I’ve spent the last 13 years as a stay at home mom (or SAHM) with a three-year break where I worked out of the home. I spent 10 of those years as a single mom, fully supporting my family with the income I made running my own businesses. Then, as the story goes — girl meets boy, they fall in love, become a blended family, get married, have two more babies in two years, and sail off into paradise. Right?!
All of that stuff happened, except the part where we sailed off into paradise. Instead, he sailed off to work, and I ended up knee-deep in dirty diapers and endless piles of laundry; or as I like to call it SAHMOSIS.
What is SAHMOSIS? It’s a term I created for a medical and mental disorder (that I also created) that afflicts an estimated 85% of mothers who stay at home with their kids. It’s a disorder that manifests as extreme fatigue, lack of self-care, loss of connection with other adults, feelings of isolation, and more.
When my husband and I first started dating, I had been working for a pharmaceutical company, as a digital marketer for an over-the-counter skincare brand, for about seven months. I was still consulting for a few clients as my side hustle, and I had two kids in elementary school —so the amount of time I spent away from them traveling for my corporate job had started to weigh on me. Neither of them had ever been in daycare, and I had built my businesses around being a mom, PTO meetings, and extracurricular activities — so I’d been home with them their whole lives. I thought I wanted to work outside the home, but every time I tried, I realized how much I loathed the rigidity and lack of control of my own time.
That’s what I thought.
I look back on my early years as a mom with such disgust for my arrogance. Back then I had my shit together. I became a mom a few months before my 19th birthday, so I was young, stupid, and had lots of energy. I was also really determined not to end up a statistic, you know, uneducated and unable to take care of kids that I had too soon — so I worked three jobs for a while, then when I saved enough money, I quit and started my first business. I thought it was easy. I used to laugh at women who complained about how hard it is to juggle it all. There I was, barely 21, with two kids, a successful business, working while my kids were asleep — and it was easy. I was Vice President of PTO, I had time to cook, craft, and bake every day, and I could be fully functional on 10 hours of sleep every week. I chided women who seemed run down, especially when they were married. I thought, ‘how hard could it be? If I can do this easy, why can’t you?’ I was an idiot and it came back to bite me in the ass. Now that I think about it, I must’ve been crazy. I guess I was high on my desire to prove to everybody else that I could do it.
Fast forward, a few years later at 30 years old, I had Baby #3. I was engaged and I was as prepared as anyone could be. I had quit my job 5 months before and had been working at home again and loving it. It was a breeze back in the day, so it would be even easier with a partner, right?!
Jordan had taken a month off for parental leave, and he was fantastic with the baby, but he was a hard sleeper — which meant that he rarely heard the baby when he cried at night. So, I did every overnight diaper and feeding, and Harry fed every two hours. Then, he stopped sleeping at all during the night, until we moved him into our bed; and even then I couldn’t sleep comfortably, because between the Dock-A-Tot, and a tired daddy there wasn’t much room left for me.
When he went back to work, all hell broke loose. I started consulting again, but I quickly learned that there was no possible way to schedule conference calls between naps because the naps were unpredictable. The house was a mess. We weren’t eating dinner until 7pm. I was a hot effing mess. Then, by some stroke of genius (I’m totally being sarcastic), we got pregnant two more times before Harry’s first birthday — one resulted in a miscarriage. Harry, was 18 months old when our fourth baby, Mara was born. This time, my husband ended up with seven weeks off after she was born, due to some complications and pre-term labor scares. After a week, I realized that I had royally screwed up. How the hell was I supposed to take care of a newborn and a toddler, and get anything done?
Now, I find myself home with a toddler and an infant and I’m struggling. Even though, I’ve been here before, this time is different — and this time, I’m learning a lot about myself and gaining a perspective that I didn’t have before. I’ve also gained a lot more respect for the women (and men) who make the sacrifice to stay home and raise children, because it’s much harder than it looks — and much harder than society often gives us credit for.