The Stay At Home Mum conspiracy.

Being a stay-at-home mum is easy. As long as you’ve never done it.

So I feel like stay-at-home mums have been keeping a big secret.  I would almost call it a conspiracy.

Why didn’t anyone tell me this would be so hard?

Not hard in a I’ve-been-stressed-with-deadlines-for-10-hours-straight kind of way. But hard in a there’s-sick-on-my-shirt-and-I’m-hoping-I-can-shower-before-my-baby-wakes-up-in-5-minutes kind of way.

I spent the last eight years of my life as a TV news reporter and anchor.  It wasn’t as glamorous as it sounds, but it had its moments. I had a clothing allowance, wore false eyelashes and was occasionally recognised on the street.

Janie Porter with her kids.

Now my daily uniform is workout shorts and a nursing tank (forget that my son stopped nursing two months ago).  I wear makeup maaaaybe once a week (to church), and even that’s a stretch.  Oh and let’s be real: it’s foundation I brushed onto my unwashed face, blush (it makes you look more awake), concealer (duh) and lipgloss.  The days of pulling out all the makeup stops are over.  If it takes longer than the time my child starts waking up from his nap (when I start make-up) to when he’s progressed to an all-out scream (when I must stop), it doesn’t happen.

Oh and forget being recognised anywhere.  I’m usually too busy pulling a baseball cap over my unwashed hair and wishing it was acceptable to wear shades inside Target to cover my dark circles and blood-shot eyes.  Oh dear, did I even look in the mirror to get the sleep out of my eyes before I left the house?

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But irony can be painful.

In my former life, I would silently laugh when my stay-at-home mum friends would complain.

“Oh I’m so tired,” they’d say.

You’re tired?  I got a call at 1am for breaking news, and I was live eight times before noon.

What I didn’t know was they WERE tired.  In a much different way.

They were tired because their baby had been up five times last night, and they hadn’t slept more than 90 minutes straight.  Because they had fixed breakfast, then snack, then lunch, then more snacks, then dinner, only to be left at 9pm with a dirty kitchen that smelled like a combination of spoiled milk and stale nappies.  Because they had been picking up toys, dirty clothes and dog crap all day but the house was still a mess.  Because the family’s only clean clothes were on the “laundry bed” and bathroom hadn’t been properly cleaned in three months.  (Just curious: how long is it acceptable to wipe the sink with a wet rag?)

Nope, I had no idea.  Not a clue.  Nobody told me.  And now I realise why.

You can’t complain about being a stay-at-home mum to those who haven’t done it.

And trust me, don’t try it.

You look like an idiot.  An ungrateful idiot, which is even worse.

You’ve been there.  You run into an acquaintance or former colleague at a going-away party or in the bread aisle at the super market (baseball cap strategy didn’t work), and they ask the now-dreaded question: “So how do you like staying home?”

At first, I tried to be honest.  I thought they deserved a candid answer.  I’d mix a little “I’m grateful” with a few dashes of “it’s much harder than I thought and very tough on my sense of self.”

Vacant gaze.  Having been the person with no kids, I know exactly what they’re thinking.  Unfortunately.

So I changed my answer.

“It’s great.  I love it.”

It’s not the full story, but it’s true.

And all I get are smiles.

This story first appeared on Janie's blog, here and is republished with full permission. 

How do you respond when some asks how it is like being a SAHM?

Want more? Try:

Confessions of a SAHM: I have forgotten how to talk to adults 

A letter from a Stay-At-Home mum to a Working one, and vice versa

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