Menu

Becoming a SAHM was harder than I expected

In motherhood, there are no grades, or awards, or gold stars. But, it gets better.

Becoming a SAHM was harder than I expected

“Why didn't you seek help back then?" she asked me.

I waited, thinking, not sure how to answer. After a few moments, I responded, “I didn't know I needed it."

My therapist and I have been talking about the early baby days. About my transition from working in an office, getting dressed every day, focusing on my career, engaging with other humans all day and bringing home a paycheck, to the SAHM life.

We've been talking about how my initiation into motherhood was nothing at all like I thought it would be.

I wanted to be a mom my entire life. I began babysitting at 12 and remember rocking babies and toddlers to sleep in my own tiny arms, thinking of the day I'd have one of my own. I was ready to start having kids from the minute my husband and I said our vows (even before we said them, if I'm being honest).

I was so ready. So prepared. (And so naive.)

It was my choice to become a stay-at-home mom and leave a career I loved, a career in which I was thriving in at the time. I wanted to go all in on the motherhood thing, and I didn't think there was room for my teaching career too. At least not right now, I told myself. I can always go back.

So many of us never go back. And that's not necessarily a good or bad thing—it just is. I don't regret not going back, but the journey sure hasn't been smooth.

“Tell me about those first few years," my therapist says.

I sit back on her brown leather couch, close my eyes, and try to sift through the fog. How do I describe it? I see a woman, un-showered, tired, shoulders hunched, cooking pasta on the stove. Or maybe folding laundry.

I see a baby in the exersaucer or pack and play. I hear the pitter-patter of feet as a toddler comes barreling into the room wielding his latest play-dough creation.

I see her look up and glance at the clock. Two in the afternoon. She's been alone with the kids for seven hours. Four or five more to go, she'll say to herself. (Unless her husband is traveling. Then it could be days. Or weeks.)

She looks at her kitchen, at her house, at her kids, at her life. She has it all. Healthy kids. A beautiful home on a cul-de-sac. A minivan. A steady income provided by her husband. The stay-at-home mom life she wanted.

It's perfect. It's wonderful. She's so fortunate. So grateful.

Right?

So why is she empty? Why is she looking at that clock? What's missing if she has it all?

Measurable markers of success. That's what my therapist says was missing in that season of my life. Something I crave. Something I've relied on my entire life to feel valuable, important, successful: Grades. Paychecks. Awards. Evaluations.

But in motherhood, there are no grades, or awards, or gold stars when your child writes his name. Or pees on the potty. Or behaves well at the grocery store. You just have to find pride in it yourself. And I didn't know how.

I had kids who were bright, on track with their peers, often told they were a joy to be with, so why did I feel like I was failing? And why was I jealous and resentful of my husband's career achievements?

Because he received awards, raises, bonuses and promotions. I did not.

He had business dinners and last-minute lunch dates. I ate cold hot dogs left over on my kids' plates.

He had bosses praising him. I had small children telling me I was mean because they couldn't have fruit snacks for breakfast.

He was using his college and graduate degrees. At the time, I felt like mine were just collecting dust.

I was depressed, but I didn't know it. Or at least, I couldn't admit it. Because that would mean failing at the one job I had wanted my entire life. Why didn't I love every minute? What was wrong with me?

Therapy has helped me see exactly why it was so hard. Why a mother of three healthy children with food on the table and a roof over our heads could be in such a hole. And why, in actuality, there was nothing “wrong" with me. And I wasn't “failing" as a mom.

Therapy has helped me see how abrupt the shift to my new life was, having worked until the day before my first son was born. It helped me see how unprepared I had been at how unrealistic my expectations of motherhood were prior to taking on the role myself.

I wish I could go back and sit with that mom, hunched over the stove, or matching up tiny socks. I wish I would put my arms around her shoulders and tell her that it's okay to feel empty some days. And that she should go talk to someone now, not a decade in the future.

I wish I could tell her that, in 10 years, she'd have her measurable markers of success again. She'd be a writer, working from home, and those tiny babies and toddlers would be thriving children, running the neighborhood, playing baseball, writing stories, and making her feel immense pride.

I wish I could tell her—promise her—that it gets better. That her cup will be filled.

I can't go back and help the person I was so many years ago. But I can be grateful for what I've learned. Turns out, it doesn't make you a failure of a mother to seek help. In fact, and I know this now, it makes you a success. And that's a relief, since “success" is, in fact, my favorite word.

You might also like:

Without camps and back-to-school plans still TBD, the cries of "I'm bored!" seem to be ringing louder than ever this summer. And if you're anything like me, by August, I'm fresh out of boxes to check on my "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys.

With that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite wooden toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Shop

Sorry, you can’t meet our baby yet

Thank you for understanding. ❤️

In just over three weeks, we will become parents. From then on, our hearts will live outside of our bodies. We will finally understand what everyone tells you about bringing a child into the world.

Lately, the range of emotions and hormones has left me feeling nothing short of my new favorite mom word, "hormotional." I'm sure that's normal though, and something most people start to feel as everything suddenly becomes real.

Our bags are mostly packed, diaper bag ready, and birth plan in place. Now it's essentially a waiting game. We're finishing up our online childbirth classes which I must say are quite informational and sometimes entertaining. But in between the waiting and the classes, we've had to think about how we're going to handle life after baby's birth.

I don't mean thinking and planning about the lack of sleep, feeding schedule, or just the overall changes a new baby is going to bring. I'm talking about how we're going to handle excited family members and friends who've waited just as long as we have to meet our child. That sentence sounds so bizarre, right? How we're going to handle family and friends? That sentence shouldn't even have to exist.

Keep reading Show less
Life

This viral post about the 4th trimester is exactly what new mamas need right now

"We are alone. Together. You are surrounded all the other mothers who are navigating this tender time in isolation. You are held by all of us who have walked the path before you and who know how much you must be hurting. You are wrapped in the warm embrace of mama earth, as she too settles into this time of slowness and healing."

Artist and teacher Catie Atkinson at Spirit y Sol recently shared a beautiful drawing of a new mom crying on a couch—leaking breasts, newborn baby, pile of laundry and what we can only assume is cold coffee, included. Everything about the image is so real and raw to me—from the soft stomach to the nursing bra and the juxtaposition of the happy wallpaper to the palpable vulnerability of the mother—I can almost feel the couch underneath me. I can feel the exhaustion deep in this woman's bones.

My heart feels the ache of loneliness right alongside hers. Because I remember. I remember the confusion and uncertainty and love and messy beauty of the fourth trimester so well. After all, it's etched in our minds and bodies forever.

Keep reading Show less
Life