“Just” a stay at home mom

It’s the assumption of “just” that irks me in my new title as Stay-at-home-Mom.

What I’ve realised is there’s little point in trying to explain to folks that my job is far from “just”. It is  as many women before me have described: the hardest job in the world.

There isn’t a single job I’ve ever done- in ALL my life- that is tougher than looking after my two smallies.

I’m not writing this so those who don’t know what it’s like can “get it”, because, I think it’s difficult to really understand unless you’ve gone through it- I’m writing this for other moms like me who may sometimes feel a little disheartened when people call them “just” stay-at-home moms.

And here’s the reason why the “just” is insulting:

–          It’s to imply that the mom who’s at home full time does nothing else except “play” mommy all day when she really could be doing other things of “importance”.

–          It’s to imply that somehow she has “sold out” on all those hard working career women of old who suffered many things so she could have the opportunities she now has to be “anything” she wants to be.

–          It’s to imply that she is “wasting” her intelligence, talents and potential on the brain numbingly boring tasks of being home with the kids- all day!

–          It’s to assume that she has no goals, no vision and has “settled” for the lowly position of changing countless diapers, wiping running noses, cleaning house and of course let’s not forget: while being “subject” to her husband and serving him- subject to a man! A man! Oh goodness what is this world deteriorating to when everything women have achieved can be erased by these… oh what’s the word because we can hardly honour them with the title of “Woman” when they betray the very fabric of what has been achieved for the progressive woman of the modern world!

Oh well… This is what I hear when people, especially other women say: “Oh so you’re “just” at home now,” as though I’ve betrayed some sacred movement.

I can see the disappointment in their eyes; These women look at me as though I’ve let the entire female race down- I can only think that perhaps in their eyes I’ve broken the ranks and reversed decades of hard work regarding the progression of women.

I can’t defend myself in the stark condemnation of these perceptions.

There are times I feel compelled to apologise to these women who feel I’ve betrayed the movement- but I catch myself and remind Me that I’ve done nothing wrong.

If anything I’m celebrating the women who suffered many things to give me the choice to pursue a career or stay at home and invest as much I want to in my children.

I keep saying women because in my experience it’s other women who’ve been most critical of my decision to stay home with my kids.

I realise that there may be some stay-at-home moms who may also judge working moms for working instead of being at home- that fight is just as ridiculous.

We live in an awesome time where women have the freedom to choose- and the joy is knowing that you’re staying home because you choose to not because it’s been dictated to you.

I am grateful for all the women who look me in the eyes and acknowledge that my role is hard.

The importance of “sisterhood” during your journey

For other moms who may be full time stay at home moms- I urge you to connect with other moms who are also at home- I have one such friend (let’s call her Lauren) I cannot fully describe what a blessing she’s been to me.

We share tips on how to save time, we talk about our ambitions, we pray together…

Perhaps one of the most important things Lauren does for me is to remind me why I chose to stay home with my kids.

A few days ago I felt the pressure to earn an income weigh down heavily on me. Lauren shared with me that while she too wanted to earn an income she reminded herself why she’d decided to stay at home with her kids in the first place. It was to invest in them as much as she could. For her, then, any means of earning an income now would usurp that purpose…

Lauren sharing that reminded me why I’d  chosen to spend as much time as I could with my children.

Lauren and I share difficulties that we might not easily share in other settings.

For instance I went through a period when my son’s tantrums were weighing me down. He was unhappy and I was frustrated. Lauren told me that something might be wrong and I needed to consider the situation carefully and adjust.

Her saying that caught my attention. All the while I’d thought my son entering the “terrible two’s” stage was why he was being difficult. So I blamed his age and him but didn’t think the problem might actually be me!

I was able to share with Lauren that while I loved my son I’d started disliking being around him because he was driving me nuts! Slowly I’d started disliking him. It’s something I wouldn’t easily share but I felt safe sharing it with Lauren because something about our relationship told me she wouldn’t judge me.

Lauren knew too how exhausting it could be to be home with the kids- all day. Add impossible tantrums to that and it can drive the most loving of moms over the edge!

On Lauren’s advice I found out that part of my son’s problem was that we had become so busy we weren’t spending as much time with him as he was accustomed to.

Another reason for his being difficult was I’d stopped making the effort to understand him. I was under so much pressure with everything else that I’d stopped getting on my knees, looking him in the eyes and giving him the opportunity to be heard.

