Privilege and Guilt and Tomatoes

I’m writing this while willfully ignoring my children, who are running in circles throwing raisins at each other and vying for the title of “Loudest Noise Ever Made By Someone Who Weighs Less Than 35 Pounds”.  I am torn between feeling extremely guilty for not being a more active parent at this moment and knowing my sanity cannot take another minute of being used as a human jungle gym.

Evan and Caroline are going through a phase in their relationship – God, I HOPE it’s only a phase – where they are constantly trying to kill each other. Evan sits on Caroline’s head, Caroline shoves Evan off the couch, they both attempt to stand up on the ride-on fire truck. And when I shout at them to KNOCK IT OFF ALREADY they hug and make up…although the hug turns into a squeeze and then into a pushing match and then they’re rolling on the floor squealing again. I don’t think any of it is meant with malice, but damn is it exhausting. I need to record myself saying “Use your words” and “Hands are for hugs and high fives” and “Be gentle” and “Make wise choices!” so I can just play it on an endless loop.

It’s been one of those weeks where being a stay-at-home-mom doesn’t really feel like a privilege anymore. It feels like an endless, hopeless, pointless chore that is destined to drive me over the edge long before these kids become fully self-sufficient. We had an incredibly fun playdate on Monday with one of my very favorite mom friends and we started talking about preschools. We got a little giddy thinking about how next year we could both be child-free a few hours a week if we sent our youngest to under-2 programs, but then she said “I kind of feel bad though. I mean, this is why I stayed home – to be home with them.” And that is SO TRUE – although slightly less true for me (who quit working in a real estate office) than her (who had a really fancy job working to cure cancer). But I am home because I want to spend these years with the kids. Evan is more than half way to kindergarten. Kindergarten is full time school! He will take a bus! I will have hours and hours five days a week without him! And Caroline is only 20 months behind him. I’ll have 13 years of free time during the day to go to Target or unload the dishwasher or weed the garden or eat bonbons and read blogs.

But it’s hard to see beyond the next day of full time momming when my kids are hungry and cranky and sunburned and screaming and my husband calls to say he won’t be home before 9 pm. And it’s hard to stay positive when it rains for four days straight and I go to bed and wake up with a headache. And it’s hard to remember how lucky I am when Caroline smashes me in the face so hard with her head I see stars. And it’s really really hard not to beat myself up when I use my shouty voice practically every time I open my mouth even though I KNOW I’m using my shouty voice and I hate my shouty voice. I bet good moms who really appreciate how privileged they are to be home with their kids don’t even HAVE a shouty voice. I feel even though I recognized I was struggling and did what I was supposed to do and got help and I take my pill like a good 1950’s housewife I still fail, daily, to be the mother my kids deserve.

I know I am not the only mom who feels like this. Probably. I just have to remember that one bad afternoon (or day or week) doesn’t mean tomorrow can’t be better. Or hell, today can be better. After nap time we braved the crazy New England weather – rain! sunshine! wind! heat! cold! all at once! – and worked in the garden. Evan thought planting seeds was the most amazing thing ever and he can’t wait until we have a bean stalk that goes all the way up to the sky. Caroline carried her little pink watering can around like a baby. We talked about how our tomatoes need sun and water and food so they can grow and I forced the metaphor down my own throat so hard I practically choked. But I needed that moment in the dirt to remind me WHY I am so lucky to be here, even if Caroline did just throw a plastic cell phone at her brother’s head while he tried to ride the cat.

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28 Responses to “Privilege and Guilt and Tomatoes”

  1. Kimberly says:

    Oh, I know. I KNOW. You are not alone!! And thank you for writing about it, because it is a hard thing to talk about in person sometimes.

  2. Angie says:

    You are very much not alone! I thought I had a hard job before, but being a SAHM takes the cake! I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but I am grateful for the 8 hours of peace I get each week while my daughter is in preschool. I miss her terribly, but I keep my sanity and I figure that is a good trade-off.

  3. Swistle says:

    Last year when I was going back and forth about whether to put Henry in 4yo preschool this year for three mornings a week, I was thinking “But this is my last baby! And my last year with him! And I should spend as much time with him as possible!” And this year, when he’s enrolled, it seems like very few hours to be away from each other, and also it makes me wayyyyyy more eager to play with him and be patient with him when he’s back home again. Win-win! (Except for the cost. Geez.)

  4. Jeni says:

    Definitely not the only one who feels this way. It is absolutely futile to do so but I still can’t stop myself from saying “Be careful!” as I watch my boys swing each other around, wrestle like maniacs, and generally try to pummel each other out of existence. It drives me crazy and sometimes I just have to leave the room. Which means I am less likely to witness the dislocation of an arm but also means I won’t bite a hole through my lip. I kind of hope living with children this age just means having a ‘shouty’ voice is normal, because out of nowhere I realized that I had developed one and it showed up more frequently. So right there with you!

  5. I hear you. It seems like the good days are REALLY good and the bad days are REALLY bad. And I only have one so far! I just hope for more good days than bad days and try to do everything I can to make that happen. Which may or may not include a lot of tv on the fourth rainy day in a row.

