It seems there is a disorder for everything today. Here's one you may suffer from without even knowing it – SAHGS (Stay at Home Mom Guilt Syndrome).
I have a pretty severe case of SAHGS. It flared up at 5:10 this morning when my three year old daughter happily pranced into my bedroom. "Mommy, it's not morning-time yet, but sometimes we get up in the dark and eat candy … do not we?" "No, we do not … Jenna". It was too late. She'd snuck out of bed and devoured at least a half-dozen malted milk balls that I left left on the counter last night following my own midnight binge.
She was flying high on sugar-frenzy and the sun had not even risen yet. By the time my husband and son woke up (three hours later) she'd painted on our walls, fed play-dough to the dog, spilled dog food all over our laundry room, smashed an egg on the counter, and single-handedly Destroyed her bedroom and playroom.
By the time normal people were just pulling into a rush hour traffic jam, I was completely frazzled. I begged my husband, "can I please go to work for you? Please, please please ….". He is a police officer and I've never ever envied his job. However, today was one of those days where I would have been thankful to trade two hyper-active preschoolers for a few gun-toting criminals.
He laughed. "Hang in there … I'll give you a hand when I get home, I promise." My horrible day continued. When my daughter crashed from her sugar high she violated hysterically (and for no apparent reason). "Mommy … I do not like spiders, they are soooooooo icky" she wailed. Mind you, there was not a spider in sight. She was completely losing it. My son (as always) followed suit. "Mommy … spiders … scary". He screamed.
After about three dozen nonsensical, hysterical outbursts later, I had one of my own. I called my husband at work. "I am losing it …. I need chocolate, wine and cheetos … stop at the store and get all three … or else".
When my husband got home from work he handed me my vices and helped me put the kids to bed. As soon as the house was quiet, he offered to put away laundry and wash the dinner dishes. "No, I'll take care of it … just go ahead and relax".
"What is wrong with me?" I surprised. As much as I was desperate for his help, I could not (and would not) accept it. "I am a just a stay-at-home mom and he works twelve hour shifts." "He should not have to come home from work and clean up the train-wreck of a home we created," I thought.
I am driving myself crazy. I am a staunch believer that the effort a Stay-at-Home mom's "job" (if you will) is equivalent to having two full-time careers. A few years ago I attended graduate school while working full-time as a social worker. Frankly, being a SAHM was twice as hard as trying to juggle both.
So why can not I convince myself to accept help? Because I suffer from a disabling case of Stay at Home Guilt Syndrome. While I am extremely proud of the effort I put into cleaning our home and caring for the children, I have not quite accepted the fact that I am contributing just as much as my husband and that sometimes, I need to "clock out" too .
"So, where does the guilt stem from?" I surprised. I discussed it with a fellow SAHM friend of mine who had the same concerns. "It's all about the paycheck", she replied sarcastically. "BINGO … that's it", I laughed.
Even though I know how hard I work all day, I do not have a paycheck to prove it. In fact, a CSI agent would have been hard-pressed to find evidence that I'd even lifted a finger on an average day. My house is fairly clean when my husband leaves for work in the morning yet twelve hours later it looks like the Tasmanian devil just spun through it. (Okay, make that two Tasmanian devils).
LaTely, I've been so guessed-hidden that I find myself giving him the play-by-play the moment he walks into the door …
"I know it does not look like I did much today … but I did the dishes – twice, I scrubbed nail polish off of the bathroom floor, I vacuumed up cheerios, picked peanut butter out of the dog's hair and popped the Heads back onto all of the baby dolls and Barbies. "I dropped a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle out of the toilet and sprayed the sidewalk chalk off of the mini-van." "I know I did not finish dinner, the dishes or laundry, But I did manage to scrape dog poop off of five pairs of sneakers too. "
So, what's the treatment for SAHGs? A paycheck. For every nose I wipe, I get two bucks. For every argument I break up, I get three. For every nasty thing I have to wipe, pick or scrape off of the carpet … an automatic ten dollar bonus. Every time the kids have a sick day, I get one too. Whenever my job starts before the sun rises, I am going to give myself overtime pay – a latte, a massage or just a really long, hot bath. I am going to pay myself fifty dollars for each episode of Dora I have to suffer hrough and twenty for every episode of the Wiggles (twenty five when I sing along). A potty training course is worth $ 500 and the first day of kindergarten is worth a grand. I am paying myself two bucks for every bath and diaper change. I get ten dollars for every trip to the park, library, playdate, and music class.
When all is said and done, I am fairly certain I still will not be paid what I am worth. However, the next time my husband offers to help clean the house, wash the dishes or finish the laundry I am going to proudly hand him my paycheck and reply, "surely!"