As I sit in the recliner at the end of the day, I know what you’re going to see when you get home: amped-up kids, a living room that looks like a disaster area, and the smell of a processed dinner thrown together 30 minutes ago.
Please allow me to explain what you may not notice beyond all the toys that cover the floor.
What you probably don’t see, underneath all the mess, is the mental weariness of a mom who knows things aren’t done, but is having trouble finding motivation.
What you don’t see is how overwhelmed I feel knowing that cleaning up at any given point is actually counterproductive.
What you see when you get home is exactly what’s in this moment: the worst part of a long day. A day that exhausted the hearts and minds of stay-at-home moms everywhere with never-ending milk and snack requests. A day of refereeing arguments we didn’t even witness because we dared to go to the bathroom for 30 seconds. A day of trying to be fair to everyone in split-second parenting decisions. A day of failing to remember whose turn it was last.
What you see is an unflattering snapshot of what started out as a good day, with morning hugs and the promise of a clean slate for everyone. What you see is that day’s optimism long gone by dinnertime.
Sometimes stay-at-home moms are deflated and defeated, and we just can’t pick another battle. While we know the house is a wreck and understand why someone walking in the door might let out a big sigh or even rage-clean, we just can’t do it.
I know what you’ll see when you get home, but I waved the white flag for my sanity an hour ago.
My fellow stay-at-home moms and I are trying to raise happy kids, keep a clean home, and get dinner on the table, but sometimes we have to pick two out of the three. If the kids are happy and the house is clean, then it’s probably frozen pizza for dinner. If the kids are happy and a home-cooked meal is ready when you get home, please understand the kids destroyed the house while we made it.
Eventually, we get tired of balancing all of the spinning plates and have to let some of them fall in survival mode. Sometimes we just have to sit in the living room on the verge of tears and stare out the window and be still, or take a moment behind a closed bathroom door. It’s hard on a mama’s soul to work so hard providing a happy home and feel like a failure at the very same time.
Depression and stress are very real dangers of stay-at-home parenthood. Everyone has endured a difficult season in their home life with young kids. Those who say they haven’t either have some mythical unicorn schedule and perfectly cooperative kids, or they have older kids and have since forgotten what it’s like.
Yes, this is our home and we want to be here, but the effort is demanding as hell. There’s no end-time to leave the office, no days off, and no pay. And just as a worker needs a break from their job during the week, I need a break from mine, too.
So please understand that I know what you see when you get home. If you see me roll my eyes and groan at the 16th request for milk while scrubbing dried yogurt off of the floor, I’ve crossed the threshold from Mary Poppins to Mommy Dearest.
I know you’re tired at the end of the day, too, and don’t want it all resting on your shoulders, either. But a little levity on the bad days wouldn’t be all that bad. Regardless of what the house looks like or what we might be having for dinner, I promise happy kids will be at the top of the list every time.
What we all need is to know we’re doing a good job. I commend you for hitting the bricks every day to provide for us, though I may be jealous that you get to talk to adults most of the day. But then I recognize there are moments you aren’t able to be here for, too.
I know what you see, and I promise I’m trying.
The busy, buried times with little ones will pass eventually. The kids are happy and stable, and that’s the goal in having a parent at home, isn’t it? I can almost guarantee the bad days are when I’ll need to be reminded of this the most.
So like you, I see a sink full of dishes, baskets of laundry, and toys on the floor. But underneath it all, the kids are happy.
And that’s the most important thing you’ll see when you get home.