There's always a voice in my head saying I'm supposed to be doing more.
When I was a little girl, I got the message I could be anything I wanted to be. I was born in the late 70s, the heyday of the women's movement and the message of women's liberation was being shouted from the rooftops.
I decided early on I wanted to be a writer. I was a woman: Why should anything stop me? I got a BA in English. I went on to get my Master's degree in Creative Writing, was published in literary journals, landed a job teaching English at a university, and published my first book.
At 28, I was married, accomplished, and contributing equally to our household salary. I felt so good about myself, it seemed like a good time to have a baby.
I understood some parts of my life would be on pause while I was caring for an infant, but I felt like I was at a place in my career where I had achieved enough, for now, and could afford to take a little break.
That was almost a decade ago. My short "pause" never exactly ended. It hasn't made sense for me to return to work full-time — after deducting the cost of childcare, I would bring home next to nothing. And money aside, I've wanted to be the primary caregiver for our children.
My husband and I have found ways to make it work financially. And most importantly, we both agree that this is the best set-up for our family. You'd think I was living the dream, right? Yet for years I've been wracked with guilt about being a stay-at-home mom.
I'm proud of the kids I'm raising and satisfied with my role as mother and wife, but there's always a voice in my head saying I'm supposed to be doing more. And though I'm still able to write and publish, and even started a second career as a lactation consultant, I always think I should be advancing my career and contributing more financially.
My mother raised my sister and me alone, and worked hard to earn a good living wage. I got the message early on I should never rely on a man financially. I know my situation is entirely different but sometimes I can't shake the feeling that I have it easy compared to her and that I somehow don't deserve the income my husband happily shares with me.
What the hell was wrong with me? I constantly put undue pressure on myself to be everything, all at once. I often felt like an outsider to my own life, like I was too liberated and knowledgeable to be a stay-at-home mom.
Well, SCREW THAT. I'm done with that guilt.
Recently, I saw myself — I mean really saw who I am right now. I was running around the house like a crazy person, my arms full of children and dirty laundry, sweat under my arms, my hair in a greasy ponytail. I realized that I hadn't showered in a full week (that was a record for me, but still).
Every day, I work from morning to night tending to our children, our home, and even making a little income on the side. There's literally not one 15-minute increment that I'm not doing something for our household.
If I weren't doing what I do, someone else would have to. And they'd make a pretty good living wage. God knows I'd pay them well, knowing how hard this job is.
I know I'm not alone. I know there are many other mothers out there feeling guilt over their roles as full-time moms. Well, you ARE doing enough. I'm doing enough, too. And guess what? We're doing it well. We're kicking some serious ass at this motherhood thing.
I love the idea that women can be anything they want to be. But what if they want to focus on being moms for a while? Does that kill everything else that they've accomplished or will accomplish in the future?
Life is long. Our kids are only itty-bitty for so long. If we want to stay home with them, and we can swing it financially, there's nothing wrong with it.
My husband and I have a household together. It's not his or mine. It's OURS. We've found a system that works for both of us. That's empowerment. That's feminism.
In two years, my youngest child will be in school full-time. I don't think my life will ever be what it was before I had kids. Soon enough, though, there will be more time for me to focus on my career and bring in more income. I have a lifetime to be everything I want to be.
But for now, I'm done feeling guilty about being "just" a mom. I'm throwing it in the dumpster, where it damn well belongs.