My husband and I had just finished putting the kids to bed, and I nuzzled into the couch. I cracked a beer and opened a book, exhaling all of the angst from the day. My husband sat down next to me and didn’t waste any time before asking, “Hey, mind if I go golfing on Saturday with the guys?” I immediately inhaled all of that stress right back in, and it turned into resentment — the hot, hot resentment known specifically by stay-at-home moms.
My body stiffened, and I pursed my lips. “How many holes?” I asked.
“I mean, probably the entire 18,” he said.
“Sure,” I said clutching my book. “The kids and I will just go to my mom’s for the day.”
We didn’t have any plans for that weekend, but it was more about getting a break from trying to play a zone defense with my then-one- and three-year-olds. The weekends were supposed to be for playing man-to-man — both of us on duty. My husband knew that, and I knew he knew that. And I was pissed. But as a stay-at-home-mom, you bet I bottled up that resentment like it was in a Heinz 57 — you know, when the ketchup just won’t come out? It felt like a secret that I couldn’t tell — to anyone. Otherwise, I’d look selfish, or worse, ungrateful. I mean, he was working hard for our family, so we could, you know, eat.
But it’s true. Resentment is something that many stay-at-home-moms deal with, and privately too. I’ve chatted with other SAHMs, and we’ve come to the consensus that when our working partners are more than five minutes late from work, or god forbid, want to grab a drink afterward, the resentment ignites within us. And it’s unanimous; in those instances, want to take a pitchfork to said working partners.
That resentment rings true even in strong marriages. My husband is a hard worker and a damn good father. He doesn’t just come home and flop on the couch and read his nightly newspaper; we’re a solid team. But I’ll admit it: For a long time, whenever my husband asked my “permission” to do anything extra for himself outside of work that didn’t include me, I was pissed.
After I spent some time wallowing in denial, though, my best friend did what best friends are supposed to do: She started pressuring me. She said things like, “It seems like you’re in a funk,” or “What do you want to start doing for yourself?”
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Being a mother to a daughter can be tough today. As feminists, we want them to be many things… Strong. Resilient. Independent—really freaking independent. Free-spirited. But maybe don’t abandon us forever, like on another continent. That kind of free-spirited. Goal-oriented. Successful. An individual—whether that means to be feminine, a tomboy, or anything in-between. I’ll admit, that while my daughter is only four, I feel like I’m already prepping her to be all of the above, and more. I envision her being a dreamer of some kind. Maybe an artist, an activist, a policy-changing politician, the first woman of anything. So, the other night I was taken aback while cuddling with her before bed. We were lying horizontal in her bed (her new way to sleep) nuzzled in her turquoise comforter. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I asked her. “A mommy,” she said. “Aww, that’s so sweet,” I said. “But what do you want to do to make money?” “I don’t want to make money,” she pleaded. “But how are you going to pay for your kids to eat?” I asked. “Fine.” She said. “I’ll be a teacher. And give the little girls really hard projects so that they can be smarter than their big brothers.” I laughed. “You really DON’T care about money, do you?” “But Mommy?” my daughter asked. “Yes?” I said. “Can I still be a mommy when I’m a teacher?” “Of course you can, honey.” I said. “You can be whatever you want to be—especially a mommy.” While I have a certain vision for my small daughter, I must, I absolutely must remember that the only thing I should do pertaining to HER future is listen. She can be whatever it is she wants to be—that’s what true feminism is, isn’t it? Yes, I’ll encourage my daughter to be HER. Even if that means that she “doesn’t care about money,” and especially if she “just” wants to be a mommy. #feministscanbestayathomemoms #littlefeminist #motherdaughterlove #daughtergoals #mykidsteachmestuff
I replied the same almost every time, “I’m fine. The kids are little. I want to focus on them.”
But in my heart, I knew I needed more. And that’s exactly why I’d been feeling so resentful towards my husband — because he had both a fulfilling job and a life outside of work and family. Outside of our family, I, on the other hand, had nothing. The hard truth was what I needed admit to myself: That it’s okay to want more. Because over time, my own lack of identity started to make me resent my husband even more.
So, one day after my friend’s constant badgering, I caved. I started running with her. It started out as just a way to get out of the house and get in some exercise. But soon, I was hooked; the adrenaline after a long run fueled me. Eventually, I trained for and ran a half marathon. It was on one those seemingly never-ending runs that I finally realized something very important: Resentment is a choice. And it had been my choice — to sit in my own pile of self-pity. And now, it was also my choice to shovel myself out of that pile and make something of myself.
My husband was never the one holding me back. The only thing holding me back was myself. My half marathon was just my starting point — and I currently have no finish line in sight. After a lot of introspection and hard work, I’ve also finished another graduate degree and started my freelance writing career. Yes, I decided that it would be a career, not a hobby.
No one will take you seriously if you don’t take yourself seriously. Being a SAHM can feel isolating, especially when you have no idea what to do about that isolation. I had been so afraid to put myself first. But holding in that resentment against my husband did not make me a superhero. And honestly, throwing it all away made me a way better mother.
In a couple of weeks, my husband will be going on a weekend-long golf trip. And I’m harboring zero resentment. Instead, I’m busy planning my own stuff. I’m attending two long writing conferences, and of course, running. Because resentment is a choice. I dumped it out — and I feel a hell of a lot lighter.
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