Sending up the Bat Signal: An Open Letter to SAHMs

From time to time, I send up the bat signal and ask you all for help. There are times when we need to band together and let another mom (or dad – I added this for you SPD) know she is not alone. And I am positive she is not alone. POS-IT-IVE. So here’s the email my friend sent me a few days ago (and yes, I do have her permission to publish it here):

I’m too embarrassed to post this on facebook, but this is what I want to ask everyone:
Dear stay at home moms,
HOW DO YOU DO IT?!!!! No really, how? I’ve been a SAHM since my child was born and I am spent. How do you get anything done? Or do you just concede that nothing will ever get done ever again? Your house will be a disaster, you will look and feel like a disaster and you will let your child watch obscene amounts of Curious George to keep some tiny amount of sanity. Oh, and let’s not forget the binge eating throughout the day and booze after It’s bedtime. Yes, I said “It”.

Here’s my response:

Dear Friend,

I don’t really “do” it. And I definitely don’t do it well. I sort of muddle along blindly — sometimes with rage, sometimes with tears, and occasionally with a bit of grace. Or maybe I just hallucinate the grace part. I sort of sense that my grip on reality is slipping– what with the Santa Claus business, the tooth fairy, fairies in general, and the frickin’ Disney princesses, the line between real and pretend has become wide and blurry.  Wait, is it socially acceptable to threaten your kid with an omnicient fat stranger in a red suit year round or is that just in December? Did I say that all princesses had to go to graduate school before they got married or was that fairies?

I don’t get anything done. Well, you know, except for the slow and painful molding of a baby/toddler/kid into a thoughtful, kind, smart human being who is able to wipe her own butt. Some days I tell myself doing that –raising a child–is enough. If I squint, tilt my head, and stare at that thought long enough I almost believe it. Other days I make hand gestures at the laundry every time I walk past. I pretend I don’t see the dust bunnies under the couch and in the corners. I ignore the bits of pesto pasta form dinner several nights ago that have now dried and attached themselves firmly to the kitchen floor. I do what needs to be done. The feeding, watching, soothing, driving, teaching, carrying, scolding, stopping, wiping, encouraging, listening, asking, telling, role modeling, washing, directing, entertaining, and the safe keeping of my child. There isn’t time for anything else.

I lower my expectations for the cleanliness of my house, myself, and my clothes. I tell myself I am above brand names, dry-clean only, and an iron. I have inner beauty, bitches. Secretly, I feel bad about my weight, my frumpiness, and my hair. I tell my daughter I am awesome and funny and have amazing curves. Then I eat chocolate chips directly from the bag. Because I can’t drink. Damn the chronic illness!

I let my kid watch TV. Netflicks, baby. I congratulate myself on the fact that she doesn’t see commercials. I AM AN OUTSTANDING PARENT. Sometimes I power nap while she watches My Little Pony or Pound Puppies because that’s what I have to do to not be a complete mess. Plus, I’m sure both those shows are highly educational. Every Friday we have pizza movie night. I tell Zoey we have it because it’s fun! And we want to celebrate the weekend! But really it’s because I’m done. Exhausted. Spent. Crawling across the finish line.

You call your kid it. I call mine ratbag (thanks LM for this word!), snot, poo head, witch. Not to her face. At least not yet. I highly recommend the use of ratbag. Creative, accurate, and satisfying.

And I feel guilty. Almost all the time. I try and let it go. I talk to friends about it. I let them tell me not to feel bad. And sometimes it works.

Here’s my advice:

  • Know that it’s impossible to be a “good” SAHM. At least how society defines “good.” Society can suck it. We can’t do it all. And the man who set up the expectation that we  should raise kids, clean, cook, do laundry, volunteer  craft, and bake all while humming a jaunty tune should be harmed.
  • Find other mom friends who have the same reasonable and low expectations. Make sure they are snarky and sarcastic and funny. See them every day. Seriously. Adult contact is crucial.
  • Embrace the quote, “A clean house is a sign of a wasted life.” Or watch Hoarders for three seconds and your house will seem spick-and-span.
  • Use the TV. If it keeps you from yelling, crying, collapsing, USE IT. It’s better for the kid to watch TV for two hours than to have us be stomping, yelling, crying and generally falling apart. But, WILL THE MAN IN THE YELLOW HAT EVER LEARN?!?!
  • Preach it, sister! Tell the truth. Tell about how hard it is, how crazy making, how lonely. Connect with other moms about this.
  • Don’t be a woman who chirps about how amazing and fulfilling it always is. Run from moms who say that. RUN FAR. Anyone who finds it fulfilling to clean vomit out of a rug has problems. You don’t want any part of that.
  • Use the crock pot. Easy meals. One pot to wash. FTW!

