A few weeks ago, I wrote an article on ‘ways to get your baby to talk early’. As I checked the piece for errors, I smiled. Here I was dishing out tips to new mums, telling them how not to worry even if their babies take their time to speak, requesting them to relax, when not many years back I was such a confused wreck as a new mum myself!
I still clearly remember telling office colleagues that I would be back to work in no time at the start of maternity. Back then, I clearly had no idea how a delicate, helpless infant could turn someone’s life upside down. But, sure enough, one rough, colicky night with my baby and I put in my papers even before maternity leave ended. The career-loving, ambitious me decided to join the stay-at-home mom (SAHM) club.
One would expect a SAHM’s job to be easy. There’s no juggling of career and parenthood, no guilt, only happy feelings of motherhood right? Sigh. If only they knew.
Being a SAHM finds you trapped in a unique set of challenges, some of them completely unexpected. Quite often, the homebound mom can feel jailed in her own house, to the point of going crazy. But challenges can be worked around, and they must if it means to protect a mum’s health and sanity. So as a veteran SAHM to two kids, I have listed some of the biggest challenges of a SAHM and also added tips to overcome them, with precious help from other wonderful experienced mums of the BabyChakra Community.
The one time immaculately dressed, ambitious and social career woman was now mostly at home in food-stained pajamas. The only things she thought of were the baby, his schedules and the household chores. Sounds like a typical SAHM’s day? The feeling of losing one’s identity is the most glaring problem the mom-at-home faces. While the stress of managing both the baby and a job isn’t there, one misses the adrenaline of taking on work projects, pursuing interests or just being recognised as a person and not her baby’s mum.
How to overcome this? Well the first step is to assure yourself that you are not going to take care of a baby forever. Slowly, but surely, take out time to exercise, reunite with a hobby, or take a class online. For me, exercising along with YouTube videos and connecting with baking was energising, even if that meant allowing my kids extra TV time.
Having a tiny human with limited vocabulary for company the whole day can drive one nuts. Yes, it’s beautiful to teach and interact with your child, but after a while we miss the company of other grownups. The one time social, extroverted me missed gossiping with my girlfriends or discussing real issues with an adult.
Here, interacting with other mommy pals can surely pull you through. Once a fortnight, the mums from my antenatal class would meet for a play date. On other days, talking to other mothers was a blessing. Meeting like-minded moms on the community 24/7 was an assurance that I wasn’t alone.
If you were a financially–independent woman before choosing to be a hands-on mom, budgeting, cutting corners and thinking twice before every expense can be tough. Shopping for yourself can take you on a guilt trip and unsettle you or make you feel worthless.
Feeling answerable to someone on tiny expenditures irked me and I didn’t know how to get over it. What helps is constantly reminding yourself that your sacrifice was precious, and for the greater good. Also, there’s always a chance for you to get back to work once you feel the kids are old enough.
In our society, a mum is bombarded by advice whether she likes it or not. You may hear things like, “Why do you need a maid, when you’re at home?” “Are you planning to go back to work?” And then the mother of all questions, “What do you do all day?” Then even you tend to question yourself, “Yes, what did I do all day?”
Again, after receiving sane advice from other mothers, I just learnt to grit my teeth and filter the unwanted ones.
No one consciously does it, but the mom invariably gets taken for a ride. Who should quit the job? The mom. The baby’s not talking? The mom’s not trying hard. The baby’s pooped? Call the mom, even if the husband can do it. Why is the house unclean, aren’t you home all day? No one really appreciates the work the mom does at home as baby-rearing and housework is considered a woman’s job by default.
Communicating my feelings with my spouse helped me here. He readily agrees to take on some of baby’s tasks whenever home and I try not to interfere with his parenting skills.
Whether we choose to be a working mum or a SAHM, we will still doubt ourselves and be judged. The only way to sail through is to love ourselves truly, because only then can we give some.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)