10 Surprises about Becoming a SAHM

I knew it would be hard. And lonely. And frustrating.

I was afraid it would be boring, and nervous about living up to my own expectations.

I even considered the fact that I might resent Mark and miss my old, less-than-beloved job.

But despite all my worrying and thinking and looking at every possibility and angle about the whole situation, many things about staying at home with Annalyn have still surprised me. Here are the ones I’ve noticed so far:

1. Losing track of dates: I know it’s fall. I know it’s November. I do. But a couple weeks ago, I saw people on Twitter mention that schools were closed for inclement weather (wind and rain, I believe). I told my husband about it and said, “I don’t know what schools are in session. Maybe summer school?” He just looked at me for a minute and then said, “Mary, it’s October!”

Right. I knew that. I did. But apparently some part of my brain believes that if I’m “off” work, it must be summertime!

2. Dry skin: Obviously the weather has a little bit to do with this, but more than the dry air outside, the constant washing and wiping of every surface possible is sucking the life right out of my skin. Laundry, dishes and dozens of trips to the bathroom each day (“potty trained” does not mean “completely independent and able to use an appropriate amount of toilet paper”) are killing my hands.

3. Messy, lived-in house: I’d heard about this problem. My stay-at-home mom friends, especially those who happened to be listing their houses for sale, complained that it’s impossible to keep a clean house when you’re IN that house all day long. With children. And their toys.

No kidding! I like to think that Annalyn is pretty neat, but good grief, that girl can wreck a room! In less time than it took me to clean it up, that’s for sure – and often, just minutes AFTER I cleaned it up in the first place!

4. Seeing more dust and cobwebs: Another result of being home, specifically during the light of the day, is that I am seeing the dust and cobwebs that call my house home. Ugh. If there’s one chore I hate (although, let’s be honest, there are MANY), it’s dusting. I’m allergic to dust, so I prefer to just let it sit. That way, I’m not stirring it up and breathing it in.

Unfortunately, that means my house is – here’s the surprise – dusty. And when the sun shines through the windows at ten in the morning, I can see that dust as clearly as I can see the computer screen in front of my face.

The dust, it’s mocking me. It’s just so…THERE.

5. A toy shortage: Historically, we have not bought toys for Annalyn. We’ve left that up to family and friends at holidays and birthdays. Until recently, that didn’t matter, because she was playing with a seemingly endless supply of toys and dolls and blocks and games at daycare.

But now that we’re home for the majority of the day, I’m realizing just how few toys we have! We don’t have much room, so we’ve kept our toy supply low on purpose. But faced with another round of the same puzzles and same blocks and same dolls, I’m starting to think Santa needs to bring a big bag of toys this year.

(Or at least a few more toys with lots of options. Because even though I feel like we have nothing to play with around here, I love how vivid and active Annalyn’s imagination is and I love how she uses that imagination instead of relying on dozens of toys for entertainment.)

6. Crowded closet: My laundry has never been so DONE. The first week I was home, I emptied all our hampers and started in on the rugs and curtains. I even got that clean laundry put away for once.

And that’s when I noticed the problem. Because it’s been so long since I was on top of our laundry situation – and I normally just leave all my clean hanging clothes in the garage, where our washer and dryer are – I didn’t realize how FULL my closet is!

I just went through my clothes and gave away a TON of wrong-sized (AHEM.) work clothes, so now I need to put away my spring/summer clothes. I think I saw a flat Rubbermaid box for just that purpose in the garage…

7. Redirection is hard: I’ve realized that it is so much easier to yell at Annalyn than to redirect or distract her. Of course, it doesn’t work. And it makes me feel awful. But in the moment, when I’m so tired of the WORK of keeping toddler tantrums at bay, yelling is easier.

I’m working on that.

8. I can’t bake. Correction: I can bake. I just shouldn’t. Nothing has felt more productive and, honestly, domestic than baking cookies and bread these last few weeks. On the flip side, nothing has felt more gluttonous than eating them almost immediately.

New plan: Only bake when I can give [at least some of] the goodies to someone else!

