Stay-at-Home Mothers: The Luxury & Challenges
by Jazmin Abreu
My name is Jazmin Abreu. I was born in Brooklyn, New York. I am a mother to three girls, 11, 9, and 7, and I have a golden retriever dog that’s one year old. I became a stay-at-home mom when I had my first baby. I am currently going to college to get my degree in Business Management. My husband’s name is Cesar; he was also born and raised in Brooklyn. He joined the Army in 2002 when he was 20 years old. Cesar deployed twice to Afghanistan and Iraq. Before getting medically retired, he served 16 years, covering five duty stations, and his last rank in the Army was sergeant first class. My husband is finishing up his apprenticeship as a pipefitter. We both love going on vacations, trying new restaurants, and spending time with our daughters.
When I was a kid, I didn’t know being a stay-at-home mom was an option. I never met a mom who stayed home. I always knew I wanted to be a mom, but a working mom. I would have never imagined that one day I would become a stay-at-home mom.
I got married at a very young age. My husband had been in the Army for eight years when we married. At the time, I was working in a shoe store without a high school diploma or plans of going back to school. In New York City, you can build a promising career in retail and make a good income. I planned on making retail a career since I didn’t want to go to school. When my husband got stationed in upstate New York, I moved with him a few months after we got married. We lived there for a year before we moved to Georgia. Shortly after moving to Georgia, I found out we were expecting our first child. We were ecstatic.
After the baby was born, we decided that I would be a stay-at-home mom. I didn’t have a driver’s license or high school diploma, so staying home and raising our girls made sense. I was so happy to stay home and watch them reach every milestone. It was the best time of my life, until I heard people talk about how lazy stay-at-home moms are. People would post mean things on social media about stay-at-home moms because they knew I was home raising my girls.
From that moment, I started to feel differently about staying home with my girls even though I wholeheartedly loved it. I almost began to feel ashamed because I raised my girls with no education, not much work experience, and no driver’s license. I felt bad that all my friends and family were moving up in their careers or getting a college education while I was “just home.” It was almost as if people took the joy away from my being a stay-at-home mom.
On top of all the judging, stay-at-home moms also must deal with stress. I felt so happy, but at the same time, sad and guilty. When you’re raising your kids, there are a lot of opinions, but there are far more when you’re a stay-at-home mom. Societal pressures did play a big part in how sad I felt sometimes. It’s the worse feeling when you’re genuinely happy because you’re at home raising your kids but also feel burned out and sad. I never had any alone time. I was always with my kids, feeling as if I had lost my identity. I lived far away from family and didn’t have a social life. My husband always came home late from work or had to go away for training. It is very hard being a stay-at-home mom when your husband is in the Army. You are a single mom when they are gone. I started questioning whether it was worth staying home because I set aside my goals to raise the kids.
When my daughter was one year old, I had a desire to work. My husband and I looked at several different daycares, but the cost was as much as a mortgage to have her enrolled. It just didn’t make sense to work when I would barely bring home any income after paying for childcare. I tried a job two years ago, but I realized that I wasn’t ready within three months. Even though I loved working outside the house, my kids weren’t happy. By the time I got home, it was time to cook dinner and get them ready for school the next day. They felt like they weren’t spending enough time with me. I missed being home with my girls.
I figured out a way to earn income while staying home, by providing childcare from my house. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It was an excellent way for me still to be able to raise my girls and earn money. My girls are happy and healthy. They love that I am home when they come home from school. It felt so good to be back home with my kids.
I wish people could realize that even though it is a privilege to raise kids, it is also ok to express how you feel. Everyone is entitled to have bad days. You are essentially putting your life on hold, dealing with your emotions while feeling burned out. I didn’t want to express how I felt out of fear of people’s responses. I didn’t want anyone to say that I didn’t have anything to complain about, but the truth is that I felt lonely, and the lack of accomplishment made me feel even worse. I didn’t get any breaks unless my kids were sleeping. When they’d sleep, I used that time to clean. It took me a few years to realize that it was not healthy for me to care about what people thought or said about me. When you are raising your kids, it is important to know you are doing a great job and that is all that matters.
Although I went through a lot emotionally, I think it is still very much worth it to be a stay-at-home mom. There are so many benefits to being a stay-at-home mom. The challenges are hard, but raising kids full-time is rewarding.