Finding My Worth: My Angry Journey as a Stay-at-Home Mom

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angry mom

He was only 22 months old when he quietly said it. And it was the second time it happened. The words were simple and slid easily out of his little mouth. “Sorry, Mommy.” That was it. Nothing more. 

All of my brood were busy sloppily slurping soup one weekend afternoon while I tinkered around the kitchen, wiping up, putting away, washing clean. That’s when my littlest picked up his soup bowl and started drinking out of it, spilling it all over his chair and the floor. While I wasn’t thrilled about it, I had expected it. He wants desperately to do as the older two do but still lacks the necessary coordination. So cleaning up behind him, especially when he’s eating, is par for the course.

These words stopped me mid-wipe. Why, exactly, was he sorry? Why did he even think to respond to a simple accident with that gentle statement? A grown-up sentiment from a little being whose biggest concern should be when his bowl is getting refilled. Then I knew, and it felt like a punch to the most tender part of my stomach: he expected me to be angry. He confirmed for me what I had been both fearful of and ashamed of for months. I was angry. Really angry. Set off by the smallest of happenings.

My memories of myself are not of this angry person. The me I remember rarely feels anger at people and does not expect the worst. She doesn’t cringe when meeting new people or get aggravated when she thinks someone moves too slowly. She doesn’t mind helping find lost shoes, will come to the rescue without an eye roll, and delights in listening to stories told by both the old and the young.

But that morning, I found myself wondering where she was? What happened to her? And who was this, here in my kitchen, listening to my sweet baby apologize for simply spilling his soup?

Why was I angry enough that my anger was an expectation?

It seems it had permeated everywhere. It was there in my lack of enthusiasm, in my dull eyes, and my slow responses. My anger was not anger at them but at myself. The more I saw myself straying from who I once was, the more I became angry. I was angry not at the obvious freedoms I had given up to happily become their mother (I could never regret those). I was angry at having so willingly given up so many tiny bits of myself. 

I had a tired anger. I was angry that I was always cleaning. I was angry that the mail was piling up. I was angry that the pets were shedding, the kids were calling, and I had to do bedtime alone. I was angry that I couldn’t simultaneously keep the house clean; shuttle the little people to their myriad of preschools, swim lessons, soccer practices, and play dates; and keep them all from being sick, tired, unhappy, or hurt. I was angry I no longer worked. I was angry because I was failing at the one job I had left.

In a society that still largely distinguishes a person’s worth by their ability to make money, I found myself questioning my value once I left my job to become a stay-at-home mom. It was as if to be worthy in this new role. I had to be only this person, 100% dedicated to the job at all moments. If the end goal of any action was not to the obvious betterment of my children, then I let it fade from my life. Being a mother was my sole identity. I wasn’t a teacher and a mother. I wasn’t a scholar and a mother. I was not a runner, a hiker, a writer, or a reader. I was just a mother.

I, unknowingly, let go of the things that helped me be the best version of myself, the version my children would need me to be. 

I imagine it was a slow creep, really, rather than a conscious decision. As I became more consumed in the world of being at home, the more I lost contact with former colleagues, lunch dates faded to the occasional text. I forgot what it was like to be an expert in a field in front of a classroom. I forgot how to conduct research or to read a text closely. I had no idea, any longer, how to begin a poem. The soundtrack of my life shifted subtly, at first, then full-force into nursery rhymes and cartoon theme songs.  

Suddenly that is who I was. And that was it. My “job” consumed me. (And, as any working or stay-at-home mother knows, it can be a thankless job). Of the multitude of people I encountered each day, none of them knew who I was beyond [insert any one of my children’s name]’s mom. My name may have been forgotten, but my role as a mother never was. I no longer had conversations that strayed from my little people. I had become one of those people who talked about the weather because beyond my children, it was all I had. I wavered between being elated at being able to spend this time with my little loves and resentful that I had spent years upon years upon years pursuing degree after degree after degree to discuss the weather. And I was becoming angry.

The words of my almost-two-year-old reminded me that no, I was not angry at my children. I was angry at myself.

My impatience with them was really just a manifestation of this unsettled feeling that being a stay-at-home mother had created within me. I was always searching for some…thing, some answer. I found I could not “just” be a mom, and it took me too long to realize I never really had to. I had to find those bits and pieces of myself I had let fade. I needed to meld these worlds of “mom” and “me” into one. If not for my own sake, then clearly for the sake of my children.  

I started small. Introducing my past to my little people a bit at a time. I love that now, if my oldest were asked what it is that her mother loves, her list would, as usual, begin with “snuggling with her babies,” but it wouldn’t end there. Now, once a week, I take my tiniest little person, the one who so gently apologized to me, out into the woods for a morning hike. It is quiet, and we listen to birds. We talk, and we stay silent. We move slowly, but we move slowly in my world. In a world that is now his.

Unwrapping the pieces of myself, I had tucked away has made my children look at me differently. They know me better. I know myself better. And I don’t feel so angry. 

It took two simple worlds to slip from the mouth of a 22-month-old to teach me a lesson in mothering: motherhood may ask of us to lose ourselves for a time, but our children need us to bring ourselves back.

Can you relate? Comment below!

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Jen is three-year resident of Westchester County and a five-year resident of Mommyhood. She enjoys writing, reading, coffee, wine, Disney World, and traveling with her husband, five year old daughter, two year old son, and 13 month old tiny son. She used to teach high school English in the city, but she decided to give up that stress for the stress of being a SAHM. Her least favorite things to do are laundry and dishes, but those seem to be the two things she puts the most energy into, hoping that one day, someone will create a Roomba-like device that will gather, sort, pretreat, wash, dry, fold, and put away the now clean clothes that her children shed like snakeskin around the house. Aside from dishes and laundry, Jen also occupies her free moments traveling and writing for her blog Three Kids and A Car where she provides travel tips and stories she’s collected since she first started bringing her daughter with her while she traveled the world.