I bless God that I found the answers to help me with my son from the book The Happiest Toddler on the Block  by Dr Harvey Karp.

I applied what the author imparted in that book and before the day was out my son’s tantrums had decreased to almost zero. My son and I re-connected and I fell in love with him all over again.

I recommend  Dr Harvey's very practical book as one of your best partners through the toddler years.
I highly recommend Dr Harvey’s very practical book. It’s been a remarkable, loving, resource in helping me through the toddler years.

Not being understood is OK

I’ve stopped sharing with others how tough being at home with the kids is.

The main reason: I realised that simply put I was, in essence, complaining.

I realised that what I was seeking, when sharing what a tough time I was having, was validation for what I was doing- but here’s the thing: No one asked me to stay home with the kids. It was my choice and I cannot ever play the martyr!

I also realised that complaining meant I was seeing this most precious gift of being home with my kids as a burden. Instead of being grateful that I got to be enjoy these wonderful, quick, years with my babies, I was moaning about it- seeking sympathy where I could.

Perhaps one of the main reasons I shared was to make people realise that I wasn’t “just” a stay-at-home mom.

I was trying to get others to see how important my role was because on some level I felt I needed to justify why I’d left an illustrious career to stay at home.

I wanted to impress others because being at home wasn’t as glamorous as my TV job had been- far from it. And while I enjoyed being home with my kids- I allowed others’ perception of it being a “demotion” from my career path, to make me feel that what I was doing now was a fall from glory.

I also stopped sharing the challenges of my new role as stay-at-home mom because I realised that people who’ve never had to (even once) do what I and many other stay-at-home parents do… couldn’t understand what it was like. It was futile trying to explain.

My doctor (who’s perhaps one of the most sensitive practitioners I’ve ever come across) looked at me totally bewildered when I shared with him what a massive change it was for me to be home with the kids.

His question was: “What’s hard  about it Hannah?”

He really is such a darling man. But I could see that he had no clue what I was talking about. Perhaps he thought I was probably mistaken; surely being at at home couldn’t be as hard as I made it out to be!

Oh let me tell you it is…

OK just in case you may be interested to know (part of) what makes it hard…

Even in the most demanding jobs I’ve ever had – I got lunch breaks- Not so with being a stay-at-home.

I’m always eating on the run because there’s never enough time to sit down properly and eat like a civilised lady- I whoof food down! Brush crumbs off me while I rush to the next task… It’s barbaric! Hehehehehe…  (Please don’t ever ask me about this. I’ll deny it!)

No matter how tough my jobs got I got to pee whenever I needed to…

Pee breaks now…. Hahahahahahaha… It’s actually funny! Really it is 😀  There are times I’ll take a pee (eventually) and realise I’d been needing to go for the longest time but couldn’t get around to it. It’s hilarious!

Even in my most demanding of jobs I got days off and enjoyed the luxury of leave- not so when you’re a stay-at-home mom. There is never time off- none.

This of course is made worse if you don’t have a reliable person to help you with the housework and the kids- it’s madness.

Even in my most toughest of jobs- I was allowed sleep… not so with this gig… you learn to operate on very little sleep (if at all) and make peace with it.

Even when I feel ill I can’t lie in bed- who will make food for the kids? Who will feed them? Who will change their diapers? Who will watch that they don’t hurt themselves? Who will keep them out of harm’s way if I stay in bed?

No matter how sick you feel when you’re a stay-at-home mom you get up and you keep going.

I’ve never had a job that ever required for me to be alert 24 hours a day- this one demands it.

There are times my husband has had a minute taste of what I do at home. On those days he’s told me he looks forward to going to work so he can get some rest… I grin. Wide.

There is no sleeping in when you’re a stay-at-home mom.

From the moment I wake up- till I pass out in bed in the evening- there’s always, always, something that needs to be done.

I get You

So sister girl, when people say: “Oh you’re “just” a stay-at-home mom…” Know that I get you.

I know that you’re not “just” anything. You’re a kick-butt, hard-working, woman who’s doing one of the most important, toughest, jobs in the world.

There’s a reason you chose to stay at home- please remind yourself of that reason.

There are few things that will reward you as much as knowing you invested all you could in your children.

I’m not saying that working moms invest any less. All my closest friends who have children and work are awesome AWESOME moms!

But for the stay-at-home mom you need to be reminded that you’re doing a fantastic job!

You need to know that leaving your career to look after your children is not a demotion and you should never, ever, feel apologetic for your choice. There are millions of people who can do the work your career required but you are the only one who can be mom to your kids.

