On Being a (VERY) Reluctant SAHM

Well, the move is complete and we are now officially Orlando residents. We’ve been here for about a week-and-a-half now and my husband started his new job last week. He’s really enjoying it and while it’s nice to see him excited about work again, I’m having a really hard time.

Over the last 2 years, after I went back to work following a 12 week maternity leave, all I wanted was to spend more time with Peanut. I’d even fantasize about being able to stay home with her. When I had to work nights and I’d go a week or more without being able to put my daughter to bed, I thought there was nothing I’d like more than not having to worry about how my work schedule was affecting my ability to be a good mom. Of course, I would complain about having to juggle parenthood with a full-time job and of course I would feel guilty and of course I would feel as if I could never give any area of my life 100% of me. So yeah, I talked a big game about how great it would be to be a Stay At Home Mom.

But really? If you had asked me to be completely honest, I would have told you that there was no way on earth that’s what I would want. It’s easy to talk about it and dream about it when you know it’s not gonna happen. The thing is…I’m just not SAHM material. Believe me when I tell you this is not a knock on those moms that do stay at home with their kids. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I bow down to those parents because taking care of kids all day is hard. Like, really freaking hard. I know this just based on the weekends when by Sunday night I would start to feel a small -and secret- sense of relief at the fact that I would be going back to work the next morning.

So…I’ve been a SAHM for a week now. I’d like to tell you that I’m handling it with grace and dignity but I’m not. I don’t know who I am anymore without a job. I don’t think I ever realized how much my work defined me and it shames me to have to acknowledge that fact. I worked in television for 17 years. My job was a technical one that required skill and you know what? I was damn good. No, I may not have been the best in the industry but I was good and I took a lot of pride in it. I never had a typical 9-5 office job and while the schedule could often be tiring (nights, weekends, holidays, you name it), I loved it. The fact that I have to talk about it in the past tense now really bothers me. I spend most of my days feeling lost, depressed and resentful. And of course, the biggest one: guilt. Shouldn’t I be happy to be home with my kid? My amazing, funny, smart kid? Shouldn’t I be counting my blessings right now? Should I have my mom card revoked for not wanting to be home with my daughter all day?

But really, who am I now? When people ask me what I do, what do I say? I used to be a technical director? Now I’m just a mom? Yes, I know saying that I’m “just” a mom isn’t accurate. Being a mom is huge, it’s everything really; I haven’t lost all perspective. I’m aware that my family comes first and there’s nothing more important in my life than my daughter and making sure she’s happy and healthy. Yet here’s a truth I have to recognize: I’m not the best person for the job. I’m not the most qualified candidate to fill her days, to educate her, to cultivate her artistic sensibilities or to entertain her. Frankly, most of the time I don’t know what to do with her. I love her but that’s not enough is it? Maybe when she was just a baby and all she needed was to be loved, nurtured, fed and changed. But she needs more now – her time in daycare showed me that. She flourished in daycare and in fact, when she left her teachers wrote a note that said, “Whatever you do, keep her in art! She has an artist’s soul-the joy she gets from creating is palpable.” I’m ashamed to say, she hasn’t done any art since her last day in daycare. The guilt eats away at me. Oddly enough, I think I feel more guilty now then when I went to work every day. At least then I knew that she was in an environment that was stimulating her and she had friends to play with. All she’s got now is a sad, depressed, lost and confused Mom. And that just sucks. Don’t get me wrong: I love my daughter more than I ever thought possible and I truly believe I am meant to be a mother….just not one that stays home.

I’m hesitant to write about this because I’ve found that there’s no group that gets judged more than Moms. No matter what we do, people always have an opinion and seem to judge us more harshly than anybody else. I read an article online the other day written by a woman who was a SAHM for 8 years; she was about to head back to work full-time after all those years and was finally admitting that she didn’t enjoy staying at home with her kids. Based on the comments, you would’ve thought that she was confessing that she had kept her kids locked in the closet and only fed them once a week. They were practically vitriolic in their judgement. If you don’t want to raise your kids, you shouldn’t have had them; what kind of a parent are you that you don’t find satisfaction in being with your kids?; maybe you should’ve just gotten a dog instead…there were more but most of them were along that same line of thinking. Apparently, moms are only allowed to work if it’s absolutely and totally financially necessary. If it’s just something that we’re doing to feel like a whole, complete person? Well then we are terrible, awful mothers who should be ashamed of ourselves.

