Stay-at-home mothers are lucky. We get to be with our babies full-time and witness all of the coveted milestones that make parenthood so special in those early days. We have unlimited time to spend with these tiny creatures who hold our hearts so tightly, and we are free from the guilt and anguish that so many mothers feel for sending their little ones to daycare. We don’t have to put on a suit and drag our tired asses to an office, tearfully kissing our little ones goodbye. And we don’t answer to anyone but our own children, who, in reality, are the worst bosses anyone could ever have. As temping as it is, we must not fall prey to the idea that staying at home with children is a leisurely endeavour—it is work, and yet, somehow, this job that nobody really considers a job, has been placed on the bottom of the totem pole. Yes, we are lucky, but this shit is hard and asking for support shouldn’t be anything to be ashamed of.
But, it is.
When I had my first child, I gave Corporate America the middle finger and hunkered down with my baby and her fuzzy little head. At long last, I was free from the chains of a job and could relax and master the art of stay-at-home parenting.
Many days, the nagging sensation that I had made a terrible mistake lurked in the back of my mind. I left a good job that I’d worked very hard to get; a job where there were adults and paychecks and straight-forward responsibilities. I traded it for a job that was vague, with high stress, long hours, and no vacation option. I was isolated and lonely, my mental health faltered for lack of sleep and I had terrible anxiety. I needed some goddamn help, but felt undeserving of it because I was only a stay-at-home mom.
The position of Stay-At-Home Mom isn’t considered a real job by most, and it’s become terribly cliche to say that it’s the hardest job there is, with no breaks, no time off, and no pay, bla, bla, bla. But guess what? IT’S TRUE! IT’S ALL TRUE! Most of us are depleted and desperate for help. Why can’t we ask for help?
In recent news, Canada’s first lady, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau has come up under fire for employing two nannies to take care of her three kids, when all she has to do all day is charity work and attend numerous events in support of her husband—the Prime Minister. Why is everyone judging her? Maybe she wants to talk to some damn adults or prove to herself that her brain still works… How dare she get a nanny when she has no real job that pays real paycheques.
This is a problem. A stay-at-home mother should be able to take time off without being judged for what she chooses to do in her time off. Maybe she wants to go to the grocery store alone or get her tires rotated without having to walk up and down the waiting area a bazillion times chasing a squiggly toddler… maybe she just wants to pee alone. Whatever it is, let her do what she wants and save the nasty comments for something more deserving of nasty comments.
When it came time for me to ask for help, I was pregnant with my second child and I struggled to keep up with my toddler, who was just seven months old. My emotional state was dismal and I was so tired, I often fantasized about getting sick, just so I didn’t have to make dinner. I put my daughter into a nanny-share and soon found myself laying on the couch for hour long marathons of HGTV. I also napped, sprawled out like a dead whale on the couch. It was bliss. I was getting some much needed rest and began to feel better. I was happier, had more energy, and was excited to pick my little girl up at the end of the day.
I was so happy, I posted something on Facebook about the joys of having a nanny and within minutes, an acquaintance made a comment: “When did you get a real job?”
A real job? Exfuckingcuse me?
It’s a legitimate question, because shame on me for taking some time off from good old, easy-peasy motherhood: The un-job.
After reading her snarky comment, tears welled up in my eyes. I felt a profound sense of shame for something I couldn’t name, and the compulsion to prove to the world that I was actually in dire need of a nanny made me mad. Truth be told, I needed that nanny to protect my physical and emotional well-being, but that didn’t seem like a good answer—people would rather have heard that I scored a high-paying job doing work I hate. Lying around doing nothing but enjoying my alone time would make me a spoiled princess. Resting. Taking a break from raising a human so that I could grow one seemed entitled and decadent.
Our culture is obsessed with productivity, so to do nothing productive on a break from a job that people already view as respite from real life is considered lazy and shameful. A break is a break whether it’s from working construction in 100 degree weather or from a high stress office job. The whole point is to relax and recharge so we can go back to our jobs as better employees. Motherhood is no different.
Hear me moms:
Raising kids is hard. We are under the kind of physical and emotional pressure that knows no bounds. It would be a beautiful thing if, instead of judgement, working mothers of all types were allowed to take a rest for no reason other than the simple need to be alone or whatever it is she needs in that moment to take care of herself. Be it a nanny or a weekend away, a mother must have a mechanism that supports this need; an option that allows her to find her centre and regain the simple autonomy of being human.
Giving life and seeing it through is a very special and important job and we do it so much better when we’re physically and mentally whole. Our society and culture have failed to recognize the need of mothers and families, from little-to-no paid maternity leave to terrible postpartum care. It is time for change and time to acknowledge that healthy mothers are the cornerstone of a healthy society. Let it be okay for a woman to practice self-care without guilt, and let us stop treating the concept of “self-care” as a mere concept, superfluous to our core needs. Let us take care of our mothers.