The ugly little truth about being a stay-at-home mother is that it is completely possible to both love it and hate it, all at the same time, or even frequently within mere seconds of each other.
One minute, the kids are happy, content and playing and you're drinking your coffee, thinking about the dinner you are totally not going to make at the last minute and burn like you always do. And the next, someone is punching someone and they are all crying and your phone is ringing and you burned your mouth with the coffee because the baby rammed into your legs doing that weird head-butt thing she always does and you just realized you are actually out of a crucial ingredient you needed for that lovely dinner you had planned.
I've been a stay-at-home, give or take, for about eight years now. I have always worked in some capacity because our family needs it, but for all intents and purposes, I have been here. Always here, always the constant, always the one who takes care of the sick kids and the doctor's appointments and the poopy diapers and tantrums and the grocery shopping. (Although I will say, for the record, that new service that lets you order groceries online just made my life significantly better.)
Being a stay-at-home parent means that in order for your family to thrive, you have to die a little bit.
And just like I have been the constant in our lives, the one you can always count on to be at home, making it all run, there has been one other constant in our lives: my love-hate relationship with staying home.
I think being an at-home parent has been particularly hard for me, in a way, because I feel like I never really got a chance to be a "real" adult. I went straight from being pregnant in college to being a mom and working as a nurse. I never got to experience what working felt like. I never learned how to actually get dressed in real clothes. Scrubs are like pajamas and otherwise, I actually did just wear pajamas.
It all kind of wears on your soul a little. You start wondering who the heck you are. You start wondering if you really are your stained yoga pants. You start believing that you're not really worth the extra 10 minutes to get dressed and ready for the day. You start believing that everyone else should always come first, because let's face it, they are little. It's what they do. They don't know any better.
Being a stay-at-home parent means that in order for your family to thrive, you have to die a little bit. Maybe that sounds dramatic, but it's the truth, isn't it, my fellow SAHMs? You have to die a little so that others may live and that's just the way it is. It's not always a dramatic death, but every time you put every single thing in your own life on hold, whether it's not being able to go to the bathroom, not eating your own lunch, or never sleeping when you really need to sleep, you sacrifice yourself.
It's the tiniest, silliest sacrifices that really get to me after a while. I just want to throw something on the floor like my toddler and pout. "I just wanted to drink one cup of coffee!" I want to yell. Or, "I just wanted to make it through one errand without someone pooping on me, is that too much to ask for?!"
It's honestly a weird place to be, because you know it's nothing truly awful, and yet the mundane tasks of motherhood certainly add up to a mountain of sacrifices.
And that's hard. It's hard when you walk into it, not fully realizing what you are getting into. It's hard when you have to do it all day, every day, without any real break in sight that you can clearly visualize. It's hard when you want to talk to your partner about it, but know that they can't really fully understand. It's hard knowing that you signed yourself up for this gig, so you don't really have room to complain, but you still totally want to complain.
It's hard, all of it is hard.
It's hard to wonder if you're doing the right thing, if you really are doing what's best for your kids by being their primary caregiver (I mean, really, their entire character has to be shaped by me? Is that really a good idea?! I still eat ice cream out of the carton at night). It's hard to wonder if you're just being ungrateful, if you need to just start thinking more happy thoughts to make it all OK.
It's hard to feel like some listless, tired shell of yourself, especially when you consider the other routes your life could have taken. But sometimes, it's even harder when you picture what the alternative would be, when you know, deep-down, that staying home is the best choice for your family at this particular moment.