Last week we heard from five women who chose to become stay-at-home-mums (or work-from-home-mums) because they believed it was the best decision for their families. They faced misunderstanding and criticism, but that didn't stop them.
But we've all heard plenty of stories about the struggles and challenges of full-time motherhood. Isn't it boring, tedious, frustrating, mind-numbing? How could anyone be happy when they have the option of living like a grown-up outside the home, relating to other adults, instead of cleaning up after toddlers for the hundredth time? Do they regret the decision made in a more idealistic frame of mind? How do they survive the hard days?
Let's hear from the mamas.
Anna*, mother of two (6yo and 1yo), says 'bored' is the wrong word, when there is always one more thing to accomplish to make a house a home. But she acknowledges that not all days are not happy or easy.
"There are plenty of frustrations I have to deal with: my younger one can cry her lungs out till she gets her way, my older one has never been so stubborn, he just doesn't want to do anything on his own, so I'm trying to feed, bathe, and do many more things for both of them."
"However, thanks to the support of my family I have survived quite well. Many hard days are wiped away with a smile, hug and kiss from my kids. All the painful days are just a blur and the happy memories are the ones that I believe will stay with me for a lifetime. I am so happy I took the decision to be a full time mom. I never had the joy of seeing my older son grow up. I only got to see the photos and videos. But now with my younger one I get to see each day as she discovers new things, tastes new food, does her first of everything. This joy is unimaginable."
Kiersten (mother of a 5mo) shares that her expectations of productivity had to change once she became a SAHM.
“I have to remember it’s okay if I don’t get everything (or anything) marked off my to-do list. I don’t like to be idle or feel unproductive so I make a list of things I can do during the day to keep the house running. But taking care of a child is a full-time job already. Some days she requires more attention than others, which means I don’t always accomplish everything I set out to do."
Another struggle for SAHMs is that it can get a bit lonely sometimes. Kiersten experiences this but is trying find ways to meet that need. "I try to make sure to call my friends and family when getting out of the house isn’t possible."
She realizes that it's easier on both her and her baby when she just stays at home most days. "My daughter is starting to establish a nap/feeding schedule, and when it gets disrupted by errands, the rest of the day is difficult. So, I honestly don’t go out often during the day because it’s just easier to meet her needs at home (and take a nap myself, if I’m lucky!) I’m never bored, though. There is always something to do, and I find so much joy in teaching my daughter about the world and watching her learn and explore.”
Adele, mother of two (6yo and 8yo), shares, "On good days, I'm very happy with my decision. On bad days, I sometimes allow myself the momentary illusion that everyone would be happier if I was out of the house and out of their hair and we had more money to go to nicer holidays. But then I immediately remember that that's not true at all. Break over, back to mommying."
For Venora, mother of three (6yo, 4yo and 10mo) too, there are mostly ups, and occasional downs and moments of doubt. "I am happy on most days. Yes, there are days when I see my former colleagues in VP roles and settled abroad or at fancy holiday destinations and I wonder - 'what if it had been me'. But the next moment I look at all the small hands and feet around me, the fun they're having, their angel-like innocence and happy faces and then, I don't regret anything!"
But the struggles are real. "The struggles are plenty especially on sick days. My husband and I live alone with the kids. So when he leaves for work in the morning, it's all me."
How does she survive?
"Crying to Jesus! Prayer, worship, praying in tongues, more prayer. My kids have seen me break down and cry out in the spirit.. They have seen me at my most vulnerable and they know they should do the same - turn to Jesus. Now I couldn't guarantee that they'd have learnt this if I was someplace working dawn to dusk just to earn a fat salary and not be physically around them to show them how life must be lived for real."
Venora feels that her full-time presence with her two older sons until the age of 5 has made them great examples for their new baby sister. They are happy to entertain her if Venora is not around for a couple of hours. She also feels having several children has made SAHM life more fruitful, beautiful and even fun.
"My friends fear that having more kids means dividing your time but that's not true. You don't take away individual time from each one, you multiply love! Because look at the amount of love each one is receiving now! There's more to love, help around and yes how can I forget - the advice! The kids love to give advice and it's all mostly great!"
Jeanne* (mother of a 2yo and 9mo) is happy with her decisions because she feels that she knows her kids best. "I try to raise them as best I can. No one other than me (or my husband) is going to be this invested in them. And I love watching them grow, experience the world, and delight in little things. I used to get bored and frustrated when I didn't have time for myself. My husband and I instituted 'me time' once a week (or so) where I do the creative things I love to do and which make me feel fulfilled, or make an effort and go out and meet a friend for coffee or dinner (which feels great but happens a lot less often because it takes mental energy to make plans and decide to dress up and go out). Also, being a part of my Christian community draws on other talents and fulfils other needs."
One of the big unacknowledged struggles of SAHMs is that the work they do is not considered as valuable by society as other work because it is unpaid. Subconsciously, most people need to attach a monetary value to anything to believe that it is worth it. The more one is paid, the more important one is deemed in the eyes of society. Where does that leave 24 hour working moms who don't get paid, and in fact, need their spouses to be the earning member of the family? Or the work-from-home mums who take a significant pay cut in order to be at home?
SAHMs and their spouses need to develop a thick skin and a willingness to be counter-cultural.
Jeanne says, "I struggle with feeling valued when most people I know consider working mothers the norm, and don't think about why you may not want to return to work six months or a year after having a baby. But my Christian community and my family keep me grounded."
There is no doubt that being a SAHM is in many ways a sacrifice. But it is a sacrifice freely chosen and made sweet by the knowledge that it is bearing fruit in the life of the family. Like Mother Teresa, these moms could say, 'I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.'
The SAHM Series: Why do Stay-At-Home-Mums Stay at Home? (Part 1 of 3)
The SAHM Series: Tips and Advice from Stay-At-Home-Mums (Part 3 of 3)
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