“Do me a favor. Never say ‘just a stay at home mom’ ever again. Because being a stay at home mom is a full time job. It’s an overtime job.” This is what one of the pediatricians said to me after I gave birth. He asked when I was going back to work and I replied, “Oh, I’m going to just be a stay at home mom.” I didn’t realize it before that moment but I had always used that modifier just when I would tell people that I was going to be a stay at home mom (SAHM). I never really thought about it before. Why I used that modifier. I would never look at a SAHM and say, “Oh, you’re just a stay at home mom?” Ever. Why would I use it for myself?
It didn’t end there. It had been a few weeks after we brought home Eva. I was taking care of her on my own during the day. It was me and baby. Tim finished work and came out to the living room. Eva was being fussy, as babies are, and he offered to take her. I said that it was fine. He questioned why I always said it was fine and why I would hold onto her. I told him that he worked all day and I understand that he’s tired. He said, “You worked all day too.” My response would have made my skin crawl if a friend or family member said it to me. “I just took care of baby all day. I just sat in the chair and fed her all day.” I justed all over myself and it was a mess. Tim kindly responded with, “And how much money would we pay someone to do that job?!” Of course he was right. Childcare is insanely expensive in this country and if I worked full time we would pay someone that fee for taking care of our child. Not for a second would I think, “Oh, they’re just a child care provider?” I would never use that modifier because in my opinion, that modifier is a chump’s way out.
Our culture has taken that word and made it into a word that automatically diminishes whatever the topic you are speaking to. I diminished being a SAHM. I diminished raising my daughter every waking hour of my day. I diminished the plan that Tim and I had conjured up five years ago. I diminished myself. And that’s the center of the shrubbery maze, isn’t it. I diminished something I was doing because for some reason I believed for even the smallest increment of time that being a SAHM wasn’t as productive or useful as working outside the home full time. I know so many amazing women in my family and friends that work full time and have children. I compare myself to them and think that I am not working as hard because I don’t get up and go out into the world and bring home an income. I don’t add anything to our family.
As the weeks have worn on I’ve learned that this train of thinking is so far from the truth it makes baby unicorns cry. Being a SAHM is not an easy way out. I do not stay home and play with the baby every day. I clean up bodily fluids every half an hour. I sit in a chair for hours every day and feed/hydrate my child from my own body. According to my tracking app, since Monday this week I’ve nursed for close to 30 hours. I cook. I clean the house (kinda, still figuring that part out). Have a 10 pound meatloaf yell at me for reasons I do not understand. I keep up on bills. Make doctor’s appointments. Try to prepare Eva for her first presidential debate for 2052. The list goes on and on. I could sit here and say the, “This is what I do. Whatever other moms do whether work or stay at home…” but no. This is what I do. This is the life inside these four walls right now. This is my SAHM behavior and I am becoming more and more proud of that.
We moms (and dads) need to band together and say, “Raising kids is no joke. When’s happy hour?” We as a society need to band together and say, “Being an adult is no joke. When’s happy hour?” Mostly, I haven’t drank in almost a year and want to go to a happy hour. But more than that, I am so sick of living in a time when I feel I have to justify to myself and the world that what I’m doing every day for my family is worth something. That it has value. The only people I have to justify anything to is Tim and Eva. And really, I don’t have to justify anything to them. As long as I am doing exactly what I think is best for me and my family, I’m happy, and I’m doing it in a healthy way, then that’s all that matters. Being a SAHM is a full time job and I need to be proud of that. I just need to accept that I’m raising a human, not a pet. My name is Amy and I am a stay at home mom, no justing required.