The 1 Thing No One Tells You About Life as a Stay-at-Home Mom

I am a stay-at-home mom. My wardrobe, comprised mostly of Target athleisure wear, would have been a dead giveaway if we were having this conversation in person, but we're not. So you will have to take my word for it.

I actually don't get to say the words "I am a stay-at-home mom" too often, since being one greatly limits my daily human interactions. I have been rocking this gig since my first daughter was born, three years ago.

There were plenty of surprises when I made the transition. Like how amazed I was by the amount of money you can save when you don't ever go anywhere. Conversely, how amazed I was by the amount of extra money I was willing to spend so that I didn't ever have to go anywhere (life pro tip: there is a real company out there that makes edible cookie dough, and they will deliver it directly to your freaking doorstep).

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There were things I was prepared for, too. I was prepared to be lonely thanks to limited daily interaction with anyone other than the human-shaped pterodactyl I had given birth to. I was also prepared for the stress of being thrust into a new role. I figured there would be a small adjustment period while my entire identity changed, and then I'd embrace my new normal. I thought all of these things because I had been warned by my fellow mom friends. They all told me that that the beginning was hard, but that it does eventually get easier.

What I wasn't prepared for, the thing that none of them warned me about, was how little parenting I would do as a stay-at-home mom.

I had been conditioned, by a lifetime of movies and TV, to believe that my days would consist of doing things with my children. That we would travel by stroller to the local park, we'd have picnics after spending the morning at the zoo, and the two of us would sit around with flashcards learning numbers and letters after snack time. Hell, Instagram and Facebook had me convinced of that, too. My news feed is full of pictures of other families at playdates and mommy-and-me yoga classes. Which made me wonder, if they are out in the world doing things with their kids, then when are they doing all the other stuff? The actual day-to-day work?

Each day my kids and I wake up and spend the first three hours of our day eating, cleaning up, and getting ready. There are diapers to be changed, teeth to be brushed, breakfast to be made (and then cleaned up). Immediately following breakfast, there is another round of diaper and outfit changes. From there we go directly into unloading the dishwasher from the night before, loading it with this morning's dishes, and then it's snack time for the oldest and nap time for the youngest. Usually I can squeeze a shower in right around noon.

Then we start all over again with the activities of lunchtime. The afternoon is generally reserved for housework, laundry, and any miscellaneous administrative things that need to be done. With two small children and a husband who works long hours, I also function as the family bookkeeper, appointment maker, and finder of any and all professionals we may need.

And that's just the normal routine. Throw in an illness, a family emergency, or a move (which we just completed and, oh my god, never again), and I'm spread even thinner. There's more work with even less time to spend with my children.

Honestly, I thought I would be teaching my toddler how to speak French by now. Instead, I find myself teaching her patience, while constantly asking her to wait while I finish doing whatever I'm in the middle of when she asks for my attention.

Hold on, I have to finish writing this email. Give me a minute, I am just about to put dinner on. Wait a second, I am unloading the dishwasher right now.

Why didn't anyone warn me about this part of it? The haggard mom in the movies still manages to stroll down her tree-lined street with her kids. The mom on TV, she finds time to sit at the soccer game and cheer on her daugher instead of using the opportunity to pay bills on her cell phone and track down a new dentist.

There is so much less parenting going on, so many fewer interactions with my daughters, than I ever thought there would be. I had visions of our baking cookies together. Instead there's just Mickey Mouse Clubhouse playing in the background while I run around and do all this other work that nobody ever told me would take up 98 percent of my day. And the guilt is just another thing on my already overloaded plate. I feel like I'm doing a half-assed job of all of it, by even attempting to do all of it.
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So I'm going to tell you, you there looking at your Facebook feed and wondering how everybody else can do it all while you're struggling just to do what has to be done, it's not just you. There is work that comes with being a stay-at-home mom, and we don't acknowledge how sometimes, that work even gets in the way. We talk about the mental load, and the emotional labor, but we don't do enough to warn each other about the actual physical load and the physical labor. It exists, and we're all scrambling to figure out how to handle it.

Some people choose the park over putting away laundry, and some people choose loading the dishwasher over going to baby yoga. We're all just trying to make the most of this time while we have it, and both of those choices are perfectly fine. I think today, despite my to-do list, I will choose coloring books and baby snuggles; the vacuuming can wait. I choose not to feel bad about that, and you can, too.
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