In the early days, to be a stay at home mum (SAHM) or not was not even a question. I was in South Africa on a dependent visa that only allowed me to work a few days a week. The remuneration offered for such jobs was not attractive enough to merit a discussion. Besides, I didn’t see a point in going through my first (and probably only) pregnancy alone in a continent far removed from home only to thrust the baby in someone else’s hands and go work, to do the kinds of things that I had been doing for a long time anyway.
In my mind, a decision was made: I was going to stay at home and look after our precious baby. Luckily, my husband agreed and thus began my dream journey.
The bubble burst soon, though. My thoughts on what it meant to be a SAHM began evolving with time. A stay at home mum drinks tea tepid, forgets to eat meals, binges on chocolates when she remembers food, prioritises baby’s poop situations over cleaning one’s teeth and ALL of it, I found out the hard way. I no longer considered those mothers ‘lucky’ just because they got to be home all day. I understood that while it might seem like the ideal scenario from the outside, it often isn’t. Those who have never been SAHMs will always have a rosier image of what it actually is. It used to irritate me earlier. I fumed with frustration every time someone mentioned how I should consider myself lucky to be with my kid 24/7 as compared to them who had to leave their babies to go earn a living. I wanted to tell them that yes, being with my baby was wonderful but ‘luck’ had nothing to do with it. It was a decision that we had made and a bloody hard one at that! Just as going to work for whatever reason was their personal decision, not doing that was mine.
While some might not agree but being a stay at home mother is one of the main reasons for depression in a lot of mothers. Being the primary care-giver, being a hundred percent responsible for someone’s well being and even life comes with a huge baggage. It seems like a blessing on most days but when the days get hard and long, it isn’t unusual to find resentment creeping up.
Did I begin resenting too? Oh, you bet! I resented my husband for the chance he got every morning to escape the mundaneness of staying at home all day. I resented him for having the chance to go and have adult company while I had to contend with the likes of Disney characters on the telly. I resented him for having the perfect excuse to excuse himself off being part of the routine of feeding, bathing, putting baby to sleep every darned night.
I resented a lot of other people for a lot of other reasons. Reasons that I wouldn’t go into as that would make this one very long blog post! Suffice it to say that the isolation that being at home all day with a child brought me affected me negatively in a lot of ways. I was losing myself, I wasn’t me anymore. I had to give up on a lot of things I enjoyed doing because I didn’t have the luxury of staying near my mother and because I was perpetually tired out from being a mum and a house-wife. There were times when I regretted these thoughts, when I felt guilty about them. But no matter how hard I tried to brush them off, they kept resurfacing their ugly heads.
Now, I am not saying that every woman who chooses this path does or would feel the way I did. Some people excel at it and I have nothing but utmost respect for them. I didn’t feel so bitter or resentful at all times either. I realised my husband could easily be resenting me for getting to spend the entire day with our baby, for being the preferred parent, however temporarily. He could resent me for getting all the cuddles and the kisses and witnessing all the milestones and he wouldn’t wrong if he did. Because truth be told, I did have the good fortune of enjoying all this and more.
However, with time, changes creep in. Soon, my fast growing toddler will outgrow the need to have me around all day and everyday. If i can’t find myself by then, if I can’t at least make an effort to be more dynamic than I am now, I fear things will be sad for everyone involved. I am the kind of person who needs to have more of the real me to give more of me, if that makes sense. I need not to feel like a sunken ship to be the effective captain of our lives that I aspire to be. Only when I am in control of my life can I help make lives of my family members that much better for them. I am not the person who sees the light in losing oneself to raise one’s child (especially a girl child) as it sets a terrible example, in my humble opinion.
As my baby’s 2nd birthday approaches, my self-imposed exile is nearing it expiry date too. I will miss the coziness of the laid-back days. I will miss the hygge of being in a love cocoon with my darling daughter. But I can’t wait for the new phase to begin either. I don’t need anyone to tell me that it’s going to be a challenge to excel at both roles. I already know that and I love a good challenge! I always have. I don’t need to be reminded that my child is still young. Again, I already know this too. I am my child’s mother above all else and she is my priority over everything and everyone. I think being a mother has matured me enough to help me juggle these roles without letting them overwhelm me. I am my husband’s wife and I aim to keep our relationship as tender and loving as it always has been. More to do but much more to be grateful for.
Times ahead are going to be tricky. My silver-lining is in the form of my husband. I have his full support in this decision I have made. We are in total agreement of what we want for us and for our baby. The kind of life we want to live and want to give to her. And knowing that makes the fear of the unpredictability that lies ahead of us feel much more bearable.