"I wasn't happy until I became more than just a mum": One mum's struggle with at-home parenting
"I was bitter as a stay-at-home mum. I loved my child so intensely, but struggled to enjoy myself..."
The transition of being a career oriented individual to a stay-at-home parent can be a daunting task. In fact, some parents opt out of transitioning all together and strive to find a proper balance of work and family life. For those who try to adjust to the wide array of changes that come with transitioning to an at-home parent, the struggle is palpable and often one not taken lightly.
Sure, both sides of the spectrum offer an assortment of benefits for both you and your family. Moreover, neither side of the spectrum is better than the other. It all boils down to what works best for you and your family. Sometimes it’s all about timing and what’s required of you as a parent at that point in time. Whether you’re asked to put your career goals on hold, or asked to give up at-home parenting, parents will always do whatever’s asked of them for the better of their family.
While there’s no denying that parents heed the call when the time comes, some truly do struggle to assimilate to just one side of the spectrum. Amanda Elder, a former teacher turned at-home mum, is among the miscellany of parents who struggle to adjust.
In a recent entry on The Huffington Post, Elder shares her intense struggle to become a simple at-home mother. In her intriguing post, she writes, “I was bitter as a stay-at-home mum. I loved my child so intensely, but struggled to enjoy myself…”
“I wanted to know I was still a meaningful person outside of motherhood,” she adds later in her publication.
Clearly adjusting to one side of the coin was something that she hadn’t prepared for, and as a result, it made it difficult for her to assimilate. At times, she even felt incomplete. But, as time pressed forward she discovered the power and benefits behind being an at-home parent. While she certainly won’t ever live the life she had before birthing her children, she’s found new ways to seek and define her individuality that go far beyond being a typical at-home mum.
Check out her awesome and inspiring piece, and let us know if any of you at-home mummies or daddies can relate to Elder’s post!
As my husband was leaving for work today, the baby was sleeping, our preschooler was playing, and I was sitting down to write. Jokingly he said, “Alright, enjoy your day of leisure while I’m off slaving.” I looked at him and said, “I really do have the best life.” Then we took a moment to reflect on the past times he told me, with defeat, that I just couldn’t be pleased. It was true ― I was bitter as a stay-at-home mum. I loved my child so intensely, but struggled to enjoy myself. I tried to talk myself into feeling grateful ―I knew I should have been, but I just wasn’t.
When our first baby was born, I quit my job. Staying home with the kids is not something I ever wanted to do. I enjoyed being a working woman. However, my husband was in medical school, and it was certain we’d be moving around for the next few years. It was simply the practical choice, one I saw as a sacrifice.
Becoming a mother was shocking. I realised a large part of my identity would be found in someone else indefinitely. Life would never be as breezy again because of the responsibility, worry, and painful love that comes with parenthood. Aside from the identity shift that every new mum faces, the fact I no longer had my own career or life made it even more jarring.
I wanted important emails to check, but my inbox stayed empty. I wanted projects to accomplish, but I couldn’t even keep the sink cleared. I missed the empowering sound my high heels made against the tile, but my slippers were as quiet as my confidence. I missed feeling put-together in the mornings, quiet car rides, and eating lunch in peace.
I was lost. Lost in my never-ending duty to nurture, nurse, and tend to. Every fiber of my mind and body was given to my son, and although I thought I was doing what great mums do, I was miserable. I wanted to think my own thoughts and pursue my own passions. (What were they again?) I wanted to move at my own pace and have real conversations. I wanted to know I was still a meaningful person outside of motherhood.
I missed out on so much joy in the first few years of motherhood because I expected it alone to satisfy me. It was hard to let go of this assumption, because I didn’t want to admit it. What kind of woman was I to not be happy with my privilege? Wouldn’t others kill to be in my position? For the sake of self-preservation, my ideals changed ― the best mums aren’t the most selfless ones, they are the personally-fulfilled ones.
Once my ideals changed, my actions slowly followed. I stopped spending nap times cleaning and meal prepping. Instead I spent them doing things I wanted to do, like reading and writing. I stopped yapping nonstop to my little one, and started valuing his ability to entertain himself, too. I learned the importance of boundaries, and with them, I actually gave to my family from a place of more authentic love, not toxic fumes. These were baby steps that led me to my commitment to writing.
I always wrote, even as a young girl, but this past year, I decided to pursue goals with it. I stumbled upon the website Scary Mummy and spent hours laughing out loud as I read post after post. I decided I wanted to submit my writing to them, and to my surprise, the first thing I sent was accepted. They even paid me for it! It felt amazing to be recognised and compensated for something I did. I had new priorities, personal goals, and an understanding that pursuing something outside of motherhood wasn’t selfish, but good for my soul.
I now make sure to get writing time daily, even if that means turning on TV for my preschooler while the baby sleeps or checking them into childcare at the YMCA while I work on my computer. Now I have those emails to check and people to work with. I’m apart of writing communities, and I feel connected and stimulated. My identity has shifted again. Being Mum is a huge and honoured part of who I am, but I am more.
I used to be bored toddling behind my children aimlessly and aggravated by simply being a servant to the needs of others, but now I revel in motherhood, rather than resent it. It’s not all I do, and so I’m able to be more present for it. I’m finally alive again as an individual, and it makes me more alive as a mom.