9. Obsessive compulsions: I’m particular about many things, from stacking books in a straight line to sorting M&Ms by color. But after years of convincing myself that a moderately neat house was good enough, I had no idea how quickly I’d morph into Perfectionist Housewife.

That’s not to say my house is perfectly clean! Nope. See #4 for more about that. And though I’m slowly making my way through a list of cleaning and organizing projects, the key word in that statement is “slowly.”

But the parts that I have cleaned? Well, they had better STAY that way! Which, if you’ll refer back to #3, you’ll know is impossible.

The worst case of my OCD is the garage and its blanket of leaves. I’ve cleaned and straightened our garage so we can park in it again (a constant battle in our house with too little storage, no laundry room and one-car garage). I even washed the rugs in front of the washer and dryer and swept out all the debris.

Yet every single time we open that garage door, leaves fly right in like they live here or something. So annoying.

10. Contentment: The biggest surprise of all is that I kind of like being at home. I’m not saying I love it all – or that I love it all the time. I’ve cried tears of frustration and boredom and anger more than once. (Pretty much every day, if I’m honest. And I am.)

But I can’t deny that it is nice to have time to get to the projects that have been sitting on my to-do list for, literally, years. And though I could do without Annalyn’s recent clinginess and Mommy-obsession, I also kind of like just how much she loves spending time with me.

So while I still don’t imagine this will be the life I choose forever – and I’m still actively pursuing a freelance career – I’m not sorry I chose it for now.

Have you gone through any changes lately? What about the new situation surprised you? And if you bake, how do you manage to NOT eat all the cookies???

This post will be linked to Top Ten Tuesday at OhAmanda.

55 Comments 10 Surprises about Becoming a SAHM

  1. Allison @ Alli 'n Son November 8, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    I’m DYING over here. This is so me. Except for the on top of the laundry thing. At first I was, and then life got too busy and there is at least one basket of clean clothes that needs to be put away.

    As for not eating the cookies as you bake them, I haven’t figured that one out yet either.

    1. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect November 14, 2010 at 9:53 pm

      Well, I’m new. Give me some time, and I’m sure the laundry will go back to its normal state. ;)

  2. Bethany November 8, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    Great post! I can completely relate. And I don’t eat the whole batch of cookies – but if I bake a pan of brownies you can forget about them being there the next day!

    1. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect November 14, 2010 at 9:53 pm

      Oh yeah – brownies are the WORST! And…the BEST. :)

  3. Messy Mom November 8, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    Yea! Congrats, welcome to the pretty much stay at home mom club. Careful with #5. I was shocked to read that because most people have the opposite problem, you do not want the opposite problem!

    1. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect November 14, 2010 at 9:52 pm

      Good point! We did a little pre-Christmas-shopping this weekend, and I realized that it’s so easy to fall into the “I want this, I want that, I want this and that” mode. Again. Realized it again. ;)

  4. Jan November 8, 2010 at 10:38 pm

    #3 and #4 are so true- the house gets so messy when we are home! and the dust and cobwebs- yikes!

    1. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect November 14, 2010 at 9:51 pm

      I swear, those cobwebs appear out of NOWHERE – and so FAST!!!

  5. crystal & co November 9, 2010 at 6:02 am

    I became a stay at home mom when our twins were born. They are now 4 1/2. (We also have an 11 and 9 year old and then proceeded to have another baby 18 months ago.)

    I really was so naive about it all. I thought my life was going to be full of play dates and trips to the zoo and story time at the library, a spotless house, etc.

    Oh boy was i wrong.

    Your list is spot on. My hands are always cracked and need more lotion that I can offer.

    The house is never ever spotless. Heck, I am lucky to get the living room picked up and presentable for last minute company.

    Redirecting can be hard! I so get that one!

    It is certainly the life of hurry up and wait a minute. And for some reason people casually refer to it as the easy life. I just do not get that .

    Great list!

