I am a full time SAHM (stay at home mom). This is a job I really enjoy, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, it was my choice and my families choice.
Being a SAHM has a lot of positives, I get to see my child grow up and be there for every stage of his early development, as a mother with a child with CF I get to be there for every appointment, every treatment, every cough and every squirt of medicine giving myself a semblance of control over a disease that can sometimes feel like it controls me and my whole family, I sometimes stay in my pj’s until 11am, if the weathers nice I get to take Joe to the park or sit in the garden- obviously the list continues.
But there are negatives too. Being a SAHM (and housewife) is the hardest job I’ve ever had to do, with the longest hours! It can be messy, stressful, tear inducing, tedious, repetitive, annoying. (no matter how it may seem from my blog posts!)
But the thing I have found hardest is Loneliness.
Here is an example of some of some of the loneliest days:
I haven’t spoken to another adult for more than ten seconds over the past three days. (other than the postman or someone who calls the house with the wrong number.)
I pick up the phone to ring someone for a chat and realise that most of my family and friends are at work. So I take my toddler to a baby and toddler group and I’m ignored for two hours by groups of women who somehow have found the gift of making meaningful contact with other women, and therefore obviously don’t need to make small talk with the likes of me.
Trying to act casual and not look too needy I sip on my cup of boiling hot coffee and worry about Joe putting unsanitised plastic corn on the cob in his mouth and fret over how he’s chosen the snottiest child in playgroup to sit next to while he eats his toast (this, after struggling in my bag for 10 minutes trying to find an area clean and stable enough to pour tiny granules of creon onto a spoon laden with apple puree whilst simultaneously trying to prevent Joe eating anything before having his meds or sharing a sippy cup with said other snotty toddler whilst trying to look ‘normal and approachable’ rather than sweaty and possibly OCD).
We go home and do our usual routine of meds, lunch and then nap time where I finally get some peace and quiet yet find myself whyling away these two precious hours either looking at my phone checking how long it is until my husband gets home (we don’t have a clock), doing more housework and household admin or staring blankly into space waiting for Joe to wake up as I don’t know what it is I’m supposed to be doing when he’s not there.
Finally my husband returns home (late due to traffic)and exhausted after his day at work. After rushing around making the tea, doing the last few chores, cajoling Joe into eating something that is not brown, doing the bedtime routine (that in addition to getting him washed, changed and calm for bed just so happens to involve getting a toddler to take various medications, an inhaler and sit still for twenty minutes whilst been held in a variety of different positions at the same time as being hit repetitively- also known as percussion physiotherapy) we finally manage to get Joe to bed by which time all my husband wants to do is chill out and play on the Xbox and all I can muster up the energy for is a few more checks of my instagram account and the odd grunt in his general direction. Not much riveting social contact being done there!
When I do venture out alone outside of the home to a social event and someone does actually come to speak to me I often find that I’m lost for words and have suddenly lost all power of communication. The dreaded question “so, what have you been up to?” often arises and I can’t think of a single interesting thing to say. Surely no one can be interested in my life where the only TV I’ve watched is nick junior, the only book this week is “The gruffalo’s child (46 times)”, I’ve not seen a scrap of news, not talked to hardly any other adult humans yet have been so busy that I’ve barely had time to wash and change my knickers. Other times I find myself chat chat chatting away inanely about Joe and his cystic fibrosis and nappies and medication and reward sticker charts and somehow can’t seem to stop even though I’m pretty sure the other person is trying desperately to escape and find someone who
- hasn’t got a child with a depressing illness that they are making you feel guilty about
- knows something mildly interesting about current events and
- hasn’t got apple puree and bits of creon stuck to her skirt and a wild look of desperation in her eye
Unfortunately when you haven’t got a large social group nearby who also have small kids and don’t work and you’re not that great at making friends with other moms or doing small talk it is inevitable as a SAHM that you will be alone a lot.
So one of the things I am really trying to work on is building a positive relationship with myself. I am attempting to acquire a very important yet difficult skill-
the ability to enjoy my own company.
Now I am an introvert, and I do like being on my own to recuperate, say lying in the bath reading a book or sitting on my bed writing my diary. But I also crave meaningful conversation and connection to others. Just because I’m not great at small talk or in big groups doesn’t mean I’m not a lover of other people- in fact I love nothing more than a deep, inspiring conversation with another human being. So being on my own all the time is not always easy, and it can be hard to keep up a positive relationship with myself.
Here are a few tips and tricks/ coping mechanisms/ strategies I have come up with and am trying in order to further encourage this positive relationship with myself and actually enjoy the time I have alone (and by alone I mean without adult company, you’re never really alone for long when there is a toddler about)
- Get dressed and put a little personality/ effort into my appearance everyday. You know how it is, you get up, have all the toddler based chores, messy housework etc to do, no one’s going to see you, you’re not going anywhere and you’ll only get applesauce and creon on your outfit anyway so what’s the point in getting dressed? Hell what’s the point in having a wash? This is often me. But now I try and put in a little effort for me. Ok so maybe no one is going to appreciate it, but no one should ever dress for anyone else. I will feel better and more myself if I take pride in my appearance- that means wearing something that I love or feel comfortable in,something that expresses the way I feel that day or what I want to feel at the very least! It also means that if someone does knock the door I don’t look like the wild woman of borneo and they might stay a bit longer for a chat.