I know how thankless it can be – and boy does it suck to not get paid (in cash, praise and recognition) for all your hard work- but I believe you pay yourself when you remind You that there are few things more important than raising a confident, happy, human being.

Your kids won’t be kids forever. They’ll grow. And even if they never verbalise their gratitude for you taking time out of your ambitious life to raise them- you’ll see the rewards in the grounded people they’ll turn out to be.

If you stay home out of love for your kids and not obligation I can almost guarantee that you won’t regret giving them this much of you.

I may paint SUCH a dark picture about being a stay-at-home mom and for this I profusely apologise.

I can honestly say that of all the jobs I’ve ever done- none have ever given me more joy, more freedom, more peace than serving my children in this crucial part of their lives. For that I know I’m blessed, privileged and forever grateful.

My top tips for thriving joyfully as a Stay-at-home-Mom

–          Be grateful that you can stay home with your kids. Some moms would like to but can’t, mainly due to financial reasons.  Some don’t have the support that would allow them to stay home.

–          Connect with other stay-at-home moms who love being with their kids. Please don’t hang around martyrs- they’ll ruin the journey for you.

–          Seek out help and advice from great resources such as askDrSears.com or if you’ve got tods a fantastic book such as The Happiest Toddler on the Block by Dr Harvey Karp is absolutely invaluable.

–          If you can afford it get someone to help you with the housework or the kids or both.

–          If you can afford a play group a few times a week send your children (toddler years) to play with friends – this gives you some time to breathe and re-align. It also helps your child develop in other ways due to exposure to something different.

–          Be humble enough to ask for help when you need it. Being a super mom doesn’t mean doing it ALL on your own. Don’t be too proud to ask for help- it’s your kids that will suffer the repercussions of that.

–          Relax. You don’t have to get it right all the time. Hand your kids over to God and trust that He is faithful to watch over them. You can never watch over your kids 100% of the time. Trying will feed into fear until it makes you paranoid and so stressed out you can’t really enjoy your kids- so sister girl: relax. Rest in God’s ultimate power to look after your kids. He loves them. It’s hard to believe but He loves them more than you ever can- so hand them over to Him and work with Him when it comes to your kids. I pray you would find peace and rest as the truth of His heart toward you and your family sinks into your being.

–          Even when it feels there is no time make some time to do something you love. I love writing and sometimes I can’t sleep so I use that time to blog and scribble… make some time to feed your soul. It will make you happier and it’ll teach your kids the power and joy of doing things they love.

–          For some, investing time into what you love might create a whole new way to exercise your gifts and talents. This might take you down a whole new career path or you may be inspired to start your own venture.

–          Find a way to stay connected to your industry so should you decide to go back to work sometime you’re not so out of the loop it becomes difficult to re-enter the job market.

–          Remind yourself that being at home means being at home. The time to start businesses or go back to work will come. Now’s the time to focus on enjoying precious time with your children.

–          Manage your time wisely and effectively.

–          Plan. Most times I’ve felt as though my life is spinning completely out of control and it’s been because of my lack of planning. Just as you planned your days when you had a job – you need to plan your days now that you’re at home. Diarise/schedule things that need to be done and when they need to be done.

–          Cook a few meals in advance. Cooking takes up a LOT of my time. My friend Lauren told me she cooks lots of food in advance. So she’ll cook lots of porridge and refrigerate. That way a healthy breakfast is set for her kids for a couple of days. She cooks large dinners so her husband can take food to work the next day. I’ve found that cooking a few meals in advance does a lot in freeing up some time for me.

–          Give yourself time off. I fully understand the need to want to get everything done- but you’ll burn out. On some days let the dishes pile. Don’t clean. Resting is crucial to you being able to be a great mom for your kids.

–          Leave hubby with the kids once in a while. It will give you some much needed time to reboot and recharge. Daddy can then experience first-hand what it’s like for you. It’s vital that he appreciate that you really aren’t just twiddling your thumbs all day playing hide-and-seek with your kids. Getting a taste of what your life at home is like will also help him understand you on those days when you get take-out instead of cook, or don’t do dishes and clean up. Your husband knowing that your job is just as hard as his (if not harder) will also free you of guilt when you ask him for help. It may also give him the empathy to help you when he’s able.

