Open Letter: To the stay at home mom
To the stay at home mom, we know it’s far from easy.
Dear friend, the stay at home mom –
I honestly don’t know how you do it. Oh, I see the rewards; you get to spend the most precious and fleeting years with your little ones, observing their milestones and even the slightest signs of growth and development of their evolving characters do not pass you by. You are the one best poised to capture and experience the magic. But I mean to say, I am in awe of how you manage to give all of yourself, completely. And you never stop, you are always on the move, multitasking as you go, undertaking a job that is as physically demanding as it is mentally and emotionally challenging.
From the moment your kids wake in the early hours you are “on” and you don’t stop when they go to bed, though I know that bedtime is a relief for you. You are cooking, and cleaning, changing diapers and potty training, tidying toys and messes, handling meltdowns, settling disputes and negotiating terms. You are being creative; you are educating, reading stories, singing songs, and playing make-believe. Some days you are an athlete, a day out resembling an attempt to climb Everest, yourself the Sherpa, your stroller the yak – water bottles, lunches and snacks, carriers and diapers all being lugged about. I believe you deserve your very own special parking place up front and close. Goodness knows you need to sometimes up and leave at a moments notice when the situation requires it. I watch you carry more than you had anticipated, I hold the door for you, your smile hiding the effort and strain.
There is always so much rushing about in families, and I know, your days too are filled with simple “management” tasks and cleaning and handling but you do a beautiful job of making the time you have with your kids so special. You take them to museums, to the beach, to parks and playgrounds. I see you enjoying picnics, and out on the street with a smoothie. I especially love seeing you in bookstores, nestled in the children’s section, flipping through books with your children, helping them select a special treat to take home. You make everything special for them, each day a new adventure. You’re not merely trying to survive the day, though it may feel like that sometimes or simply endure the exhaustion that constantly being on the go entails. You are making your time with them count, fully aware that you are shaping them and preparing them for what’s to come. This is your chance to impart on them some important values, and you work hard at this.
I see your sacrifice. Giving yourself completely to something must at times feel confusing and even frightening. You used to identify yourself with different things. You were known for those things. Now, even your name has been replaced with that of “mom”. Maybe you were building a name for yourself when you assumed this new one. There is a lot to get used to here, in this position, this new title you’ve accepted. And you’ve not necessarily trained for it, or been shown the ropes. You might be winging it. Maybe you study for it in the late evening hours, poring over parenting books and educating yourself about child development and psychology, nutrition and how young brains learn. It takes a strong will, and loving heart to do what you do. There are no lunch breaks (no bathroom breaks either!), no vacation, no sick days, no overtime. It’s not unusual for there to be a cup of tea that sometimes sits untouched on your kitchen counter all day. Those forms that require you to fill out your “occupation” often make you pause a short moment before completing. Maybe the terms “unemployed” or “homemaker” stick in your throat. Do try to remember, these are just names, just words. What you do is meaningful and carries significant purpose.
Is this what you had always imagined for yourself, I wonder. You might feel like this was always your calling, something you were looking forward to and a time you prepared for in life. Maybe you didn’t have a choice, the expense of childcare and your family’s situation something you had to weigh against personal preferences. So many of us are without help these days, and staying at home may have been the sensible or only choice for you. Maybe the decision and knowing it was the right thing for you, surprised you? Maybe you were a driven and ambitious career woman who had worked so hard over the years to establish yourself in your field and then when the time came, the decision to stay home and raise your children was just something you felt at your core was right for you.
Staying at home with your children can feel like the privilege it is, a position you know other mothers cannot afford to take (and you don’t take it for granted) but it doesn’t mean it’s not hard and that you don’t sometimes feel like you’ve lost yourself. I know you sometimes feel confused. Wonder what’s happening with the “rest” of who you are that lies sleeping in the deep recesses of your body, waiting to be called on. “Are those parts of me still there?” you’ve asked me, more than once. You worry they’ve left you for good, that you have less to offer the world, your husband, family and friends. Yes, my friend, they’re there, you’re still “you” but a deeper, more knowing you. The time will come all too quickly when you will indulge other interests and pursue old dreams or chase new ones. I know you worry about this – the time when you will return to life outside the home and what, if anything, will be there waiting for you. “Will the same opportunities be available?” you’ve asked. You know a job you loved and left will never be the same if you were to return to it. This is where you show courage. You bravely face all these unknowns, see a new beginning for yourself and accept the notion of ‘what will come’.
Keep doing what you’re doing. Turn away from self-doubt and the guilt for not feeling “enough”. You are enough. More than enough. Keep turning instead to making the most of this precious time with your cherished little ones, reminding yourself that in the blink of an eye, they are grown and a new chapter begins. Everyone says it, but you know how true this is. It’s the wistful look we see in the eyes of mothers that have raised children. It is this realization that troubles you when you’re stuck doing the dishes and the cleaning, busy running errands and on hold on the phone with a fussy baby in your arms. When exhaustion has taken over and preferences give way to necessities. Working hard but not getting ahead and not sitting down with your little ones either. It’s all needed and important and you persist with trying to find the balance.
I’m sorry you feel alone. You are isolated, moving in and through the world but separated from it. It’s hard to coordinate the schedules of little ones even with fellow moms, particularly if you have more than one child. You talk on the phone while changing diapers and washing someone’s hands, sometimes locking yourself in a room just so you can hear the person on the other end! Writing letters or emails are a luxury. You are self-less in putting others’ interests before your own. Relinquishing your sense of independence and surrendering the things you knew you were good at for a position in which you always feel you should be doing better.
My friend, I want you to know you’re doing an amazing job, with such meaning and purpose in what you do. You are helping to raise the next generation, one that will embody the values you teach and reflect these values in all that they do. The work you do in helping to shape our world we not only appreciate, we depend on. Thank you for all that you do.
Your friend –
The working mom.