The Unsung Debt of Being a Stay-at-Home Mom

It goes without saying that being a SAHM equates to having no “real” income.  That is, I do not receive a paycheck for the work I do.  I am allotted intrinsic benefits rather than money and health insurance.

I am of the lucky blessed who is married to someone who brings enough home on his paycheck plus works for a company with good benefits so that I may be able to stay home with our child(ren) to tend to their rearing as well as our household.  I know this.  I know I am blessed and I do find solace in the fact that I, not stranger or some family member or whomever, am raising Angel Baby and enjoying her firsts.

Sometimes, folks, that just isn’t enough.

During our last Sunday pancakes, the BHE asked me why I seem so unhappy, what is it keeping me from being content in this blessed life I’m living.  It’s been a few days, with hours of being distracted by searching within myself for this answer.

Of course, the “obvious” answer involves pointing the finger.  Seriously, people, we all do it.  It is so much easier to say, “YOU aren’t doing this” or “THEY did that” than it is to just say, “I am not getting/doing/feeling/seeing…” or “I did x, y, and z wrong.”

My original answer to his question (finger-pointing mentioned above) wasn’t getting either of us anywhere.  First off, no one else can lay claim to my emotions.  How dare I say it is someone else’s fault I feel a certain way?  Second, I should never give someone that control.  How dare I say your behavior led me to my behavior, based on my emotional reaction to it?  Like, seriously.  I’m kicking my own ass here.  I know better.  But emotions have been reigning lately.

Crying Over Laundry

The answer, and the tears, came as I was hanging laundry while Angel Baby napped today.  The hardest part of finding out “what’s wrong” with yourself is to know which questions to ask, then ask again.

Why am I not content?  Why does it matter if the BHE thanks me for dinner, praises me for a clean house, offers help with clearing the dinner table?  Why do I feel resentment that he is too tired to help me because he has been busy helping his family?  Why does it anger me that he is less understanding and emotionally present this pregnancy than he was last?  Why am I pointing the finger at him?

Well, duh, he’s the only adult around.

I try to be a good fill-in-the-label.  I call or text friends and family to stay in touch, get updates on their lives, share the joys in mine.  I want to be a good wife, sister, mother, friend, shoulder to cry on, taxi to call for, librarian to answer questions…

My adult interactions are few and they are heavily interrupted.  I have a toddler to chase and provide for, after all.  It would be nice to just sit and talk to someone, have a real conversation that isn’t broken up by having to cater to another’s needs.

But why do I need that?  What do I gain from that?

Outside the Home

I want to ask the BHE (and other adults with children who work) what he gets out of going to work each day, aside from the paycheck.  I can tell you what I miss about the workforce.

I miss common courtesies like recognition, gratitude, and even compliments for the work I have done.  I miss someone acknowledging that the work was done at all.  I miss teamwork.  I’ve been the boss and I’ve been the bottom of the totem pole (and every position in between), and in each, I knew that what I did benefitted or at least effected another because I was regularly reminded of that.  I wasn’t in a bubble.

There are extrinsic and intrinsic rewards in having a “job”:  paycheck, benefits, adult conversation, recognition for a job well done, recognition when there are areas in need of improvement, friendships that can develop, meetings and group work that can expand your vision of your purpose in that position, chances to pee in silence and privacy, the ability to literally just stop and take a breath, and the fact that working with other adults means not being 100% in charge of all that they do.

Of course there are extrinsic and intrinsic rewards in staying home with my child.  We aren’t paying for daycare or extra gas in my car for my commute.  I have the time to research the best prices and coupons for the foods and products we need to purchase.  The house is clean, the laundry is done, the meals are made, the child is happy and healthy and engaged.  I am the one who gets the joy of seeing first steps, of hearing words being used the first time, of watching the sheer delight Angel Baby has upon discovering anything new (another kid, a bug, the baby bunny in the side yard, the puddle in the driveway…).

