Around this time last year, I accompanied my husband to a dinner hosted by one of his colleagues. I sat amongst a number of highly successful and intelligent women who introduced themselves and talked about their jobs. When it came to my turn, I said, “Oh, I'm just a stay-at-home mom."
As in––I don't have a job.
As in––I don't work.
I'm just a stay-at-home mom.
That statement, and the way I said it, has haunted me ever since. I didn't like the way I shied away from it, like it was something to be embarrassed about.
Because if you're a stay-at-home mom, sometimes it's hard to explain, even to yourself, how it's an incredibly demanding and, at times, difficult occupation. Even though it's not a typical, paid, report-producing, tangible-outcome-providing job.
Mama, I want you to know that it's not just you.
If you've ever gotten to the end of the day feeling sapped of every last ounce of energy, and then looked around and struggled to identify what you actually accomplished that day––it's not just you.
If you've ever felt like any time you have to yourself is colored with the anxiety of a child who might wake up or a task that you still haven't gotten around to completing ––it's not just you.
If you've ever sat on the floor, building blocks or having tea parties with your little ones, and shocked yourself by entertaining thoughts like: "Is this it? Is this my life and all I'm doing with it? Have I wasted my education, my experience, everything I worked towards before I had kids?"––it's not just you.
If you've ever wished that you could, for once, get some kind of report card, performance review, any kind of praise, or even just acknowledgement, for how well you're doing your job––it's not just you.
If you've ever run into an old colleague while you're in less-than-professional attire, with a child hanging off your hip and one in a stroller, and gotten annoyed at yourself for the unexpected embarrassment you felt––it's not just you.
If you've ever craved an intellectual conversation on a topic unrelated to children with another adult, or dressing up in a tailored suit, heels and lipstick––it's not just you.
If you've ever worried about whether you'll truly be able to re-enter the workforce one day, because you're quite certain you've lost everything you once had in your professional arsenal––it's not just you.
If you've ever greeted your husband at the end of the day by immediately handing him a crying baby, or a shrieking toddler, or both, and given him crazy eyes that said, "I'm tapping out for the rest of the evening otherwise I'm going to combust"––it's not just you.
If you've ever just wanted quiet, space, no one touching you, and no one asking you for anything, and then as soon as they're asleep, instantly regretted ever feeling that way ––it's not just you.
And, mama? If you've ever felt like this is absolutely everything you've ever wanted, and you wouldn't trade it for the world ––it's not just you.
If you've never felt more comfortable and content with your place in this season of life than you are right now, knowing that it's a season that will pass you by all too quickly ––it's not just you.
If you've ever had someone react dismissively or awkwardly when you mention that you're a stay-at-home mom, but then you've shrugged it off confidently because you know that this is some of the most valuable work you will ever do ––and yes, it is work––it's not just you.
And you know, truthfully, these thoughts and feelings don't only apply to stay-at-home moms. Whether we stay at home with our kids, work from home, or work outside the home, all of it ––all of it–– is work.
We are all working.
Our roles, in some ways, are different. Our days look different. But while our pressures come from different sources, I guarantee you that some of them will overlap.
We are all working.
We all stay up well past a sensible bedtime because we're trying to catch up on what we couldn't get to during the day. We all lay awake at night because there's always that thing you still need to organize for your child. We all experience the baby who cries out on the crackling monitor at unpredictable times, the toddler who creeps into your room at two in the morning, the fever that has been worrying you because it still hasn't broken, or that developmental or social issue that's been weighing on your mind and heart.
And when you hear the questions that seem to constantly echo in your head: Am I doing the right thing? Am I doing enough? Am I a good mother?
It's not just you.