I’ll Admit It: As a Working Mother, I Envy Stay-at-Home Mothers Sometimes

Is the grass really greener in Central Park when you don't have to work?

The Central Park Mom—as I’ll call her—looked pristine with matching outfits for each of her three, well-behaved children. I was sure they all had sunblock, sunhats and individual chopped vegetables and fruit in toddler-approved, aesthetically appealing containers. And don’t forget water holders with each of her children’s names on them. In other words, total perfection.  

I stared at her for three seconds too long while I showed up with my two young children to the park on a day I didn’t have childcare, while still trying to work (of course!). As an entrepreneur and mom of two, I was honestly proud I even got them to the park in between conference calls.  

I haphazardly threw a few apple sauce packets in my work purse, some rouge goldfish in a half-beaten plastic baggy with a warm, opened water bottle, while my frenzied children ran about like caged animals who were just let out. 

Despite the fact that I have never wanted to be someone more than that stay-at-home mom, I felt like a hot mess.  

My mom/work life is split, I’m never fully “just a mom” or “just a business owner”— and I envy those moms who can be just one or the other. When we decided to have a child, and then another one, I didn’t fully grasp or understand this struggle. I also didn’t anticipate how I would envy my previous freedom to work as I wanted—or to wonder how it would be to mother without the pressure of keeping an entire company afloat. 

You know what they say, the grass is always greener in another part of Central Park—or, in other words: everyone always wants what they can’t have. 

Even so, I allow myself to daydream about what being a stay-at-home, work-free parent would be like. 

I see stay-at-home mothers daily at Starbucks, in yoga clothes, their hair strewn from a recent Barre or Pilates class, and a latte in hand. I call them the “SHM Crew”—some parents I recognize from my children’s school. Fresh from a preschool drop-off or an exercise class, always together, always observant of us “working moms” who come in quickly, dressed in professional attire, sometimes jumping from one work call to another, checking our email with urgency on our phones. 

We don’t have time to hang around—we are busy grabbing our order and jetting out. We always seem to be in a hurry and busy. And yes, I see the envy in their eyes at times—almost as if they are missing the hustle and bustle that we working moms still have. Maybe it’s the excitement of something outside of parenthood or the fact that our focus is not on kids all the time. Whatever it is, I see it and can usually feel their stares as I hustle in and out of that coffee shop in two minutes flat, always trying to jam as many items into an hour as I can. It gives me mixed emotions, the first is happiness that I am still doing what I love which is working and caring for two amazing children, but it also gives me anxiety, as I’m usually triple-tasking something while I do.

Never fully being in one lane is hard for me.

As a business owner (and before kids) I basically lived, breathed and embraced my agency when I first opened it nine years ago—luckily, with a husband helping and cheering me along the way. I had focus, I was determined, and I knew exactly what I wanted—and I went for it.  

For many years before I started my own business I had dreamed of “doing my own thing” and when I actually did it, it was almost kismet, as five clients kind of plopped onto my lap at once, I got some office space, LLC’d myself, and poof, I had a business. As the years and clients piled on I was able to get bigger office space, hire staff, then more staff—and my little-business-that-could excelled. I was beyond proud of myself, I worked all the time, but was doing what I love (and still do!) For a very long time I had one lane: my business (and husband of course.) 

Then we had our first daughter, Rowan, the absolute apple of our eye, a game changer in all aspects, but also the first time I had to really split myself in two. 

And honestly, I didn’t recognize myself. How could I be mommy one minute with spit-up on my shirt, then a moment later, telling a client their best PR strategy? As time went on, I learned to balance, then we went ahead and had another one. And unsurprisingly, that threw me into a tizzy a bit more. After the birth of our son, I now had two children to balance—and still my first-born, my company to run.  

My “three children”—as I call them—seemed a bit out of sorts for a very long time. When I thought I had a grasp on the parenthood thing—work suffered. And when I felt work was thriving, I felt like I wasn’t giving my children the best mom they could have. I never fully felt like I had it all down pat, and still don’t at times. There were never enough hours in the day, or days in the week to get everything done. 

But now that my children are a pinch older (five and two) I have recently felt like I have struck a bit of a balance where I don’t feel like I’m neglecting either party.

Not sure if this is better time management and prioritizing work/family items that need to get done first, or planning like crazy in advance? Or the fact that I have cold rose wine on tap at all times (kidding, but not really—it does help at times). Whatever it may be, things still feel cluttered but I have a clarity I haven’t had in a very long time.

However, I definitely have my off-kilter days—usually when a child is sick, school is out or a work emergency happens after business hours—and my anxiety level flies to an all-time high. That’s when I start to envy and daydream about being a stay-at-home mom again. I imagine a life where I could have one—and only one—focus.

My five-year-old said to me recently after another mom came into her class to make a craft with sad puppy dog eyes and the largest pout I have ever seen: “Mommy, all the other moms come into class and make flowers with us or come and read stories, why don’t you ever do this?” 

I was taken aback but said, trying to be as diplomatic as possible: “Roro, mommy works, has her own business and needs to do work things during the day. Many of those mommy’s coming in to school stay at home with their kids, so they have more time.”  

Never mind, I did take off from work in the fall to be “field trip mom,” then came in during her birthday in November to read a book to the class. But in preschool years, this was ages ago and didn’t matter. I suddenly felt sad and mad that I had to work all the time and didn’t have this luxury to come into her preschool class. 

Was my daughter missing out on having me come in? Was I really the only mom too busy to spend time with these five-year-olds? 

I don’t have a green thumb, I can’t bake to save my life, and crafts make me antsy—so I did the only thing I could think of as a beauty publicist: I scheduled time to come to class (yes, I took off work for 45 minutes) and I showed the kids how to build a “self-care routine” with parent-approved face masks and organic hand cream. 

Although not traditionally educational or thought-provoking, this was a hit not only with the kids, the teachers and parents—but most importantly with my daughter, who beamed the entire time I was there. It was a way for me to show her what mommy does for work all day: how I help other mothers grow their businesses, how I find joy and confidence from my business and how one day, she can build the career she dreams of, too. 

I know I will still have my days when I fantasize about being a stay-at-home-mom, mostly on days I have thirty work assignments due, five loads of laundry and dinner to prepare and a sick child or two, but I also know that at the end of the day we are all the same, us moms.

We all have the same stressors, worries and guilt about parenthood.  It’s not easy caring for children, there is absolutely no manual (although I wish there was) and we are all just trying to do the best job and be the best mom we can be.

And that—working mamas or SAHM or some mix in-between—is always enough. I’m raising a cold glass of Rose to you. 


  • Colleen Mathis

    Colleen Mathis is a mom of two and founder of boutique wellness and beauty PR agency, absolute R relations in NYC. When she isn’t reading about the newest trends in beauty or investigating a new skincare device, you can find her drinking her third triple shot latte at Starbucks, taking a Soulcycle class or spending the weekends at the ZOO or park with her family.

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