I’ve called myself many things since I became a stay at home mum – The Reluctant SAHM, The Inadvertent SAHM, and sometimes, on the good days, I’ve called myself Lucky.
I didn’t set out to stay at home with my children – finding myself with this label, came about following the flexible working policy at my work place not really being as flexible as it would have everyone believe (think, more intermediate yoga flexible, than Olympic gymnast flexible.)
So, I had my first baby, had a failed renegotiation of my contract when going back after 10 months, but was already 5 months pregnant when I made the return. Even though I’d been denied the hours I needed to make our lives work, I buried my head in the sand with an ‘I’ll worry about this in another 9 months’ attitude, as I was just about to go on maternity leave again. Thinking about it was immaturely filed at the back of my brain under I Don’t Need To Think About This For Ages.
Inevitably, after another 9 months, the flexible working policy seemed now more like me trying to touch my toes while 9 months pregnant with a dodgy back kind of flexible-the offer was worse than the first time I tried to negotiate. So I paid back my maternity pay and just didn’t go back. I think, also at the back of my mind where I was trying not to think about it, was the thought that I more than likely wouldn’t go back, and this was always going to be the inevitable outcome. My husband tentatively confirmed, that with my kind of skills I just wasn’t able to work part time, and afford childcare for two children. So there I was, an inadvertent SAHM, because finding a plan B was way more difficult than I’d anticipated.
However, along with the inflexibly flexible job situation, I’d also found myself being more of a control freak than I would ever have admitted to being, under any other circumstances that wouldn’t have exposed me as such. When it came to the crunch, I struggled with the concept of someone other than me looking after my children, I wanted to control absolutely everything about their day – this came as a huge surprise to me – I’d always liked to think I was more laid back than Bill Murray under hypnosis. Although a frightening concept for me, to have a total identity change, I was also faced with relief that I was in total control of what the children were going to be doing, which offered a huge relief to this new part of my personality I’d clearly ignored/repressed.
The entire process of being a SAHM has been hard. I really struggled with not only the change in lifestyle that having children brings, but the change in identity was the hardest. I missed the structure of a working day, and as much as I tried to control my days with the children with as much military precision as I had my work days, I was most often left frustrated when every day turned into a Groundhog Day of endless frustration. I felt freed from the constraints of a workplace, yet bound by the ever changing schedules of my two tiny dictators. I didn’t feel comfortable in my new role, and I couldn’t understand why – I loved my children, and had always told I’d be a ‘natural’ as a mum, and I felt like I’d let everyone down, and a bit of a failure, by not relishing the role I was lucky to have.
I became caught in a circle of panic attacks and depression, when the days and nights seemed endless, and I couldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel, no break was coming from the hamster wheel cycle of my immediate attention being required in never ending quantities.
I struggled with maintaining old friendships, and felt sad and sometimes lonely, when a lot of the new friends I had made through having children, slowly returned to work. I worried about how I’d fit into the workplace when the children were at school, and I could go back.
It has been hard work, and being a SAHM has challenged me more than anything else in my life. But all of this has been offset by a love of staying in my pyjamas all day, eating ice cream for lunch, if that’s the way we want to roll. Being at home has given me the space to see that my previous job wasn’t actually where I wanted to be any more, and have the freedom to explore different options. I’ve learnt to be creative with less money, and find ways to be frugal to get around the weirdness I felt around not earning my own money.
I have discovered that I’m more selfish than I thought, and didn’t have the patience of an angel. I’ve found that not having enough time to myself can make me a little loopy – overcome with an urge to bang my head against a wall and hide behind my hands and hope nobody notices me. In recent months, I’ve seen that I’m actually way uptight, and that I need to loosen up, crawl out of my arse, and let my children be looked after by other adult human beings.
They now go to nursery two days a week, and this has been a saviour for the sanity of all involved. I can’t see my role as a cliche – I refuse to ‘cherish every moment’, because there has been a lot from the last 3 years that I would happily erase from my memory, but I am grateful to be in the position to at least try to cherish as much as I can. I have carefully banked a lot of wonderful memories. After all of that, would I change the opportunity to be a SAHM? No, I absolutely wouldn’t.
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