Remember, you are not alone. You are an awesome mom. No interesting, worthwhile person gives a shit how clean your house is.



What about you? How would you answer my friend’s email?

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18 thoughts on “Sending up the Bat Signal: An Open Letter to SAHMs

  1. Amber

    Love it. Love you.
    I would tell her 😉 to have some cake for breakfast. Just as I did this morning. Most people call them muffins but I’m a realist. They’re cake. And I’m OK with that.

  2. Sandee Decker

    I think each of you is a GOOD SAHM.”Each mother SAHM or working feels guilty for what they can or cannot do. My advice is similar to Joslyne’s… seek adult companionship to share, laugh and cry. Sometimes you are so close to something that you don’t realize the amazing job you are doing. List out the positives each day… there are many you just have to realize what they are. In the future your “Poop Poop Pe Do” will give you the time you need to clean, cook, take of yourself. In the mean time love that “Darling” and don’t worry about the rest. Life will get better and enjoy the day for what it is. Oh, be sure to eat chocolate, cake, cookies or whatever makes you feel better!

    1. joslyne Post author

      “Sometimes you are so close to something that you don’t realize the amazing job you are doing.” LOVE that. You’re a brilliant mother! 🙂

  3. Carrie Roberts Redi

    Dear SAHM & Working Moms & Dads,

    As a former teacher, nanny, camp counselor, and babysitter, I thought with all of my education and 20+ years’ experience that parenting would be a breeze and always so wonderful. Boy was I delusional! It is the hardest job I have ever done. It is the most exhausting, mentally draining and sometimes incredibly boring job I have ever known. Additionally, all of the hard work that I do as a parent is not appreciated and sometimes taken for granted by my children. I feel like I have given up my incredibly organized “go-getter” self to attend to my children’s needs first while everything else is in constant chaos around me. Sigh.

    On the flip side, I have never known such undeniable love in my life. I have never experienced being so responsible in shaping another human being before (let alone 2). I have never heard any other child tell me, “You are the best mom in the world!” or “I love you more than ice cream, Mom!” After a very difficult road to finally becoming a parent, I am forever grateful that I am able to be a mom to my amazing twin girls.

    What I am learning as time goes on is that I don’t have to do this alone. I can be a “Supermom” but not without my all important sidekicks (aka. husband, babysitters, teachers, neighbors, friends, family) without whom I would be checking into a mental hospital right now. Thank you, everyone! I had to learn to “allow” others to help me when they offered and also to ask for help when I need it.

    The only thing I can do during this tumultuous time is forgive myself for not being able to keep up (this does NOT always happen on a daily basis) with the laundry, the cooking, shopping, household chores, pets, my health (aka exercise and weight loss), etc. I am holding on to the notion that this gets easier – as most of my friends with older kids tell me. My hope is to someday look around my neat and tidy house while my kids are happily playing – by themselves – and I am able to do something that I love doing instead of something I have to rush to get done before a meltdown occurs. I would also like to have a complete conversation with a grown-up without hearing, “Mom, I need you to get me something to eat and drink!” And as long as I am wishing for things….I would LOVE a trip to the Caribbean sans children!

    Maybe someday when my kids are older, they will know that I did the best I could for them but also understand that there is no “perfect parent”. No one in their right mind can be perfect at this parenting thing, just as no child can be perfect all the time. As long as it happens once in awhile….

    1. joslyne Post author

      Wow. This is brilliant. Really. Thank you for being honest and saying that sometimes parenting is boring. AMEN. The sidekick thing is soooo important. Also, can I tell you how much I love everything about this sentence: “My hope is to someday look around my neat and tidy house while my kids are happily playing – by themselves – and I am able to do something that I love doing instead of something I have to rush to get done before a meltdown occurs.” I think we need a “Dear Carrie” advice section on this blog. 🙂

  4. Niki

    Oh lord — I don’t think anyone doesn’t right. There is no right or wrong. You just cope with what comes and take it one day at a time. Once I finally became a mother, I realized how many books and blogs there were out there talking about how hard it is. It doesn’t occur to you to look for that kind of perspective before the baby is born. It’s a good thing, actually, because no one would ever have kids! It does get easier over time. You become a veteran with tools in your belt. It never gets easy — just easier. Older kids have bigger problems, but the also have independence! You will make it. In your own way, you will conquer it all!

