The Lies of Stay At Home Motherhood
Before I even start, let me say that I know this post will ruffle some feathers. After all, certain things can only continue to exist and persist if everyone tows the line and propagates the lie. And stay at home motherhood in the US is exactly one of those institutions. It is built on lies, false promises, and unrealistic expectations.
So, if you are a SAHM who is not satisfied with her existence, feels bored, unsupported, unappreciated, and forgotten by her community and society as a whole, but feels as if having those feelings is not ok and makes you a bad mother – I am here to tell you that I see you! I hear you! And I am you!
What you are feeling is your reality, and you are entitled to your feelings. And you’re also entitled to express those feelings without being shamed or feeling like this is a personal flaw. It is not! But those of us who are brave enough to shine the light on the injustices that we experience as mothers are hardly ever welcomed. We are a threat to the institutional lie of motherhood, and especially stay at home motherhood.
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The Myths and Lies Of Stay At Home Motherhood
1. Kids Need Mom To Stay At Home With Them
This is one of the biggest lies we are told as mothers. And one we use as a weapon against working mothers. We love to push this down women’s throats to make them feel guilty, force them into unpaid caregiving roles, and as a way to discriminate in the work environment.
Kids need a consistent caregiver in their lives in order to feel safe, secure, and to grow up to be their best selves. That caregiver, however, does not need to be the mother. In fact, we have research to show that not only do the children of working mothers do just as well as children of stay at home mothers, they actually do a little better in a lot of areas of life.
This isn’t to make you, stay at home mama, feel bad about yourself. If you chose to be a SAHM, love your life and feel like this is your life’s purpose – that’s amazing! Kudos to you and your beautiful family.
But this is to point out to the moms that feel guilt about working or feel like stay at home mom life isn’t for them, that being a stay at home mom isn’t a magical recipe to raising amazing kids. It’s all about quality time and being able to show your children what living a life of purpose looks and feels like.
Which leads me to lie number 2.
2. Women’s greatest life purpose is motherhood
I’d be surprised to find too many women out there who haven’t heard this growing up. Everyone tries to convince women that their life isn’t complete without children. Yet, no one tells that to men even though they are usually equal participants in creating this new life. But somehow their life is fine as is, but the women’s isn’t.
Also, pay attention to how this lie feeds into lie number 1. If your greatest purpose in life is to be a mother, then you should be forgoing all other pursuits once motherhood is upon you. And the best way to do that is to be a SAHM, who focuses her attention completely on the kids and the house. Her whole life and whole existence is now to be in service of her children, home, and husband. She now seizes to exist as a person with her own needs, wants, desires, and dreams. We do not have this narrative about fathers. They are not only allowed, they’re encouraged to carry on as if they do not have children and household responsibilities. Why? Because we’ve convinced women that it’s their sole responsibility to hold down the fort.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’ve ever dreamed of a life of a house slave. But that’s what stay at home motherhood is like for a lot of moms out there. And, honestly, it hurts my heart when I hear about it.
3. It’s Going To Be Easy and Natural
This is another myth that leads to so much disappointment and shame in moms. We are told that being a SAHM is easy (because if we have any other narrative around this, then we will have to compensate women for their unpaid labor and acknowledge that keeping a house and taking care of children is actual work, regardless of whether those children are biologically related to you) and things will come naturally.
First, let’s start by saying that stay at home motherhood in it’s current form is far from natural. Humans were never meant to raise kids in the isolation of their homes, without support and constant interaction with their peers. We are social beings and are meant to be a part of the community. We need to be connected to others, in order to feel safe and fulfilled.
So, anytime I hear a mom say that she is at home with her kids all day and feels bored, disconnected, and lonely, but thinks that this makes her a bad mom, I know that we as a society failed her. Because we fed women this horrible lie that motherhood is all they need to feel whole. And that if you don’t get this fulfillment from motherhood and from your kids, something must be wrong with you.
Dear mama, there is nothing wrong with you. You are a human who is seeing through this lie. And you are a human who is realizing that she needs connection and a community in order to feel good. It’s important for us to share our experience with others. That’s how we know we’re not crazy and life is simply this hard.
Which brings me back to the part of the lie that says being a stay at home mom is easy. We have convinced women that just because these children are biologically related to them, that taking care of them will be a piece of cake. Except experts tell a completely different story. Kids are more likely to misbehave around their primary caregiver (stay at home mom) for a variety of reasons, but the biggest one being safety and availability. Which is sweet and amazing, but makes taking care of our own kids an even more difficult job, than if they weren’t our own.
And let’s not forget that becoming a mom has likely changed many things about you. You may have become easily overstimulated by noise and clutter, you may be dealing with PPD or PPA, you may be having physical difficulties after pregnancy and birth, and you’re likely not sleeping very much. Not to mention that if you are trying to parent in a gentler and more empathetic way, you are dealing with a lot of untamed emotions on the daily.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Overall, being a stay at home mom is not easy, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise and discredit all the hard work that you do.