So yes, judgey people of America, you win. Because I do feel ashamed of myself. But that shame doesn’t do anything to make me happier or make me want to be a SAHM. All it does is make me feel guilty. I want to be completely present and available for my daughter when I’m with her and I think I can do that better when I’m not with her all the time. Today, I wasn’t allowed out of her sight. I literally couldn’t go further than 2 feet away from her before she would yell at me, “COME HERE Mommy!” I couldn’t make her lunch, do laundry, feed the dog or go to the bathroom by myself. The women that love to do this? That find complete joy and satisfaction in raising their kids themselves and can do it without losing their minds? I think you are Gods. Seriously, I admire you in a way that you will never know. Because I’m not strong enough for it and I wish I were. Instead I feel like I’m drowning. I know that being in a new, unfamiliar city where I don’t know a single person other than my husband and daughter isn’t helping. Still, I’m pretty sure that all the well-meaning people that keep telling me that it’ll be all better once I meet people or join some kind of a mom’s group are a little misguided. Yes, it’ll be nice to socialize with other moms but what I really need is to figure out who I am now and what’s best for my daughter.

And with that, Peanut just woke up from her nap…

21 thoughts on “On Being a (VERY) Reluctant SAHM

  1. Thank you for your honesty. I have worked since I was 17 years old and the only time I was out of work was 1 month after a layoff and then two 12-week maternity leaves 4 years apart. I loved being home with my kids and I cried when I went back to work after having my son, but the truth is that during my maternity leave with my daughter, I wanted to go back to work. I felt lost and out of control. I knew there was a routine somewhere, but I could not find it. God bless the SAHMs who can handle it mentally, but I need to be in motion and have adult time. I wish you all the luck in the world finding your routine. While you are looking though, please find comfort in the fact that there is NOTHING wrong with how you feel and you are not alone in those feelings. Sunday nights, while others are dreading work, I am happy to go and I AM a great mother… so are you. xoxo Jen

  2. Tiff, there’s aboslutely nothing to feel ashamed of, or guilty of. You’re an accomplished professional who takes pride in your work, and what’s more–are accustomed to the structure that work gives you. Everything you are feeling is normal for your personality and skill-set. I seriously think that what you SHOULD do, is find TD work in Orlando. I think you need it.

    Love, Dad

  3. You sound incredibly normal to me. I’m not a parent, but I know I crave the adult interaction and would be crazy without it. And, I grew up in the Orlando area. You will meet people, you will make friends, and eventually you might actually get to like it there. Florida is a beautiful state with gorgeous beaches. Enjoy what is there for now. Thanks for a great blog. God bless.

  4. You never cease to amaze me with your ability to dig deep into your soul, shine light on what you see there, and share it. You are a giving, loving, amazing mother and you have nothing in the world to feel guilty about on that front. I understand, however, exactly why you do and I honor your feelings. No matter where the road takes us, I’ll be at your side and we’ll do what’s best for our crazy, smart, creative and incredible kid. I love you.

  5. Montessori pre-school for daughter and at least part-time work for Mom. The financials don’t always make sense but everyone is happy. We spent more on pre-school than college.

  6. I must say I’m in awe of you and also in awe of mothers who somehow mange work and home. I know I could never do either. We have moved numerous times and in every case it’s my wife who has basically kept it all together. I can say this – and this is NOT a knock at working moms – my wife stayed home with the kids. She gave up her career and to this day she still relishes those special moments with th kids that I never experienced.