But What About ME!?

Like, seriously.  What about how happy, healthy, and engaged I am?  I do all these things, and more, and have naught but the internal satisfaction that I have a really nice house that is clean and a really smart daughter that is clean healthy and a really hard-working husband that is cared for and loves me.

I want someone to offer to clear the dinner table AND then wash the dishes.  I want to know that I can take a break at some point and go take a piss or a freaking shower without any interruption whatsoever.  I want someone to thank me for being the one to call them (since the only person who calls me regularly is my father) or for being the one who did every last little aspect of the laundry (sort, carry to basement, wash, carry from basement to laundry line, hang, remove from line, fold and sort, put all articles in their proper places… it is a freaking process people that is never-fucking-ending so a wee bit of appreciation wouldn’t be amiss) or for being the one who says, “I know you worked all day/week so don’t worry about helping with x/y/z.”  Of course, that would require that person to even offer to help.

I just sit here crying because, sorry, but sometimes love just isn’t enough.  I need to know I’m appreciated, that the work I do is recognized as such, that I am not taken for granted, and that I do come first to someone other than Angel Baby.

I need something more than my blog and checking out people’s Facebook updates and getting texts regarding the latest drama somebody drummed up because they couldn’t pay their cable bill this month.  I need something more than to just look around at my big, beautiful, clean house with the smell of a fantastic dinner lingering in the air. Enjoyable?  Yes.  Satisfying?  No, not always.

I am Blessed

I have a roof over my head, clothes on my back, food in my belly, and love in my heart.  Should that be enough?  Am I selfish to want more?  Do you survive on just the basic necessities?

I’m a foodie.  I love to eat.  So here’s my food analogy:  if you only consumed the exact amount of carbs, proteins, fruits, veggies, grains, nutrients, et cetera that you absolutely needed, would you be satisfied?  Would you be content with just necessities or would you like a bowl of ice cream, an extra slice of cheese, a freaking Coke?

Contentment is found within.  I can’t point the finger and say so-and-so didn’t call back or Angel Baby is regressing in her potty training or the BHE spends more time with his father than he does with me.  I can’t call out someone else’s behavior without first examining mine.

Unsung Debt

I am not happy because, as blessed as I am, I am only partially fulfilled.  My internal debt-to-income ratio is out of whack.  If anything, my “debt” is deeper at this point since I’m about half-way through pregnancy, dealing with body and hormone changes that cannot be described.  (Ok, you may sympathize with me if you have ever been pregnant or are pregnant, but I don’t really need to tell you that everyone and every pregnancy is different).

There’s something lacking.  My “income” needs a raise or something.  I gotta figure it out.  And like a rational adult, I am fully aware it is up to me to figure “it” out.

What is “It”?

Clearly, I haven’t grasped what “it” is yet.  I mean, I did just pound out a three page post lamenting my mental and emotional deficiencies.  I have an education I’m not using, friends I’m not visiting, skills I’m not expanding… and this feeling of being obligated to literally stay at home to provide for my immediate family.  If the BHE doesn’t feel obliged to be home when he isn’t at work, and he’s a hard-working and very family-oriented individual, then why do I?  Why have I set this limitation upon myself?

I need to redefine what it means to ME to be a stay-at-home mom.  Eff society and what I believe are the expectations put upon me.  I mean, even eff-you to my SAHM friends who are doing it the way they want to.  You didn’t set this standard I am trying to comply to; I outlined your behaviors as such and put the limitations upon myself.  I’ve created my debt.  EFF!  I hate admitting when I’m wrong.  I’d rather finger-point.

Oh.  Wait.


5 thoughts on “The Unsung Debt of Being a Stay-at-Home Mom

  1. Jennifer Juneau

    I can relate to parts your story and I highly recommend reading the book “The Art of Extreme Self-Care” by Cheryl Richardson. Very insightful and relevant. 🙂 Also, thank you for liking and following my blog 🙂


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