Mothers who work outside the house aren't the only ones who can burn out while trying to be Super Mom.
Although working moms get much-deserved attention for the stress they manage in balancing a career and motherhood, moms who stay home are vulnerable to do-it-all syndrome as well. That's because they've signed on to one of the most important professions of all --- motherhood --- and it's one they cannot leave behind at the office at the end of the day. Moms who decide to take care of their children 24/7 can go to heroic lengths to do it right.
"Sometimes they make that their career and they get over-invested in their children. They get them in 18 different activities and drive them all over and make perfect meals because otherwise they are not working hard enough at it," says Linda Troia, president of the Syracuse, N.Y., chapter of the New York State Society For Clinical Social Workers.
Forget about taking work home. These women cannot "come home," because work and home are one and the same. Some may think that if motherhood is their profession, then they must tackle it like they may have handled previous careers: with extremely well-organized daily activities, processes, rules and commitments.
Most of these projects are meant to make their children happier and healthier. Meanwhile, there may be no time or energy left to make Mom happier and healthier. That's the problem.
After the first flush of new motherhood passes, women who leave the workplace for the nest may be surprised at how much they miss their colleagues, their paycheck and the sense of accomplishment they may have had at work. If they had a job with authority or were assigned projects and praised for completing them well and on time, they might miss that. Now, after all, no matter how many times they wash the dishes, do the laundry, bathe the baby or read to the kids, those "projects" will never be done and they won't get a raise for extra effort. Some feel isolated. And many stay-at-home moms also sacrifice themselves completely for their family.
HAPPINESS STARTS WITH NURTURING YOURSELF
"Many people believe to be a good mother, you need to be self-less," Troia says. "I totally disagree. You have to take care of yourself first. Only when your needs are being met can you be self-less and give to your children without being angry about it. If your vessel is empty, you can't pour any water out for your children.
"That doesn't mean to go out and party and forget about your kids. But you need to nurture the other roles that you have. We have to remember our passions, whether it's music, or art, or movies, and we need to continue to do those things for ourselves," Troia says.
Stay-at-home moms also need respite sometimes; they need adult company and time for themselves. Full-time moms can find camaraderie with others like them. They can join or create play groups and find adult company in social or volunteer settings.
REWARDS OF FULL-TIME MOTHERING CAN BE PRICELESS
If they balance their needs, many stay-at-home moms say their love for their kids is paramount and they are happy to be home.
"It was a huge transition," says Debora Samuelson, a Central New York mother who gave up her job as a secretary for legislative offices in Onondaga County, N.Y. "You are very limited. The first few months, I had to get out and meet new people that had kids. I didn't have that network before."
She soon became active in her church, and eventually joined its Moms Day Out program, which provides child care two mornings a week so mothers can have free time.
"I have a great opportunity and I am thankful," Samuelson says. "I love being there in every area of my kids' development."
ADVICE FOR STAY-AT-HOME MOMS
In short, choosing to make motherhood your full-time career can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. Make it so by not only sacrificing for your children and spouse but by nurturing yourself, also. Then you can truly enjoy those simple daily activities with your children, and be a better mom, too.