I once had a co-worker who said, "Stay-at-home moms get super involved in their kids' schools and do those annoying, over-the-top Pinterest crafts so that they feel like they're actually doing something with their lives." And then she added, with a flippant tone, "Working moms don't have time for that shit."
If you find yourself nodding at that statement, remembering that time your SAHM mom friend told you she was exhausted and you thought, "How hard can it be to pick up Legos and watch Housewives all day?"...
This isn't for you.
This is for the mom who has struggled — even if just a little bit — with her decision to stay home with her kids. The mom who sometimes feels insecure that she should be "more," who feels she has to seriously overachieve in motherhood just to break even, and whose friends and family use the word "just" as a weapon against her choice not to re-enter the workforce right away...or ever.
I was you.
I fielded everyone's favorite SAHM question, "What do you do all day?" over family brunch, was met with confusion when I'd mention to my friends not always having time to shower, and even felt the unspoken — and sometimes very loudly spoken — pressure from my husband to produce proof that my day had been worthwhile. Because the healthy, happy, well-cared for twin toddlers that I was shuttling to gym classes and playdates, making homemade baby food for, and already teaching their letters, colors, and a second freakin' language somehow wasn't proof enough.
And then would come the question that — I'll admit — often made me fall victim to those insecurities, the one about the dreams I had before I became a mom:
"Are you still writing?"
The answer was sometimes yes. But mostly no. Of course, I had ideas swimming around in my head every day, but I had poured myself into a 24-hour shift with twins, and frankly, I was too damn tired to execute those ideas. So I let them drown. And I fought that guilt every day.
You see, I have a writing degree from one of the best film schools in the world. And it wasn't a cheap degree — it cost lots of money and really, really hard work. But it came with an inspiring promise of career success. And when you have talent, training, and connections in your chosen field, you're supposed to be more than "just a mom."
But if that was true, how could I feel so fulfilled taking care of my babies all day?
I still remember the time I read a heated debate in a Facebook mom group, which began when another SAHM expressed her frustration that her husband didn't get the promotion he was hoping for, so she had to return to work earlier than she wanted to so they could stay afloat financially. She was met with a handful of encouraging comments, of course. But, as happens frequently in Facebook mom groups, it wasn't long before someone jumped in the conversation to pass judgement, saying, "I'm sorry, but my parents spent way too much money on my education for me to just sit at home and let my husband take care of me."
And this wasn't one of those, "you can't read a person's tone over the internet" times. This woman's tone was hot, and it definitely left a burn.
I was at home with my girls at the time myself, so it upset me that this SAHM (and by extension, me) didn't have a safe space to vent to those who were supposed to be on her team, that these spaces instead came with so much judgment and such little respect for each other's tough decisions. And that even among our own, the role of "Mom" has been treated as something so trivial that a woman's desire to give it her focus is looked down upon, as if it's a slap in the face to women's rights.
And worse, as if she's setting a bad example for her daughters by not working outside of the home — yes, I've been told that.
I stayed at home until my daughters were in preschool, and I was a little conflicted sometimes. But of all the things I'd second-guessed during those early years, never once did I think my decision would lead them to believe that they were limited in what they could dream and achieve.
Because here's the difference between the generations before us and ours:
We have choices (financial situation permitting, obviously).
We can carry laptop bags, take conference calls, and lead businesses to success. We can carry diaper bags, stay up late with colicky babies, and lead our families to success. We can do either, both, something in-between, or something else entirely and still show our daughters what female empowerment looks like — because it's not just a snappy slogan on a t-shirt. It's something that comes from what you say, what you do, what you teach.
And by the way, you know that working mom you're friends with who is the epitome of modern motherhood and totally killing it in her career? She sometimes second guesses her decisions, too. It's motherhood, after all. A winding, unpredictable journey whose map is written in pencil. And the only thing certain about it is that everyday it will challenge you.
So, to the stay-at-home mom who doesn't feel like enough, you are. You may have once had a different vision for your life and feel insecure that you've gotten off track. Or you may have been surprised by the fulfillment you've felt in this role and laid new tracks altogether. Either way, you're a rockstar. You are just as important a part of modern motherhood as your working mom peers and your experience is just as valuable. You, too, are showing your daughters the importance of going after your dreams — and it's OK if yours are in the home instead of the office. As long as you believe in them and own them with conviction when you're challenged by others...you ARE girl power.
I've been back at work for over a year now — yes, writing!— and I don't worry about those things much anymore. Now I worry that I'm screwing my kids up in all different ways. It's motherhood, after all. But I still think about you. A lot. I know how hard you're working, and I know people are still asking you what you do all day. I hope that you're getting some rest, but I know you're not and probably won't for a long time. But, at the very least, I hope that you've been able to find your team — those amazing women (and men!) watching you from the dugout, who support you, understand you, appreciate you, and fight for you, not with you, as you strive to knock this mom thing out of the park.
And if you happen to still be looking for a few good moms to join that team, count me as one to have your back.
I'll be the one doing the really awkward victory dance when you slide into home.