When I decided to be a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM), my mother, ever pragmatic and financially prudent, sat me down, very concerned, and said, "Can you put some money away? Just for you? If something goes wrong, what will you have?" I blew her off. Nothing was going to go wrong, and since our money was our money, squirreling some away was basically stealing it. Besides, my marriage was totally solid and this is what I'd always wanted. Always.
Three years later I was getting divorced, and as my wise mother had predicted, I had nothing of my own. Let me be clear—I gained a lot by being a SAHM. My son gained a lot and that is most important. In the end, we do it for our children and I deeply respect the choice. Were I given the choice again, I may not do it differently.
However, many of us, most of us I think, go into this somewhat blindly or at least idealistically. There is a level of dependence on another that has some romantic undertones, but which is far deeper than we can see up front. There are some real-life ramifications, financial and emotional, that should be addressed before going into it.
Use this as a guide and talk it through with your spouse. Perhaps some 20/20 hindsight from someone who has been there can shed some light on a partnership usually entered into in utter darkness.
Here are four ugly truths about being a SAHM:
1. The Relationship With Your Husband Will Likely Suffer
When you got married, you were likely a woman with a career and goals and...a life. You and your husband talked about politics, philosophy, work, whatever it was that made you guys click — that thing that had you both say, "I can talk to him/her forever, about anything!"
When you become a SAHM you give that all up to become a mom. When your husband comes home from work, you are likely desperate for grown-up interaction and conversation yet what you're contributing is likely to revolve around poop, feeding and nap schedules and cute things your child did that day, all of which are important to share with your spouse.
But eventually he may wonder what happened to his bright, vibrant, intelligent wife who used to turn him on by spewing statistics about the annual revenues of the company she was VP of, or, well, just about anything other than babies. You may wonder the exact same thing about yourself. Your husband may start to look at you like you're an alien and really crave some conversation that's not baby-centric and so will you, but you'll be at a loss as to how to produce it.
Worse, your husband may begin to find that intellectual connection and stimulation somewhere else. While you're home raising this amazing being you created together and will bond you and your husband for life, you've begun to lose all the things you had in common to begin with. So what can you do to offset this?
Do anything. Keep up with the things you and your husband used to love to do and talk about together. Sit down together and make lists of the things that inspire you about each other and make a conscious, designed effort to keep yourself up to speed on the things that intellectually and emotionally inspire each other.
It has been said many times that marriages that work are ones that have an interest in something bigger than the marriage. For example, couples who share a deep faith, or who do spiritual work together, or volunteer for an organization together, are more likely to have successful marriages because the success of their marriage isn't solely dependent on the other person fulfilling their emotional needs. So talk with your spouse about what that could be for you and make a commitment to that thing together.
2. You Will Wake Up One Morning Wondering Who The Hell You Are
I remember the moment when I sat on my couch while my two-and-a-half-year-old son was napping and said out loud, "Now I know why they drink and pop pills." The mind-numbing boredom of it all was suffocating the life out of me. I was not born to do this, as I had always imagined. I didn't want to bake cookies and make my own baby food and create elaborate recipes for dinner for two after all.
Frankly I didn't give a f*ck. I had fantasies of getting in the car and just driving away into the sunset. I had given up everything that I was and had in order to do the greatest job in the world and the truth was that I hated it. Hated it! I had no idea who I was anymore, not that I'd had such a keen sense of it in the first place, but now I was really lost.
This had nothing to do with my deep and desperate love for my son, just the deep and desperate loathing of being an empty shell of a human. And suddenly I got it. That episode of Desperate Housewives where one of the moms started popping pills on the soccer field? Totally got it. I had become a desperate housewife.
There are many women who feel a deep sense of fulfillment in the role of a stay-at-home-mom, homemaker and housewife and more power to them. I only wish I had felt that.
Here are some things that can help if you find you're losing your mind:
- Join a gym with a good daycare and take classes with all the other moms. It's a great community to be a part of and exercise will boost your endorphins, which in turn will produce more serotonin (happy hormone!) in your brain. It's a win-win. Community, exercise, happiness! Lather, rinse, and repeat every day. You'll look and feel great!
- Keep up with projects that feed your soul. Whether they're solo hobbies you can do while the kids nap or a regular girl's night out—do it, even if you think you're too tired. I have a dear friend who has a severely autistic son who is usually awake for the day by around 1 or 2 a.m. But every week we meet for wine and trivia, come hell or high water, because, while she's more sleep-deprived than anyone I know, she'd go insane if she didn't take at least some time out for herself.
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