  7. Wow! I felt like I was suffocating reading that! Sounds pretty grim, but I can only imagine it’ll get better after the initial shock wares off and you settle into a routine? Not having kids I can’t speak directly to how you’re feeling, but NOT liking kids so much, and wanting to be away from them after about 20 minutes I can see how you’d like to bolt. Maybe if you focus on how lucky you are to be able to afford to stay home when so many families are struggling you may feel a little better? You don’t have to worry about a babysitter abusing your kid (we’ve covered too many of THOSE stories :( ) You’ll find grown ups to talk to soon enough, and I’m sure you’ll pick up freelance work, which would be the best of both worlds! It’s new, give it a chance…..and keep a bottle of merlot near by……

  8. You’re being really hard on yourself. It sounds to me like you’re very talented and very bright and very loving and suffering tons of “shoulds” that are beyond reasonable. The fact is, in my experience, the very best SAHM’s do not spend all day one on one (or one on two or one on three or whatever) with their kids. They have networks and activities and people with whom they share and trade care. One of the worst crimes we women commit, I believe, is thinking we “should” be able to do it all, all by ourselves. Being in a new city is tough but if you get out and try to build some of those networks or join a few activities it might be a bit easier. That said, as a mom who’s worked “outside the home” ever since my kids were born, I do know that it might be tough to find common conversational ground with women who are “career SAHM’s” but at least you can expand your circle a bit before you really start climbing the walls. Just go easy on yourself, and if you and your completely understanding husband decide that it just can’t or doesn’t need to be all or nothing, please promise us all that you won’t beat yourself up for being a failure. You’re anything but, as this post and the fact that you just picked up and moved your entire life will attest.

  9. I’ve heard the same from almost ALL of my friends whether they stayed at home or went back to work.
    Just know that you’re not alone and you’ll find your groove soon enough – whatever that may be.

    For now I agree with Nancy: a class/preschool/art class for Peanut so both of you get some time apart .

    THAT and pour yourself a nice big scotch around 2pm/naptime.
    Hang in there.

  10. We have never met…but I held your beautiful Maddie at her Dad’s guest appearance at the Madison Rotary when she was still in diapers.( have watched her grow on FB since then) I know what it is like to be a working Mom and a single parent..raised my son by myself all the way through his graduation at Hofstra in 94″ ..Years of guilt.. because I tried to be a super Mom…Children grow up in spite of their parents…You are a wonderful wife & Mother….don’t be so hard on yourself….I wrote to Mark and told him he married an Angel…..Your a family..plain & simple

    Enjoy your new life it is quite an Adventure!!

  11. You have absolutely nothing to feel guilty about! I felt exactly the same when my 1st was 2 yrs old and I lost a job I loved due to downsizing. When working, I often thought it would be great to be at home – but once I was forced to be at home ALL the time, I was miserable (at first) and didn’t know who I was any more. I’m now on a 16 month maternity leave with 4 kids. Although I’m enjoying my time with them, there are many days where I’d rather be at work. Kids are exhausting and frustrating! What’s keeping me sane and helping me enjoy the time is knowing that I WILL be back at work eventually. Just remind yourself of that – you won’t be a SAHM forever.

    After several of these maternity leaves and a period of unemployment, I found some things that helped tremendously: sign up for mom/kid classes (fitness classes, play groups, whatever – even if you think they’re lame – it’s so important to get out, for both of you), schedule activities ahead of time (gives you something to look forward to, forces you to get out – and establishes a routine, which I found very important), do something fun/challenging for YOURSELF, without peanut (I took more university classes, SCUBA training, and trained for a marathon – it helped so much to work towards a goal, and the classes fed the need I had for something intellectual – I could only handle so much Dora!)

  12. I never comment but felt it important to lift you up for this post. I’m a working mom with a 10 month old. I do miss my daughter terribly during the day, but I never complain because I know I’m a better mom when I’m working. Both of us do better being on the same schedule every day, even if it makes for a busy one. I make the most of our time together on the weekends, but like you, I’m exhausted and ready to go back to work on Monday. I feel so guilty about it so it means a lot to hear someone else willing to say it out loud. It is a shame that instead of us moms supporting each other and recognizing that there isn’t an easy path no matter which one you choose, people tear each other down for making a different decision from our own. I too admire the women who have the energy and creativity to stay home all day and recognize the hard work they do. I’m finally learning to have confidence in my decision (and happiness) in being a working mom.
    You’re a great mom that clearly only wants the best for your daughter. You will find a way to succeed in this role even if it ends up only being temporary. Hopefully this will end up being a period in time you’ll be able to look back on fondly. Best of luck!!

