Stay-at-home motherhood is a great many things-yet, some days, it can be unbearably dull.
Following is the actual text of a late night email I received from Jessa, a stay-at-home mother of two pre-schoolers:
"Everyone celebrates motherhood but we mothers feel guilty for not loving every second of motherhood and no one really wants to hear us say we actually do not like it all the time - how blasphemous, huh??!!! Just today I was playing with my kids outside to stay sane and I was just thinking how fricking BORED I was, how much I love them to death, but how BORED I was playing on the swings, bikes, etc.... :-) :-)"
Here's a plea for help, submitted by a new stay-at-home mom, which I recently answered for a parenting magazine:
While I love being with my three-month-old daughter, it sometimes feels like my days with her drag on forever. I often find myself counting down the hours until my husband returns from work. Do you have any suggestions for how I can keep from being bored out of my mind?
A paradox of stay-at-home motherhood is that while you're busy practically every minute of the day-caring for kids, entertaining kids, picking up after kids-the day can drag, leaving you feeling lonely, isolated, angry and depressed.
While many stay-at-home moms truly enjoy their days home alone with children, many others struggle with the demands of the job. (And, yes, stay-at-home motherhood is a job.) It's nothing to be ashamed of. Even the most devoted stay-at-home mother can have trouble finding fulfillment in a daily routine of coloring, cooking, cleaning, cartoons, carseats and Candyland.
If I've described your typical day-and your feelings about it, here are some field-tested survival tips:
MAKE FRIENDS: A key to surviving-and enjoying-stay-at-home motherhood are the friendships you make with other moms. To meet these women you can join a local mother's group or even an online chat room. You can attend Mommy & Me classes and library story times. If you live in a pedestrian-friendly place, I strongly suggest you strap your baby into a stroller and take a walk. (You can't meet people while driving in your car.) Strike up conversations. Be outgoing, and proactive. When I was a first-time mom my support group consisted of women I befriended in parks, baby classes and while wandering around my New Jersey town. To this day one of my best friends is a woman whose doorbell I rang a decade ago, simply because I knew she was, like me, at home on maternity leave with a newborn. Karen answered the door, in the midst of nursing her daughter, and before I could even open my mouth to explain my presence, she declared, "Thank God you're here!"
MAKE PLANS AND GOALS: If being home all day is making you nuts, schedule a daily outing, even if it's only to the supermarket. For the days you can't leave the house, provide some structure to your time by setting doable goals or planning practical diversions: e.g. "I will read today's newspaper." "I will write five thank you notes." "I will call or email a friend." "I will watch a one-hour TV show."
TAKE A BREAK: No one in the paid workforce is expected to work 24/7, and you shouldn't be expected to either. Don't let anyone claim that you don't work. For example: Your husband refuses to take charge of the kids at bedtime because he "worked all day" while you stayed home. Hello! You worked all day too! You just happen to work at home, as a mom. Your workday has to have an end. Also recognize that, like any hard working person, you will sometimes need time off and a change of scenery. As I live outside of Washington D.C., last month I took a couple of days off from my job as a mom and volunteered for the presidential inauguration. (My husband and mother filled in for me at home.) The chance to actively participate in the outside world and spend time in a bustling city (sans kids) was invigorating.
TAKE THE LONG VIEW: As a stay-at-home mom your homebound hours can often seem endless, but a time may come when you'll be back in the workforce and/or juggling all the places your kids need to be (for school, sports, socializing, etc.). If you're struggling with the monotony of your stay-at-home routine, try to focus on the perks of your current parenting career: No commuting, office politics or daily child care angst, the freedom of not being tied to a workplace, the ability to spend time with and directly care for your child or children.
It can also help to keep in mind that working day-after-day at any job can be boring, whether you're a stay-at-home mom or a business executive. As Sandra, a trial attorney turned stay-at-home mother, reported to me about a conversation she had with a former colleague: "She asked me if I was bored being at home with kids," recalls Sharon. "I finessed the question. While I didn't point out that I had often been bored in meetings with her and people from, say, the insurance industry, I did explain how I now presided over meals with kids between the ages of four and six, discussing things like how infinity is not actually a number, but rather a concept. They all got it. Those kids were a lot smarter than a good number of the people at the meetings I used to go to. So who's bored?"
About the Author:
Melissa Stanton is the author of The Stay-at-Home Survival Guide: Field-Tested Strategies for Staying Smart, Sane, and Connected While Caring for Your Kids, published by Seal Press/Perseus Books (www.stayathomesurvivalguide.com). Prior to becoming an at-home mother of three, Stanton was a senior editor at LIFE and People magazines. Her articles have appeared in The New York Times, Glamour, Parenting, MotherVerse, and Brain Child among other publications. She is the founder and editor of Real Life Support for Moms and lives with her family outside of Washington, D.C.
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