It’s not easy being a stay-at-home mum
I didn’t plan to become a stay-at-home mum, it just sort of happened. I had decided to spend six months on maternity leave and then go back to work and complete another degree. My son would spend four days at childcare.
And then he was born.
And I fell in love with him. I couldn’t stop looking at him in complete awe, counting his fingers, cradling him in my arms. Having him asleep on my bosom felt like an enormous privilege. When I got the long-awaited but weirdly unexpected phone call saying that there was a spot for him at the nearest childcare centre I simply couldn’t do it. We were staying together, for as long as I possibly could—or for as long as we could stretch our budget.
We went to Mothers’ Group, to the library, to the beach, to the museum, to all the places where a mother with a crawler was well received. After exploring the city we would come back home. He would sleep in his pram for one or two hours, and I would clean the house. But my son started walking, became a terrible sleeper, and my dreamy days became nightmares.
He was always in my arms. I couldn’t cook, clean, make the bed or let alone do the washing. Sometimes I couldn’t even shower. I thought I was doing something wrong, but I couldn’t pin point what it was. Although the maternal nurses and other mums kept on saying that it was normal and that it would pass, it was just too much.
Pregnant again and with no friends or family nearby to give me a hand, I had a meltdown. I needed help and didn’t know where to start looking. I also felt ashamed because I was failing my son, my partner and my unborn baby. I thought a stay-at-home mum should be pretty much capable of cleaning her house, cooking and educating her child all by herself. My grandmother did it. My mother did it. Why couldn’t I do it?
And then it hit me.
My mother had my grandmother around. My grandmother’s sister lived just next door. They had a village. I had one toddler who emptied all the kitchen drawers in an attempt to help me cook, and a partner who wanted to stay and help but needed to go to work.
Every day felt like an ordeal. Was it okay spend all day singing and reading to my child, or was I wrong? Was it okay to turn on the TV and let him watch a show while I cooked dinner or mopped the floors?
I took me many months to understand that it was okay not to have a squeaky clean house. I learnt the hard way that having toys everywhere doesn’t equal a lazy mother, but a happy toddler. Sometimes, however, it was all overwhelming and I cried while I folded the clothes.
Little by little I accepted my new reality. I had become a stay-at-home mum and although I missed my job, my friends and showering every day, I became more compassionate and patient.
Hadn’t I spent 2 years on what I ended up calling ‘my prolonged maternity leave’, I would have missed my children’s milestones. I was there when they first crawled, walked, used the potty, fed themselves and climbed the stairs. I was also there to teach them how to help mummy vacuum the house, make dinner and fold clothes (although we are still working on this one, apparently it’s still more fun to unfold them).
My utmost respect now goes to those women who have decided to stay at home and raise their children. Motherhood is a lonely, challenging business that also includes lots of administration, medical and coaching duties—and we shouldn’t be scared to ask for help because all of us have been there, even if it was just for a few months.
Now that I’m back at work (part-time, of course), I miss those carefree days in which my children and I spent hours singing, dancing and learning to count. Sometimes I even miss the extra shots of caffeine and the crazy days in which I simply didn’t have time to shower.