“My husband gets home from work and thinks he can….”
“…then I cupped my hands like this and let her puke in them.”
“...so finally, I told my in-laws that if they say one more thing about Timmy’s ADD, I’ll….”
On and on they babble, tripping over each other’s words, growing more shrill and cacophonous by the minute until they literally drive other patrons from their tables. I happen to know that all of these women live in the same upscale neighborhood down the road, but to hear them talk, you’d imagine that they’re trapped in dank and dirty hovels that no amount of 409 could salvage, prisoners of tiny, preschool-aged tyrants and thankless husbands who will never understand the sacrifices these women have made for their families.
Despite what you’re hearing in the aisles of T.J. Maxx and on Oprah, I’ve got news you won’t read in any issue of Family Fun: being a stay-at-home mom is not that hard.
I realize I’ve just made a bunch of frosted, bobbed heads explode in subdivisions across Middle Tennessee. I can imagine sippie cups flying across stainless steel kitchen islands as I write this. I don’t care. I’ve lived among the minivan-driving SAHM set for nearly five years now, and it’s time someone called their bluff.
Because I can tell you from experience that for every night spent cleaning up the effects of rotavirus, there’s an entire day spent eating marshmallows from the bag and watching Disney movies in our pajamas. For every disdainful glance at my house-slipper-and-jeans combo from a disapproving supermarket bag boy, there are 25 sloppy hugs and kisses from my tiny “employees” at home. For every interminable hour spent rereading Mr. Brown Can Moo, there’s a child-free hour or two I can wrangle for myself to spend painting toes or plucking eyebrows.
I know there are those who don’t fit cozily beneath my blanket statement: single moms, moms suffering from a disability or depression or addiction, moms with special needs children and moms who stay at home not by choice, but because they can’t get a job that pays enough for them to afford day care. You can just cancel that email to the editor right now because I’m not talking about you. I’m talking about the Bugaboo stroller-pushing Green Hills Mall mommies, the Westhaven poolside mommies and the Lexus SUV-driving mommies, those jewelry-drenched women whose bitching I hear every time I’m within 50 feet of them. This one hates her daughter’s preschool teacher. That one is sick of being treated like the maid. Sometimes, I admit, I’m part of their hysterical SAHM whinefest. But while I realize we all need to vent, I’d like to know when it became all the rage for stay-at-home moms to establish themselves as suburban martyrs in pastel Polos. I put the question to some of my readers and received a flood of impassioned responses.
“I know people with all kinds of jobs, and they all think they work harder than anyone else realizes,” writes a mom in St. Louis. “Why shouldn’t stay-at-home parents feel the same way? Isn’t there something in the Constitution about the right to bitch and moan?”
“I think being an at-home mom was one of the hardest things I have ever done,” writes Barbara. “I have had very demanding jobs, [but] I think being ‘on’ 24/7 was much more difficult.”
“Both times I’ve been a SAHM, I’ve had to go on Prozac,” says a Hendersonville mom. “You figure it out.”
But plenty of other readers agreed that staying at home with the kids is far less stressful and more fulfilling than, for example, a job at The Tennessean.
“Since I have been both a stay-at-home mom and a full-time working mom, I can honestly say the full-time working mom job is harder,” writes Jana. “I still have to do everything I always did while at home, only I have to work it in between working 40 hours a week. Being a stay-at-home mom should be looked at as a gift...of time, which is what all moms need more of.”
“Overall, it isn’t nearly as bad as we like to make our hubbies think it is,” writes Karly. “Don’t tell mine I said that, though.”
But it’s a reader named Virginia who cuts to the heart of the dispute.
“The biggest thing about being a SAHM that I hate is that it’s a completely unappreciated job,” she writes, “and that’s the reason I often exaggerate how difficult my day was in conversation.”Exaggeration I can understand. The trouble is, too many of you out there are starting to believe your own hype.
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