Sometimes the words “thank you” get lost in the day to day. So in honor of Valentine’s Day, Babble is featuring content all month long that celebrates those special people (and moments) that make it all worth it. Click here for more on #BabbleThanksLove.
My mom has the hardest job in the world.
She works long hours with no overtime pay, her bosses are extremely demanding, she can never retire, and the job itself can be quite stressful. No, she doesn’t work in a crowded office or for a big company. My mom is a stay-at-home parent.
And it’s the part of my childhood I’m most thankful for.
My mom was, and still is, my biggest supporter. Growing up, she made purple frosted cupcakes for my school birthdays, attended every game I attempted to play (I’m definitely not an athlete), and encouraged me to follow my heart. Mom let us make our own mistakes, like my constant battle to survive sleepovers. I loved the idea of going to sleepovers and staying up giggling with my friends, but when it was time to go to bed, I would panic. Mom would answer my desperate 1 AM phone calls and would come pick me up, letting me see for myself that slumber parties were simply not in the cards for me. She let us learn certain things the hard way, but was always there to pick up the pieces afterwards. Mother knows best.
When all of our friends headed off to camp, Mom would kick off “Camp Newman,” which consisted of different activities throughout our summer days. We would start the day off with fun colored pancakes (extra whipped cream!), then we would slide into our kitchen booth for a craft like Shrinky Dinks, stained glass sun-catchers, or DIY super balls. I remember her putting us in our best bathing suits and watching us squeeze into pink tubes in our kiddie pool. We couldn’t always afford what other kids had, but my mom created priceless experiences for us just the same.
But I’ll be the first to admit, it hasn’t been all smooth sailing and fun times. Stay-at-home moms catch a lot of slack, including mine. Between combating the overall notion that being a SAHM is not a job (yeah, right) and actually dealing with the day-to-day struggles that go along with raising children — we didn’t always make it easy for my mom.
Her kids can be bratty (yes, I’m including myself in this). My sisters and I would get irritated when she asked us what we wanted for dinner (we were eating breakfast!) when we should’ve been appreciative of our home-cooked meal each night. We constantly complained that our friends were allowed to hang out after school and we weren’t because after school was “homework time.” Can you imagine a house full of hormonal teenage girls? Well, that’s something my mom had to navigate on her own (my poor father tried to stay out of the screaming and crying for the most part — he was way too outnumbered). Mom coaxed me through the struggles I had when a group of girls abandoned me as friends and shared her own experiences, letting me know I wasn’t alone.
Looking back, I can’t imagine how tiring it must have been for my mom to be on parent duty 24/7. As a self-conscious teen, I often lashed out at her. I recall screaming,“You just don’t understand!” more times than I care to admit. I had a real fetish for stomping away and slamming my bedroom door so hard the house would shake. Looking back, I definitely took for granted all of the wonderful things she did for me each day.
As I’ve gotten older and we’ve grown closer, I’ve learned what a thankless job being a parent is. Mom has always put our needs ahead of hers without a single complaint. She’s the most selfless person I know, and I think that stems from devoting her life to being a parent. She went to college for fashion merchandising and was up on all the latest fashion trends, but when she became a mother, she pushed those dreams aside. She exchanged her expensive jeans for the cutest baby shoes on the market and threw all of her energy into being the best mother she could possibly be.
As the daughter of a SAHM, I’ve always been able to fall back on the comforting thought of my mom being present. Even though my sisters and I are at the relatively grownup ages of 23, 21, and 19, my mom’s job hasn’t really changed. Now instead of worrying that we’ll fall off a bike and get a scraped knee, she’s stressing over our college majors, our career paths, and our relationships. The stress of a stay-at-home parent never really dissipates.
For me, she’s become my confidant and the first person I want to share things with. We’ve gone from her being my caretaker, to my verbal punching bag during my teenage years, to my best friend. She lives in North Carolina and I’m in New York, but we speak probably 20 times a day between texting, phone calls, and FaceTime. That sounds a bit excessive in print, but in reality it’s just comfortable to stay intertwined in each other’s lives — it’s what we’ve always known.
I’ve come to the realization that I’m the person I am because of my mom’s choice to be a stay-at-home mom. I’m proud to tell people that my mother’s life’s work is invested in her children. Being a stay-at-home parent is a strenuous job — I’ve seen it firsthand. So, I want to say thank you to my mom and all the others who sacrifice their own career paths and take on one with a lot less recognition and a lot more work.