    1. Nia November 14, 2010 at 12:58 am

      My goodness. I have this problem with my hands just about all year round. My husband and friends seem to think I’m an abnormal freak for having dry, cracked, burning hands. Now I know I’m just doing the best I can to keep germs away from my hands with everything us moms touch every second of every day.

      1. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect November 14, 2010 at 9:22 pm

        Not a freak, just a mom. :)

    2. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect November 14, 2010 at 9:51 pm

      Crystal, you have your hands FULL! Last-minute company with five kiddos would put me over the edge, much less getting a room cleaned up!

    1. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect November 14, 2010 at 9:50 pm

      So much for my originality. Sorry, Jess!

      My domesticity is touch and go. I go in spurts (like with everything), baking all afternoon and then laying on the couch and reading all evening. My goal now is consistency (like with everything)!

  6. Lara November 9, 2010 at 7:14 am

    I can relate to #5 although I’ve been a SAHM all along. I have 2 boys, but we LOVE anything duplo/lego – easy to add to the collection and endless possibilities. Wooden blocks, animals, cars and Little People are great for encouraging imagination and using interchangeably. We also don’t have a lot of space, but are IN LOVE with the Trofast system we got from Ikea. So easy to keep things neat and organized – and you can use whatever design works for your space!

    1. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect November 14, 2010 at 9:49 pm

      I’ve been wanting to get her some Little People for over a year now. This Christmas might be the time to do it.

  7. Amy November 9, 2010 at 8:26 am

    I’m a work at home mom so I could relate to some of this. Especially the toy issue moreso because I am working at home all day and the kids unfortunately have to have a lot of self-directed play. My girls are 6 and 8 now so it’s easier but wow, our toy room is FULL and honestly, I have the opposite problem and need to pare down!

    1. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect November 14, 2010 at 9:48 pm

      Yes, self-directed play is exactly what we need more of over here! I was trying to put that into words to my husband this weekend, and he did NOT understand me!

  8. Caroline November 9, 2010 at 9:11 am

    Mary, I love this honest and funny peek into your new life “at home”. Sounds like you are doing great! As a matter of fact, you’re welcome to come over here any time you like to clean, organize, and do laundry :-) And bake cookies, of course!

    A house that’s constantly lived in never stays clean. I bemoan that fact every single day. But I also cherish the rocks and Hot Wheels all over the floor, because one day my house will be completely clean and that will mean that my baby is all grown up!

    P.S. You’re not going crazy—That was me who commented the other day using my real name!

    1. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect November 14, 2010 at 9:47 pm

      Ha! Believe me, I am no cleaning queen. I hhhhhhate it! It just so happens that I managed to clean a couple things – which, of course, got dirty again right away! Grrr!

  9. Caroline November 9, 2010 at 9:12 am

    Oh, wait, I just used my real name again. I’m the other person, too! :-)

  10. Sharone November 9, 2010 at 10:46 am

    I’m not a stay at home mom, but I love to bake! I always give away about 90 percent of what I bake so that it doesn’t torment me (i.e., so I don’t eat six pumpkin scones for afternoon snack.). I usually have a friend or group of friends in mind when I bake – someone I know I’ll see in the next couple of days, someone I know would love whatever it is I’m baking…and when all else fails, I bring boxes of baked goods to work, to meetings, to class–anywhere where there’ll be people gathered to consume what I definitely shouldn’t. :)

    1. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect November 14, 2010 at 9:44 pm

      I think I’m going to be doing a lot of baking gifts for Christmas this year to get my “fix” without my extra calories!

  11. Danyelle November 9, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    Could you freeze your baking and then you will be that much more done and ready for the holidays? I know you can freeze cookie dough and could probably freeze already baked cookies- or at least I know you can freeze already baked breads/ muffins. I guess all that would depend on whether you have ample freezer space to store your goods.

    1. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect November 14, 2010 at 9:43 pm

      Yes. So smart! Thank you for that idea!!

  12. Heather November 9, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    AMEN on #8 — and the sad thing is, I LOVE baking and so do my kids! But mama can’t buy another, larger wardrobe!! As for #5, I got three bins, divided the toys amongst them and rotate them weekly — one out, two in the closet. They aren’t huge bins, but apparently two weeks out of sight rekindles the novelty!

