Before I became a SAHM, I never felt the need to escape motherhood on a daily basis. I understand how ungrateful that sounds. I can’t imagine the agony of wanting children and not having them—or losing them. I also know firsthand the pain of leaving your kids at daycare when you’d rather be their primary caregiver. A SAHM mom of two complaining about her life is bound to rub someone the wrong way. In my experience—both as a working mom and SAHM mom—moms complaining about anything earns a heft of judgment.
I confess to judging a few moms myself. When SAHM parents complained about how hard their job was, I assumed they lacked perspective. Hard was racing home after a full day of work to dinner, homework and bath time. Hard was crying in a bathroom stall because your kid was home sick and you weren’t there. Hard was the stress of finding childcare for every school holiday, snow day, and early dismissal. When I worked outside the home, every moment with my kids seemed precious. I felt guilty for the hours I was absent in my children’s lives and regretted every missed school function, milestone, and moment.
Then I became a SAHM, and I realized hard has many definitions. Yes, I no longer fly in the door in the evenings and cram a day’s worth of work into five hours. I’m here for every sniffle, snowflake, and tantrum. I’m ALWAYS here. I hadn’t realized how much I recharged at work. Yes, my job could be stressful, but no one followed me into the bathroom. My coworkers never went full WWE over a stuffed animal. I spent lunch hours in the company of like-minded adults or shopping without a grabby preschooler.
Every time it snows or a child falls ill, I thank my lucky stars I’m able to be home with my kids. My kids are still precious. I remind myself to savor the experience. As cliché as it sounds, they do grow up fast.
Other times, I’m D.O.N.E. Before I stayed home, I rarely had the time or inclination to disappear from my beloved family. Now, I bury my head in my Kindle each evening and beg to be left the f alone.
Some women drink wine. Some watch trash TV. I read junk. Of all the ways motherhood has changed me, I find this most surprising. Gone are the literary classics that dominated my life before kids. Now I download predictable genre fiction and disappear into the warm glow of my Kindle. The couple always ends up together. The cops always find the killer. I know what’s going to happen when I read the description.
Mental chocolate. I had a graduate professor who confessed to loving mass produced mystery novels. I remember thinking a little less of her. Now, I get it.
Sometimes the pull to disappear into someone else’s complicated life consumes my present. When my husband is home, I will curl onto my bed and escape into mindless stories, ignoring the sibling squabbles raging in the playroom below, the buzzing dryer, or a Nor’easter howling at the house.
I sometimes feel guilty, but not enough to stop. Like an addiction, I download book after book and exist in the world of ill-crafted sentences and predictable plots. My foray into trash lit has confirmed a lesson I’ve struggled to learn my entire life: Don’t judge something that works for someone else.
It took becoming a SAHM to understand the struggles and complaints of those who spend endless hours with their children. When I worked, I escaped my career by spending time with my children. Now that I’m with them all the time, I sometimes feel the need to escape them. So, I do, page after page. I seek the excitement that is sometimes lacking in my day, but I always come back with an appreciation for the life I have—and little less judgment.
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