  6. Mom D says:

    This is the universal problem for ALL moms. But in the blink of an eye they will be having kids of their own and going through the same feelings that you went through.

  7. Amy says:

    I would like to hug your post and take it out to coffee. As for a few days a week in school, I highly recommend it. I feel like a break from the insanity makes me a better mom the rest of the hours. And for us, it’s more about the learning to behave (he listens at school!), messy crafts and exposure to new ideas (and unfortunately nasty germs) than me having 6 hours of alone time a week.

  8. Robyn says:

    Working moms feel like this too…you are not alone. Sometimes I come home from work and I’m tired, and I don’t want to play…I just want to sit on the couch. But then I feel guilty because I’m always complaining about how much I hate that I have to work and miss out on so much. I’m not saying this to make you feel like you should feel grateful to be able to stay home…just that we all get tired and lose our patience.

  9. sarah says:

    i’m in the same boat. i have wanted to be a stay at home mom my entire life (my mother has provided written proof of this!) and yet the reality of it is overwhelmingly hard. luckily, my husband agrees that my job is harder than his so when i feel like i need time off he doesn’t whine about the cost. i get enough whining from the kids. being away from them and allowing myself to miss them helps me be a better mom when i am with them. even so, i feel guilty when i am sitting drinking tea and reading, taking time for myself. it is so stupid! as if i drop them off at a prison camp while i hang out at starbucks. i realize i just have to accept the fact that no matter what i do i sam going to feel guilty for not doing something else and therefore i should do my best to enjoy my thursday mornings away from my two perfect monsters. think of it as a mini vacation… from a job you can never escape.

    the kids are hanging out with their beloved babysitter having the time of their lives and certainly don’t need to be hovered over by me every moment of the day… but what if i am missing something? i think that being a mom, whatever sort of mom you are, is just something that is riddled with guilt no matter what.

  10. Audrey says:

    oh man do I feel you. The kids are driving me nuts, constantly pulling on my hair, my arms, my shirt, screaming, breaking things, spilling things, ripping things, hurting one another. I just want a break. Like, I need one day a week where I don’t have to work, I can do whatever I want. And it’s mother’s day weekend so I should be getting that, only instead the husband is going to some art shows tonight, slept in today, and will be out of town doing Author stuff all day tomorrow. And at the end of the day when I’m exhausted and the kids are happily going to bed I feel sad because their snuggles are so perfect and I want to keep snuggling them even while I’m grateful for the silence.

  11. That is the fallacy of the 1950’s housewife. It only looked like they had it all together from the outside. They used their shouty voices, just not in front of other people over 48″ tall. Congrats, you have that. You LOOK PERFECT. You look like super mom. Though I am glad to read this and know, super mom still doesnt exist.

    Husband just called on his lunch break and I ranted and got all I cant take being needed anymore !!! I refuse to feel guilty for hating that Elena comes to work with me. Space and a break makes me a better mom. And only I am the best mom for her so its important for me to invest in whatever it takes to be that best mom. If a mother-day-out or preschool program helps you be a better mom DO IT. The Evan and Caroline would agree they would rather have that and YOU the rest of the time than someone else who somehow found fairy dust and was the perfect no-shouty mom.

    Side note: By Christmas I will not be working or we will have a nanny, whichever is more affordable.

  12. Sarah says:

    Thank you for this post. I have been struggling with my patients and feelings of resentment to my husband who has had more late nights than nights at home with us this week. (We too found ourselves outside in the rain to working in our garden! ) I beat myself up sometimes for feeling these things and it is immensely comforting knowing I am not alone!

  13. jen_schoeph says:

    ::high fives::

    you are not alone. i hate how parents are always like oh the terrible two’s they suck. LIES! i think having a 5 year old is much harder than a 2 year old. as our squishy, cute babies get older they become messy, sticky, sassy, opinionated people. they test our ever loving limits and after a week straight of it sometimes all you have left is your shouty voice (and booze).

    obviously, kids are great at knowing how to push their parent’s buttons. it is a trait which takes mere minutes to master. i suppose it’s their job. they’re learning & of course in learning means doing the bad/wrong things that drive us up the wall but OF COURSE to them we are full of crap & know nothing.

    and 1950’s housewives had their moments. unless they were june cleaver their lives weren’t perfect. its impossible. they had shouty voices. the only reason their husbands had a drink ready for them when they returned home from work is because mama already put two back to gain some sanity and he just received the leftovers!

  14. Emily says:

    Best. Post. Ever. This first year staying home has been the hardest year of my life… and the most rewarding. I wouldn’t trade it, but on many days I have found myself wondering what kind of crazy lady I am to have made this choice. I think preschool is a nice mommy break, but it’s also just great for your kid’s development… so look at it that way, and don’t feel guilty!

  15. erin says:

    Don’t beat yourself up mama! We’re all working our aces off on the various parts of our life and this kid business is really hard work. Any way you slice it, tough stuff! My friend always apologizes and prefaces a vent or complaint with how lucky she is to stay home. I finally had to stop her and tell her it’s ok to say these things and share them, even though I work, because they are worth venting and sharing. So to you my dear, don’t feel bad, please share, please be real and keep up the good work.

