50 shades of snot: The real reason SAHMs are depressed

May 25, 2012 at 8:23 AM ET

A recent Gallup poll found that stay-home moms are more depressed than working moms. No kidding? In related news, sales of wine and erotic fiction rise just after the last day of school. (I made that up. Call it women’s intuition.) No study needed to confirm that caring for children is grueling work.

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Wait, is she ironing a crib sheet? No wonder you're depressed, lady!

Consider the daily onslaught: 50 shades of snot, 22 textures of poo, and 14 ways to embed yogurt into the carpet. Add in a complete lack of control over your schedule and long stretches of isolation from activities and people that bring you joy.

In the beginning, stay-home moms spend long hours covered in human waste, surrounded by slobbery plush toys, as well as the ever-present needs of children so young and demanding that the public school system won’t even take them yet.

Are you depressed yet?

When the children are old enough to go to school, the stay-home mom enjoys the briefest moment of relief — a few lone trips to the grocery store, some uninterrupted time at the gym, maybe a manicure — before struggling to find some meaningful personal purpose that fits nicely between morning drop-off and afternoon carpool. 

Some mothers make the choice to stay home because they want to. For these moms, despite the challenges of the maternal workday, there is truly no place they would rather be.

Sara Merritt of Davidson, N.C., is a stay-at-home mom who wouldn’t have it any other way. “Before we had a child, I was determined to stay home with her full time.  After all, there's no one more qualified than me to care for my daughter.” Although she sometimes wonders what it would be like to re-enter the workforce, she hopes to keep the job she has now. “I couldn't bear to miss all the milestones in her childhood.”

Others of us chose the stay-home path for more practical reasons. If circumstances were different we’d be thrilled to delegate the play date in favor of negotiating a contract or making a sale.

"It can be isolating, especially, when you are stay-at-home mom. Feeling like you are in charge of this huge production can lead you to wonder if this 'raising of humans' is truly what your heart wanted," says stay-home mom Jasmine Banks, who has three kids and a masters in counseling. “I am in charge of health, nutrition, education, and making sure these people don’t grow into total jerks! It isn’t a vacation. It is a decision I made for my family that carries philosophical value for me and my husband." Banks doesn’t appreciate those who assume her days are easy. 

“I’ve loaned my sanity and body to these kids!," she says. "Which explains why I sometimes sit in my closet with the door closed watching 'Real Housewives of Atlanta' hoping my kid doesn’t find me.”

I have been a stay-home mom, a working mom, and now a mom who works from home. But I sometimes envy mothers whose passion in life is raising children. I have been jealous of those who could gracefully bear the indignities of motherhood without resentment, depression and doubt. I salute those women who derive deep joy from the daily chores of child-rearing and home management, but I am not one of them.

These days in the evenings, after working, I am the one hiding in the bathroom with the steamy novel, counting the days until the kids go back to school.

Lela Davidson is the author of Blacklisted from the PTA. Her writing is featured regularly in family and parenting magazines throughout the United States and Canada. She blogs about marriage, motherhood, and life-after-40 at After the Bubbly.

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