    1. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect November 14, 2010 at 9:42 pm

      I love the idea of rotating toys! Thanks, Heather!

  13. Deb November 9, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    I have been a SAHM for a while now, and I totally get where you are coming from. Except that laundry business. Laundry is stupid.

    As for the cookies, here is what I do and it works great. Make a batch of cookie dough and bake off one cookie sheet of cookies. Then form the rest of the dough into balls, flash freeze on a sheet tray and then bag them up. You can take two or three or eleven out of the freezer and bake them from frozen – just cook a minute or two longer than with fresh dough. That way there is not 4 dozen cookies laying around calling your name, but you can still have fresh ones when the urge is strong.

    1. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect November 14, 2010 at 9:41 pm

      Laundry is totally stupid! And great tip about baking. It seems so obvious but I hadn’t thought of freezing!

  14. nicole November 9, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    I’ve been out of the workplace for 7 years and I still sometimes miss my job (and my 1.5 hour lunch breaks!). My house is a mess more than I would care to admit. I do love to bake and I eat too much of the cookies.

    1. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect November 14, 2010 at 9:41 pm

      Nicole, thank you for backing me up on these things! And, really, why clean when you can eat cookies? Haha!

  15. Beth at Not a Bow in Sight November 9, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    Yes, all of those things are occupational hazards I’ve been experiencing for the past three and a half years. The OCD part is SO me. I’m learning to live with the “lived-in” look. I even leave the crayon on the wall for a little while before re-painting. Sigh.

    1. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect November 14, 2010 at 9:40 pm

      We’ve been settling for lived-in for so long that I guess I was hoping me being home would automatically mean magazine-perfect. Silly me! :)

  16. Nony the Slob November 9, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    To me, one of the most not-what-I-thought-staying-home-would-be things is the cookie thing. SAHMs are supposed to bake cookies.

    But, like you, I just can’t.

    1. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect November 14, 2010 at 9:39 pm

      Yep. Turns out baking is bad for this mama!

  17. Anne November 9, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    I loved reading your post because I think so many can relate. I remember when I was able to be a SAHM and I LOVED it! I had all the same frustrations but with 4 little ones I was definitely never bored. Time goes by so fast. I sure miss those days and I wish I could still be a SAHM but the Lord has me else where. Enjoy every moment. Event he hard ones. Sounds like you are doing a great job.

    1. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect November 14, 2010 at 9:39 pm

      Thanks, Anne. And yeah, I imagine four kiddos leave little time for boredom. ;)

  18. stacy November 9, 2010 at 8:35 pm

    I love your #10. As for the dry skin, same thing happened to me. I couldn’t figure out what to do. I tried every cream and lotion out there. finally my dermotologist diagnosed it as “mommy hands” and reccomended gloves in a bottle lotion, which you can get at most drug stores or on amazon. and it is amazing. I asked her if I could get a “doctors note” that said no more cleaning and she just chuckled!

    1. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect November 14, 2010 at 9:38 pm

      Mommy Hands. Who knew??

  19. Katie November 10, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    I quit work 5 months ago to stay home with my son, and I feel like I relate to ALL of these. Except that I can bake, but I eat it all. :(

    I loved reading this! Helps to hear other women in the same place. :) It’s a hard hard job, but a beautiful one too.

    1. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect November 14, 2010 at 9:35 pm

      Exactly. I bake stuff, it’s delicious, and then it’s GONE. :(

  20. mandi@itscome2this November 11, 2010 at 6:04 am

    Can so relate to that list Mary! And I LOVE the picture of you two … so super cute!!!

    1. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect November 14, 2010 at 9:35 pm

      Thanks! I thought of it at the last minute!

