unless your husband is making you work, you really shouldn't."
Staying at home became far more stressful than working. The self-imposed pressure to be everything to everybody left me completely disconnected from myself. I was unable to shake the feeling that I was inadequate as a parent and wife.
Everyone has to make decisions based on what works for their family and personal situation. I wish that women felt more comfortable talking about the silent undercurrent of pressure we feel, as mothers, to put ourselves last.
Staying at home was not a healthy choice for me, so I chose to go back to work.