"Ohhhh, so you're a stay-at-home-mom? How fun for you. I wish I could stay home with the kids all day long."
Do you really now?
Being a stay-at-home mom is important and hard work; and rest assured, 24 hours a day in your house with your kids is absolutely work. Those who are not in the trenches themselves, passing out Cheez-Its and watching YouTube videos of Cocomelon don't always get it, and the universe needs the stay-at-home-mom myths debunked...like yesterday.
Myth # 1 You Can Get So Much Done While You're Home All Day Long
You can have a clean house, or you can have children. You can't have both. Since putting the kids back into your womb is not an option, you are going to have to live with the fact that your home will never look like the cover of a Pottery Barn magazine. Being a stay-at-home parent means the kids are home with you, actively destroying every nook and cranny of your abode until they finally pass out at the day's end. Cleaning up after them is the equivalent of shoveling in a snowstorm. It is pointless; and for people like me, who are triggered by clutter and chaos, it can be maddening.
If you need some organization in your stay-at-home universe, Marie Kondo the heck out of one small space at a time. Do the basics, the laundry, the dishes, the sweeping, and for heaven's sake, buy a Roomba, but find some underwear drawer, junk drawer, or closet that needs an overhaul and tackle it at some point in the week. No, you can't get everything done just because you don't have a job outside of your home. You have constant demands and household chores, and never-ending issues to resolve. You can, however, get some things done, as long as you keep the tasks in perspective.
Myth #2 You Never Miss a Milestone
People who don't stay home with the kids are forever worrying that they are missing those milestones, and I truly feel for these parents. It rips your soul apart when your baby utters those first words to Grandma or takes their first steps at daycare. Here is the thing though, even if you were home, staring at your kid full time, you would manage to miss things. My middle child lost three teeth before I even noticed gaps in her smile. Then the tooth fairy ended up being "delayed" for several days (seriously, who carries cash these days anymore) because even though I am a stay-at-home-mother, I couldn't make it to the bank to make change for a twenty.
All parents, stay-at-home, working or otherwise, will miss moments in their kids' lives. Just remember, for every milestone you miss, because you are changing a diaper, unloading the dishwasher, or scrubbing permanent marker off of the wall, you will catch about one hundred more. When you feel the mom guilt creeping in because you were watching The Real Housewives of Orange County while your baby stacked blocks for the first time, remember that no one ever landed in therapy because mommy missed block stacking. You'll miss moments, home or not, and somehow everyone will turn out okay in the end.
Myth #3 Stay-At-Home-Moms Choose This Lifestyle
Some stay-at-home moms totally chose this lifestyle with their eyes wide open; others did not. I fell somewhere in the middle of those two camps. Yes, I felt that it was time to turn in my teaching cap and sport some yoga pants for a few years. With two young daughters, an out-of-town job, and a husband who worked hospital hours, I could no longer juggle both worlds. However, the stay-at-home gig kind of chose me. You see, about thirty seconds after I decided to stay home, I was pregnant with twins.
Bam. Four kids under the age of seven. Do the math, friends. Four kids in full-time daycare would have cost me more than I made in a year, and I do not exaggerate here. Some moms stay home because their children have health needs, their parents work jobs that take them far from home for extended periods of time, or they have a billion babies all at once. Parents make about a ton of sacrifices each day for the sake of their families, and deciding to stay home for the greater good is sometimes one of them. Sometimes you choose it, other times it chooses you. Sometimes you plan on a short hiatus; sometimes, that hiatus stretches into a decade. Life is weird and unpredictable.
Myth #4 Being Home All Day Long Gets Boring and Routine
I guess maybe some days feel like Groundhog's Day, but isn't the workplace like that too? Aren't there days and weeks in the office where people feel like they are doing the same stuff day in and day out? Monotony is not specific to stay-at-home moms. So monotony, yes. Boredom, no. To be bored, you would have to have nothing to do. Show me a stay-at-home mom with nothing to do. Where is she? Raise your hand, bored SAHM!
No hands are going up because no mom, a stay-at-home one or otherwise, will ever again be bored. Don't ask us if we are bored, and don't assume we are lazy and sitting around all day watching the clock count down until bedtime. We don't have time for you because we are, in fact, SO BUSY doing literally all...of...the...things.
Myth #5 We Live For Coffee and Playdates
Okay, so it is true that we kind of live for coffee. You try watching Thomas the Train on repeat seven days a week without caffeine. To my knowledge, it is not humanly possible. Do we live for playdates? Um, no. A common misconception is that stay-at-home mothers schedule playgroups, park dates, and mommy and me craft class five days a week because they crave adult interaction. It is widely assumed that we will socialize with any other human that also shares the title SAHM. This isn't a thing, and we are not a weird cult.
Now, it is crucial that you find some solid mom friends to help you muddle through your motherhood years. Those women are your people, and you need them. Outside of a SAHM's village, though, playdates are not what we live for. Remember, we are busy doing those one million things that make the world go 'round? The things that have to get done and no one even acknowledges, so time for playdates is actually quite scant. Furthermore, just because two women both stay home with their kids does not mean that they want to hang out together.
