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Just a Stay-at-Home Mom?

Dear stay-at-home Mom (or Dad), I hope you know the enormous value of the work that you do. The work that WE do. Yes, I was a stay-at-home Mom, too. Heads-up to all the moms out there who balance working both outside and inside the home – my purpose is not to make you feel lesser. My purpose is to help stay-at-home Moms not  feel lesser, or undervalued. To recognize just how important they are.

A few years before getting pregnant with Mia I was a marketing executive who was fully immersed in my life that centered around David, my friends and my job. In fact, when David suggested, 6 years into our marriage, that we start a family, I couldn’t picture my life being any better. We both worked, took carefree and fun little vacations around the US, went on a dreamy Hawaii vacation disguised as a Coca-Cola conference (David worked for Coca-Cola then), regularly went jogging through the hilly wooded area near our Georgia house and just seemed to have everything. But I have always known I wanted to be a mom one day, and it really felt like the time for that was upon us. 

Like me, I’m sure many moms-to-be wrestle with the decision to be a mom who works outside the home or chooses to only work within the home. Sometimes it’s the dad-to-be that feels more suited for that stay-at-home role. One thing I can say with certainty is that my view of the stay-at-home Mom was very different BEFORE I became one. I thought it would be relaxing, low stress, and that I wouldn’t feel as valued as I did at work. Up until I actually became pregnant I was sure I would go back to work after taking maternity leave. Literally as soon as we found out we were expecting Mia (well after I finished freaking out about whether I was really ready for this big change!) I knew that I needed to stay home with her. David agreed. I felt an indescribable pull to devote myself to being a full-time mom. 

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It’s really striking how different the perception of the stay-at-home (actually I think full-time is more accurate so I’m going to use that title) mom is among those who have never done it and those who have, or are immersed. Those who have never been a full-time Mom – “what do you do all day?”, “you must have so much time on your hands” and “I wish I didn’t have to work.” Other full-time Moms – “did you find time to take a shower today?”, “I never made it out of my pajamas today!” and “how do you juggle music class, taking them to the park, home for lunch and an afternoon playdate and still find time to do the laundry and make a nice dinner?” As with any job, our view of it evolves along with the experience and time and changes in responsibilities. It’s not always pretty. As any full-time Mom (or Dad) knows, we are always on the clock. In the beginning it’s because of constant feedings, diaper changes, laundry  and general newborn care, which can also leave us feeling a little isolated (especially if we were used to a very social workplace). But every age and stage comes with its own demands, and rewards. With babies we hold and cuddle and help them “play” with toys. We enjoy tummy-time and read, sing and talk to them. All while tending to cleaning, laundry, cooking, basic house maintenance, managing finances and fitting in a little self care. With our toddlers and preschoolers come more active and engaging play, outings to the park and to feed the ducks, mommy-and-me classes, potty training, bath time and more. Oh yes – there are probably sleep issues and the dilemma of how to manage. We believed in responding to every cry, even if it just signaled the need for human comfort and love. So sleep was an evasive pleasure for a few years.

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When children enter the school years, many think parenting gets less time-consuming and easier. Nothing could be further from the truth. The details change but the investment remains the same, maybe even grows. with learning to read and write and manage socially. Activities and driving to and from. We host playdates and birthday parties and sleepovers. We become unofficial therapists and mediators and advocates, helping them to discover their unique gifts and self-worth and learn to advocate for themselves.  

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In spite of all this, you might still compare the requirements and monetary value of a job outside the home with that of being a full-time Mom. Salary.com actually has computed this annually for about the past ten years. They considered every job that is done by a full-time Mom, and estimated the amount of time per year dedicated to each of these jobs, to calculate the portion of each job’s annual salary that she would earn. Then they totaled all these portions to get a total hypothetical salary. In 2019, the estimated salary of a full-time Mom, if she were to earn one, was a startling $178,201! If you are as shocked as I was, go take a look at their website and see how they figured this out. Mind-blowing, I know. If we weren’t doing all the things that we do, we would have to pay other people to get these things done. We tend to get lulled into taking it all for granted, the housekeeping, driving, cooking, administration, caring for children, etc. To add a little perspective, there are jobs dedicated to each one of these! People go to school or get certified to secure employment in these jobs. The chart below shows the various jobs salary.com included in their analysis.

salary.com
salary.com

With each moment we invest in our little ones, no matter how seemingly ordinary, we are helping to shape beautiful and extraordinary humans. People who will one day continue this sacred cycle. And through it all we moms are learning and growing too. We may not notice this day by day – but when we pause to reflect and take stock – we find stronger, wiser, more evolved versions of ourselves. So don’t ever think of yourself as “just” anything. If you chose to be a full-time Mom you chose a monumental undertaking – no job is more important. You are priceless.

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