The Accidental SAHM
I have two beautiful little girls — a 4-year old and a 22-month old. They are fun and normal kids but I am so freakin’ bored of being stuck with them all day. I was laid off from my job a few months ago and I know that I’m a little depressed because of the lack of focus and schedule to my day (along with loss of earnings and money stress). My previous job was incredible — I worked from home but made a good amount of money and I know that I won’t be able to find something equally good because it was in a fairly narrow career range. Also my husband works a lot and is gone most evenings so I’m alone with the kids all day, most days. To make it worse we had recently moved to a new city where I don’t have any friends so I’m completely isolated. I have looked around for a mom group to join but none of them are active during the summer. So, I’m miserable, bored, and lonely and I feel terribly guilty because I’m not enjoying this time with my babies (and this will probably be the only time I get to be home with my kids after I get another job). Am I a bad person because I’m hating this?
Are you a bad person because you’re hating SAHMhood? That’s an easy one.
No. No you are not.
Oh, fine. Let’s talk about this a little more. I just finished reading this article from The New York Times: The Opt-Out Generation Wants Back In. It revisits a handful of women who purposely chose to take themselves off the career path 10 years ago in favor of full-time stay-at-home motherhood. Ten years ago, when the economy was bright and shiny and good and everyone’s husbands had high-paying jobs and marriages were never, ever going to end and baby/toddlerhood seemed like it would stretch out for years and your children would always be there to fill your life with deep meaning and purpose. I’ll give you three guesses how most of those stories turned out.
Those stories, however, aren’t really a direct parallel to your situation — those women made a deliberate choice; you’re simply trying to make the best of a crappy situation that was forced on you. And beating yourself up with guilt over not particularly loving that situation. But I bring it up because look, there are SAHMs out there who CHOSE to stay home and end up merely tolerating it, hating it, regretting it. I bring it up because lady, cut your poor self some slack.
Your email is one paragraph long and yet you’ve managed to cram almost every major life stressor in there: the loss of a job, an identity, an income; a move to a new city, financial worries, social isolation, a spouse with an incompatible working schedule, etc. Good lord. Add an illness or a death in there and you’ve got Life Stress BINGO.
In other words, it is not surprising or shocking or awful in the least that you feel the way you do. You admit that you’re depressed and isolated and unhappy thanks to all these crappy things coming to a head at once, and so I FORBID you to make yourself feel even WORSE because you don’t enjoy staying home with your kids full time. I know Pinterest makes it look like SAHMhood is all finger paints and bento boxes and I don’t know, educational party garlands (note: I’m not actually on Pinterest), but it’s a job. And a tough one at that.
My time as a SAHM came with an asterisk because I technically was always working — writing, editing, blogging. And I quickly realized that I was way, way better at that stuff than I was at keeping the house clean or making mom friends. I was bad at organizing playdates or even just getting us out of the dang house every now and then. I had very little patience for art projects and playing — after 15 minutes I was itching to move on to something else, usually work-related.
This had nothing to do with the IMPORTANCE of all those things, by the way. I think they are all very important, both for mother and child. I wasn’t “above” them or “too smart/educated/career-minded” for them — they were just skills and interests that I thought would come naturally to me after I had a baby. And then they didn’t.
Just because you love computers doesn’t mean you’ve got the innate ability to be a software engineer. Just because you love to cook doesn’t mean you have any business running a restaurant kitchen. Just because you adore your children more than anything doesn’t mean you’re automatically equipped to stay home with them full time, or that it’s the right call for you or your family long-term.
My children are loved AND adored. They are talked to and cuddled and well-fed and cared for and given a wide variety of fun and/or educational experiences. Sometimes by me, sometimes by my husband…and sometimes by a nanny and teachers and schools. Deal with it. *puts on sunglasses*
You’re in a dark spot right now. I’m glad you were able to write that paragraph and admit that you’re in a dark, unhappy spot, even if you were really just hoping to get some validation that you’re not 1) alone or 2) a bad person. (I can send you a TRUCKLOAD of that, by the way.) But you’re going to need to figure out how to get out of this dark spot. You love your girls, so admit that this situation is not a healthy one for any of you and start focusing on that job search. Accept that your next job situation might not be as ideal as the one you had before but you cannot wallow in this depressed and isolated SAHM situation either. Check out MOPS.org (here’s another post from our archives with advice on making mom friends) and see if there’s a mom group in your area (I believe they should be active year-round) and ESPECIALLY see if they offer occasional drop-off childcare through the group so you can get a break — or go on job interviews, update your LinkedIn, or whatever. Talk to your husband and let him know how you’re feeling — can he network for you through his job, take over one morning shift for you, etc.? Can someone from your old city — a friend or family member — come visit for a couple days for a nice little social shot in the arm?
You didn’t ask for practical ideas so I know you probably have all of the above covered and I’ve just gone on an assvice tangent. But again, please repeat after me: You are not a bad person. You are not a bad mother. You are in a swirl of stressful transitions right now and letting some idealized vision of motherhood add to your stress. Ain’t nobody got time for that.