    1. joslyne Post author

      “A veteran with tools in your belt.” LOVE IT!!!!!! (Does eating chocolate to cope count a sa tool?)

  5. Kate

    I have to agree with everything that has already been written. Those that really resonate for me this week: chocolate is vital, sidekicks (love that term) are critical and I couldn’t agree more about a clean house as a sign of a wasted life.
    I would also like to add what I am currently trying to do which is to be a good friend to yourself. Treat yourself with the same patience, compassion, and understanding that you would one of your dearest friends. You wouldn’t judge a friend for not doing the laundry when she is completely exhausted nor would you criticize her for wearing yoga pants every day because those are the only thing that fit or for letting her kid watch yet another episode of whatever because she needs a few minutes by herself. You would find ways to help her find the humor and see the other side of the struggle. You would make her a cup of tea and tell her tomorrow is another day.
    The voices in our heads that tell us that what we are doing as mothers and women isn’t good enough aren’t just wrong, they are cruel. I would not talk to anyone that way let alone a good friend. Part of the problem is that we see other moms who look like they “have it all together”. I saw a quote on Pinterest lately (which I look at instead of cleaning my house) which says something about not comparing someone else’s highlights to your blooper reel. I have never met a mother who didn’t think parenting was hard, felt like a train wreck most days and wondered often whether she was “doing it right”. I guarantee even those totally together moms feel the same way.
    So be kind to yourself, surround yourself with other moms/friends who make you feel supported and keep a secret stash of chocolate chips where no one else will find them.

    Jos, thank you for sharing this and for your advice!

    1. joslyne Post author

      Oh my gosh! I love this! Treating ourselves like a friend! I never do that . . . and I should. I am going to try and burn this into my brain. Thanks for posting this!

  6. Lisa McKay

    Typing this one handed bc other hand is cuddling toddler while in front of playschool. Amen re what you said re tv. Also amen re the boring. I can’t tell you how many mornings in Laos I’d look at Dominic and know we had 2.5 hours before I could pass him over to our house helper for an hour and I’d think about what we were going to do in that 2.5 hours and groan (think: go for a walk down dirt lane, look at chickens, look at puppies, pat the friendly ones, water the flowers in the garden, play in the gravel pile of a house construction zone, play with toys, and watch 1 episode of Baby Einstein). EVERY WEEK DAY. Now, admittedly I didn’t have to do our dishes or our laundry. But at serious risk of sounding spoiled, hours of uninterupted toddler time in a town with no mothers groups, no grocery stores, no malls, no playgrounds, can also turn into it’s own form of torture.

    Also, you’re welcome re Ratbag. It’s such a versatile term. Dominic laughed at me just today when I asked him if he was a ratbag. Then he nodded. Mind you, Dominic also laughs at me every time I venture to speak to him in my rudimentary Lao instead of English. I can virtually see him thinking “nice try mama, but your accent SUCKS.”

    I do not want to leave Australia and go back to Laos in mid-October after baby 2 arrives. Have I mentioned that?

    Also, I do not want to go through labour and delivery in five weeks, give or take a few. Have I mentioned that?

    I realize this comment is in no way coherent. Sorry. I’ll try harder next time. Sending hugs.

    1. joslyne Post author

      Your comment is totally coherent! And so so true. It’s amazing some of the things I do just to take up time. “Let’s go look for ants!” “Let’s take a walk to look at the stop sign!” *sigh*

  7. katecotton

    You are not alone!!! I am currently going through postpartum depression with my second child, and it often feels easier to retreat from people rather than admit truths that feel ugly (but you later learn are not ugly but normal). Force yourself to find your like-minded peeps (stay away from people who don’t make you feel good bc your free time is especially valuable now). For me right now, a day is fabulous if my children are uninjured, fed, maybe even bathed, and i get a shower and a clean outfit. My kids are both still young, so I’ll reset my daily expectations when it feels like I can. Reach out all you can until you find others who understand, bc they are out there, they just might be trying to hide how hard it is for them too.


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