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I Suck at Being a Stay-at-Home Mom But Here's How I Make It Work

Photograph by Twenty20

Do you want to know what one of the happiest times of my decade-long experience as a mom has been?

I can see it clearly in head: It was the first summer after I became a mother and I was in training for my new job. I worked 8-hour days at the time, got to dress in a cute outfit for work and my husband stayed home with our daughter.

I came home around 5 and immediately hit the couch to snuggle with my baby. On my days off and weekends, I would read by the pool as she slept next to me or we would go for long, leisurely walks. I remember feeling an enormous amount of satisfaction that I was making a paycheck every single day and also had enough energy to "play mom" at the end of my workday. It felt, dare I say, almost easy.

Then, reality set in when I became a stay-at-home mom.

The truth is, being home has never gotten easier for me. I find being a stay-at-home mom freaking exhausting. It's exhausting being "on" all of the time, it's exhausting feeling like every last single decision in your home and family rests on your shoulders (the other day my husband asked me permission to throw out some old ranch dressing, if that tells you how ridiculous a mother's mental load is) and it's exhausting waking up every single morning feeling like the entire direction and course of every person in your house stems from you.

Please tell me I'm not the only one who feels this way.

Somehow, I didn't feel like that when I was an out-of-the-home working mom. When I was working outside of the home, I felt more like a person with a life, too. As a stay-at-home mom, I feel more like a presence. A shadow. A constant who is always here but not really noticed.

Please tell me I'm not the only one who feels this way.

The truth is, I think I might have been happier as a working mom, but I choose to stay home because with four kids. It works better for my family. That being said, because staying home is so challenging to me, I've also learned over the years that there are specific things I need in order to make my "job" as a SAHM possible.

Things like sneaking away for monthly massages (my No. 1 indulgence), getting extra sleep, getting a "recharge" night at a hotel once a year or turning over bath time to my husband because my patience is gone by the end of the day have made all of the difference to me in being able to be a successful SAHM.

It took me a long time to get there, but I now recognize that my "extra" acts of self-care aren't actually extra at all—they're just the things I need to take on a role that's crazy hard for me. Just like a runner who wasn't born with natural endurance might need a little extra training time during the season, I'm a sucky stay-at-home mom who needs a little extra prep time for my 24/7 season.

And that's OK.

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