Please Stop Judging Stay-at-home Moms

I grew up in a traditional American household.

My father worked a 9 to 5, my mother was a stay-at-home mom, and I loved it! Some of my best childhood memories are of days at home with my mom. She was such a great caregiver, and it seemed to come so naturally to her. It's because of her that I knew at an early age that I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom for my children.

When I was pregnant with my second child, the opportunity presented itself for me to be able to leave my job and stay home with my kids. I knew it would be a hard transition going from a working mom to a stay-at-home one, but I didn't realize that it would be the most difficult thing I've done in my life.

Yeah, I'm a stay at home mom.  Go ahead, ask me what I do all day.  I dare you.

As a stay at home mom, I'm always on duty

I would give anything to have my tiny moments of downtime back! Before my role as a stay-at-home mom, I worked as a personal banker in a small tourist town. While we were fairly busy during the summer, we were dead in the winter. The drive to and from work was my favorite time to clear my thoughts. I could blast my favorite music and transition from changing poopy diapers to servicing customers. I would spend my lunch breaks reading books, making grocery lists, and anything else that I felt like doing.

Unfortunately now, I can't tell my kids, "Sorry, I'm on lunch break!" Trying to find even five minutes to make a grocery list now can seem impossible. I experienced overdrawing my bank account, missing due dates on bills, and so many other silly mistakes for the first time while being a stay-at-home mom. These are all tasks I used to do at work, or at night before bed. But it's extremely challenging to find the time when you are always "on duty."

Adult Interaction is sparse, and I often feel the toll

Me on day 3 of being stuck in the house with a toddler:  image of Ariel singing I want to be where the people are.

I can only sing "Baby Shark" or ask the question "Do you need to use the potty" so many times in a day without feeling like I will lose my mind. Being the introvert that I am, I thought I would have no problem talking to toddlers all day long instead of adults. I quickly found out this wasn't the case. At work, I got to complain to my co-workers about the stupid things my husband did last night. I got to make small talk with customers that often led to friendships, or just learning some interesting things! There is none of that in my house, and I soon realized that, as a stay-at-home mom, I have to put forth a lot more effort to get in that adult interaction. It comes naturally when it's your job at work to talk to people!

Choosing to be a stay at home mom has given me so much guilt because of how I feel I am viewed by others

"What do you do for a living?" Who knew that this question would become such a dreaded thing to me. Sometimes I'm praised for being there for my children. Other times, I'm met with rude remarks: "Wow, it must be nice not having to work!" (Yeah, because raising kids isn't "work," right?). I've gotten to the point where I hate having to tell people I'm a stay-at-home mom. I'm made to feel like a bad mom if I work too much, and I'm a lazy mom for not holding a job and juggling both duties. It has torn me in different directions and often beats me down.

I also struggle with constantly feeling guilty that I stay at home with the kids while my husband has to work. Obviously, my husband and I thoroughly discussed me staying home, and we're both on board with it, but I can't help but feel guilty sometimes. Am I cleaning the house enough? Should I be spending the money to get my hair colored? Do I cook enough meals every week? Stupid questions like this pop into my head frequently. I now know that I am doing enough, but it has taken a lot of work to get my mind to realize it.

It doesn't help that stay-at-home parenting is still such a controversial topic.

Our society seems to be torn between believing women belong in the home and believing women should be in the workforce while parenting. Some feminists, like the Wealthy Single Mommy, believe that women who choose to leave work and stay at home are detrimental to gender equality. Although I do agree with her that employers often overlook female candidates because of the fear they might leave eventually to raise their children, this is not in any way a reason to shame those who choose to do this. After all, isn't feminism all about having our own choice?

According to studies conducted by the Pew Research Center, the number of stay-at-home mothers in the United States plummeted from 47% down to 23% between 1970 and 1999. However, that percentage has slowly started to increase since then. Much of this increase is most likely driven by economic factors (decrease in jobs) and the rising costs of childcare. However, I believe in most recent years that rise may be due to the growing number of millennials becoming parents and choosing to stay home, just like me. Sarah Landrum, contributor for Forbes, also believes this increase to be in part due to millennial mothers' choices. Landrum wrote, "Technology's evolution allows modern women the empowerment of joining tradition with innovation...proving that women's purpose does not lie in one or the other."

Any way you view it, being a stay at home mom is a difficult task, mentally and physically. So please stop judging mothers (and fathers) on their choice to either stay home with their kids or join the workforce. I am proud of the time and effort I put into raising my kids, even through the most difficult times. I am not a lesser woman nor a feminist adversary because I made being home with my children my priority, just as the woman working full time, juggling her work/life balance is not an inferior mother.

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