I’m ready to throw in the towel. I’m a stay at home mom of four boys. They’re 13, 11, 8, and 6. I’ve been considering going back to work because before staying home, I was a successful woman. I have the smarts and the know how, but I can’t even keep up the housework now. My husband works late a lot and then he’s in a men’s hockey league twice a week. I’m so worn out, and nothing is getting done. I know I should be more productive, but somehow I’m not, and I’m crying right now as I’m typing to you. What would you do?
My dear friend, you’re overwhelmed to the max. I want to make things better for you with the snap of my fingers. First things first, lift up your chin, dry your eyes, and put on a brave face. That brave face is for no one else but you, my dear. You’re going to get things back to a state of grace with a little guidance here.
My kids are still young, so I’m basing my answer on what I’ve seen work with families I know and also through God’s help. I’ve sat and thought about our future significantly, and though no one wants to get where you are on purpose, it happens quite frequently. I’m going to address your boys first, because I think you may be doing too much for them. You haven’t written about it, but I’ve made an assumption based off of you not being able to get the housework done even though your boys are in school.
Delegate some chores among your boys. Your busy and you probably shouldn’t be. Your little group of gentlemen can help you around the house quite a bit. I’m sure they know they should, or perhaps they had a schedule at one time, but when life becomes hectic, we become flexible at the moment, and sometimes forget to go back to our original plan. Your boys should be setting and clearing the table for meals. They should be doing dishes. They should pick up after themselves throughout the house, maybe even do their own laundry. Encouraging these type of chores creates lasting life lesson their future wives will surely thank you for. You shouldn’t be picking up after them when they are at school. Then you can do a little cleaning and still have time for you.
If it truly is difficult to get the housework done, I’m sure you’ve realized that will only increase if you start a new career. Starting a new career in itself is stressful, so if through discernment you’ve decided heading back to work is best for you and your family, then you’ll want to take this into account. You’ll need to prepare your husband and your boys on what to expect and how they can help you through the first few months of your learning period.
However your decision works out for you heading back into the workforce will not heal the wound I noticed while reading your letter. You’re questioning your worth. You’re questioning it, in my opinion, because you’re probably not being appreciated. Again, common, but it still hurts. Mothers are often being asked to work like machines. Your days look very much the same and you’re probably tired of the mundane. I don’t know a mom who hasn’t felt this way. What’s worse? Only you can fix it. I want you to consider how many years you have left to make memories with your sons. Take a break from the mundane and do something memorable. You could spend money buy taking them out for an ice cream or a doughnut, or you can keep it cash free and hike a trail together, or go on a scavenger hunt. Your boys won’t care so much what you’re doing together as much as they’ll remember laughing with you, or a thoughtful conversation they shared, or even just how you wanted them to have fun for that day alone!
The last piece of advice I want to give you is this: You need to talk with your husband. Again I feel you’re feeling underappreciated and this may be a large part of it. If your husband is rarely home and also does hobbies on the side, you’re probably wondering why you’re getting the short end of the deal. My husband does three days of Jujitsu during weeks he doesn’t travel and he seems to be gone on nights when everyone needs a bath, but I quickly realized he needed this outlet because 1. he loves to challenge himself and 2. it was his way of decompressing. It took a lot of self control to understand it had nothing to do with me and it was his way of taking care of himself so he could be a better husband and father. You need to find out for yourself why this is important to him, or maybe it isn’t. If you need him home more, you have to be willing to ask very directly. Most husbands really don’t want to see us women suffer, even if itt may be hard for them to give up things they enjoy.