33 Things No One Tells You About Being a Stay-at-Home Mom
No breaks, no pay, and lots of tantrums.
The cost of daycare frequently exceeds that of in-state college, according to think tank New America. So it’s no wonder more women are choosing not to return to work after having children. A 2018 report from the Pew Research Center revealed that approximately 27 percent of American moms are stay-at-home parents, up from 23 percent in 2000. And while motherhood is no easy feat whether you work at an office or at home, there are some challenges unique to that stay-at-home life. Read on to discover what no one tells you about being a stay-at-home mom.
Your days will be as busy as any you spent at the office.
In addition to the paycheck, one of the nice things about going to work is that you often get breaks built into your day. But stay-at-home moms start their days when their kids wake up and end it long after their little ones are in bed, rarely getting a chance to eat a meal or even go to the bathroom unaccompanied.
In fact, according to 2018 research from Salary.com, stay-at-home moms would earn an average of $162,581 if they were adequately compensated for their time.
You’ll find yourself explaining what you do all day to virtually everyone.
While most people seem to have no trouble discerning what a babysitter, daycare worker, or preschool teacher does, they tend to have copious amounts of trouble comprehending what stay-at-home moms do all day. For whatever reason, the combination of cooking, cleaning, playing, scheduling, kissing boo-boos, lending a shoulder to cry on, shuttling kids between doctor’s appointments and lessons, and giving everyone the occasional bath still yields plenty of “eating bon bons and watching soap operas” jokes from the ignorant and uninitiated.
People will act like staying at home with your kids is the ultimate privilege.
Many people will treat your decision to stay home as though it’s the ultimate luxury when, in fact, it’s simply an economic necessity for many families. According to a 2018 report from Business Broker Network, daycare rates exceed the minimum wage in several states, meaning many low-income parents would actually pay to work. And for middle-class families, having more than one kid in daycare would eat up one parent’s entire salary.
Even for those who choose to stay home without it being a financial necessity, between cleaning finger paint off the wall and tackling tantrums in the aisles of Target, it’s not exactly a glamorous job worth envying.
You’ll still need a babysitter from time to time.
While it may surprise some people to hear, stay-at-home parents do need—and deserve—a babysitter from time to time. And unless you have family members or generous friends with nothing but free time on their hands and a burning desire to watch your kids, that means shelling out a whole lot of cash whenever you want to go to a concert, see a movie, or eat dinner after 7 p.m. with your partner or friends.
Your confidence may falter.
Many people find that a large part of their identity is attached to what they do—and so without a traditional job, stay-at-home moms often find themselves lacking the confidence they once had. While your kids may think you hung the moon, that doesn’t always translate to sky-high self-esteem.
Going to the grocery store alone will feel like a spa day.
You used to actually go to the spa for some much-needed R&R. But these days, getting to browse the aisles at Aldi without anyone having a meltdown or a diaper blowout is the closest you get to a zen-like experience.
You’ll start singing kids’ songs to yourself—even when you’re alone.
You won’t have time for the things you imagined yourself doing…
On the surface, it seems as though being a stay-at-home mom affords you the opportunity to finish novels, learn Mandarin, and do two-a-days at Pilates. In reality, though, erratic nap schedules, a seemingly endless list of activities and appointments, and all those requests to play Transformers leave you little to no time for yourself.
Including those home-cooked meals you were planning on making.
If your kids napped in three-hour increments and never needed help with their homework, you’d have time to prepare your family Ina Garten-level meals three times a day. But that’s not the case. So frozen pizza it is!
You’ll long for company.
As a stay-at-home mom, you’ll talk to your kids all day, but that’s not exactly the same as having meaningful adult conversations. Some days, you’ll just want to talk to someone who knows what happened on the latest episode of This Is Us, or, at the very least, doesn’t need you to feed them airplane-style.
Your relationship with your spouse will change.
While you and your partner may have had a more equal relationship pre-kids, things can—and often do—change when one of you is the sole provider of childcare and one is footing all the bills. And while that’s not to say that either job is more important, feeling like you’re the only one doing the parenting—or your spouse feeling like they’re the only one contributing financially—has the potential to strain your relationship.
You’ll get stir crazy on a daily basis.
You don’t realize how confining your house feels until there’s four feet of snow outside, your kids are hitting each other over the head with paper towel tubes, and your cable’s out.
Your house won’t be nearly as clean as you were hoping it would be.
That pile of toys in the living room you were planning to clean up? Yeah, that’s The Hundred Acre Wood/a fury road/The Batcave. You can’t touch that until they go to college (and even then, they’ll still be a little bit annoyed about it).
You’ll miss the workplace from time to time.
Of course, you love your kids more than anything, but spending the entire day with little people who only coo, grunt, or pretend to be Spider-Man might just have you missing the world of cubicles and fluorescent lighting.
