Why is it that after so much talk, writing and sharing of the concept of stay at home parenting so many of us still feel so alone? Many of our partners still do not get it and sometimes even blame us for the emotional disturbances of our children.
I was reminded of this recently when at a play space, a woman shared with me that her son had been “kicked out of preschool” the day before. She teared as she told me about the toll that it is taking on her marriage and how, though he tries not to, her husband blames her, because she is at home with her son. She also has a nine-month-old daughter. She shared with me that oftentimes she thinks that if she had had two of her son she surely would be residing “on a funny farm” instead of sharing her woes with me. She spoke of being embarrassed, shunned and bewildered. Going back to work is her desire, but she doesn’t want anyone else to raise her children. She spoke of the envy she felt toward her husband, for going to work daily and accomplishing things, for being able to grab lunch when he wants, and use the bathroom alone.
As I shared with her that stay at home parenting is, without comparison, the most difficult job, she began sobbing. “It really, really is,” she said. “I would give anything to be back at my high stress job, working 70 hours a week and barely sleeping. That was simple compared to this.”
“Anything,” I said, “except staying at home with your kids.”
“Exactly,” she responded.
I watched her son, older than the rest of the children in the play space, and saw him through her eyes. This was her baby. To the uninformed moms in the play space, he was loud, hyper and difficult to control. Yet here was one of us, standing in front of me, nursing her young daughter while diligently watching her son to make sure he was behaving appropriately.
At that moment her son may as well have been mine. I felt such empathy toward her. I thought of her nights spent arguing with her husband, and the added guilt that gave her daily. She already blamed herself for her son’s challenges and did not know where to turn for advice. She stopped going to play group because she was embarrassed, and did not like to visit these spaces for the same reason.
She was isolated, confused and deeply in love with her son.
She had to leave shortly thereafter, and I have not seen her again. I think of her often, and hope that somehow, and miraculously, she has found support, and that life is better for her and her family.
Bio: Jennifer Andersen is excited to be involved with a project like M.O.M that will bring some visibility to the realities that mothers face. Then we may be able to start to define it, making it demanding of respect and awe. Jennifer lives outside of Boston, with her two children ages 1 and 3. You can find more of her musings and suggestions for making life easier at www.ponderingjane.com, Honest Musing on Family Living. www.jenniferandersen.com voice over artist.
Top photo credit Mary R. Vogt | MorgueFile; author photo courtesy Jennifer Andersen.