Our Sacrifice

August 29, 2011

In the world of blogging, Facebook and Instagram, often the life of a stay at home mom is painted in filtered, cropped pictures. There are smiling children, art projects, activities, and creative lunches. There are darling outfits and playdates where we sip coffee as our children bond with each other.

But this is a very small part of a very long job.

As Bella gets older, I find my role shifting. From “I’ll just take you with me and have a life” to “Let’s do whatever you want to do as long as it prevents another meltdown and makes you so tired you take a 3 hour nap today.”

The sacrifice of a SAHM is usually talked about along the lines of dealing with children all day. And this is part of it. It’s not easy to deal with the same child day in and day out. Being a teacher was a lot easier – I didn’t have to focus all my attention on one the entire day.

But the other sacrifices are rarely spoken of. Like the self motivation it takes to be at home, the guilt, the frustration, the financial toll. The mental toll.

I’m great with a purpose and a deadline. Teaching was a phenomenal job for me because every day ended with a lesson being finished, a classroom being cleaned, and the children going home. But now it’s different. Toys are everywhere. Books are all over. I spend Bella’s nap and my evenings putting together puzzles, shelving books, cleaning up food stuck to chairs and the floor, and repeat. Over and over again. There is no break. Her nap timing is up to her (length wise), which makes it hard for me to relax. I have no boss. No deadline. There is a schedule that I make myself stick to for her sake, and mine.

Then there is the guilt. Knowing that at a daycare, Bella would be with other children. Her development would be monitored, her days planned by professionals. Even with the child development background I have, I often wonder if I’m on the right track. If Bella is getting the mental stimulation and the physical challenges she needs? The guilt that hovers as I have a horrible day and find myself longing for work. With a Starbucks in one hand and a clean new outfit on – and a paycheck to take home.

You know. Something that tells me what I accomplished this week was worth being paid for.

Financially, staying at home was something I fell into because we realized we couldn’t afford daycare. I had always been convinced I’d go back to work, and let me be clear – I’m so, so very glad I’ve never had to. But I didn’t know that 2 years into being at home I’d start to want to find a way to contribute financially. It is hard to not afford things at times. We are lucky that most of our debt is gone. But this is because we’ve had to forgo so many other things. Vacations. New cars. A house. All of these and more have to be put on hold in order for me to be home without debt.

And as Bella gets older, the sacrifices we made will include her. She may need her own loans for college. She may not get her own car at 16, there may not be soccer lessons and brand new clothes each year at school. I hope she realizes that this is ok because of what we chose instead.

Staying at home can mean just that a lot of the time. Playdates may seem like such fun and frivolity – but often they are simply for me and the other mom’s sanity. It’s hard to continually hear one word sentences mixed with temper tantrums 12 hours a day 5 days a week without wondering if you yourself are even able to speak a full sentence. Playdates are my excuse to take a shower earlier than normal, to wear something clean, to take just a little longer with makeup and hair.

It’s not easy to stay upbeat, creative, and grateful everyday. I do have so many little reminders, but often I find myself in the slump of, “Really? Didn’t we just do lunch? A poop? Laundry? Cleaning?” With no TV and too hot to go out past noon, there are many days I think, “How many days in a row have we done this?”

I love what I do. But I think at times we only show the pretty side of staying at home. And my friends, there are many days where it is anything but pretty here. I often envy the working mom. I do. There are days I dream of daycare, when Bella throws herself down on the floor screaming for the 9th time in an hour and I have no one to turn to. It’s just me. It may take a village to raise a child but my village, as an Army wife and SAHM, is very small.

So we do the best we can. I tell myself on hard days that a shower and wearing something nice that might have peanut butter smeared on it is worth it if I feel a little bit more in control. I try to find a way out of the rut with art and playdates. I read books on parenting that help me feel better about where Bella is.

My hope is that one day, Bella will realize I did this for her just like a working mom does it for their kids. My sacrifice is hers – just as every child has to have some of the share of whatever decision their parent makes. There isn’t a better choice. Each has pros and cons. I just want my choice to be one where I did my very best with what I was given.


  • Jess

    August 30, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    I do get it. After 3 months on leave, I was ready to come back. It was great and I love my girls but I think I am like you and like to have goals and things to do. I felt more guilt being home because I felt like I was failing Ava since she was watching so much tv and was bored doing nothing constructive. That made me feel horrible and that is not good for my overall health. Coming back I felt like a new person. I love them to pieces but you’re right, it is hard staying home and it is a huge sacrifice. I don’t think people understand when they think staying at home means fun and leisure all day. Sure sometimes, but not always.

    You are awesome and she will appreciate you. There’s always mothers day out and she’s having playdates. She’ll be fine!

  • Jenny Georgio-who

    August 29, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    I think that every mom sort of feels this. For all of us our lives are very routine. It doesn’t matter if you are a stay at home mom, a work at home mom, a go to work mom or whatever. We all have the same freaking days.

    I work Monday thru Friday from 9am to 5pm. My daughter is in daycare from 10am to 2pm (my husbands drops off and picks up) so if I ever make plans for a week night or a weekend I feel guilty. I am like “Even LESS time with D?” and then I think “But don’t I deserve to get my hair done every once in a while.”

    SAHM’s sort of envy the moms that go to work. The moms that go to work envy the fact that other moms get to spend so much time with their children. It’s a cycle and guess what? No one will ever be 100% content in their choice. We will always long for a bit more.

  • Miranda

    August 29, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    I feel like I’m this weird hybrid mom since I have my summers to see “how the other half lives.” And I feel everything you’re saying here about the sacrifices made for the sake of being at home. There are days when Dan gets home and we’re both still in our pajamas and it seems as if nothing was accomplished that day except avoiding a meltdown. And that’s mostly true.