- Put purpose and pleasure into mundane tasks We all have those tasks that we hate doing, especially housework that no sooner than it is done, it just needs to be done again. I hate washing up particularly and it’s a job that never seems to end. But it’s something that needs to be done and regularly so isn’t it better to try and make it as pleasurable an experience as possible? Now instead of begrudging the experience I try and think of it as a few minutes where I can put some music on and be alone with my thoughts- I can practice meditation whilst doing it, meditation in action is great to fit in around housework. I think of it as a way of bettering my surroundings for me and my family, keeping us healthy. I put some posh hand cream by the sink and use it afterwards as a way of nourishing myself. Or I get my husband to dry up while I wash and use it as a snippet of extra time to connect and have a conversation. This all might sound a bit pathetic but the majority of life is made up of mundane tasks- that’s just the way life is, so you may as well derive pleasure from these otherwise boring tasks and fill your life with joy rather than boredom.
- be kind to yourself This is something that’s really hard to do, especially as a woman and a mother who feels that they have to prove themselves and be perfect all the time. Sometimes stuff doesn’t get done. Sometimes its half past two and your child won’t take a nap and the house is a state and you’ve got a migraine and all your toddler’s education for the day has been derived from cbeebies, and all he will eat is stuff off the floor and a packet of quavers and you’re tired and haven’t slept and you just want to curl up on the floor and cry. We all have days like this sometimes. Instead of beating yourself up and filling you head with thoughts of shame and criticism why not show yourself some love. What would you say to your best mate in this situation? I bet you wouldn’t call her a bad mother and a waste of space so why would you say that to yourself?
- develop positive body image this is something I have been working on for a number of years and will have to continue working on for the rest of my life, so I know its not easy. But haven’t you got enough on your plate without worrying about being thin/tall/pretty/curvy/short/tanned/perfect enough? You know what? You are already enough. Stop comparing yourself to other people, stop hating your body, stop starving yourself stop punishing yourself. Maybe try loving your body instead and all the amazing things it can do. If it helps imagine your child thinking about their body the way you do about yours. Not nice is it? You wouldn’t want it for them so why do it to yourself?
- don’t feel guilty about investing in your interests I often feel guilty as a SAHM if I devote any time to anything that is not for someone else. But investing time in the things YOU love whether it be writing a blog, painting your nails, painting a picture or going for a run is not wasted time. It’s increasing your happiness, its helping you keep in touch with who you are as a person- not as a wife, or a mother, or carer or whatever, but as you. And if you are happy then this happiness will naturally transfer itself to your other roles in life. You should try and prioritise doing something that gives you joy everyday.
- don’t save your best stuff for special occasions my dinner guest may be eating a packet of cheese puffs with a plastic spoon, and dipping his raisins in tomato sauce but that doesn’t mean we can’t sit at the table together, with the placemats out and some music on and the best china. This is again about making mundane things special- do it for you! Put on your favourite dress, use the best china or your favourite teapot, light a lovely scented candle in the afternoon. Everyday is a special occasion, don’t save up your best things for so called special days- make every day special.
- get out the house for a bit Even if you haven’t got anywhere in particular to go, no errands to run, no friends to meet, just get out the house for a little walk, some fresh air and a change of scenery. Your toddler will love it (I put Joe in his trike and take emergency snacks to keep him occupied) and just walk because it’s nice to walk sometimes. Go and have a nose down a street you’ve always wanted to look at but never got round to. Who knows you might even get a chance encounter with another adult human!
- turn off the tv- listen to music It’s easy to get stuck in a rut of popping on the tv with peppa pig on repeat and getting on with your business while your toddler is mesmerised. But why not put on some music, of your choice, and relish it. Dance around like a loon if you want to, theme the music to your task or the time of day or put on a podcast /radio discussion about a subject you’re interested in while your toddler plays or you do housework. Music can change your mood and bring you back in touch with who you are.
- Care for your basic needs as you would your child’s You wouldn’t deprive your toddler of sleep, let him live off coffee and biscuits or make him work until he was exhausted with no time for play or relaxation. In the same respect you should take care of your own basic needs- you are worth it. It is important. Make sure you are well fed, well rested, exercised and stimulated. Everyday.
- Develop a gratitude practice instead of focusing on all the bad things in life take a few minutes a day to practice gratitude, to show thanks for all the good things in your life no matter how small. A good way to do this is to write a gratitude journal but you can get an app on your phone or just do it in your head. There is always something to be grateful for-even on the poopy nappy smeared all over the coffee table days.
Hope this has given you some inspiration on how to harbour a better relationship with yourself! It’s an ongoing process but it’s worth investing in you.