Your finances will become a juggling act.
Supporting a whole family on a single income is no easy feat. And in many cases, the things you’d like to do to keep your kids entertained throughout the day, like lessons, classes, and trips to museums, are the very things your budget doesn’t have room for.
You might struggle with depression.
Though some people incorrectly assume that not having to go into an office is the cure for all mental woes, a not-so-insignificant number of stay-at-home moms find themselves down in the dumps. According to a 2012 Gallup survey, 28 percent of stay-at-home moms identified themselves as depressed, compared to just 17 percent of working moms.
You might also get angry.
Sure, you may have imagined yourself radiating maternal warmth and kindness as a stay-at-home mom, but that’s not necessarily possible in practice. According to the same 2012 Gallup poll, stay-at-home moms experienced more anger and sadness than their working counterparts—feelings that undoubtedly affect parenting style.
You’ll start—and abandon—tons of projects.
Without an infinite amount of cash at your disposal, you might have to get creative in order to keep your kids entertained. Translation? You’re going to wind up with more popsicle stick picture frames and half-finished cross-stitches than you know what to do with.
You’ll talk about cartoon characters like your friends talk about Game of Thrones.
Sure, beheadings and direwolves are cool, but have you seen the episode of Sesame Street with Beyoncé?
Playgroups will be your lifeline.
Sometimes you just need to get out of the house and see another adult—any adult—to maintain your sanity. And since that “sometimes” tends to come up a lot, stay-at-home moms have every local library center story hour, community center playgroup, and park meet-up on their calendar.
“I’m bored” will sound like nails on a chalkboard to you.
The only thing worse than hearing your child utter, “A bunch of kids at my school got lice”? Hearing them say “I’m bored” while standing in a room full of hundreds of books, every toy known to man, and approximately 5,000 half-finished craft projects.
You’ll realize those mommy wars only exist online.
While working and staying at home are very different animals, you’ll quickly realize as a stay-at-home mom that the only people who actually want to argue with you about the merits of either choice are anonymous folks on parenting forums. In reality, most working moms don’t judge you about how you spend your day.
You might not love the job as much as you thought.
Even if you love your kids, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll love being a stay-at-home parent—and that’s okay. It is, after all, a job—just one that doesn’t pay you or give you days off.
You’ll discover how fun kids’ toys are all over again.
Nerf guns, slime, and Operation are exactly as fun as you remembered them being. Once you’ve started playing with these nostalgic toys again, it’ll make a whole lot more sense why your kids don’t want to share them.
You’ll practically bum-rush your partner as soon as they get home.
That sweet greeting you used to give your partner when you saw each other after work? Now it’s more like thrusting the kids at your partner, hoping to get just a second of time to yourself. “Honey, I’m home” never sounded quite so good.
You’ll look forward to nap time like other people look forward to the Super Bowl.
Your kid is rubbing their eyes. They’re sucking their thumb. They’re yawning. This could be it, folks! Anddddd they’re down for the count!
Finally, you get a minute to yourself to read four pages of a book or watch 10 minutes of a show before they’re awake again.
You’ll become a master at making the most of everyone’s needs and demands.
You’ve got craft glue in your hair, your five-year-old wants to finger-paint, and your toddler wants to watch Dinosaur Train. So, what do you do? Put some paper and paint brushes on the floor, lean the tablet against the sink, lock the bathroom door, and finally get in that much-needed shower, because being a stay-at-home mom means getting everyone’s needs met all day long—even if that requires a little McGyvering.
G-rated swears will start making their way into your everyday vocabulary.
You’ll never get to have a snack that you don’t share.
At your office, you had a drawer full of treats you could lock. At home, the second your kids hear that wrapper crinkling, they’re on you like ants at a picnic.
You might not end up saving that much money in the end.
While you might have ostensibly decided to stay home to save money, your bank account doesn’t always end up reflecting that supposed thriftiness. In fact, between dentist’s appointments, trips to the grocery store, and take-out orders, you might just find yourself in the red with shocking frequency.
You’ll have to work harder if you want to rejoin the workforce.
While you know that you were working hard during those years you spent at home with your kids, future employers may not always see it that way. According to a 2018 study published in American Sociological Review, stay-at-home moms were half as likely to land job interviews as moms who were laid off by their employer—even when both groups were out of the workforce for an equivalent amount of time.
You’ll love your bosses more than any you had at work.
Is it a perfect gig? Absolutely not. Do you still like your kids way more than that boss who used to pat you on the head whenever he passed by your desk? 100 percent.
It’ll be over before you know it.
Whether you’re only planning to stay home until your kids are old enough for kindergarten or until they’re off to college, one day you’ll blink and wonder where the time went. So it’s true what they say: Cherish every moment. And for more insight into motherhood, here are 33 Things No One Tells You About Being a Working Mom.
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