Why is being a stay-at-home-parent so dang hard?
All jobs are hard. I think about my friends who hold high-powered positions at high-powered companies. I think about myself when I used to work before becoming a stay-at-home-mom. These professional types of jobs are hard. As in ALL CAPS HARD. They involve a lot of pressure, unreasonable demands, impossible multitasking and insane amounts of stress. So why is it that I sit here during nap-time – a period of the day that doesn’t exist in any other job – in the comforts of my home sipping iced tea and saying to myself DANG. What I am doing is really, really hard.
It’s in these moments of feeling like I’m not really doing a whole lot that I tend to ponder the deeper dynamics of why I also feel like what I’m doing is so tough. Of course there are the obvious answers. There are many responsibilities involved in raising children and you spend the majority of your time working for irrational, screaming, dependent, demanding and trouble-seeking little mini-bosses. Your nighttime sleep is often interrupted by multiple trips to check out what’s under the bed and to deliver sippy cups of water. Your day seems like an endless string of cooking, cleaning, feeding, clothing, reading, singing, reminding, reminding again, fixing, reminding for the last time and enforcing. You also often long for adult interaction and a reason to change out of your pajamas.
But there is something that makes this job hard in an altogether different way.
I couldn’t quite put my finger on it for awhile. What is this “different way” that makes stay-at-home-parenting so tough (and I don’t mean different as in harder than other jobs – I just mean that it pulls at me in different ways)? But then it hit me. And it was so obvious.
It’s personal. It’s ALL personal.
Being a stay-at-home-parent is investing one’s self fully in the growth and maintenance of one’s family – one’s personal life. Your main focus and barometer by which to measure success or failure is your personal life. And when something happens in your personal life you take it personally because, well, it is personal. And when you take something personally, it tends t0 get under your skin in the most piercing ways. It hurts you deeply and pushes you far. When it’s personal, what appears to be a fleeting moment of failure can cause an indescribable sting, and permanently burn itself into your heart and mind. When you’re frustrated, angry, overwhelmed or disappointed about your personal life, it stays with you and causes you to constantly worry, scheme, plan and prepare. Yes, you have pockets of time to yourself in this role, but these pockets are filled with thinking, planning and preparing to support everything that is most personal to you. And at the end of the day or week, you can’t clock out of this type of thinking and work.
Fortunately, though, what makes being a stay-at-home-parent so hard is the very thing that also makes it so wonderful. The personal nature of this role, which causes it to hurt so much, is also what makes it feel so good. The joy I feel when things go right boosts me up in wonderfully personal ways. When I watch my family succeed, grow and thrive – all parts of me glow with pride. These moments feed my confidence, patience and optimism, as well as fill in holes in the unfolding story of who I am.
So while it’s not always obvious, being a stay-at-home-parent is very demanding and difficult. It will tear you down and hurt in ways you didn’t know possible. However, the very things that hurt you also restore and uplift you in uniquely wonderful and intimate ways. So while it’s tough work, it’s hard to complain about the compensation.
I told my husband the other day that I needed to start researching for my upcoming highlighting appointment. He couldn’t contain his laughter.
“You need to research your highlights? Don’t you just go in there and say you want highlights? What are you researching, exactly?”
Oh you silly, silly simple man.
Actually, the truth is that I basically do just go in and tell them I want highlights. I’m pretty low maintenance when it comes to my hair. BUT I do like to show the stylists a picture to confirm we are all on the same page. I came to find out the hard way (there was an incident that I refer to as BRASS CITY) that blonde means a lot of different things to different people. Also, being from California I tend to favor more of the beach blonde look so I like to show them the vibe that I’m going for.
In my recent research, I came across these gorgeous examples of beach blonde hair perfection. So if you are currently in the midst of doing some intense highlighting research, check out these swoon-worthy beach blondes that’ll make you think ahhhhh if only I had hair like this I would wear swimsuits all day while lounging on a sunny beach occasionally getting up to surf or do something equally as awesome all while sipping a tropical drink…
source: box no. 216
source: beauty high
source: loubis and champagne
source: shop style
source: and so it goes
source: beauty stat
source: barefoot blonde
source: shop style
The moment I became a mom, I was bombarded with comments, advice, stories, questions and concerns from anyone and everyone. I frantically tried to make sense of it all. Was I feeding my baby too much or too little? Because so and so said to do this, but so and so said to that do. Was I holding him too much or not enough? Because I heard that I needed to do this, but I also heard I should do that. Sometimes the input was helpful, but it was mostly overwhelming and I often drove myself crazy trying to reconcile everything.
After a particularly intense session of questioning and unsolicited advice from several woman, my husband’s friend’s wife turned to me and said, “what about YOU, mama? How do you feel? I’ve heard all about the baby but I want to know about you”
This stopped me in my tracks. I honestly had not been asked about myself since I had given birth aside from the “how do you feel after delivery” type of questions. I had not been asked how I felt about this insanely crazy thing called having a baby. This question made me really think. How have I been feeling? Well, now that you ask… I found breastfeeding anything but magical, my body still hurts in places that I didn’t know it could hurt, my baby weight is hanging on like I’m still preggo, I have anxiety about going to sleep because I know I’m going to be interrupted a few hours later and my emotions are just generally all over the place. In response to my comments, this woman did something wonderful – she just listened. Once I started, I felt myself relax and I remember feeling so incredibly thankful for her giving me the space to vent these feelings. I think people often fixate on trying to help new moms by filling up their conversations with parenting solutions and remedies. Or people try to commiserate with new moms so they feel compelled to share numerous personal parenting stories. Or, worst of all, they judge new moms and feel obligated to point out where they think the new moms are making mistakes. Don’t get me wrong, I think there is a time and place for these things (except for the judging, of course) but sometimes new moms just need… space. Space to vent and just TALK without hearing solutions, judgement or other parenting experiences.
And this isn’t even the single best thing that she said! She’s good, right?!
Are you ready for the BEST thing that she told me? The SINGLE best thing I heard as a new mom?? Here it is…. Drumroll………
“You are doing a great job.”
That ‘s it. A simple verbal pat on the back. Hey, great job. Keep it up, champ.
I can’t express how comforting it was to hear those words. I think new moms crave this type of affirmation. When you are emotionally, physically and mentally exhausted, and have no idea what you are doing as you forge into new and unfamiliar territory, a little positive reinforcement can be game-changing. It can be just what a new mom needs to hear in order to boost her confidence as she tries to tackle all that a swaddled and screaming bundle of joy can throw at her.
So to all you new moms out there…. Despite feeling overwhelmed and under-prepared, let me tell you this.
You are doing a great job.
No one is more qualified than you for this job and you are CRUSHIN’ it. Way to go.