Identity Crisis of a Stay-at-Home Mom

So I’ve been thinking A LOT about how my identity has a lot wrapped up in Baby T.  Being a Mom has dominated my life–which it well should, since it’s only the most important thing in my life, ever–BUT it’s a little tiring when I find myself forgetting who I was before him–and who I still am.  Becoming a stay-at-home mom has made me feel more significant than I’ve ever felt before, but also less significant than I’ve ever felt in my life. 

So let me lay it out for you, or rather for myself.  I am a highly educated, well-spoken, social woman.  I worked hard for my degree, worked hard at building lasting friendships and relationships and work really hard at my marriage (God love my husband, I am not easy to live with but neither is he).  I worked hard (and continue to work hard) to get my family where we are today–but I’ll be damned if I don’t feel like a lazy, free-loader because I’m not bringing home a paycheck.

I WAS a public school teacher by profession.  Let me tell you–it’s a thankless, exasperating job, which was emotionally exhausting, inappropriately driven by politics, and the pay is terrible–but it DEFINED me.  It was a conversation starter.  People always ask “What do you do for a living?” and you know what–teacher is a great response.  It’s respectable to most, it’s noticeably difficult to other parents and most people give you “props” saying they couldn’t imagine teaching hormonal middle schoolers.

NOW when people ask me what I do for a living, I say I’m a Stay-at-Home Mom and then I somehow think I can qualify that by saying I USED to be a middle school English Teacher? Ugh-I want to shake myself just for acknowledging that to you.  I feel like a LOSER–and why? Because my identity was wrapped up in being a teacher and now it’s wrapped up in JUST being a parent.  Ugh–I want to shake myself again–seriously, do you even hear yourself, Kayla?

Sometimes I wish I lived during a different era–being a Stay-at-Home Mom was kind of the norm in the 50s and 60s no?  It would be easier to explain my position and my choices.  Then, I consider the fact that I am no housewife–in fact, I am downright TERRIBLE at keeping my house clean and honestly that’s out of pure lazy-ness.  I seriously stink at being a housewife.  (Note: We are talking not vacuuming every day and dishes in the sink–not Hoarders filth).

Then, I think–maybe I’d be a great country club mom–play tennis in the morning with my gal pals, pick up the kids at school and drive them to their various activities, come home to a clean house (thanks to the housekeeper) and then THINK about preparing a delicious meal?  Yeah, that would be the life.

Then, I have THIS crazy thought.  If being a mom is who I am, why do we not have a house full of kids? At least then, I would feel like it really was my full-time job and “purpose” in life.  As if that would make this identity crisis any better?  Quick–someone SLAP ME PLEASE!

So what the heck does this all mean?  A teacher of mine once told me to think, and then think about why you think the way you do.  Essentially, reflect on your thoughts and find bigger meaning in them.  Well, aside from a bunch of blabber about me having an identity crisis–I am wondering about how self-value and how others assign value is very much linked to professions.   Before becoming a mom, I thought stay-at-home mom’s were either uneducated or their husband’s were rich.  (I know *scoff* how ignorant).  Now I know it’s a choice (I am neither uneducated, nor am I married to a rich man) and for some, like me, not an easy one.

People always ask me WHEN I will be returning to work—as if I do NOT have an option.  I’ve gotten over that initial awkwardness of saying not any time soon—but seriously people quit asking me!  I feel like somehow it’s not okay for me to not want to return to work–like I have to justify that feeling in some way.  I know in my heart of hearts, that I do not want to go back to work–I want to raise my child(ren) and run my household–but is that enough?  Why can’t that be enough for me?  Am I letting societal norms get into my head?  I feel like the anti-Christ of Feminism.  I feel that I am not contributing enough to my household because I get to stay home every day.  I feel guilty that all the pressure is on my husband.  I feel guilty that I have thousands of dollars in debt for a degree that I may never use again.  When my children are in school, then what will my purpose be?  And after that, once they are raised and gone from home?  Is it okay to just be “taken care of” for the rest of my life?

Why is self-worth and value tied to a paycheck?  Why is it tied to a “job”?  Think about it—when someone tells you their job or profession—don’t you make immediate assumptions about the kind of person they are?  Maybe we need to knock that off.  I know I certainly do.

