I am a proud working mom – emphasis on the word proud. As a single mom for five years, I developed my teaching career, thinking one day I would find “The One” and have the luxury to settle down and stay at home. Luxury. I’ll get back to that word later.
I found “The One,” realized we couldn’t afford for me to stay at home, while also realizing I really loved my job. Plus my daughter was school-aged at this point. Our schedules mixed well enough for me not to encounter the problem of that ubiquitous working mom guilt.
Now, five years later, I have my sweet baby boy and the working mom guilt begins again. The first six months of his life became that constant back and forth struggle of loving my job but loving my son more and wishing I had the luxury (there’s that word again) of staying home with him.
I pumped in my classroom, with the door locked and a threatening “do not disturb” sign posted, while I simultaneously ate lunch and graded papers and texted my mom to check on the boy. I sped home before traffic hit, did dinner and housework in a rush, all the while thinking, “if only I could stay at home. I would get so much done and have more energy to spare for him.”
This summer when school let out, I began my journey as a luxurious stay-at-home mom.
And because this new job was going to be so easy and fun, I told my sister I would also watch her two month old while I “just played all day” with my six month old.
Day one was fun. Easy. I fed babies, changed diapers, worked out while they napped, picked up around the house, made dinner, and felt pretty good about life. Day two – same thing. By day three, when both babies decided to be hungry and whiny and tired at the same time, all day long, I realized it was not going to be as easy as I thought. Now, into month two, I barely shower anymore. I’ve caught myself growling out loud (seriously – like a tiger) when the crying doesn’t stop. Making dinner is a miracle. Getting a workout in is almost nonexistent. Dishes and laundry are distant dreams. I’m brain dead when my husband comes home, yet desperately craving adult conversation (and wine) at the same time. I used to dread the end of summer break. Now I want a break from my break.
And there it is. The realization that being a stay at home mom is just as difficult, exhausting, and shame-inducing as a working mom.
No, I’m not as rushed to get everything done on the weekends. But I don’t do anything well either. I’m always interrupted by a cry or a poopy diaper or a spit-up mess. I live for naptime the way I used to live for weekends. I eat standing up, with a baby on my hip. I get pooped on and puked on as much as I get middle school eye rolls in class. I’ve actually nursed my son while giving my niece a bottle.
Today, my husband asked me if I’d ever consider staying home if we could afford it. My response? Sure, if I could get paid. The term “working mother” is a misnomer when it is only reserved for those with a paycheck.
So I apologize that I ever thought it was the easy job. To all you hard-working stay at home moms who are clearly NOT chilling on the couch eating cookie butter from the jar and watching daytime TV while sweet little angels contentedly play at your feet, I apologize. To those of you who currently have a baby poop stain on your shorts because you haven’t found the time to change yet (or just forgot it’s there), I apologize. Because today I am one of you. And I just remembered I need to change my shorts.
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Erin Kerry works full time as mother to Isabel, 10, and Roman, 8 months. She also teaches middle school English in Plano from August to June. Hobbies include binging on Netflix with her amazingly fun and patient husband Richard, cuddling with her babies, and finding a quiet place to read.