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What Nobody Tells You About Being a Stay-at-Home Mom

Photograph by Twenty20

The other day I posed a question to my husband: "Do you think that you could ever be a stay-at-home dad?"

He contemplated this for a moment, then replied, "Maybe, if not for all the house stuff."

"The house stuff," as any stay-at-home parent can attest to, is a big part of the job. It's a part of what many refer to as the "mental load" that mothers carry. It's knowing what groceries you are running low on, what needs to be washed for the upcoming days, who has a doctor’s appointment and who needs a permission slip signed. It's a sink full of dishes to be cleaned, laundry that piles up faster than you could ever hope to get a handle on and a plethora of minor chores that you seem to never be able to get to.

It never ends, and it's exhausting.

One of the hardest parts about being a stay-at-home mom is that you often look around at the end of the day and feel like you have accomplished nothing.

My husband is great with kids and he enjoys caring for them. But what he will never understand—what no one warned me about before I became a stay-at-home mom—is the exhausting amount of self-motivation that being a caretaker and house manager requires.

The "jobs" that come along with being a stay-at-home mom do not come with any monetary reward. There is no looming threat of being demoted or fired, and no hope for "climbing the ladder" or being promoted.

Most of the time, no one will notice if you went the extra mile and cleaned the house until your hands felt raw, because in the next few days it will look almost the same as it did before. Motherhood is full of never-ending, repetitive tasks that are thankless and mind-numbing. One of the hardest parts about being a stay-at-home mom is that you often look around at the end of the day and feel like you have accomplished nothing.

I have many days where the only thing I really accomplish is keeping my children fed and safe, and that still feels like a monumental task.

It's those days—when you're sick with the flu (because we all know that moms never get "sick days"), when your baby has refused to be out of your arms, or you're just plain mentally done with housework—that you need to give yourself a pass. You are doing your best, and tomorrow is another day.

But whether you are a working mom, a stay-at-home mom, or a work from home mom, there is one perk to motherhood that remains the same: It's watching your kids develop before your eyes. It's witnessing them take their first steps, speak their first words, ditch the diapers for big-boy underpants and develop their independence.

It's both beautiful and heartbreaking to watch. You will be so proud of them while simultaneously yearning for them to be little forever.

I could have never anticipated the amount of self-motivation that being a stay-at-home mom would require, but when the mental load threatens to rob me of my sanity, and my motivation for the many jobs of motherhood wanes, I try to remember that the only thing I really need to do is love them. And that’s the easiest job of all.

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