The Not-So-Dreamy Side of My “Blessed” Life
by Edil Cuepo
Before I sat down to write this piece, I had just finished cleaning up my 23-month-old daughter’s behind and her poopy diaper. It was so major of a job, it had to be performed in the tub. Right after I washed her Royal Highness’s heiny, (one that I adore so much), I looked to my left and noticed my facial wash sitting at the tub’s edge. Me to myself: “I might as well wash my face now or I’ll never get the chance.” It was 5 pm.
The above scenario pretty much sums up what its like to be a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM). It is all about multi-tasking, or you’ll never get to doing, well, anything. It is far from the popular myth of the mom “sitting around, watching TV” idea all day. It means being “ON” and needed every second of the day; from the time your little one pries open your eyes with their chubby little fingers — to the time you pass out (hopefully, in your bed, and not their crib). If anyone is awake in your household, you are likely the one who gets up with them. I stay up late with my husband so we can spend at least some time together after he gets home from work. And in the middle of the night, when the baby wakes up, it’s only me in charge. So yeah. Sometimes, there are moments on the worst days, when I hate being a SAHM.
I am proud to say, that I am the lucky type of servant whose husband cooks or picks up dinner for her on most days. And if you aren’t on to that yet, you should definitely look into it. It makes a whole world of difference to have a partner who takes on some of the household load. It makes me feel less like Dobby.
According to Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, my personality type is ENFJ — which means that being around people is embedded in me. Being on my own with my daughter with little to no contact with the world until my husband comes home, is the opposite of what my soul craves. I’m pretty sure that the feelings of isolation are not unique to extroverted moms. We are talking days/weeks/months of just mommy and me so it’s not shocking that all kinds of moms (introverted, extroverted, everything in-between) take hundreds of pictures of our babies in a day. Our child can literally be our only source of contact some days.
Also, let’s talk about who brings home the bacon. Not me. No matter how financially secure our family may be, I still feel insecure about not contributing. I feel guilty about every penny I spend, especially on myself, even with the not-so-big things such as pedicures, haircut, clothes, etc. I think this will never change until I start making money again.
It is rare that I get a minute to myself. Even when I give up and turn on the TV for my daughter, I find myself emptying the dishwasher and loading laundry, again. Now that I am about to start exploring preschools for her, I start to daydream about what it would be like to have a couple of hours during the day all to myself. I think about taking a nice walk on the beach or at the mall by myself, being able to work on my blog peacefully in the comfort of our living room, getting waxed whenever, going to the gym on a regular basis, and maybe eating my favorite banana bread, slowly. The smallest things that I took for granted before I became a mom, would be the biggest indulgences if I could do them now.
I think, of course, a lot of these things could be “fixed” if I scheduled things differently with my husband. Or even better, if I hired a babysitter to help out once in a while. But then to me, hiring help goes back to my feelings of financial insecurity— and feeling like I don’t deserve help since I don’t contribute to our family financially. On weekends, when my husband is home, and I do have opportunities to take time for myself, I just want to spend it as a family. It is a constant mental struggle, between mom guilt and loving myself.
This is old news, but I don’t hear it said aloud enough. So here I am, saying it: I feel discriminated against as a stay-at-home-mom, for making the choice to be home with my child instead of working outside the home. Although I know there shouldn’t be a competition about what “mom type” has it worse, sometimes I think: If working moms face discrimination in the workplace from men (for being women and mothers), can you imagine the discrimination stay-at-home moms face from men and women — for passing up on the opportunity to work, to grow a professional career, and to contribute in and outside of their families in a “meaningful” way? I can’t help but feel judged. And it hurts.
I am more than just a homemaker, snack-giver, laundry-runner, express folder, and dishwasher-safe babymaker. I am human and like any other human, there are a lot of sides to me apart from being a mother. I am a creative, who likes to think, brainstorm, and work on things that inspire and touch people. I am an entrepreneur, a digital marketer, and a multi-tasker. I care about feminism, diversity, gender equality, and immigrant rights. I am many other things beyond a meme of messy hair and melted iced coffee.
The next time you see me take my screaming kid out for a walk or forcing her into her car seat, don’t feel sorry for me. Smile and cheer me on. Look at me with respect, recognizing that my hands are full and how amazing that I am still able to manage. If I have a quiet baby, take a moment and ask me how my day is going. Talk to me about the news (because on most days, I haven’t had a chance to check). If you see me at the grocery store, perhaps give me a feel-good compliment aside from “your baby is cute” or “your kid is so smart”. How about me? I am cute and smart too. How about my hair that I brushed first thing today, or my earrings, or my face that I managed to put on in a record time of under 15 seconds? How about, “I saw you on the United Nations Facebook page! It’s amazing that you are able to take your daughter to these kinds of events with you” or better yet, “I would love your opinion on this . . .” ?
I am just like every mom, and every individual, doing what she needs to survive. I do what is best for my family. Sometimes, at the end of the day, I just want to be left alone. Sometimes I want to be talked to about something else, other than what my little girl did that day. We already know how much I am in love and obsessed with her, but on hard days, I just need a window to the real life craze. It is hard not to feel exhausted, lonely, insecure and out-of-touch with myself and the world when I am home all day, dealing with every whine and crumb on the floor.
If there were one thing that’s made me survive the not so dreamy side of stay-at-home motherhood, my answer would still be none other than my daughter. Yes, she who is the cause of 80% of my pain anyway. With just one unexpected milestone, a tight hug, a wet kiss or an “I wuv foo” from her, I suddenly feel like I’m a new mom, ready to face yet another day at home, all over again.
Edil is a NYC real estate broker turned full-time mama and blogger at Rockawaybaby.org. Her mission is to inspire love and pride in every mama’s decision to stay-at-home. Born and raised in the Philippines, she is living the island life in Rockaway Beach, NY. Follow her at @rockawaybaby
Image of Sophia Loren, from her cookbook, “In Cucina con Amore,” 1970.