Evie 15Comment

Originally published in March 2014

One of the reasons the name “merelymothers” appealed to us when we started this blog was that it played on a sentiment we’d heard one too many times in casual conversation.

  • “What do you do?”
  • “I’m a stay-at-home mom.”
  • “So, you don’t work?”

Here’s the part where SAHMs are forced to make an awkward choice:

1. Clarify that we don’t have paying jobs or jobs that we do outside our homes, but we do “work.”
2. Or give in and get over society’s preconception of our role and admit defeat with statements like, “Nope, I’m just a mom.”

Wait a minute! “Just” a mom?? Way to minimize such an important job!

For some reason, our culture seems to view SAHMs as uneducated, frumpy, one-dimensional, and boring. And we’ve all internalized this message.

In the last few weeks, I’ve read a few pieces that reinforce this stereotype in the most terrifically awful way. One was 25 Ways You Know You’re a Stay at Home Mom, a list that includes things like “Showering is a major accomplishment” and “You have invited Jehovahs Witnesses in on more than one occasion, and scared them off after asking if they’d like a dirty martini.” How depressing.

Another was What I Do All Day When I Am Home With the Baby, a horribly gloomy minute-by-minute account of one SAHM’s day, filled with guilt, boredom, and discontent. To be honest, when I read things like this, there’s a part of me that wonders why this mom stays at home if it’s really this awful…

If you read accounts of life at home with young kids like this from SAHMs, there’s no wonder why the rest of the population sees us as unproductive babysitters who run around in stained yoga paints all day, accomplish little more than keeping our children alive, and have nothing to offer other than a recommendation on the most absorbent diapers.

Oh, hell no.

I can’t resist going tit for tat and creating an account of my own day that will hopefully change just a couple of minds about what life as a SAHM can look like.

*          *          *          *          *

6:45 My alarm goes off. I hop in the shower before the kids wake up. Get dressed: skinny jeans, sparkly sweater, cardigan. Apply gobs of makeup to hide the fact that I never get enough sleep. Make bed and tidy room.

makeup and sweaterAnd by the way, I don’t even own sweatpants.

7:15 Wake up A to get her ready for preschool, which she attends two days a week. Get Baby J up with a fresh diaper, change of clothes, and some of mama’s milk while I negotiate with A about whether we’ll brush her teeth upstairs or downstairs. Another diaper change.

8:00 Breakfast for three. I usually eat my cereal standing while I pack a school snack, clean up Cheerios off the floor, and make a latte.

8:30 Out the door. Make the relatively long drive to preschool in rush hour traffic while I play DJ. A’s current favorites: Ellie Goulding’s Burn, Avicii’s Wake Me Up, and Lorde’s Team.

in car“Mommy, play that song with the words that it’s hard to understand” (a.k.a. Burn).

9:00 Drop off A for the morning and drive home. Now I can switch off the top-40 station and listen to public radio for my daily news fix. Despite the clueless-SAHM stereotype, most weeks I have a pretty good idea of what’s going on in the world.

9:30 Put Baby J down for her morning nap. I catch up on my social media while I’m nursing her to sleep. Instagram is my favorite, probably because I’m so visual. I love to see what’s going on in other people’s lives so much more than reading their status updates on Facebook. “Show don’t tell,” right?

10:00 Quiet time for mommy: writing, responding to emails.

She just wants to rest with her head in the crook of my arm. Poor baby!

10:30 Baby J is up and feeling cranky. This is day 6 of the stomach bug she caught from big sister, which means trouble sleeping and terrible diaper rash. All Baby J wants is to be snuggled, and I oblige.

10:45 There’s laundry to be done, but my little helper isn’t in the mood, so I work one-handed. These are the delays you can never plan for as a SAHM.

11:40 Back out the door to pick up A from preschool. Usually, I try to make my phone calls while I’m on the road, since this is one of the only times of the day when everyone is accounted for and (generally) quiet.

12:30 Home again. We unpack A’s school tote bag to find a wealth of three-year-old treasures. I love my time with my kids, but I can see she’s really enjoying her big-girl time at school.

12:45 Time to think about lunch. A has noticed that Baby J eats what looks like snack foods to her, so big sister refuses to eat anything that doesn’t resemble the baby’s finger foods. Pretzels, a slice of cheese, and dried cranberries for her. I eat last night’s leftover grilled, marinated flank steak.