  13. Great to read a post like this that really gets to the heart and truth of these kinds of feelings. Most people will try to cut you down for saying it but I bet that a lot of them are thinking it and just never want to admit it to themselves or anybody else. So, uh, thankyou for a good read.

  14. DON’T FEEL GUILTY!!! I’m a SAHM to two boys and it is the best fit for me. I bow down at mother’s who work full/part time and then come home with enough for their families. I’m not wired that way. I can’t split my focus. There are some days where my secret fantasy is to go back to work. :) My oldest is in elementary school and three days a week my youngest goes to a Mom’s Day Out program. That is where my kids do art. I hate doing art projects at home because I know I’m the one cleaning up the mess. (that sounds horrible, I know) I also don’t play with my kids constantly. There is only so many times I can drive a car or a train around a track before I want to dig my eyeballs out with a spoon. (that also sounds horrible, but I’ve decided I’m not feeling guilty about that anymore.) You all have made a huge adjustment. You’ve left family, friends, work, school, and the place that you’ve called home for years. Give yourself some time to acclimate. It’s a whole different world here in Florida! If six months to a year from now, you are still in the same place, then let’s be worried. You are so intelligent and loving that I know you will figure this out. Well, I hope you are because I only know you from your blog posts. :)

    I can only imagine how big of an impact this change has made on you. You’ve gone from working full time to being full time mom (you know what I mean, not working and being home with Peanut). This is HUGE! You both need time. I’m sure she’s wondering why you’re around all the time and that’s why she won’t let you out of her sight. She’s not used to you being home all the time and in her mind maybe it translates to “something must be happening”. She’s also in a new environment, too. You’re such a wonderful mom for even worrying about this.

  15. Hi Tiffanie, I think you’ll find that there are some great opportunities for you in central Florida. My sister is a SAHM who worked in marketing for many years. She makes sure to schedule time for dates with her husband, and signs her kids up for lots of fun activities to get them out of her hair. I’d also love to meet you at a networking event — there’s the Social Media Club Orlando chapter, which I participate in, and Central Florida Lady Bloggers, just to name a couple groups.

    I would give yourself some time to explore Orlando and get comfortable with getting around. I always hate moving to a new city and not knowing where everything is — I’m always studying Google maps and street view to get oriented. Best of luck.

  16. In my almost 2 years as a mom, I have come to realize that guilt is just part of the equation: EVERY mom that I know feels guilty, whether she chooses to stay at home and feels guilty for not accomplishing enough around the house or in their child’s development, or whether she works and feels guilty for being away.
    I work full-time but have a flexible schedule that allows me to work from home twice a week. Now that my husband has finally found a job after more than a year of unemployment (and being a Stay at Home Dad), his job requires him to work weekends and late nights and I find myself having FAR more time alone with my 2-year-old daughter than I ever expected. And I can completely relate to how you feel: I feel guilty for looking forward to those days that I’m in the office, I feel guilty for not reading/coloring/taking her to the park on any given day (even while I admit to myself that there’s no way to accomplish EVERY single thing I want to accomplish), and I feel guilty for feeling tired/overwhelmed at the end of the day.

    I think it’s just part of being a mother, and a good one at that. Don’t beat yourself up about anything: moving to a new city with no friends or family is understandably difficult, but you will adjust in time. And I definitely agree with the others: find a daycare/pre-school at least for a few hours a day in the meantime.
    Good luck!