I’m still settling in to my new identity as a “kept” woman–and it’s a struggle for me to handle our finances and realize that we may not have the things that others have or the “stuff”–and it may be a while until we can finally purchase a home.  I am still coming to terms with the fact that my choice to stay home will change the course of my self-authored 5 Year Plan.  Maybe that’s why I feel so uncomfortable about not contributing financially.  While I’m not sure what the future holds, I do know that, right now, staying home agrees with me, staying home agrees with my son and staying home agrees with my husband—so really who else’s opinions matter?  It works for our family so who am I to doubt it?

Please tell me I’m not the only Mama out there struggling with this.  Since being a stay-at-home mom I’ve met A LOT of highly educated, amazing women who CHOOSE to stay home—are any of you out there?  Do any of you feel the same way?  Will it get easier?  

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8 thoughts on “Identity Crisis of a Stay-at-Home Mom

  1. Ah! The threads in here are awesome!!!! Who am I? Who defines that? What TASKS define that? Why do I feel so….lost, guilty, etc. when I don’t feel defined by what the world of dollars and cents “says” I am? How much might have to do with the larger culture, after all? Is ANYTHING in our country, our world these days worth anything if it can’t be measured by money???? Oh, you’ve so much here to work with….it’s awesome watching you think and feel! (Still love the voice!) Perhaps “human being who loves, is loved, and is thrilled by the chance to cherish the passing moments of a beloved child’s youth and humbled by the devotion of a good spouse….and shares her humanity with the world” would do as a working title for the time being???? : ) Human. Being. Whew!

    • Haha–certainly a mouthful but a good working title for sure! Writing this it seemed so disorganized-but I decided it was all related and I would just throw it all out there at once. (PS: Guess who that teacher was–that wanted me to think and then think about why I was thinking that way? Spoiler Alert: You.)

  2. I loved this! I think many women these days would love the chance to be a stay at home mom! I think it’s important to realize that we are all more than our “paycheck” or living. Even as a stay at home mom, you’re still Kayla, but you’re also Baby T’s hero! I think it’s great that you are able to stay he and raise your son the way you see fit and for those that do not think that, too bad! Your family’s well being is your job and it is certainly the most important job out there.

  3. Wow! This was me 5 years ago (and sometimes still is!)! I left my 4th grade teaching position right before I delivered my second child. My oldest was 2 at the time. That whole first year I felt isolated and useless. I had no idea what to do with myself, even though I was working at home running my own own in-home daycare. I was working harder than I ever had before, but I still felt inferior. When people asked what I did, I was now a “SAHM” or a “babysitter” – both of which made me feel like I was somehow LESS educated and LESS sophisticated. To top it all off, I left my world of colleagues and friends and was now relegated to FB statuses and clipped phone calls while I tried to feed, nurture, and entertain 5 kids under 3 years old!! I will say that even having 4 kids and bringing in a “much smaller” paycheck does not bring me the same sense of purpose that having the title of “teacher” did. I traded that purpose for being “Mommy”. Some days, I see that as the best trade EVER. Some days I wish for a little more prestige and a little less baby schmutz 🙂

    • Yay–so glad to hear I am not alone in this! You’re exactly right, I feel LESS sophisticated and educated–it’s the strangest thing! I agree it was the best trade ever, but certainly not the easiest one–at least for me! Thanks for commenting!

  4. I, too, feel obligated to add “laid off school teacher who also works part time” to my self-description. I’m not embarrassed to be home with my son, but I feel the need to supplement my identity around others.

    Dr. Mohanty, a native of India, and lit professor at RIC defined his mother and all SAHMs as homemakers. He never downplayed the important role women play in the household & in child development. His book, Women’s Writing in Orissa, served as our text & opened our eyes to the struggles and triumphs of women. I’ve been in a lazy funk & I’m glad I read this post. I have fresh motivation to get off my butt & make my time with my son count, instead of worrying about how others perceive me & dwelling on my shortcomings, as I’m sure all moms do from time to time.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting, Kelly! Glad I’m not the only one 🙂 It’s so easy to fall into the lazy funk (guilty) especially when you feel invisible to the world–but we don’t give ourselves enough credit! Good luck, mama, you matter!

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