1:30 Clean up from lunch, including vacuuming under the table. I always vacuum; one of my biggest pet peeves = crumbs underfoot.

1:45 Prep dinner. After lunch, the girls are usually happy enough to play by themselves for about 30 minutes, enough time to throw together chicken lomein that’ll cook up in the Crockpot. I’ve grown really fond of surfing Pinterest for interesting recipes to try, and I’ve found some real gems. It’s mostly desserts that catch my eye, like last night’s smores fudge bars. I have to say, since becoming a SAHM, I’ve really learned my way around the kitchen.

prepping dinner

2:20 Start getting the girls down for their naps.

2:50 I make a cup of the strongest espresso we have in the house. I think of my day in two parts: before nap and after nap. I need a serious jolt to push me through until bedtime.

3:00 I sit down to my computer to attend to some business. Baby J’s birthday is just around the corner and RSVPs are rolling in for her party. I finalize the design of our new blog media kit to send to companies we work with. I email a printer who’s helping us put together some items with our new blog logo on them (stay tuned!!!). I catch up for a few minutes with Sarah. And I work on this post.

4:30 Everyone’s awake. Back to the laundry situation. Baby J lets me wrap her on my back while I fold and A plays with her letter stickers. We have a game that goes like this:

  • Mommy, what letter does Daddy/Grandma/Grandpa/etc. want?
  • How about the letter D. What sound does that letter make?
  • D-D-D. Where should I put it?

Then, I point to a spot on her paper. A loves talking about the alphabet and doing “math” (simple addition and subtraction with her blocks).

5:30 We head outside. It’s a beautiful day, and we could all use some fresh air. A rides her tricycle to the mailboxes and around our neighborhood, while Baby J stays happily perched on my back holding her lovey.

tricycle, babywearing6:00 Daddy’s home, so we head back inside for dinner. I make a big fuss about sitting down to dinner as a family, something I grew up with and believe is important to connect us all.

7:00 Bathtime and bedtime. We’re in the final stretch!

7:30 One more load of laundry (when will it end?!?) and I clean up the kitchen. I can never believe how much more efficient I am without the kids!

8:00 Pour myself a glass of wine, cut a smores fudge bar, and sit down to work on this post for a few more minutes. The blog is really hard work, but it’s also a creative outlet and a physical break. I actually get to sit down to type!!

8:25 My browser window crashes. I take this as a sign that I’m done with the computer for today.

8:30 Chat with my husband about the day—no detail is too trivial. He’s good this way: the great overcommunicator.

9:00 Iron while we catch up on one of my favorite shows, Elementary. This is the only way I can stomach this chore!

10:30 Make my way to bed. We talk about weekend plans as we get ready.

11:00 Close my eyes before it all starts again.

Of course, not every day takes this form. Some days we have playdates; outings to libraries, museums, and playgrounds; doctor’s appointments; or lazy days at home. But these days are satisfying to me. I’m able to be with my kids, care for our home, spend time catching up with friends, and I’ve finally even learned how to carve out some time for myself.

There are days when I feel like I’ve failed at this juggling act, and I can get frustrated, but I never view myself the way I think society views SAHMs, as “merely” anything.

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15 thoughts on “What It’s *Really* Like to Be a SAHM

  1. Phew! I’m tired just reading this! This is a great example that all moms “work” tirelessly.. I truly envy the ability not to feel tethered to a desk and computer most of the day and think you get far more accomplished than I ever do! And you seem to have such balance and fulfillment. That’s not only ideal (and something I wish I had more of), but a *great* lesson for your children. Thanks for the glimpse.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Ali! I hope it came through that I didn’t intend to compare the lives of moms who work outside the home with the lives of SAHMs in this post. That’s not a productive comparison, I think. I did, however, want to address some of the stereotypes about SAHMs that we’re sometimes guilty of perpetuating.

      I have a lot of respect for moms, like my aunt, who work all day outside their homes and then return at the end of a long day, filled with adult-size stresses, to be an A+ mom. Finding a balance and some time for yourself MUST be hard!

      And as I mentioned, I really do believe that staying home with kids isn’t for everyone. If you’re bored and disgruntled, no one benefits!

  2. I think you are far above average :) However, this is a good reminder we tend not to give ourselves enough credit for what we do in a day. Even on days when I might say all I did was keep the kids alive, some chores were done, there is always a hot homecooked meal on the table for dinner and I am my own barista!
    P.S. you look like Julia Roberts in that pic.