  17. I have thought a lot about your post. I appreciate your honesty and openness and acknowledge how you feel, those feelings are very real and raw. I know everyone will offer up advice but I wanted to just make one comment and that is, you are still a technical director, that is who you are. Having a place to practice this in is just geography. Now you have a new job and just like the first few days of being a technical director, you paced yourself, so too do you have to pace yourself in your new job, being a SAHM. Approach it in the same way as a job, one step at a time. Remember that this new job is adding on to who you are not removing the past, you are getting more skills, learning more things about yourself and people. As a technical director teach these skills to your daughter, this is her new art form. Get up in the morning like its a job and before you know it you will begin to feel your rhythm. Remember you are not half empty in your new job but half full as a technical director. Use this time to learn more about how to be a better technical director. Your daughter will relish in the adventure that you both go on. So when you wake up tomorrow begin by remembering what an awesome technical director you are and start the day from there.

  18. This post touched me on so many levels. I relocated from NYC – my home for a decade – to Florida for my husband’s job. I have been working here full time for a few years, and just the adjustment from NYC to Florida was a lot to deal with on its own, without children. Our daughter just turned one, and I have been working full time since she was 6 weeks old. Like you, I have always daydreamed of staying home with her full time because I miss her so much during the day. However, by Sunday afternoon, a part of me looks forward to heading back to my office the next day. Now we are expecting our second child in December, so we will have two children under the age of two. Financially, it makes the most sense for me to stay home with them full time. Part of me is looking forward to this change and getting to spend this time with our children. I know I am so lucky to have this opportunity. But the other part of me is completely freaking out! What I am going to do with both of them? How will I manage to do anything other than survive, and will I be miserable all the time? Your feelings are completely normal, and you have nothing to feel guilty about. I think every Mom struggles with their decisions, and the best thing you can give your daughter is a happy Mom. It takes time to adjust to any big change, and you’ve got quite a few going on at once. Hopefully, like me, you’ll find that life in the ‘burbs of Florida has lots of perks, and it can be a really great place to raise a family. And hopefully you’ll find some like-minded Mom friends to make the days enjoyable.

  19. I have been following your blog for awhile now. I always look forward to your posts and I love your honesty. I only in my mid 20s and I don’t have any kids, so I don’t have any motherly words of wisdom to provide, but after reading this post, I had to comment. I just wanted to tell you that I hope that you adjust to your move and feel at home very soon. I’m sorry this has been so rough for you. I lived in the same house my whole life until I got married and I had a hard time moving to a new house–and it was only 20 minutes away from where I lived before, so I can only imagine what a challenge this is for you. I’m glad that you shared your feelings, and I hope that you get only positive feedback. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for expressing yourself about this. I know that you are a wonderful mother and your daughter and husband must love you very much for everything you do. Hang in there and never doubt that you are doing a great thing for your family. Keep up the great blogging too….I love reading it.

  20. I’m so sorry you are having such a tough time. Our daughters are about the same age, and while reading your blog, I have often like we have a lot in common and would be buddies if we lived in the same area (I’m in Chicago). I’m with my daughter in the mornings and weekend, and I work during the weekday afternoons. I don’t love my job the way you do, but I do relish the freedom of not having to cater to a 2yo during my work time and just being able to do my own thing. I really admire SAHMs who enjoy their lifestyle and who don’t mind being with their little kids all day long, but it would drive me batty. For me, the key to staying sane in the sometimes long mornings, especially when it’s too hot or two cold to go to the park, is to schedule a couple of classes (right now we’re doing music and soccer). Another idea for you would be to see if there is a meetup.com Moms group in your area (there almost definitely is). It’s a free way to connect with other moms, get out of the house, and make some new friends. I’m in a weekly playgroup, and it has been such a great outlet when I’m feeling overwhelmed and in need of adult conversation, even if most of the time we just talk about kid stuff. And if it’s not too weird to say this, since you don’t know me, feel free to write to me offline if you need someone to talk to. :)

  21. I wanted to respond to each of your comments individually but was without a computer for a while and now it feels a little overwhelming! Thank you all for your amazing comments; I expected some negative reaction to what I wrote and was so surprised at all of the support I was given. It really does mean a lot to me and I apologize for not responding sooner! Now that I’ve got my computer back, I’ll be posting more and replying to comments :)

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