I always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. When my ex and I were dating, we agreed that would be the thing to do. When we were newly married, we lived in a modest house.
As time passed, we both lost sight of that plan. We wanted bigger, nicer, and we wanted a pool. Eventually, we bought our dream house.
I remember a conversation we had right around the time that we put the offer in on the dream house. My ex reminded me of our plan for me to stay at home. If we buy dream house, he said, you won’t be able to do that.
I told him that I would continue working even after we had children. I wanted the big house and the kids. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
After I had my son, I went back to work. Right away, I felt overwhelmed. I was a mom, a business owner, a wife and stepmom, and manager of the house. I did not ask for help because I did not feel that I deserved it.
Every day at work, I felt guilty. Someone else was raising my child. Taking care of him. Would she console him when he cried? Would she neglect him? God forbid, would she hit him? I had extreme separation anxiety. My son had it too. He was mirroring me. I had my first panic attack due to this.
To make up for our separation, I was Super Mommy at night. I insisted on doing all of the feeding, bathing, playing and putting down to sleep. I never got a break. I was exhausted and stressed out. Then I complained to my friends that my husband never did anything to help with our son.
Most of my friends were stay-at-home moms. I complained to them about my stress and my guilt. I made it out like I had no choice but to work. Which technically was true at that point. But it was due to my decision. And now I was stuck.
Mother’s guilt is nothing new. Ask any mom. They feel guilty about something. Those who stay at home long to get a job. Those who work, long to stay at home. The grass is always greener.
I started abusing alcohol and prescription diet pills, which are similar to amphetamines. This is what they call “self medicating”. My mental health got worse and worse. My marriage was in trouble. When my son was 4, I had a nervous breakdown. Read about that here
This lead me to seek psychiatric help and a diagnosis of bipolar II and alcoholism. Read about that here. When my son was six, my husband and I separated and then divorced. I had to sell my dream house. The dream was over.
Now, many years later my son and I live in a small rental house. My divorce, and my business failing, cost me my life savings. I felt like the divorce was my fault and that I had destroyed our family. After the breakup I spent about seven years beating myself up. I felt too guilty to ask God for forgiveness.
Today I am much better. I’ve been in treatment for my bipolar consistently. My ex forgives me and is now remarried. I know God has forgiven me. Most importantly, I have forgiven myself. I spent way too much time feeling guilty.
Seventy percent of mothers with children under the age of 18 work outside of the home. I assume the majority of working moms don’t have a choice. Our society has become one where it usually takes two incomes to support a family. Many moms who stay at home make huge sacrifices in order to make that work. I respect moms who do and moms who don’t. None of us should be judged for what we do.
I am no expert, but I do have some mom tips based on my own experience:
- Ask for help. Husbands should pull their weight. If you’re single, ask friends and family.
- If you can afford it, hire a house cleaner.
- If you stay at home, put your kids in a church mother’s day out program. Or pair up with a friend and trade childcare so you can be alone
- Start early at getting your kids to help with cleaning up, chores and grooming themselves. You’re doing them a favor.
- You must take care of yourself. It’s not selfish to take a night off or get a full night’s sleep.
- Don’t neglect your marriage. Hire a sitter and have date night once a week.
- Never withhold sex even when you’re mad at your husband
- Never put your kids above your husband. Your marriage is more important.
- Never ever get divorced. It will hurt your kids, maybe even traumatize them. Do whatever you can to stay married.
- If your husband leaves you, get your kids into counseling right away. They have phone and online counseling now.
- Don’t let guilt consume you. You probably did nothing wrong. Even if you did, people make mistakes. It’s appropriate to feel bad for a while, but then you must get over it. God does not want us anxious, depressed or miserable. Pray to Him and He will make you whole again.