It’s a new year with many of the same struggles for stay-at-home moms. Here’s a little boost of encouragement from Stephanie Hanrahan, mommy blogger at Tinkles Her Pants.
Remember when motherhood was the dream?
We learned to cradle and care for our Barbies and baby dolls before we could even walk. Mothering isn’t just an instinct—it’s ingrained in us. And now we’re here, with a real-life baby doll who’s actually alive. And we’re in our homes—alone—wondering if we’re doing any of it right.
Before my husband and I were married, I declared I would be a stay-at-home mom. With little pushback from him, out popped two children and I proceeded with my plan to be Susie-Homemaker-meets-Carol-Brady. Cook, clean, care for our kids and reach a new level of personal fulfillment I never had before.
But the problem was, I did very little research on my new profession.
Most jobs come with a manager or a manual—something or someone to give direction and correct errors, or provide a much-needed coffee break. But stay-at-home moms get no such thing. We learn as we go. We try to establish routines and plans, but children are tricky and sometimes miss our sleep-in-until-seven memos. They’re also oblivious to our need for sick days, quiet time or mental health restoration.
It’s hard to work under a boss who doesn’t hand out bonuses. Typical jobs offer a pat on the back when you’ve met your quota or exceeded expectations, but babies can barely smile at you. We work overtime—breastfeeding, swaddling, pumping and dumping—all while juggling misplaced hormones and a postpartum body.
We tote toddlers on our hips, intervene during tantrums, and cook meals that no one eats. There were days I took my children to museums or taught them their letter sounds, but no one was around to witness it. I was with another human all day but felt horribly unseen.
Staying at home is a privilege, but soon after I stepped into my new role, I was met with a mix of elation and isolation. I’d been constantly moving but never really exercised my mind. I found myself staring at the clock, willing the magical sound of the garage door lifting.
Once upon a time, I used to kiss my prince charming when he entered our home, but now my husband was an extra body—someone to pass the torch (and bedtime routine) to. He’s my co-parent, but as the months went on, the weight of raising our children felt uneven.
It wasn’t intentional, but tiny bits of resentment started to creep in with every thought of him dining out or driving home alone listening to whatever he wanted on the radio. That long lunch meeting? What a dream! Surely his clients didn’t make him cut the crust off their bread. Did the restaurant serve his meal cold, needing to be nuked a few thousand times? Nah, just me.
But this was what I wanted. I chose this life, and I began to feel guilty about it. I’d been given the wonderful opportunity to stay home with my children, a gift many can’t afford, but no one mentioned to me that raising a child is real work, just without the punch card and cool business suit.
So fellow stay-at-home moms, I want you to know this:
I see you. I see the work you’re doing in raising these children and it is the hardest, most undervalued kind of work.
I want you to know that no one else was considered for this job. It was always you. You never even needed to apply because you were always qualified. You are a team. And although at times it may feel like you’re failing—that you’ve given them too much screen time or fed them too many fast food meals—know that you are doing the work of the mighty. Know that these children see your efforts. They may not be able to say it now, but I will.
You are a good mom.
You are a sacrificial and serving mom.
You are a woman who is giving up a few years of her life to guarantee another human has the best years of theirs.
You are creating memories.
You are providing the consistency that all children deserve.
You are teaching them that it’s great to have the best day ever, even when it might not be realistic.
Even in your flops and failures, they are learning the invaluable lesson of resilience.
You are a chef, chauffer, social event coordinator, speech and language developer, housekeeper, counselor, child development specialist, toy fixer/finder, nurse, librarian, physical education teacher, leader and friend.
You are employed by the greatest company: Your child.
You won’t enjoy every minute and that’s okay (no job is without its setbacks), but one day you’ll look up and you’ll have a bit more of your life back. Your meals will be warm and your clothes unstained. You’ll realize that the years you spent pouring into another person never went unnoticed.
Stay-at-home mom, I see you. Watch your child smile, and remember that it’s paying off tenfold.
Stephanie Hanrahan was just your seemingly average housewife until she grew tired of pretending and took an axe to her white picket fence (also known as making her private journal public). Learn how she traded her pretending for a panty liner on Instagram, Facebook, and her blog Tinkles Her Pants, where she chronicles her journey as wife to a husband with chronic illness, mother to special needs kiddos, and a woman who often unravels then finds her footing again.
This article was originally published in January 2020.