I have been on my fair share of prickly playdates, and I can tell you straight from the horse's mouth that we SAHMs are not looking to socialize with just anyone. We are not desperate for any adult company, and we're actually quite selective about who we keep company with. I personally have to really like you to invite you over to sit on my dog-hair-covered couch while we watch the kids fight over a raggedy Barbie doll. We have to be totally simpatico to have a day of it, because if we are not, then hanging is too much work, and work is my life.
Myth #6 Your Family Must Eat So Healthy Since You're Home to Cook
I have a Crockpot, an instant pot, and an air fryer, and I am not above a can of SpaghettiOs for dinner. Stay-at-home mothers are not spending hours surfing Pinterest, looking for stunning meals to serve up to their family. We really don't have lives that revolve around kitchen creations. Between homework, household chores, school pick-up, trips to the vet, the urgent care, and sports practices, SAHMs are just as stretched in the meal-making department as the next parent.
Also, even when we take half a day to create cuisine for a Queen, we still have regular old kids who cry for chicken nuggets. Being a stay-at-home mother does not make you an expert chef, and it does not make your kids adventurous eaters.
Myth #7 You're Always Available for Drop-Offs and Pick-Ups
People will assume that you are waiting by the phone to lend them a hand with drop-off and pick-up because you are a SAHM. Yes, you can likely get to the carline for a friend who is in a pinch, but SAHMs are not free Uber drivers. We can lend a hand, but we don't want to be taken advantage of just because we don't work out of town or in an office building. If we are going to help you out, we expect you to lend us a hand as well. Take these kids for a Saturday playdate, PLEASE! I just want to go to Costco alone.
Myth #8 SAHMs are Well Rested and Don't Need a Break
With all those hours spent at home, some of them have to be devoted to naps and rest, right?
Yes, there are resting hours in my dreams...which I don't actually have because I never sleep! Let me clue you into how a stay-at-home mother spends her kids' naptimes. They are spending these precious minutes crawling around on the floor, picking up a day's worth of crumbs and dog hair (come to think of it- buy two Roombas). They are folding mountains of laundry, making a million appointments for their family members, mowing a quarter of the lawn, showering, wiping every household surface their Clorox wipe can reach, and doing it all in the span of nap time or rest time.
The sweat drips down our backs, we cardio clean every single day, and in the event that we finish the midday chores before the kids come looking for us (and snacks) and we try to sit down, the spell is immediately broken. The kids are up, they have needs, and we have to put our Supermom capes back on and go find those Cheez-Its.
We absolutely need some kid-free time at some point, and cleaning during naptime does not count. Make sure you recharge your mom batteries now and again. Plan a mom's night out or hide in the bathtub with wine and Oreo cookies around 8 p.m. It's close enough to a spa experience.
Myth #9 SAHMs Have Less Mom Guilt Than Working Moms
Working moms carry around a boatload of guilt. They leave the kids to build careers and often worry and wonder if they are making the right life choice. It is commonly believed that stay-at-home moms live guilt-free because we never have to feel bad about being away from the kids. After all, we have made them our entire world, right?
So much nope. All moms experience mom guilt, regardless of their jobs. We feel guilt over the amount of screen time we allow, the number of times we raise our voices, how much we detest glitter and crafts when our kids clearly live for that jazz. Mom guilt comes with the territory. It is right up there with stretch marks and bags under the eyes. No one gets absolved from it.
Myth #10 We are So Fortunate to Work and Stay Home With the Kids
There are these crazy women out there who stay home with the kids and work full-time. These are my people, for I am one of them. If I had a dollar for every time, I heard someone say to me, "How nice that you can work and be with your kids," I would be so rich that I could stay home, hire two nannies, buy THREE Roombas and never work a day in my life again. I get why people think I have the best of both worlds, but thinking that this lifestyle is a charmed one is probably the greatest SAHM misconception of all time.
You want a heavy dose of mom guilt, tell your kids mommy is working and can't play for 40 hours per week. Moms who care for their kids full-time and work from home full-time are essentially working 3 full-time jobs, all the time. They do all the housework, scheduling, and chores, do all the kid stuff and earn a dollar. This is the epitome of stretched thin. Yes, I do feel fortunate that the kids and I are rarely apart, and I genuinely like that my daughters watch mom be a baddie at her job. I didn't particularly feel blessed when my seven-year-old popped a random cartwheel in a dress sans undies while I was on a Zoom call (thank the Tech Gods for Zoom backgrounds), and I don't feel lucky to have an 8 hour day stretched into a 12 hour day because I am stopped every seven seconds all day long.
Fact: Working from home and raising kids full time is a blessing and a curse. It can be done, I am living proof of this, but it can't be done gracefully. This lifestyle has constant hot mess written all over it. Those choosing this path have to embrace the fact that every hour of the day will be hairy. They have to channel the patience of a saint, actually, all of the saints, every last one of them, and they need to call in whatever troops they can find. I pay my teenager a hefty sum to entertain the littles while I am in meetings. It's fine. I am teaching her important life skills and fostering responsibility in her... with just a hint of bribery.
Different Moms, Different Jobs, Same Goals
Every mom has a different job, a way of doing things, and a varying approach to life. That's fine. No one goes about this parenting gig in the same way. As diverse as we all are in our mothering journeys, we all have the same end goal, and that is to raise happy, healthy, and mostly well-adjusted children (because no one wants to have to pay for those hefty therapy bills should we royally muck this up).