She works hard for no money, so hard for no money…

Alright. Before I made the decision to stay home with my girls full time almost five months ago, my SAHM friends tried to warn me. They told me how hard it was to live on a frayed shoestring budget, never get a sick day, be with your kids from sunup to sundown and the kicker? Nobody really appreciates you for it. While I never thought for a second that this job would be easy, I had NO idea how hard it would be. No idea. I work so hard…for no money.

They appreciate me, right? Right?! I sure appreciate them.

But it’s not just about the money. I left a career I was good at. Really good at. But I was in the right place at the wrong time in my life. And time was slipping away at home. My babies are small, and seeing them for only a few hours (if that) every day just wasn’t enough for me. I craved their company. And while I don’t regret this decision to amputate half of our income in exchange for more face time with my children, there’s something I’ve come to realize. This isn’t my calling. I just don’t feel like I’m any good at what I do. I mean, I’m not the most terrible mother to have ever sleepwalked across this earth, but I’m no June Cleaver either.

Then again, I have no way of knowing whether or not I’m cut out to be an at-home mom. The usual metrics of the working world don’t apply. Paycheck? Nope. Bonus? Nope. Quarterly evaluation? Nope. Promotion? Nope. Verbal praise? Nope. Sure, my three year old has said, “You’re my best friend mommy. I want to be just like you when I grow up and stay home with my kids.” But that’s quickly negated with, “I hate you! I want you to go to work and never come home.” That sure made me feel like a pile of poo.

I never knew before how much I need Words of Affirmation (one of my love languages), until I stopped getting any. Sure, money is nice (and we could sure use some right now), but nothing quite fluffs my ego like an “atta girl.” (And if you’re a future employer, I don’t take payment in compliments. I’ll still negotiate for that higher salary.) At this current job, I have one daughter who’s unintelligible (but adorable), another daughter whose loves me one minute and hates me the next (also adorable) and a husband who wonders why the house looks like it’s been “ransacked” when he gets home every day. (Because we were robbed by a gang of diaper-wearing bandits, that’s why.)

I am not a lazy person. I work so hard to scrimp and save and educate and pacify and cook and clean and clean and cook and bathe and play and clean some more. And at the  end of the day, it’s so hard to determine if any impact has been made. It’s just me, faced with a dirty home after the family has gone to bed. Every night.

So, why not just polish up my resume, slip back into some heels and re-enter the workforce? It’s not that easy. First and foremost, I would miss my girls. I. Love. These. Girls. When we end our day on a sour note (bedtime battles are going to be the death of me), I know I have all day–all day–tomorrow to make it better. When the weather is glorious, we head to the park because we can. When we get the itch to check out some new books from the library, we head into town because we can. That quality time I was craving? I’m swimming in it now. And it’s awesome.

But I also don’t want us to be swimming in debt before the year is through. What if I have to go back into the workforce, and nobody will have me? What if quality childcare isn’t available? These are the questions that haunt me. Those, and “What’s that smell?” Something always smells around here…

No, I’m not ready to make any major life decisions. I’m just venting. Perhaps whining a little. But I’m giving myself permission to do so. After all, not everybody has a job they’re highly qualified for. That cashier who rang you up today? She was a little slow, but she got the job done. That fast-food worker who handed you your french fries? He could have been friendlier, but you got what you ordered. I’m doing the best I can with what I have. And that’s pretty much all any employer can hope for.

15 Responses to She works hard for no money, so hard for no money…

  1. jammiekern says:

    I chose to stay at home as soon as I found out I was pregnant. I was a mess as a SAHM, but wouldn’t change it. I did put my girls into part time childcare at ages 2 and 3, they were climbing the walls. I just wasn’t enough entertainment for them, imagine that. It was a good decision, plus I made some extra $$ during those hours. Now they are going into 1st and 2nd grade, I cry when I look at the pics or videos during that time when it was just us girls all day every day.

  2. Jolynn Berk says:

    Things I’ve learned over the last several years … crazy that it took me into my 40s to figure it out … Mostly, nothing is permanent. Nothing. Just because you decide to stay home for awhile to enjoy your toddlers doesn’t mean you have to do it long term. You CAN go back to a professional career. If you buy a house, it doesn’t mean you have to live there 30 years or even 2 or 3. LIfe is about change. Be flexible. Celebrate the seasons of life. Enjoy every minute to its fullest wherever you are. Really be there. And don’t feel guilty when things don’t work out the way you planned or expected. Do what makes you happy and what works for your family. Don’t be anxious. Trust God.

