Yes, I’m a stay-at-home-mom. Taking care of my baby and my home are in the job description, and for the first several months of new motherhood, I did precisely that. I nursed our newborn daughter, goaded her into tummy time, read to her, dangled toys in front of her, burped her, changed her and rocked her to sleep.
Then I’d crossed some task or household chore off my to-do list and repeated this cycle until my husband got home in the evening. On top of this, I forced myself to use natural cleaning products because I worried about chemicals around my baby. Have you ever tried cleaning a stovetop with baking soda and a lemon? No wonder they make all those chemical-filled products.
At night, I was the only one who woke up to take care of the baby and I only ever slept in three-hour increments. After months of living in this daze, I was more exhausted and on edge than ever before in my life.
I knew something had to give. I put down the homemade vinegar cleaner. I left the dishes in the sink.
And we hired a maid.
Even though it was pricey, the peace it gave me was priceless. I know, I know. Plenty of moms do all this and more, without complaining. I’m just not one of them. I’m not saying a baby is messy (toddlers are much, much messier). I’m saying I barely had time to shower, much less scrub the shower.
When the cleaning lady would come for her weekly visit, I’d take my daughter to stroll around the city or we'd visit the park. I’d come home to sparkling bathrooms, a spotless kitchen and gleaming floors.
The cleaning lady saved my sanity, for far less than a therapist would charge me for weekly sessions.
Did I have guilt back then? A little at first, yes. But then I remembered that I was alone with my baby for most of the day.
Stay-at-home motherhood doesn’t have to look one way for it to be authentic.
I didn’t have a network of family support because our families lived far away. I needed help. I was fortunate enough to be able to get it, and I know that’s not true for many moms. The experience taught me that the best gift you can give a new mom is some time off. If any of my friends have a baby, I’m coming over to do some dishes and I’m bringing a hot meal. (In that vein, let me say that the worst kind of guest you can have when you’re a new mom is one who expects you to wait on them while also taking care of your baby’s needs.)
With the advent of my sanity restored, I was able to enjoy motherhood more. Once she started sleeping through the night at about a year old, we were better off by leaps and bounds. I started to work from home during nap time and in the evenings after my husband came home. I paid the cleaning lady myself and still had a tidy sum to put away. I cleaned my home in between her visits, which was made easier by having someone thoroughly clean the house each week.
I know some moms might judge me for not being able to do everything myself because we’re supposed to be super moms all the time. But you know what? Motherhood is not a contest. Sometimes, the standards to which we hold ourselves do not necessarily make us happier. Stay-at-home motherhood doesn’t have to look one way for it to be authentic. If my family is healthy and happy, then I have no regrets.