Being a Stay-at-Home Mom can be incredibly difficult. Long days, no contact with adults and repetitive tasks that feel like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic can make you lose your marbles. Yes, it is incredibly rewarding and you develop an unbreakable bond with your children, but raising small kids can be physically, mentally and emotionally draining.
According to Salary.com in 2016, on average a Stay-At-Home Mom works 92 hours per week and assumes 31 different roles including cook, nurse, psychologist, housekeeper, day care teacher, laundry operator and driver. If you had to put a value on all of those hours worked and roles taken on, this would be a $143,102 annual salary.
Sounds like a hefty six figure salary, but it doesn't surprise me in the least. My wife Nicole is a stay-at-home Mom.
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
After our son Calvin was born in 2014, Nicole and I had a decision to make about what we should do for child care when her maternity leave was over. Before Calvin was born, we were both driving all around town during the week to drop off and pick up our 2-year old daughter Zoey at day care or with our incredibly generous parents who watched her during the week. (Shout out to Grandma Hana and Grandma Cindy!) After analyzing the pros and cons, we decided two kids in this frantic situation just wouldn't work. We'd rather decrease our overall take home pay than continue the way we were going. We decided together that it made the most sense for Nicole to stay at home with the kids instead of going back to work.
Fast forward to today … Zoey is turning 5 in a couple of weeks and Calvin is pushing 3.
We absolutely adore these kids. Out of everything in our lives, these two bring us the most joy. They make us smile, they make us laugh and they help us to not take life too seriously.
On the other hand, they can make our marriage very difficult. When Nicole has had a particularly rough day at the house, she wants to talk to me about it. And the constant interruptions from our kids, make the bad day even worse. Just last week, the frustration got so bad that we ended up taking it out on each other. Fingers and accusations went flying and we were both left more disheartened than before.
When the dust settled and I had a moment to think by myself, I realized that I needed to try harder to empathize with my wife's current situation. I thought about the 92 working hours per week, the 31 difficult roles and no adult interaction. At least at my office, I can take breaks, eat lunch and go to the bathroom without a 2-year old staring at me. My wife does not have these luxuries.
At that moment, I challenged myself to go out of my way to make my wife feel more appreciated. I thought about what I could do each day for the next week to show Nicole that I love her, I appreciate her and I recognize the sacrifice she is making for this family by being a Stay-at-Home Mom.
Here's what I came up with and how it went…
How to Make a Stay-at-Home Mom Feel Appreciated in 1 Week
Day 1: Date Night
When the toddlers have taken over city, its time to flee the madness. At least for a night. We decided that even though we weren't in the best of moods after our argument that dinner and movie couldn't hurt.
La La Land was an uplifting choice given our current state and the songs became some major ear worms for the next week. I'd recommend it!
Even though our date night was short, it was crucial. Lately, we don't spend enough time together without our kids. We were able to talk without being interrupted at dinner and most importantly we were able to focus on each other instead of attending to every small need of our kids.
Good start for day 1 …
Day 2: Breakfast in Bed
What better way to show your appreciation for someone who works so hard for your family than breakfast in bed? It's the ultimate luxury!
On the morning of day two, I whipped up some eggs, toast with avocado spread, bacon and her favorite Green Juice. I snuck into the bedroom and I set it next to the bed with a note telling her I love her. The smell of bacon is a great way to wake up!
This simple gesture took me less than 10 minutes and brought a smile to her beautiful face.
Day 3: Take an Unexpected To-Do Off of Her List
Like most all Stay-at-Home Moms, Nicole's to-do list is unending. Between the daily activities of making our kids their food, changing Calvin's diapers and driving Zoey back and forth from school, she doesn't have enough hours in the day to do everything she wants to do.
So my goal for day 3 was taking something off of that list for her.
I decided I would tackle the destruction my kids left in her car.
I spent the next 20 minutes cleaning and vacuuming Nicole's car. Cheerios, pretzels, Shopkins and Disney princess dolls all came out to say hello. This is the car that carts our kids around town from Grandma's house to the library to school and everywhere in between. It collects a lot of kid artifacts.
It's amazing what a Shop-Vac and a wet rag can do!
This was only 1 of 100 things that Nicole completes in a day, but if this took an ounce of weight off of her back then it was worth it.
Goal for Day 3 complete …
Day 4: Help Her Start the Week Off Right
On Sunday evening, our little monsters (I mean angels) tornadoed through the basement and left a gigantic mess. They were playing “restaurant” and serving each other fake plastic pieces of food. It was actually pretty cute. “Sir, would you like some more corn?”
Nicole and I were both too exhausted to play bus boy that night and clean up the “dishes” so we closed up the restaurant early and went to bed.
When I came down to start my day the next morning, I walked into the basement and remembered the restaurant wreckage.
I went to work on cleaning up and getting the room back to normal. My goal was to make sure that Nicole's Monday morning started off on the right foot. With one less mess to clean, she could maybe, JUST maybe, have 5 minutes for herself on Day 4.
This is getting addicting.
Day 5: Write a Note of Appreciation
In the hustle and bustle of our crazy days, I don't find enough moments to tell my wife how much she means to me and why she is so important to me. I give her a kiss goodbye before I head out for work and I tell her that I love her almost every day, but I don't remember the last time I spent some real focused time thinking about WHY I love her.
On Day 5, I took 20 minutes out of my morning before heading to work to write down 5 reasons I love her. I wrote them on the white board so she would find it later in the day.
- Your unending love for our children.
- Your passion to create a more compassionate world.
- Your sharp wit and sense of humor.
- Your support in my endless adventures.
- Your selflessness when it comes to making our family the best it can be.
It took her two days to notice it (note to self: send a text next time!), but she appreciated the kind words and it made her day a bit brighter.
Day 6: Give Her Freedom to Pursue Her Passions
When you choose a life as a Stay-at-Home Mom you are making some major sacrifices. You are sacrificing your career, your ability to interact with adults on a daily basis and any chance to take a shower in privacy again. I mean, seriously kids … a closed-door means something!
Since she's sacrificing so much for our family, I wanted to take advantage of a moment to give her an ounce of her freedom back. She expressed an interest in going to the recent Women's March in Washington. The goal of the march was to “stand together in solidarity for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families – recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.” I supported her interest in the effort and offered to watch the kids for the weekend.
In Washington and across the world, over 1 million people rallied on Saturday to show their support for peace, unity and the protection of human rights. Nicole was one of those million people and she's extremely proud to have been there.
Day 7: Walk a Day in Her Shoes
There's no better way to get a TRUE appreciation for what your Stay-at-Home Mom goes through on a daily basis, than staying at home with the kids for a day. And man, when Nicole was gone in DC, I got a taste of it. I quickly realized how much easier my full-time job is than her full-time job.
Here's a summary of my day:
Wake up. Make breakfast. Clean dishes. Get kids ready. Get them to gymnastics class on time. Make lunch. Clean more dishes. Put screaming child down for nap. Remember you haven't eaten. Eat your kids' unfinished food. Make dinner. Clean more dishes. Start laundry. Bath time. Story time. Put kids to sleep. Put kids to sleep again. Still not asleep?! Get frustrated and pull kids into bed with you. Pass out. Wake up with a small foot in your face.
I travel out-of-town for work quite a bit so Nicole is in all-day single parent mode quite frequently. My empathy and appreciation for her situation came rushing in on Saturday.
Thank you Nicole. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you do for this family.
This 7-day challenge was a great exercise for me. And honestly, it wasn't that difficult. Given that, I'm going to do my best to make this week of activities a habit instead of a challenge.
She does goes the extra mile for Zoey, Calvin and I every day. Why can't I?