What Keeps This Stay-at-Home Mom up at Night


It’s summer break and I am exhausted. Bone tired. Want-to-curl-up-in-the-fetal-position-at-the-end-of-the-day tired. After nine months of having three measly afternoons to myself all school year (while my big girl was in first grade and my little guy was at preschool), the jolt back to round-the-clock parenting has taken its toll. And yet, many nights recently, I’m not able to drift off to dreamland until I’ve had a long, soaking worryfest over the state of, well, me.

Is this ok, what I’m doing with my life? Is it really acceptable to be a SAHM in this day and age? Do other people think I’m a stay-at-home loser? When will I go back to work full-time? Is that even possible, given the way we’ve organized our lives? 

Ugh. I so want to live in the moment and enjoy the summer with my funny, interesting little people, but these thoughts keep stealing the sweetness that tries to blossom before me. I’m sure I’m not alone. It’s not like these are completely irrational thoughts. I can read the comments on any article about stay-at-home motherhood and find plenty of folks ready to confirm my worst fears. But until recently I felt somewhat immune to those doubts. When the kids were really little, I was simply too busy to worry much about my future. I’m still very, very busy, but now I have just enough breathing room to contemplate what my life might look like in two years, in ten. And I honestly don’t know what I see. 

There’s a mom I’ve gotten to know this year while hanging out on the playground after school (our kids roam, we chat). She has kids ranging from elementary-school-aged to much older, and she’s been a stay-at-home mom since her first was born. I enjoy talking with (and learning from) her because not only is she funny as hell, she exudes confidence and an assured contentment with her life. Which is why it surprised me when I asked her if she ever felt guilty about being a stay-at-home mom, and she immediately responded with: “Soooo guilty.” And yet, she’s not ready to give it up. It wouldn’t work for her family, and after being at home for so long, she’s not sure what she would do career-wise. That honesty both comforted and terrified me. 

I do know what I would do career-wise if I went back to work tomorrow. I would attempt to slide seamlessly back into the world of PR and communications, hoping my clever turn of phrase, grammatical neuroticism and growing body of freelance work would be enough to excuse my years of absence from a corporate boardroom. But how long is too long to wait? And is fear–of financial dependence, of naysayers, of irrelevance–enough of a reason to drastically change my kids’ lives? What if it’s not only fear? What if there’s a small part of me that yearns to hear, as I once did, “Erin’s our go-to writer,” instead of, “Mommy, can you get me a snack?” When is it OK to want to produce work instead of just working for the little humans I produced? (There’s a huge discussion about gender and career expectations we could delve into here, but I need to go to bed.)

Of course, underlying conversations like this is a very privileged little elephant. At this moment in time, I don’t need to work to support our family. These should I/shouldn’t I questions are more about personal fulfillment and fear of an unemployable future than they are about financial need. But that could always change. Which is one reason I became a Columbus Moms Blog contributor. I love writing, I’m good at it and I wanted some record of that besides wittily phrased Facebook updates. I’ve also taken on some freelance PR projects within the past year, and as terrifying as it initially seemed to get back in the game, wow it felt good to discover that I’ve still got it (game, that is). 

I do know that I love being with my kids–most of the time. I love being able to pick them up from school, do all the classroom volunteer stuff, take them on summertime adventures around central Ohio. I love not rushing, not worrying about using paid time off when one of them is sick, not missing out on these (still) early years of their childhoods. But I know I am missing out on the career ladder, contributing to our retirement savings, and, well, a sense of professional pride. Each side of the coin has its trade-offs. The question is, when will I make the flip? 

That’s what’s keeping me up at night. Who’s got answers for me?

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Erin grew up in San Antonio, Texas, and prior to her arrival in Columbus ten years ago, had seen snow only once in her life (when she was five years old). Due to this early lack-of-snow trauma, she has become a compulsive coat and jacket hoarder. Or maybe she's just a real Midwesterner now. Erin has a career past in PR, Marketing and Communications and is currently a stay-at-home mom to a Kindergartner girl and preschooler boy. She has dreams of freelancing now that both kids are out of diapers. She also has dreams of buying a sheep farm in Nova Scotia, but the former is much more likely. Erin's husband is from Derbyshire in England. He has never read Pride and Prejudice, but possibly saw one of the movie versions in school. Erin and her family enjoy not taking long road trips (Driving to Florida? Really?!), entertaining friends at home, and ordering everything through Amazon Prime. As an individual, Erin enjoys walking, listening to WCBE but never pledging (actually she did pledge once and knows she should do it again and promises she will next year), and spending too much time on Facebook. She and her family live in Westerville. You can contact her at [email protected].


  1. This article was refreshing and oh so real! My family and I recently moved to the area from Florida where I paused a career as a public school teacher to homeschool our kindergartener, figure out our three year old and honor being a full time wife and mom. Retirement savings and random feelings of worthlessness aside, I am continuously grateful for this pause. I am grateful to learn from this awkward position in life. I am grateful to be present for my husband and children in a way that I would not have been able to appreciate while working full time. I’ll enjoy it while it lasts, in a few years the kids will think I’m a relic and a talking ATM machine.

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