  21. Heather November 11, 2010 at 8:34 pm

    Love this post, I admire any mom that stays home! And, I sometimes only bake 12 cookies and freeze the rest (but that could have something to do with my love for cookie dough–it is a lot harder to eat frozen cookie dough though)

  22. Jenna @ Newlyweds November 13, 2010 at 7:55 am

    So funny and so very true!! (as I lotion up my Mommy hands)
    Enjoy your time home with your daughter it goes by so very quickly.

    1. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect November 14, 2010 at 9:26 pm

      Thanks, Jenna!

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  24. Jackie November 13, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    I always wanted to be a SAHM and I was blessed to be able to quit work when our daughter was born. All that to say, I was never really concerned with being bored or missing my job or anything like that. Surprisingly though, the hardest part for me was losing the “structure” of each day. I was so used to getting up at a certain time (ie being showered and dressed long before noon) and doing errands on a certain day, getting all the cleaning done in one day, etc.–needless to say all of that flew out the window with our little one. It took awhile to adjust, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. :)

    1. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect November 14, 2010 at 9:23 pm

      I can see that, about the structure. I’ve realized just with Saturdays (when I was working) how much I need it! I love how my daughter’s morning preschool and afternoon nap gives structure to our days now. Without that, I’d be lost!

  25. Chele' November 15, 2010 at 11:24 am

    My daughter just turned 14. I’m still a SAHM, only now I add “and wife” to it.

    I can tell you the date any bill is due or when any social activity is, without so much as a effort of thought, but without the calendar wallpaper on my laptop or the date at the top of the newspaper, I couldn’t even guess what the date was.

    Dry skin. Oh, mama. Until two weeks ago, my hands looked very much like I had some sort of shedding snake disease. I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on lotions and creams, some prescription, most not. Nothing. Ever. Worked. Why would it? I only wash my hands a bajillion times a day and that’s not counting hand-washing delicate clothes or doing dishes. I’d put lotion on and five minutes after I stopped screaming from the pain my hands were back in water. That having been said, a few weeks ago I took a gamble and bought some cold-pressed organic coconut oil. It had been recommended to me in March and I’d been stalling. I mean, really? Coconut oil?? I finally decided I’d risk it. If it didn’t work, I could always add a little coconut flavor to my baking until the oil was gone, which wouldn’t take long with the onslaught of baking I do for the holidays.

    My hands? Not so lizard-y anymore, and seems to be getting better with each day. Still kinda dry, but people don’t recoil in horror when they see my hands. I’ve even started rubbing my shins (which for some reason get insanely dry and flakey, maybe because I wear shorts all the time?) with a bit of coconut oil after my showers in the morning. After three days, I’m starting to see a difference. I no longer have the urge to claw all the skin off my legs, and I consider THAT a huge improvement.

    Also, watch out for that OCD. I kept mine in check for yeeeeaaaars. About 6 months after I started staying home, I noticed it rearing its head and stretching. Now, after 12-ish years (I actually worked a year or two a few years back when my husband was transitioning jobs), I catch my husband and daughter staring at me like I’ve lost my mind because I’m alphabetizing the spices after I’ve cooked. Or I’m organizing the refrigerator… again… for the 3rd time in a day… because someone opened the door to get the jelly out and didn’t put it back into the condiments crate. Or because I’m unfolding, washing, drying, and refolding all the towels in our home… because someone didn’t fold ONE right.

    ….oh. You know what? Maybe I DO need to start focusing on MY interests now that the kid is less mom-needy. No wonder they look at me like I’ve lost my mind. It’s entirely possible that I have.


  26. MaryEllen November 18, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    You make me smile! Really, you are so honest that it is refreshing to know there are other mom’s that are normal and human. You hear so much about the “super mom’s” that you start expecting perfection in everything. Thank you for your honesty & humor :>

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  28. Gale April 4, 2011 at 7:51 pm

    Contentment came slowly for me…I found myself shouting out my apartment one day “I want to go back to work!” But then, I loved my job, and never wanted to parent full time. But now, I don’t think I would want to go back.

    Oh, and the forgetting dates…it’s so true. It’s better now that the kids are in school…but in summer it all breaks down. What day of the week is it? I wouldn’t know if it wasn’t for the clock on my computer!

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