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SAHM and the Prisoner of Productivity

Updated: Jan 26, 2022

**The acronym SAHM will be used in place of ‘stay-at-home mom’ throughout this post, because I’m tired of how often I have to type it out already.**

When I was little, my dad used to poke fun at me about being a feminist. He would make fun of me whenever I found joy in doing a household chore, like organizing or cleaning, by saying things like “that’s not very progressive of you” or “ look at you being all domestic.” It used to boil my pre-teen blood. My child brain couldn’t fathom the ability to enjoy domestic bliss while being a feminist, so I renounced many of those things I enjoyed for that reason. Little did I know that four little words would have me realize that adult me still hasn’t fully wrapped her brain around her brand of feminism either.

I recently, left the corporate world for full-time stay-at-home mommy-hood. I’ve spent most of my adulthood making sure I’d never have to depend on anyone else for anything. I'm more down with going without before I would ever ask for anything from anyone, and as such, I’ve always made sure that my performance in the workplace wasn’t just valuable but unforgettable. Took me a while to get there, but I did, and I felt damn good about it, too. Unbeknownst to me, my calm-under-pressure while working hard and going balls-to-the-wall approach to my career became something of an identity for me. Even through my pregnancy when I felt like absolute ass, I did the most because I didn’t want to be mistaken for ever doing the least oftentimes to my own detriment.

I can admit, I had an attitude towards being one of “those” stay at home moms while on maternity leave that just milked it and got to do nothing all day instead of actually being “productive”. We’re going to circle back around to that in a second.

I truly believed that if I didn’t have anything to show for my time at home other than a healthy baby, what was I even doing? I shouldn’t be celebrated for doing the bare minimum. But oooooh honey, life has a way of digging in that ass and sitting you down right in front of your fears, forcing you to confront the things you try to run away from. Didn’t stop my ass from trying, though.

I always feel the need to be in production mode and quite honestly western culture (read U.S. culture) dictates that. It’s a loud indoctrination requirement to be a productive member of society, often to our own detriment. My warped belief was in thinking that I was only as good as what I could produce. Being in the workforce has its metric of merits something tangible that you can easily seek validation in. Meaning you do good at work, you get a paycheck, career advancement, and accolades related to your performance. I had all that shit. And happily was a slave to the concept of productivity; I thrived on it. However, as a SAHM, your metric of merits is unrecognizable under that same scope. If I clean the house, organize meals, prepare a budget, make sure the household is thriving and moving as efficiently as possible, while mothering full-time, it’s seen as nothing more than what I’m “supposed to do”, and reconciling this was tough. With the help of my therapist I had to 1, grieve the life I was leaving behind and the metric I’d grown accustomed to, and 2, work on releasing the guilt I felt about being a SAHM and reducing our family to one income. It was tough because my value and self-worth was tied to my ability to secure a bag and I felt like I had lowered it.

Here was the kicker though, one of my core beliefs is putting my family above everything. And what’s more is that I’ve always said if the time came, I would chose my family over my career in a heartbeat… Famous last words, eh?

So, that day came and it was easier for me to make the lifestyle change than my wife who answers to Uncle Sam and the Boys and I did. However, if it was something I knew in my heart I could do, then why TF was it so hard?! My therapist helped me find the answer and for me it was the the fear of being stigmatized as a stay at home mom. The common assumptions are either you’re a trophy wife that actually does next to nothing but look enviable on IG or you’re a completely overwhelmed and under appreciated woman whose entire sense of self is wrapped up in home life not her own goals or aspirations, and don’t even get me started on the military spouse ‘dependa’ thing. It’s so much more nuanced than that, obviously, but that’s what was on my mind heavy… which category did I fall into?

While I was trying to wrap my brain around that, I was still trying to stay productive. I wanted my wife to see that I was doing something. That word ‘productive’ is a tricky bitch, ‘cause the thing about productivity that I learned recently, is that it’s completely subjective. I personally feel that most of us aren’t actually productive we’re just busy, and busy looks better than being seen as lazy, because god forbid we actually leave time to rest.

We stay on the go creating a metric that others can see to validate our hustle, ‘cause most of the time the only person that sees our hustle is ourselves. With this thinking, I felt if I wasn’t busy outside of the home creating this metric, I was somehow less of a woman… because productivity is more of a feeling than a doing. How many of us have physically done a fuck-ton of stuff but felt like we haven’t don’t shit at all, amen?

Also, the irony of letting a man, albeit my father, dictate my standard of womanhood is not lost on me. It’s true though when it comes to me feeling, productive I would always hear my father’s words. They were like some kind of incantation of childhood trauma bouncing around my head. So I had to break free of that, too. See, when I was younger, because of my Fibromyalgia, I was forced to rest a lot and most people thought I was lazy, especially my dad. For years he didn’t even think my fibro was real, so proving that I wasn’t lazy and was actually worth a damn became this unattainable prize I was always striving for. I wanted liberation from seeking that approval, and from feeling like I had to in the first place.

Here’s the thing…I never got it from him, but I have learned something about my values and views towards productivity. Making sure I have a happy well adjusted child is me being productive. Making sure I am able to stay in the present moment is me being productive. Making sure I have time to reconnect with myself is me being productive. Making sure my mental health is A-1 is me being productive. There are SO many ways that we can gauge productivity, because it’s a feeling. The business gurus with their 5am wake up times and guilt-trippy ass motivational speeches can fuck right off.

Being a SAHM is the hardest job I’ve ever had in my life and it’s because in order to do it right, I have to take care of myself. I can’t run myself down hoping someone will notice and give me a raise to compensate for it. I know that for so many women that kicks us in the dick, because this patriarchal society benefits from us being booked and busy, but shudders at us feeling worthy and rested.

I’m still working through releasing some not-so-empowering ideas of me as a SAHM and carving out my own identity. The progress I’ve made in doing so feels very productive, and I didn’t have to run myself down to do it. Abundance and prosperity surrounds me always so I am haunted by the idea of lack a lot less, and I’m enjoying finally allowing myself to have guilt-free rest. I wish this feeling for everyone. 🙃

Thanks for taking the time listen to my story. Feel free to share your experiences in the comments, and like and subscribe for more adventures.

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