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It's Unfair That Stay-at-Home Moms Aren't Allowed to Complain About How Hard It Is

Photograph by Twenty20

There have been days in my years as a stay-at-home mom where I’ve felt so overwhelmed that the room starts to spin and I start shaking. Maybe the kids are cranky, whining incessantly for food. One won’t get out of the car, one won’t get in. Maybe it’s one of those mornings where we’re running late and everyone has to poop at the same time.

Sometimes the littlest things can trigger me.

Usually it's a day I haven’t slept enough (which is pretty much every day.) Or a day when something outside my life as a mom is stressing me out and I can’t help but bring it to the table.

Very often, on the days that I really lose it, it's a combination of things—days upon days of stresses that come crashing down on me. It's the loneliness of it, too; the fact that some weeks, I'm the only one in charge of these tiny humans for 12 hours each day and at least half of the night.

In short, being a SAHM mom is, hands down, one of the hardest things I have ever done. But you know what one of the most stressful things about it is? I felt like I can’t complain—that I’m not permitted to express all the angst and stress and fear that I live with on a daily basis.

I think anyone who’s been a SAHM—especially one with very little outside help—will tell you that it’s grueling, and more physically and emotionally draining than they expected. In fact, a Gallup poll from 2012 found that SAHMs are more likely to experience sadness, depression and anger than working moms.

The thing is, the rest of the world doesn’t necessarily understand how difficult our lives are—many won’t even acknowledge it.

These days, being able to stay home with your kids is seen as something that only a lucky few can actually afford to do. And even if that means cutting coupons and living in a tiny house when your kids are young, it’s definitely looked upon as something that only someone with some amount of privilege is able to swing.

After all, you’re not at an office—you’re home all day. You’re likely not bringing in any income. Most of the work you do is invisible: No one notices an unclean house until it’s dirty and no one realizes just how many meals we make for our kids or how many messes of theirs we clean up.

They think we’re the lucky ones because we get to watch our kids grow up, shower them with all our love and affection every single day.

The thing is, the reality of a SAHM is often much different than that. It’s work, just as much as any other work is. Think about it: If you weren’t staying home with them, you’d have to be paying someone else to. It’s not all sunshine and roses. Children grate on your nerves. They are relentless in their needs. And it Does. Not. End. Not even when your head finally crashes down on the pillow.

So, by god, we have every damn right to complain. To cry. To talk about how anxious, depressed and just flipping overwhelmed being a SAHM makes us sometimes.

But, if most people view the life of a SAHM as an esteemed position for someone to be in, one that they themselves would most likely choose and one that isn’t really even considered “work,” then how are we supposed to feel like we can vent in any way about just how truly awful our days are sometimes?

Aren’t we SAHMs supposed to be grateful? Aren’t we supposed to be basking in the light of our beautiful, perfect children?

Well, the answer is a big, fat no.

It is hard. It is work.

It’s silly to compare the work of a mother to the other work that people do in the world, but for some of us, it's as physically and mentally challenging as any other jobs that you can name. And we rarely get any breaks, not even for meals or to pee.

So, by god, we have every damn right to complain. To cry. To talk about how anxious, depressed and just flipping overwhelmed being a SAHM makes us sometimes.

None of that means that we love our kids any less. And none of it means that we don’t realize for one second how very lucky we are to be with them for such a significant portion of their childhoods.

It just means that we are human and that we are honest. And we SAHMs need more honesty in our lives. We need to open up about our struggles to our partners, our families, ourselves and each other. We don’t need to put on a happy face all the time or pretend that we’ve got it all figured out. We need to be able to ask for help and to brainstorm ways that we can make this whole gig easier for ourselves.

I know that any time I’ve opened up about my struggles as a SAHM to my fellow mom friends, what I’ve received most of all is commiseration, not judgment. And, when I have shared these struggles honestly with my partner, what I’ve gotten back isn’t an eye roll, but compassion.

Most of all, when I was brutally honest with myself about how much I was struggling, I was able to finally think clearly about ways that I could lessen my load a little and make a better life for myself—and for my kids.

That’s the thing: A mother who is overwhelmed and “just takes it” without expressing her needs will almost always burn out. A mom who gives and gives without getting much back in return will end up not being able to give anything to anyone anymore.

So, it’s vitally important that we SAHMs take care of ourselves, and that starts with owning up to the fact that what we do is real work and that we deserve as much attention, gratitude and validation as anyone else.

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