    But then there are the days when I’m away from him and I feel like working is just as much of a sacrifice as not working. Just a different kind of sacrifice. I wonder what he’s missing out on by being with someone else all day instead of me.

    As for bringing in money, you do what you can. You can always do more later. You can’t ever get this time with her back. And time is money.

  • Jen

    August 29, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    You are so right about, well, everything. Being a mom is HARD! You always hear that before you have kids. However you dont GET it until you have them. Its all worth it in the we end. Bella will grow up and even if she doesnt tell you until later in life, she will live that you were home, and what a great job you are doing for all of you!

  • Jen

    August 29, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    My mom stayed home for us until my brother was old enough to have a key to the house. I remember it and I appreciate every second of it and what she gave up for us. She was also a teacher and when she went back she went back 3/4 time so she could still be home when we got there (or right after).

  • Charlotte Anne

    August 29, 2011 at 11:14 am

    Your writing is amazing and you are one strong lady! You are so courageous to put all of your feelings out there for people to read and let’s be honest judge, unfortunately sometimes negatively. I can only hope one day to be as brave as you are.

  • Adam

    August 29, 2011 at 10:24 am

    I’m totally with you about play dates being for my sanity, except my son has slept through/been sick for approximately 95% of the play dates I’ve wanted to go to.

    I also totally get where you’re coming from about making money. I read that a lot of stay at home dads (me included) feel as though they’re not doing enough because they’re not earning money. It’s the whole mindset of providing for your family and raising children isn’t the typical way a man does that. I know that we don’t NEED me to make any income, but I feel like a mooch when I don’t bring any in. How can I justify buying that thing I want for $100 when I didn’t earn any money last month?

    In the end, though, I’m convinced it will all be totally worth it.

  • Christine

    August 29, 2011 at 10:18 am

    I have lived both sides of this. I worked for the 1st year of baby #1’s life. I had the primary income while my husband worked PT & was in school FT.

    The year I spent trying to split my time between family, work and my ‘personal time’ was hard. If I spent too much time doing one, even if it seemed like the right thing to do, I felt guilty. There never seemed to be a balance, no matter how hard I tried.
    Baby #2 came along and there was no way I could keep it up. I was just too mentally and physically exhausted. I honestly don’t know how so many mom’s & single parents do it every day. It just wasn’t for me and we were able to make it work so I could be at home FT.

    I like to look at it as a great blessing. Is it difficult?
    ABSOLUTELY! I often find it more difficult than managing my former staff of 16. I also find it INFINATELLY more rewarding. At least most of the time I do. 😉

    To all moms I wish you the best of luck and just enough sanity to get you to bedtime.

  • Laura

    August 29, 2011 at 10:17 am

    I often wonder how Ethan will keep up with the other kids that have gone to daycare. Am I keeping him on track learning wise? Will he do okay socially? There are so many pros and cons for staying at home. I’m with you…I hope I do the best with what I’ve been given.

  • Sara

    August 29, 2011 at 9:53 am

    You feel like this is where you belong now, so the sacrifices are worth it. There’s no reason to feel badly over play dates! Your priorities may change as she grows, or they may not, but she will know you’re making the best decision you can for your family!

  • melissa

    August 29, 2011 at 9:49 am

    I think what keeps me going is knowing women who have children who are ill or who have lost children. Everytime I feel overwhelmed with Parker I just step back and readjust my perspective and know its not a big deal and I love him. I am working on taking small amounts of time for myself everyday to feel good. Working out, reading, making sure I feel cute with my outfit or whatever. I haven’t found any Playgroup here yet so I feel a ton of guilt because he’s so isolated from other kiss now. Hopefully that will come though.

  • Melissa

    August 29, 2011 at 9:44 am

    I know exactly how you feel! I was a stay at home mom when my daughter was little for 3 years…then I went back to work full time. I LOVED working. During those first 3 years I would struggle to find “me”. Playdates and adult conversation were my saving grace! I went back to work full time for almost 3 years and then I got laid off last summer. I’ve been home for a year now (working on my own business, but home)….and some days I wish I could drop these 2 off (6 and 4) at daycare, go to work….have lunch with the girls or run errands (alone) during my lunch break!
    I’ve been on both sides…working mom and stay at home mom…and they both have great qualities and they both include sacrifices….It’s tough to find what works best for each family. I now struggle to run my own business from home…without being buried in a computer screen all day.
    I just found your blog last week…and I truly love your honest writing!

  • Beth Anne

    August 29, 2011 at 9:36 am

    You? Are amazing.

    I won’t even pretend to fully understand, but in some ways, we are so similar. I get home & I’m exhausted but it’s the lather, rinse, repeat of taking Harrison out for a walk, then out to swing, then watching Chuck the Truck, all to prevent a meltdown even though the dishes & laundry call & dinner is still stone-cold. I wonder if my husband is ever upset that dinner isn’t served until 8pm, even though he’s helping just as much.

    Sometimes when I wake up on Saturday mornings, I dream of a massage that I could afford since I have income, except the pounding guilt I feel of leaving my child AGAIN means that I’m doing the playdate thing over & over again to make him happy & wear him out, then lunch time, then nap time where I wonder how much housework I can fit in before he wakes because it MUST be done then.

    I worry that I’ve made the wrong decision by placing him with a nanny instead of a daycare with other children. I worry that his speech delays are my fault, a direct result of that decision. I worry that it’s my fault for not having explicit instructions for the nanny on how to structure his day, but I run out of time due to work & blogging & life.

    I think for all of us, it’s “same ol’ shit dog, just another day.”

  • Jenna Grayson

    August 29, 2011 at 9:18 am

    You are such an amazing writer, and army wife, and MOMMY. I feel lucky to know you and be apart of your small village and extra lucky that I get to hang out with you today.

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