4. You Will Have So Much Free Time To Get Everything Done
Again, the only way we can prop up stay at home motherhood is by making up more lies. We are often told that working mothers are so tired because they don’t have enough time to get everything done. And that somehow being stay at home moms, we will have loads of free time to sit on the couch and eat bon bons.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember a less free time in my life than when my kids were too young to be in preschool, and I stayed home with them. Childcare is a full time job with little down time. And on top of the childcare, house work gets roped in as exclusively your responsibility because you are at home. Because if you are at home (and that goes for working from home too), you must have so much free time on your hands. You can’t possibly justify having household tasks not done while you are lounging at home.
And speaking of having time to get things done, being a stay at home mom you will have time to go to doctor’s appointments, run errands, work out, cook fresh food every day, and many other things that working moms won’t be able to do, except that you won’t. While running some errands with kids is perfectly fine, it’s not true for all errands or for all kids. Doctor’s appointments don’t allow children with you, and you can’t leave them at home unless you have back up childcare. Now, the gym, may very well be your salvation, if it includes childcare. But that also requires a child that will comply with being dropped off at the childcare, a luxury, I, personally, did not have. And cooking becomes an extreme sport with a baby and/or a young toddler in the house.
I hope that by now you are seeing that the reason these lies exist is because this is the best way to devalue the contributions that stay at home moms bring to not only the household, but society as a whole. Because if we value them, then we have to pay for women to stay at home and raise children, which goes against the American mentality, yet seems to work very well in basically all other countries in the world.
5. You Can Easily Work From Home While Caring For Children
Now this lie, maybe makes me more mad than any of the previous one. Somehow, after the pandemic, we have redefined stay at home motherhood to also include work from home motherhood. And it honestly boggles my mind. There are women out there who identify themselves as stay at home moms, while they are working from home full time. And that is simply not right. No one should be responsible for caring for children and the home, while also working at the same time. Not only is this making stay at home moms who are drowning as is, feel even more inadequate (if you’re not making money while at home, you’re just lazy), it’s also redefining the level of responsibility that is expected out of a mother.
The new standard is slowly inching towards a woman who can really do it all. She can earn an income, take care of the home, and the children simultaneously. Now I don’t know if this is a ploy to make men obsolete or a mysoginistic idea that women’s time is infinite. And if you’ve never heard of the latter, I would highly recommend reading the book Fair Play or watching the documentary on Hulu.
One of the main contributing reasons why we place no value in stay at home motherhood is the belief that women’s time is like sand, while men’s time is like diamonds (the analogy Eve Rodsky, author of Fair Play uses). And this belief is fed by the patriarchal and misogynistic belief that women’s time is simply not worth as much as men’s. Sadly, both men and women have bought into this lie a long time ago and continue to perpetuate it.
And this is where I ask this simple question – if you’re hiring a nanny or a babysitter, how would you feel if she told you that while she is watching your kids, she is also going to be working on her accounting job? My guess is, you wouldn’t want to hire a nanny like that because you know that she wouldn’t be able to provide adequate childcare. And we can’t expect this of mothers either. Just because we gave birth to a human, we did not all of a sudden grow extra arms, stopped needing rest and relaxation, clone ourselves so we can be in multiple places at the same time, and magically stopped being constrained by the 24 hour cycle. And to treat the situation to the contrary just further shows how society views mothers – not human.
What Should You Do With This New Found Knowledge
Whatever you feel is right. Maybe it is now finally time for you to get truly angry at the whole system and at all the lies. Or maybe it’s time for you to breathe a sigh of relief knowing that there is nothing wrong with you, and being a SAHM is just not all that it’s cracked out to be. Whatever your response to this is – it’s a valid one. We all process our emotions differently. But the number one response I would urge you to have is to take stock of your current life, figure out what of it you’d like to remain the same, and of it you would like to change. And then walk fearlessly down that path.
There is no right way for any of us to live or to raise our family (except being negligent or abusive) and all of us are allowed to create family structures that serve us. So, if being a stay at home mom doesn’t feel easy, natural, fulfilling or the life you signed up for – it’s ok. This life isn’t for everyone, and it doesn’t need to be.
It’s important that we are truthful with ourselves and other mothers, especially the new mothers. It’s ok to tell the truth, your truth. And it’s ok to see that your truth may not be everyone’s truth. Because as I said before, some women thrive being SAHMs. And some women only thrive when they are breaking the glass ceiling. While others prefer to be somewhere in between, wanting to hold a flexible job that allows them to contribute financially to the family, but still enjoy being able to stay at home with their sick kids. There is simply no size fits all and that’s a good thing.
Please, take this post with a grain of salt. Nothing that I write in here is fact. This is my truth that I wanted to share. And I know this is a truth for a lot of other SAHMs as well. But if this didn’t resonate with you, that’s fine too. You can let me know in the comments, and we can have a chat.
The most important message that I want you to carry out of this post is that your truth is valid and should never be dismissed. Your experienced should never be silenced by others. Live authentically and never be ashamed of it.
I see you, mama! You are amazing!!!