It was late in the afternoon and with the sunlight already bleeding from the sky, I knew I had to get out of the house.
My fourteen-month-old and I were sick of each other. There were a few hours before her bedtime and my husband wouldn’t be home from work until after midnight. So I grabbed Marys portable booster seat and bundled the two of us off to a local restaurant.
I shared food with my girl; she had lots to look at and people to yell hi to, and I got to be in a public place with other adults, other voices (even if they weren’t at my table). It was all it took to feel re-energized.
Being a stay-at-home mother doesn’t mean you always stay home. You can go stir-crazy if you don’t find ways to avoid feeling cooped up.
About a year ago, I had a good cry when the door closed behind my husband the first day he left to go back to work. We had spent the first weeks of the baby’s life together at home, bonding into our new little family. I realized our babymoon was over, and it was just me and the baby. I looked down at my helpless infant. What are we supposed to do now, little one? If you saw me then, you wouldn’t believe Id choose to be a stay-at-home mother once my maternity leave was up.
It wasn’t that I didn’t know how to care for her or didn’t enjoy her. She was still too young to have an established bedtime, so I had a lot of time to fill. I felt that I had to be actively interacting with her and stimulating her brain every second that I wasn’t feeding, diapering and otherwise caring for her. And while newborns are perfectly portable, I felt she was too fragile to bring to the mall, out for coffee, to the grocery store. Predictably, I got cabin fever pretty quickly. (And truth be told, I was sleep-deprived and my hormones were still wonky. Maybe it was me who was fragile.)
When Mary was about four months old, I brought her to a weekly information session for new moms. I discovered that it wasn’t the info I was after; it was other mothers to talk to and be around. I took the baby grocery shopping, and actually found it fun. I started calling friends who had babies and getting together with them. I should have started all of this much earlier.
Since both parents in most of todays families work at paid jobs outside the home, a sense of isolation can nag at you literally and figuratively when you’re at home. Walking down your deserted suburban street in the middle of the day with the baby in the stroller, you wonder whether everyone left Earth and you didn’t get the memo. Or after joining friends for dinner, you stay quiet because you don’t want to bore them with baby talk while they discuss board meetings.
Time management has been difficult too. My old self wrongly assumed that stay-at-home mothers have way more free time than working women, and that their workload is less. But I find that I put pressure on myself that I didn’t when I was working: pressure to keep the house clean all the time, to cook healthy meals every day on top of caring full-time for Mary. I feel badly when my husband pitches in on these things because, after all, hes had a hard day at work.
I have to remind myself I made the commitment to be a stay-at-home mother, not housekeeper. Needless to say, I’m not the woman who greets my husband at the door wearing fresh lipstick, his cocktail in hand and a roast in the oven. I keep things clipping along, but if Mary getting the love and attention she needs means laundry undone, so be it.
Sure, Ive had moments when I miss working, but I don’t regret my decision. I’m grateful to have the option. This 24-hour, unpaid job is the most rewarding Ive had. I just have to figure it out. PC