I’m a stay at home mom. It’s what works for my family (which, at four kids, is larger than your average bunch).
This also isn’t a post highlighting all the things I miss about my working life, although there are certainly plenty.
Instead, this is more of a confession.
Most articles about stay at home moms lament the loss of independence and personal freedom. I certainly don’t dispute those.
Lately, however, I’ve been feeling the loss of something else, and it’s a little uglier to admit.
What I really miss as a stay at home mom is validation.
Even typing that feels a little slimy, a little shameful.
I’ve always considered myself a pretty independent person. I was never the type who needed someone to tell me how great I was or what a good job I was doing.
Or so I thought.
Apparently, those things just came so regularly, I didn’t think I needed them.
I’ve always been an achiever. I graduated at the top of my class in high school and college. Then I entered the working world and did a pretty great job there too. I gave it my all and my all was very good.
I honestly can’t remember a time in my career when my best wasn’t good enough.
Busy? Yes. Stressful? Sure. But always good enough.
And now, as a parent?
My best is… well, it’s often mediocre at best. (See what I did there?)
Plus, the days where I do everything “perfectly” and the days I do almost nothing that way often look nearly identical by bedtime. That has been such a jarring shift for me.
Gone are the days where I could have a to-do list and reasonably feel like I completed the items on it.
Grade 90 essays? Check!
Teach about federalism? Check!
Prepare students for their AP Exam? Check!
Now, everything is just so nebulous. Sure, maybe I’ll clean or get some meals prepared, but as soon as those things are done, the countdown just continues until the next meal or the next mess.
There is no sense of completion.
When I was working, validation just came. An appreciative email from a colleague, a letter from a former student, stellar test scores – all of it made me feel like I was doing a good job.
Even on my crappiest working days (which of course, there were plenty), I still earned a paycheck. I didn’t really think of that as validation back then, but maybe that’s just because I’d never been without one.
Now it’s not unusual to end the day and find myself wondering, “Did I even accomplish anything at all?”
After a job well done parenting, the reward is… well, there is no tangible reward. We don’t really reap the seeds we sow in parenting until years (or even decades) later.
Of course there’s love and connection, and those are incredibly important. But there’s no finish line, no task list you can point to and say, “Well, today I successfully instilled a sense of belonging in Child 2. Check!”
Everything is an ongoing process and the work is never done.
One day seems to blur right into the next – and that’s even more true since we’ve been navigating this pandemic hellscape.
Does my family appreciate me? Of course they do. My husband tells me he’s grateful for how I tend to our family. My kids love me and are well-cared for.
That’s what makes missing the validation feel so much dirtier.
I’m starting to feel a little bit like that needy girlfriend you see mercilessly mocked in romantic comedies:
Tell me I’m pretty. Tell me you love me. Tell me I’m good at this.
I know this won’t last forever—it’s a phase. I also know that being a working mom brings a whole host of its own challenges (it’s been a few years, but I still remember that juggling act).
But I have to tell you, when I do eventually return to the working world, I will see those small day-to-day validations in a much more appreciative light.
(The peeing alone thing will be nice, too.)