14 COMMENTS

  1. Jen…I can relate to you even as a dad. Life threw me in the direction of being a stay at home dad. Becoming a dad has been the most wonderful experience in the world and there’s no one on earth I love more than my son. I grew into the role of early morning breakfast chef and pick up guy from school. But like you the trade off has been a steep one. During school hours my hair is on fire trying to work until pick up. Not easy and it’s not a successful endeavor just yet. And before kids I used to pursue adventure sports like kayaking and mountain biking, climbing, skiing, etc. Well suffice to say my kayak might as well be a planter for all the use it’s getting. Mountain bike needs a major overhaul from lack of use. My son’s mother would echo these same sentiments as well. So while I’m not a mom I’m walking the same line. I am grateful that you wrote this post. Great reminder to keep pushing to maintain that other self. Hope you enjoy a nice serene walk in the woods this Thanksgiving. My best regards, Mike

  2. Thank you, so very much, for writing this. I can relate to you 110%. I guess I never took the time to truly dig and get a handle on why I was so angry. I needed this today.

    • This is totally me! I have a 15 month old who hardly sleeps and 4 year old that I’m homeschooling. Some weeks I’m good and some weeks I feel angry

  3. Thank you for this amazing post♡ I have lost so much of myself in motherhood, that I am just a mother. I want to show my children who I am and what I love, thank you for reminding me that it matters and its necessary!

  4. Thanks for writing this. I’m not overall angry but definitely have moments. I work part time since having kids and thusly have adjusted my schedule and what’s expected of me, and what I expect of myself. Hard to do sometimes! Even if you’re not working outside the home right now, keep up some things just for you! I used to feel guilty about doing things just for me, but finding a balance to incorporate some of it in makes me a happier, patient mom.

  5. “I was angry because I was failing at the one job I had left.”

    I think that nailed it for me. Recently, I feel like I either erupt in a shout or just go quiet because what is the point. I hate that side of me and it’s not the fact that I’ve lost myself and who I was pre babies, but that I feel like I’m doing a million things and I’m still only chasing and never getting on top of it. And I said to a friend yesterday, it’s not the stay at home MOMMING that I hate, its everything else, the pile ups of dishes/toys/laundry/mail/things!

    Perfect post at the perfect time. I need to lower my anger levels and just realize house work will never ever be done, so go do that thing to make myself and the kids like me more.

    Thanks!

  6. Ah yes. The struggle of the mother. I still “work” part time away from my real work: my 5 and 2 year old. You lose yourself for a while. I used to be an avid knitter, also creating my own designs and patterns. Just this past year I started up again, and have had the joy of teaching my 5 year old how to knit. It’s been a wonderful bonding experience and I’ve found a piece of myself while enjoying my children.

  7. Thought provoking post. Thanks. Yep I have/am experiencing that. But have been for a bit longer maybe. 17 years mumming. Although I was reasonably successful at mum + while my oldest was young. A little less so with my second. Then my third, a busier boy pretty much ended all else, & my 4th continued this. The difficulty I am having now though is that my spouse seems to have forgotten I was ever anything other than “just a mum”. And as I attempt to regather the parts of myself I have been greiving for so long I am being met with “what would you know?”..or..”since when do you have any interest in that?” Pretty painful to be honest. So yes good advice. Hold on to or regather sooner rather than later

    • I can relate. 15 years here. And at one point my spouse seemed to appreciate what I was doing for our family. Now it seems he see’s no value. He forgets I too worked a stressful job and had an equivalent salary. Funny thing is he’s never done what we do daily. Guess that is why they call it a thankless job.

  8. “ The more I saw myself straying from who I once was, the more I became angry. I was angry not at the obvious freedoms I had given up to happily become their mother (I could never regret those). I was angry at having so willingly given up so many tiny bits of my self. “

    So well written and so incredibly relatable. I’m 8 years into the SAHM universe, with three kids as well, and reading this I just kept jockeying between tears and nods. You get it. Being a mom is the one job I always wanted, but being a stay at home mom is something I don’t think anyone can truly prepare for. Your day is never over. You’re never “off.”

  9. I absolutely relate. I’m an interior designer, but stopped work when my first was born, she’s now 7. Since then we’ve had another baby and moved across the country, but then I started slowly getting back to it and was loving having my own small business. We recently became licensed as foster parents, and within weeks an infant and a toddler became part of our family, literally overnight. They were fragile, had been sick and neglected, and in the process of caring for them and our forever children, every part of me disappeared again and I became so angry. I recognized it for what it was, but there was nothing I could do about it, because there were so many needs, and much of the day just me. Even with help, I couldn’t let my mind rest. They moved a couple weeks ago to be with family, and I’m trying to find myself again before we get another call, but I’m afraid that this will be the pattern. Thanks for the reminder that to stay well I need to keep parts of me and not just disappear into being mom.

  10. Thank you so much for writing this. I have a 5, almost 3, and 9 month old and I haven’t been able to put into words how I’ve been feeling recently but this was perfect. No one prepares you for this side of being a stay at home parent and it’s hard to express unless you’ve done it. I hope to bring back those tiny bits of me that I’ve lost because I know it will be better for them and me in the long run; now I just need to figure out how to do that. Thank you for the reminder.

  11. Thank you for the truth. I have been through this same EXACT thing. When my now 2.5 year old said sorry I felt the same way. I have had my trials and still do. But, I’m learning to be more patient. There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for my family. I’ll work later 😉

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