    And for you, mommy of toddlers, don’t feel guilty for your decisions. I lived that, too. Being a SAHM was not my calling either, and there should be no guilt involved. We all have our gifts and skill sets. I was made on purpose. God designed me. Life is too short to be unhappy. And guess what? My kids are 16 and 13. They are some of the most well-adjusted, well-mannered, smart, flexible, fun-loving kids I know. They survived two working parents, and yours will too if that’s what you need to do.

    • Cat Poland says:

      See? This is why I like having more “seasoned” friends. :-) I know I’m a career woman at heart, so you’re right, I need to just enjoy this time while it lasts. It won’t forever. And, to be honest, I think it’s good for my personal growth and development to stick to something I’m not that great at for awhile. :-)

      • Jolynn Berk says:

        You bet. And if it makes you feel any better … I have a friend who is a marketing director in Dallas. She took quite a number of years off when she had her boys and later went back. She’s had some pretty great, very high paying jobs in the workforce since she returned. You CAN re-enter when you are good and ready. Especially when you are as talented as you are. All you’d have to do is direct your future employer to your blog as proof that you are capable, creative, well-spoken and fun!

      • Jolynn Berk says:

        Oh, I also want to add one more teensy thing. Recently while making some much-need career decisions, my 13-yr old very knowingly said, “You know, as long as we’re together and happy, we can live anywhere.” Well, duh! How did he get so smart? … Kids are smarter and more resilient than we give credit. Life is easier for them when they learn to adapt, adjust and change in the early years.

  3. Amy Von Achen says:

    I think we had a chat about this awhile back when you were considering being a SAHM. One of the truly hardest things for me at first (besides the lack of a paycheck) was never getting praised for a job well done. I’d spent several years working for a large bank that put a lot of effort into rewarding workers and found that I thrived on that acknowledgement. Even in the jobs I held after that one I had goals, projects and rewards. Being a SAHM comes with very different rewards (and sometimes they’re hard to see in the midst of toddlerhood) and it can take awhile to adjust. I’ve found my mommy network to be the greatest thing since sliced bread! We keep each other going and do our best to recognize the other moms for all they’re doing.

    Want to know why potty-training stresses me out? Because it’s the only measurable goal in my life right now!! ( And if I were getting paid for my potty-training skills, I’d have been fired long ago. Pathetic!)

    By the way, most SAHMs I know feel like you do at least 15 times a day. And most of us have husbands who come home and tiptoe around cautiously, praying they won’t find that mommy has turned into a ticking timebomb or the house has imploded. And since I have yet to completely detonate and my house only LOOKS like the site of a natural disaster, I figure I’m performing “above expectations” and deserve a significant pay increase…or at least a pat on the back!!

    Hang in there, friend. You are awesome!!

  4. Kenja says:

    No matter what we decide (work or not work with kids) there’s good things and bad things, along with a heaping dose of wondering whether the grass is greener on the other side. Sigh…

  5. Leann Moore says:

    Amazing article and I loved reading all the comments. Take care of yourself and do your best to just live in the moment of now.

    Enjoy Life,

  6. Andrea Gegen says:

    As an almost 46 year old that has careered for most of my years….I ditto everything that Jolynn has said above. I’ve only stayed home for the 18 months that I was laid off and looking for the right job that valued my skills and is willing to be flexible with me to be there for my kids,….school, ball games and all. I’ve decided in my “older” age to not blame myself, but the companies that use my talents, for not valueing that I can rock the job and be there for my kids!

  7. i read this after reading your new rose colored glasses post which i loved because that’s the secret of it all… to appreciate the every day, to laugh when you’re sitting in a pile of milk or your kid just covered himself in pudding right after you bathed him. It’s all good, even your pissy, cranky days, because you’re right, no one appreciates you, but you can… so take a breath, sit back, enjoy their dirty faces and take it all in, because you know how it goes… it just goes.

  8. Little Sis says:

    It is SO hard. It is especially SO hard when they are so little. It gets easier, and if you’re like me, you’ll get more comfortable with not being June Cleaver, because let’s face it, who REALLY wants to be June Cleaver? Make sure you do enough of the parts you ARE good at every day to feel vaguely competent and be kind to yourself about the other parts (for me this is the organization and home care department). Nobody is good at every part of their job. Most people don’t have supervisors who watch EVERY LITTLE THING THAT THEY DO. Hang in there Momma.

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