You might not like hearing these things, but while the truth is not always what you want to hear, it is what you need to hear, and as a fellow SAHM who had no idea what she was getting herself into, I feel it is my responsibility (and perverse pleasure) to enlighten you.
Staying Home All the Time is Much More Difficult Than Working
Like it or not, being home is a tough job for several reasons. One, you will be around your kids constantly. This is a double-edged sword. Two, you don’t get scheduled lunch breaks where you can read a book or run errands. Count yourself lucky when you get to eat the bread crusts from their sandwiches. Three, you will be around your kids constantly. (A point worth repeating.) Four, you can forget vacation time, comp time, or even “you” time. Depending on the age of your kids, you will be lucky to get potty time. It will be up to you to take ‘me’ time; no one is going to offer it to you, no matter how dark the circles under your eyes are or how evil the glint is inside them.
When you are home, there aren’t any office politics or deadline crises to worry about. This is good because you don’t have the mental energy to waste on such mundane tasks; however, the downside is that you aren’t engaging your brain with such mundane tasks. You will have to put more effort into finding ways to use your brain on an adult level. And for the record, mocking the morning cartoons does not count as a mental exercise.
Your kids will not magically behave like angels all the time because you are home.
Another common myth about being a SAHM is that when you stay home, your constant presence will ensure that your kids will always act wonderfully since you are on hand to redirect their behavior and such. Yeah, right. And owning a treadmill ensures that you don’t gain weight. I hate to break it to you, but it all takes effort, so be prepared. Remember when your kids acted really, really good for the babysitter and then acted like a monster for you after work? Well, now you are taking the babysitter out of the equation.
Kids will be kids, and you being home with them will not change that. In fact, as their comfort level with you increases, so does their security level, meaning they will feel less at risk and freer to fully express themselves. They will talk back more. They will fight with their siblings more. They will throw monstrous temper tantrums more. Now, instead of only having to deal with them after a long day of work, the joy of their personalities (whether good or bad) will be yours to savor 24 hours a day.
Your house will not always be clean because you are home all the time.
When I first began staying home, I couldn’t believe how messy my house was. It wasn’t until I thought about it that it made sense. When you stay home, you are, well, home a lot more. Instead of making a mess in the four hours between arriving home from work and bedtime, you can now make a mess all day long.
This is an incredibly frustrating reality for new SAHM’s, but remember, you are home to be with your kids, not to have a model home. Despite what it initially feels like, you will find balance and the messiness will even out. It might take a while depending on how old your kids are, but you will eventually make peace with a certain level of filth.
You will not necessarily have time to cook wonderful five-course meals every day now that you are home.
If you were used to getting take out a few nights a week while you were working, it can be a difficult habit to break. If you don’t enjoy cooking, it will be even harder. Just because you are home does not mean you will be serving up meals like Emeril (and if you are, feel free to share your address with me). It’s ok if you have to learn how to cook; having ovaries does not automatically make you Betty Crocker. As long as you are making an attempt and the family can eat your attempts on a semi-regular basis, you are making progress.
Being at home all the time will occasionally get boring, frustrating and stressful - sometimes all at the same time.
When you first begin staying home, you and your kids will go through a honeymoon period. You will go out to lunch, you will go to the store in the middle of the day just because you can, you will take trips to the library or the museum. Then, one morning, you will wake up and realize that you are a little tired from all the running around you guys have been doing. This is when reality sets in. Being a SAHM is a marathon, not a sprint. You have to pace yourself.
At first, you will stay in with the kids for a few consecutive days, possibly doing crafts and games to keep yourselves occupied. Then a few more days later it will happen. You will be sitting with your kids, staring at each other, and you will all be wondering “OK, what do we do now?” Then, something even more shocking will happen. You will feel bored. It may happen after a few weeks or it may take slightly longer, but boredom is a heavy, inescapable reality in the life of a SAHM. The job is exhausting, it is hard, but it is also monotonous, with days, weeks, and years stretching out in front of you - a seemingly endless void depending on you to fill it. And you will. You will also occasionally catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror and realize that you’ve barely combed your hair and you’re still in your pajamas and its 2 o’clock in the afternoon.
Being an at-home mom is not a cakewalk. There’s an incredible amount of work involved with taking care of the house and your kids 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 366 days a year. (Yes, I know there are only 365 days in a typical year, but it feels longer when you are a SAHM.) There will be days that the kids are sick of you. There will be days when you are sick of the kids. There will be days that you wonder what the heck you were thinking by staying home.
You need to realize two things about these feelings - they are completely normal and you are not a bad mom for having them. You are human and no human loves their job every single day. There are going to be good days and bad days and most, if not all, SAHM’s go through the same exact things. Take heart, you are not in this boat alone.
(Excerpted with permission from Domestically Challenged: A Working Mom's Survival Guide to Becoming a Stay-at-home Mom by Alana Morales, copyright 2006)
About the Author:
Alana Morales has a degree in Psychology and taught high school English for six years before staying home with her two children and becoming a freelance writer. Her first book Domestically Challenged comes out in May. You can read more of Alana’s work and get information about her book at www.AlanaMorales.com.