–          Pray. I cannot share enough how this has helped me. Especially with my two year old who can pulverise my energy to absolute zero sometimes. Father cares about you and your kids. He will give you the wisdom and strength when all you want to do is lie on the floor and have someone rescue you from your kids- Yep! I know those days do happen – to most of us- so don’t feel guilty about it.

–          When you go out, be it to the store, coffee with a friend, church, even a simple trip to grab some take-out food with hubby and the kids… put some effort into looking nice. I get that it’s more comfy to stay in your sweats or PJs because, granted, there’s nothing sexy about changing diapers, washing floors, doing laundry, wiping running noses… but it’s important you look really nice on a regular basis- it makes you feel good about you and does much for your confidence.

–          Take care of you and the body that carries you through your life.

–          Get your hair done!

–          Once in a while get yourself some nice clothes and shoes… As one mom once shared with me: Be a yummy mommy! Again I believe this will do loads for your confidence.

–          Every now and then do something that is only for you. Spoil yourself and learn to enjoy it.  Prudence with your finances is essential. However don’t feel guilty for splurging on just you every now and then.

–          Stretch. I can’t even talk about exercise because I’m very bad in this area. But if you can, exercising is great great great! It’ll make you feel good and it gives you much needed energy. While you’re busy all day- your body can tense up a lot. Taking some time to stretch and exercise releases some of that tension.

–          Flirt with your man. I know it’s hard to feel sexy when you feel like a work horse pretty much all day- but flirting with your guy will make you feel sexy and it’s a great way to remind you to stay physically intimate with your husband.

–          Maintain your friendships. It’s hard to make time for friends when you’ve so little spare time. But don’t isolate yourself. Loneliness leads to depression. You can’t be a good mom or a good anything when you’re down.

–          Pamper your husband. It’s really easy to neglect your husband with your smallies needing you so much. But it’s important to spoil your man. Granted, as a stay-at-home mom, you’re probably working more than he does at his job – but he has quite a plate in front of him too. For most men work isn’t a fantastic environment. You need to create a place of rest, joy and freedom for your man at home. Squeeze in some time to find out how he is. My Aunt reminded me of the importance of making my husband breakfast and packing him healthy lunches for work. I can honestly say this has made SUCH a difference and I can see how much he appreciates it. I believe looking after him in this way has rekindled something between us and I HIGHLY recommend it.

–         Something else when it comes to your guy… Initiate, initiate, intiate… you know what I mean… 😉  Let him know you’re not too busy for him and for crying out loud don’t’ be unapproachable! Which is why it’s important to look good regularly and not look like “mom” all the time. And when you initiate please don’t do it with your babies gob all over your shoulder- and hair tied up in an ugly bun- look really nice! 

–          You get a lot done when you wake up early.

–          Try to nap when the kids nap. This will give you some much needed rest.

–          Play with your children. The housework does get overwhelming and it’s easy to fall into the trap of going through the motions with your children by getting so busy with their obvious needs: feeds, baths, diaper changes etc… but PLAY with them. Take some days off to just play with them. On those days sneak in some take-out- leave the dishes unwashed, beds unmade, floors unwashed etc… playing with your kids is such a crucial part of their growing up – give them a fun childhood and show them that life is meant to be enjoyed. If they see you stressed and unhappy they’ll learn that- they may even blame themselves for your unhappiness and that’s not fair on such little impressionable souls. Have fun! Teach them that joy is the point of life.

–          Take your kids out. Sometimes children, especially spirited kids, get cabin fever by being cooped up indoors all the time. This makes them irritable and very difficult to deal with. You’ll be amazed at what outside play can do for your kids. It also gives you a change of scenery- you need some time out of the house.

–          Remind yourself often why you decided to stay-at-home.

–          Keep a journal and jot down some of the cute things your kids do or say. You’ll be amazed at how time flies and how easily and quickly you forget these moments. Keeping a journal is good way to capture this awesome journey… it also gives you some incredible material to share with your children when they’re older (and perhaps their children one day) .

–          One of my dear friends told me the other day that our children actually belong to God. He entrusts them to us to look after for Him. This was such a beautiful illustration for me. I was so blessed by my friend reminding me that. Because my children are God’s He provides for them. And He gives me everything I needed to be an awesome mom to them. This encouraged me. Don’t panic too much about meeting your children’s every needs. Don’t worry about their futures. Trust God. You’ll be amazed at how this relieves pressure.

–         Dear Stay-at-home-Mom, Enjoy these years with your children. They really do fly by way too fast.

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