Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I've got the SAHM blues

Am I like the last person on the planet to figure out that being a stay-at-home mom freaking sucks?

And now that I said that, I have to disavow it, or apologize for it, or declare my love for my children because seriously-- who says that? Who does not wake up each day grateful for the 12-ish hours she gets to spend alone with her offspring before help arrives? Who does not treasure each nose and ass wipe? Who does not get down on her hands and knees and thank the powers that be for the opportunity to spend her day moving the sofa to dispose of the huge pile of snacks that fell behind it?

Back when I was a perfect mom-- you know, before I had kids-- I didn't think I would have any problem splitting the childcare and housework 50/50 with my perfect partner, dropping my lovely, non-snot-encrusted offspring at their super cool Montessori-based daycare center, and swinging through the drive-thru Starbucks on my way to work.

Did I forget about the woman I nannied for in college who worked her ass off to provide her girls with things like oh, I don't know HEALTH INSURANCE while her husband slept one off downstairs? How could I forget her and how beautiful she was, all held together with coffee and lip gloss and a weekly nail appointment that might have been the only 45 minutes she sat down or took a deep breath ever. How could I forget how fast she would come home if her baby had a fever? Or how late she was on the days she'd try to swing by baby gymnastics? Or how hard she worked to find the perfect show-and-tell object for her older daughter? The thing about this woman was, she didn't make it look easy-- she let me see how hard it was to be a juggling mom. But I was so self involved, so focused on squeezing in one last cigarette, a Frapuccino, and a pack of gas-station cinnamon rolls on my way to work that I didn't realize the juggling was hard for everyone. I didn't realize that when I called in hungover, this woman was SOL, had to answer to her younger, childless, male boss, had to work from her cluttered basement office with a toddler there to help. The cleaning lady used to leave pages and pages of handwritten notes detailing what she cleaned while the baby and I sat around and made new messes, and the mom would read these reports with a frown and some sighs and would sometimes re-clean something, muttering all the while. I thought she was nuts, and if my life were a movie, I would have been instantly transported from this uncharitable assessment to myself a couple months after jack was born stomping around my own house and calling Ben to yell at him so he could call and yell at the cleaning lady (who came to my house twice a week, not once every two). Because nothing was ever clean enough, because maybe I could control just this one tiny delegated task while everything else, my work, my body, my two-year-old's behavior spiraled out of my control-- but I even delegated the yelling.

The thing is-- I studied mothering ideologies and the work of mothering through history. I should have known what I was in for. I should have known that the work is never 50/50 because one person's job is worth more money, and one person has boobs that make milk. But the minute I first held tiny pink Harry, thoughts of tenure track jobs and daycare centers, and lugging my breast pump to campus flew out of my head. He was a baby-- my baby-- and how could I be away from him even for a minute? So I just wasn't-- not really. Same with Jack, even though I stupidly imagined myself teaching days after his birth.

The thing about these tiny pink people is that they grow up. Form opinions. Talk back to you. Make messes. Refuse to listen to what you say-- but actually store every single word, every syllable, every breath. They depend on us completely, and what if we let them down?

The part that pisses me off the most is that I am supposed to be grateful that I get to be there for them. Wait-- no, that's not it-- the part that pisses me off the most is that I AM grateful to be home with them. But I still think it sucks. No offense, guys, if you're reading this.


  1. Anonymous4:52 PM

    I totally understand your rant, although I didn't go to work until the twins were 6, I felt pulled apart quite regularly, both from work and guilt...Bomma

  2. Yes yes yes! I am sending you an email. I can't wait for BlogHer.

  3. Tripod6:35 PM

    Exactly! As I grimly slogged through the SAH mom stuff for the 3rd time, muttering, "I did it for the other 2," it really bugged me that I had it as easy as possible. I could be home with relatively little financial sacrifice, but it still was so hard and so depressing! I just figured that I needed a little more structiure in my daily life.

  4. kellycole8:04 PM

    You're a great mama, Sarah! I was a way better mother before I had children, too! I don't have any advice because, as I grow in my own motherhood experiences, I realize I know NOTHING about parenting!

  5. This morning, in front of no less than three moms and four nannies, I said the following in a loud voice to my son in the sandbox, "God BLESS IT Jack, that hurt!" That would be after he dropped a bucket of wet sand on my pinky toe.

    Nannies didn't bat an eye. One mom, who was actually sitting in the sand and digging with her son, stared at me.

    Yep, award-winning mom moment right there. As he played on the other side of the sandbox after that, I felt very bad and called him over so I could apologize. He ran away before I could.

    Sigh. This SAHM shit is hard.

  6. i think part of it is that our generation simultaneously thinks that SAH is the ultimate mothering experience/sacrifice(bcz so many of our moms didn't have it) all while believing that having a career and a life of your own are the ultimate gifts to your family (bcz so many of our moms didn't have that either). One of those has to give. One of those is impractical. Just which one, though, seems to depend on the day of the week for me. I've never felt crazier and more out of control. Well, there was a short period sophomore year of college, but ...
    Great post.
    Also you have a cleaning lady? Can I get one on layaway?

  7. I LOVE this post. Love it.