    1. I’m with you, Jennifer! It’s too easy to overlook all that you get done because sometimes it feels like I’ve spent my entire day tidying toys and filling the dishwasher. But there’s obviously a lot more to it than that. All the social and emotional work that goes into raising healthy, well-balanced children is immeasurable!

  3. WOW! That is a very enthusiastic day! I can’t imagine how you do all that all day. My day is probably a mix of your day and Scary Mom’s day that she describes in her article “25 Ways You Know You’re a Stay at Home Mom” I’m not miserable but I’m not mom of the year lol.

    1. Oh, I definitely don’t claim to be mom of the year, Violet! :) I just think we should give ourselves credit for everything we do get done and not minimize our value, since society does such a great job of doing that for us.

  4. I love this Evanthia! I think that there is too much judgement all around – including kids or no kids too. I love having a peek into your day and duh!! of course moms at home work! I wish women would reach out and raise each other up – you aren’t more of a woman because you work and raise kids, or are a SAHM, or anything else!! Our lives are exhausting just because we are living life!

    1. It’s true, Jessica! I think we all make judgments about what goes on behind closed doors, in other people’s lives. We wonder what life must be like for the “other half,” and some people feel like they can elevate themselves by putting down other women. Not cool!

  5. I love reading what your day is like!! I wish I had an ounce of your organization. I do have to ask, do you realize how lucky you are to be able to set an alarm in the morning, and actually wake your kids up?? I wish I could shower and tidy up before everyone else wakes up but we have some early risers here! :) C has always been a good sleeper, but early to bed, early to rise! 7:00am is definitely sleeping in around here. That’s why showering can feel like an accomplishment to some, I think, because doing so with an unpredictable newborn and an up-too-early toddler can sometimes pose as a challenge. So I definitely don’t have a quiet start to my day, although that sure would be nice…Anyway, I think you do an extraordinary job and I’m sure your very well taken card of family appreciates it very much!! Even if they don’t always vocalize it. :)

    1. I’m the same way, Michelle! I love to see what other people do all day.

      As for our morning routine, the only days I can bring myself to get up and showered before the girls are school days. (I should have clarified!) The other days, I get up with them, get them dressed, we come down and eat breakfast, and then at some point after that we all make our way back upstairs so I can shower and get dressed myself. Sometimes this means I shower while Baby J takes her morning nap. Other times we all just hang out in the bathroom together (no privacy whatsoever!!).

      It’s definitely true that each stage of motherhood brings its challenges, and showering when you’ve got a newborn can be more challenging. Back then, I used to put Baby J in her swing in the bathroom with some toys hanging over her, and A would watch one 10-minute episode of Charlie and Lola so I could have a few minutes to compose myself. It’s definitely not easy to find time for yourself; I just don’t like the stereotype that SAHMs are walking around, days on end, unshowered! Gross!

  6. I really enjoyed this post. I do love a glimpse into other people’s lives. I wish I had done a similar diary while I was on maternity leave — it would have helped with all of the comments from co-workers who were jealous of my “vacation.” Hah! I agree that the stereotypes of moms (SAHM and working) are awful. Yes, there are days where things fall by the wayside, but I really believe everyone is doing the best they can to make the best life for their families. Maybe we should do a working mom one to bust through some of the stereotypes of working moms as burnt-out, guilt-ridden, “on the brink,” etc. :)

    1. “Vacation”? Oh man, I’d want to punch those people in the face! :)

      I’d LOVE to read a timeline of a working mom’s day! Aren’t we all curious about how other people live? Great idea!!

  7. I have to be honest — I don’t know how you have the energy to do it. I am in medical school, and I remember coming back to after finishing my PhD/taking care of the baby to 13 hour days 6 day a week ICU rotation, and I have to tell you that the ICU rotation was easier than PhD/taking care of the baby. And the baby had been attending day care! I honestly believe that all those people who use the phrase “just a mom” have NO IDEA what hard work it is.

    1. Thanks for providing your perspective. It’s very tough work! I usually fall into bed at the end of the day.

      We all have our challenges, and I have to say that this ICU rotation doesn’t sound easy either! I don’t think I would function well with your schedule, but that’s why I really believe we all need to take the path that suits us best, staying home or “working.”

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