Family life

Stay-at-home moms: Give up the guilt—you won't wreck your kids!

"The self-imposed guilt that we stay-at-home moms put on ourselves can be crushing, and if I knew of an easy way to let it go I'd share it with the world."

stay-at-home mom

Isaac, Jennifer and Gillian at the orchard. Photo: Jennifer Pinarski

Looking back at my blog posts in the Today’s Parent archives is a lot like the the highs and lows on a rollercoaster. When I first started writing here, Gillian was only six months old (she’s now five years old!) and I wore my shiny stay-at-home mom badge with pride. I thought I had it all figured out: Our days would be idyllic, my home would be spotless and, above all, my life would feel complete. After all, that’s what being a stay-at-home mom was supposed to be like, right?

Of course, the reality couldn’t be further from my fantasy. I struggled with depression, a messy house and a spirited daughter that made me question whether or not she should’ve been put in daycare. Oh, and then there was the time I felt I was raising my kids to believe that women did nothing other than make supper.

But never once did I believe that the decision to quit my job and stay home with my kids would actually hurt my kids.

Jessica Bowers wrote a heartfelt piece for Parenting earlier this week, where she reflected on her time as a stay-at-home mom. Titled “How Being a Stay-at-Home Mom Hurt My Kids,” Bowers reveals that she felt taking on more than her share of household chores, and being ever-present and all-consumed with mothering, had a detrimental effect on both herself and her kids.

“While every mother wants to be needed, you can quickly reach a point of diminishing returns,” she writes. “I reached that point somewhere between realizing that my children had never cleaned a bathroom and realizing that they couldn’t match their own socks.”

While my own kids have never cleaned a bathroom and there is rarely a matching pair of socks in their drawers, I don’t think I’ve failed as a parent. And although it’s true I sometimes worry my kids have outdated views of feminism because I’m not fully employed, that doesn’t mean I think I’ve failed as a role model.

But to me, Bowers’ piece is less about kids learning age-appropriate household chores than it is about the ridiculously high standards we stay-at-home moms set for ourselves.

I strongly believe that both stay-at-home moms and working moms are in this together and need to support each other. However, we each have our own unique sets of worries, which is why I can empathize with Bowers. The standards I set for myself as a stay-at-home mom are much higher than when I was a working parent. It didn’t matter as much if the house was messy back then. Raises and performance reviews reassured me I was doing a good job as an employer, but as a stay-at-home mom, and not having that external reward system, left me if a constant state of self-doubt. The self-imposed guilt that we stay-at-home moms put on ourselves can be crushing, and if I knew of an easy way to let it go I’d share it with the world.

But the best I can do is reassure you all that, despite your messy houses, the concern that your kids aren’t pulling their weight, or that you’re so deep in the trenches of motherhood that you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, know that it will all be OK. You’ll tuck your kids into bed tonight, they’ll tell you they love you and, really, that’s all that matters.

Follow along as Jennifer Pinarski shares her experiences about giving up her big-city job and lifestyle to live in rural Ontario with her husband, while staying home to raise their two young children. Read more Run-at-home mom posts or follow her @JenPinarski.

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