As far as I can see, being a stay-at-home mum (or dad) is seen to be the ultimate career as far as our society goes.
I mean, the number of times I’ve been told how lucky I am that I COULD be a stay-at-home mum, that I was so fortunate that my husband was earning enough that I didn’t NEED to go to work, that’s it’s so much better for the kids if they have someone there for them whenever they need it, that at least I can make sure the kids get the best of everything and how much better are the kids going to turn out because they got so much attention.
I dunno, half the time the attention they got was me screaming at them. I’m not entirely sure how that counts for much.
I made the choice to be a stay-at-home mum all by myself: I have four kids (yeah, okay, two of them were the result of one too many glasses of wine resulting in throwing caution and the condoms out of the window and saying: “Just this once (sorry, twice – we didn’t learn the first time), we’ll be fine”) and I adore them all so I felt like I OUGHT to stay at home and look after them.
I brought them into the world, it was my choice (okay, I had help), so I needed to take responsibility and take care of them. I put my business ideas on hold, said goodbye to my coach, mentors, staff, clients and nice, sorry – clean clothes, rolled my sleeves up and took up stay-at-home mothering.
It’s funny how there are way fewer blokes who feel like that? Most guys won’t even consider giving up all the things they want to do with their careers or businesses to stay at home and look after the kids. Some do, I know, and certainly more and more men are doing that, but it wouldn’t have entered my husband’s radar screen to even consider it.
Yet I expected to not only be able to go from being a creative, driven, full on entrepreneur to being a cook/cleaner/taxi driver/housekeeper/diplomat/law enforcement officer, I also expected to ENJOY it.
And I KNEW that I should be grateful for having the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mum.
But here’s the thing: staying at home and looking after the kids is, in no way, shape or form mentally challenging.
There are times when it’s very challenging in other ways, like getting all the washing done after a tummy bug bout. Or cleaning up after your three year old has decided to do a number 2 in the bath and then decorate the both bathroom and his brother with it. Or walking into the bathroom another time to find that in the two minutes you’ve been gone to get some more towels, they’ve completely emptied the huge spa bath that they’re in onto the carpeted floor using the sand toys you gave them to play with.
For the most part though, stay-at-home parenting is boring, tedious, humdrum, monotonous, repetitive, menial, thankless survival.
Interspersed with some nice cab sav.
I knew that it was going to be boring for the most part but I also felt that I OUGHT to be grateful for being able to stay at home and look after the kids, and so I needed to be the perfect mother. I had this opportunity that a lot of women didn’t get, so I needed to make the most of it.
Standing in the school yard waiting to pick up the kids could turn into a nightmare of comparing myself to other stay-at-home mothers and feeling that maybe I didn’t have a handle on this stay-at-home motherhood lark after all. I just wasn’t up to scratch.
Looking back on it now, it’s glaringly obvious that I was a bored overachiever who just had to create dramas, excitement and challenges to give some meaning to my life because I certainly wasn’t getting any from the day-to-day monotony of motherhood. And if you’re wondering the same, or you’re feeling that this stay at home lark isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and maybe you need to be considering another career path, read on.
Seven signs that being a stay-at-home parent may not be for you:
- You home make EVERYTHING. I mean EVERYTHING. Not just cook all food from scratch including bread, pizzas, ice cream, yoghurt and the inevitable healthy snacks. You have all the heavy duty equipment up to and including the Thermomix which is supposed to make all those other very expensive must-have items unnecessary.
But THEN you take it one step further and also make all the household cleaning and personal hygiene products from scratch, too. I mean, you can’t let your kids use those terrible antiperspirants, can you? All that aluminium and what have you? No! You make them their very own all-natural deodorant with the organic essential oil of their choice and then you suggest to them that it might be a great idea to give some to their friends as birthday presents so they can start to really take care of their bodies, too.
- Your house is IMMACULATE. You wash & iron EVERYTHING: bedding, towels, curtains, floor mats, undies, pyjamas (flanelette gets SO creased, you can’t possibly wear it like that!). Your spices are in matching jars, labelled and placed in alphabetical order. Your linen cupboard is arranged by bedding size with labels on the shelves underneath each pile. The clothes in your childrens’ wardrobes are arranged by colour. As are the coat hangers the clothes are on.
- Your child has a defining moment and becomes a social pariah because you insist they take “healthy” muffins into school on their birthday. None of this shop-bought totally artificial sugar bomb stuff. No. YOUR child gets white chocolate and raspberry wholemeal muffins and it’s not your fault if none of the other kids are savvy enough to eat them, is it? The parents we shared them with in the playground after none of the classmates took one, said the muffins were wonderful.
- Your life is organised to the SECOND. Your time is precious, goddammit. The teacher in charge of a bus containing one of your children that came back late from a school trip finds out just how precious. You let the teacher and the driver know just how long they’ve made you and your other children wait and how dare they think that just because you’re a stay-at-home mother you’ve got nothing better to do than hang around and wait for them. All the while this is going on, your child is trying to both drag you away and melt into the ground from embarrassment while his mates grin on.
- You feel the need to demonstrate your physical prowess to prove to your kids that you can do things other than parent and that you did have a life (and a decent body) before they came along. Unfortunately, you forget that you’re not a teenager any more and end up in the hospital on full spinal precautions with a suspected broken neck after ‘showing’ them how to do a back flip on the bouncy castle.
- You’re so keen when the kids start at their new (very expensive) senior school that you do what it says in the school handbook and you HAND SEW name tags inside everything the children own. It takes you four days but at least you know you’ve done it right. You also read the school handbook from cover to cover and tell your children what the rules are.
- You put on a movie for the kids so you can go out into the garden and have a quiet glass of plonk with your hubby and relax after a hard week of mothering. You come back inside to grab the second bottle only to realise that the movie you’ve put on is Love Actually and you’d completely forgotten about the part where a naked woman gives a naked man a pretend blow job on a film set – the part that your 5 & 9 year old daughters are now watching along with their teenaged brothers.
- (I lied: there are 8 signs but eight doesn’t sound as good with ‘signs’ as seven) You tell your husband that it’s okay for him to go on a trekking holiday in the Himalaya while you stay at home and look after the kids, the house and the business. Never acknowledging your resentment for a second, you take the opportunity of him going away to go out and buy all the things you want for the house but he doesn’t. He mainly doesn’t want them because they are really expensive. Expensive things like a 74 inch TV (yes, they exist). And a piano. But that’s okay because he’ll be all rested and chilled when he gets back and he’ll be able to deal with it well, so welcome home, darling: surprise, surprise!
I didn’t see any of these things as being at all unreasonable when I was doing them, it’s only looking back now that they seem a bit, well, like I needed some psychiatric help really. You may not need counselling but you may need to consider going back to your pre-full-time mum life before you give your child a defining moment over muffins or late buses or home made deodorant.
Having said all that, surprisingly enough, my children have all grown up happy and well-adjusted and we’ve maintained an awesome relationship the whole way through, defining moments notwithstanding.
They would much rather, however, that I’d found challenges to occupy my mind in areas other than the ones listed above and gone back to being an entrepreneur years before I did, which may hopefully have saved them all from having those defining moments.
It’s something to consider maybe…
Have you considered being a SAHM? Let us know your thoughts.