  16. Michelle says:

    I don’t remember where I read it, but this is my favorite quote about motherhood. The parenting days are long. It’s the years that go so fast.

  17. Mama Durso says:

    Yes. Yes. And Yes. And a FREAKING YES. My boys are also trying to kill each other and every day is a trial. Especially with a two-year-old who needs a nap, but won’t take one and a 10-month-old who refuses to take more than two 30 minute naps in a day. That nap math adds up to two tired, cranky, sensitive children and one frazzled, depressed mommy who simultaneously feels bored and overwhelmed with her lot in life. Today the boys napped for 1 hour at the same time and I felt like a good mom for the first time in weeks because I didn’t lose my mind since I got a break.

    I feel ya, sista. ::fist bump::

  18. Holly says:

    Can I say I feel you x’s 100?? Or something? I am a SAHM by way of unemployment and am currently getting divorced and as much as I want to treasure all the time I get with my kid, I also cannot wait for pre-school/ ANY daycare/ school. It’s hard out there for a parent!!!

  19. molly says:

    You know? I have been so down in the dumps because I want to be a SAHM so badly lately. But I know there are pros and cons to both situations.

    I use my shouty voice too sometimes. It always makes me feel guilty. Like why can I not control myself more? But you’re right. There’s always time to make it better. Kids are very forgiving THANK GOD.

  20. Brigid Keely says:

    Last summer, I temped for a university’s college of business. The outgoing Dean of the college needed assistance sorting through and disposing of a lot of his books, papers, etc and I walked away with some ~~vintage~~ Business handbooks/studies/etc. One of them is called “The Working Man’s Wife” and is ground breaking research of (white) lower-middle class SAH women (working women, even working mothers, did exist EVEN BACK THEN despite what some affluent white male Republicans will tell you). One of the interesting things is that the women surveyed expressed a lot of the same disatisfactions SAHMs express today. They have no time to themselves, they are tired, they need more help, their kids drive them nuts, they worry they aren’t good enough parents, they don’t leave the house enough, etc. You are definitely not alone. This is an ongoing problem that most SAH and WAH parents go through. I know I did. I’m not trying to dismiss your feelings or anything, just… you’re so not alone in feeling this. <3

  21. Cheri says:

    I say the shouty voice is NEEDED!!!!! My son knows mine, and knows that when I use it I mean buisness. That being said with just one I use it less each day, but when he dashes out onto my street (heart attack worthy example) and I use the shouty voice, he knows to come straight back to me for his own good. I just learned there is free preschool in our town in just one more year for our boys in all the schools. I am counting down the days to when we can apply!!!

  22. merin says:

    Hey-you are one of my very favorite mom friends too!! I can’t wait for our next play date and will REALLY try this time to have Cora dressed AND not having an epic tantrum when you arrive. Wow, that sounds so impossible. Maybe I will just pick one.

    As you know, I feel this same way :) It’s funny that you mentioned the 1950s house wife pill because I just had this conversation with my mom on Friday morning when I was teetering on the edge of sanity after Cora got up at 5:10 AM. I said, “I don’t think there’s enough coffee.” And she says, “Maybe there’s a pill you can take.” I said, “There is Mom, Mother’s Little Helper??” And she said, “Right!” And I think she actually thought maybe I should pursue that.

    (PS-just to close the loop, I took some ibuprofen instead.)

  23. Erin says:

    Hugs! I know EXACTLY how you feel! Every week I can’t wait for Reid’s day with the babysitter. It’s my favorite day! and then I feel so guilty about how thrilling it is to have a day without him. That’s not supposed to be my favorite day.

    • bebehblog says:

      I’m having a huge fight with myself this weekend because of Mother’s Day – I should WANT to be with my family, and yet all I really want is to be ALOOOOONE. Man, being a mom is confusing.

  24. Julie S. says:

    You are not alone. I feel guilty for wanting a break from my kids because my hubby works so hard so that I GET to stay home with them. But is a HOT coffee too much to ask sometimes? Because my cup gets more microwave time than time in my hand.

  25. Kayla says:

    Thank you so much for your post. I stumbled across it by googling “I hate being a stay at home mom.” I needed this so much. I have been a stay at home mom for a year and half… my daughter is almost 2. I feel like I am surrounded by women who love being a mom and especially love being a stay at home mom. I don’t love it. It is the hardest thing I have ever done. Your post made me feel so much better that I am not the only one who feels this way and that I am not awful for feeling this way. I remind myself all the time that my little person is the toughest boss I have ever worked for! I can’t wait for preschool!

    • bebehblog says:

      I’m so glad you feel better – you are definitely not the only one. On the really bad days when the kids won’t stop screaming and jumping on me or hitting me I remember NO ONE would put up with that at a “real” job. Only moms are supposed to do that.

  26. […] my medication is why I’m doing so well but with everything else still as stressful as it was last week (E hasn’t seen the kids since Sunday because he’s working such long hours, rainy days, […]

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