On being a stay at home mom

You know those times when you’ve been thinking about something and then suddenly there are FB posts on the topic, people suddenly sharing links to the same topic, wordpress freshly pressing out tons of posts on the topic … I mean it’s everywhere! While I could go with ‘I’m just seeing these things since I’ve started thinking about the topic’ … I’d prefer to go with serendipity. Wow we’re all thinking similar things and this is happening because they’re signs for me. Keywords pinging in my mind every 30 mins this past week include: Stay at home mom, boredom, exhaustion, excitement, working mom, little girl adjusting so well than before … There’s my abstract for the post. Pretty much.

I was sipping my 8th coffee yesterday morning at 10 am, thinking. The sound of Maya the Bee coming in from behind me. Pretty P (our house help / nanny .. henceforth I’ll call her pretty P, it’s kind of what we call her for the most part anyway) walked over to me and said I should consider starting a coffee shop. I mean someone’s got to put the 15 boxes of Daddy A’s books to use again and we need to make some money to pay for all the coffee I drink, she said. I agreed. That was a brilliant idea. And the garden is lovely. So why not I say. I laughed, fighting back tears. Another sleepless night. She was awake from 3 – 7.

I was happy and sad. I was overwhelmed and pretty comfortable with myself being overwhelmed. I so badly don’t want this phase and yet I’m learning so much, bonding so much and it’s such a challenge, that I crave for it as badly as I want it over with. This is the second time in little A’s almost 3 years that I’m playing stay at home mom. The first being my 6 week maternity leave. Caring for the little fuzzy ball and finding time for her has never been an issue. I’ve always had flexible hours, daddy and a nanny always at my side taking turns through the day while in California. 5 hours with the nanny while mommy and daddy were working, 3 hour nap time with one of us overseeing, and then daddy and mommy time in the evening (maybe some friends), and back to work and maybe some couple time at night. It was clock work, the routine. It was everything I could have asked for. Work was as much a passion as my baby at home. I live and love in the creative field. I design, brainstorm, produce new artifacts every day … work has been fulfilling. An integral part of my life. Adrenaline on one hand that propels me forward ambitiously each moment and a slow deep satisfaction on the other that helps me feel worth it, satisfied, making life meaningful.

I never knew what it felt like being a stay at home mom. I’ve been shit scared of the concept. SHIT SHIT scared. Yes deeply scared. I have always thought I had an attention span much much shorter than any kid I’ve seen. It was the only worry I ever had about having children. I’ve proven myself wrong sometimes. Sometimes. I’ve always admired my friends who chose or had to take to that path, whatever the reason. I’ve been in awe. Just looking at them with their children overwhelmed me. How could they be so selfless? Day in and day out dedicated to this little thing. I couldn’t do it, ever! Where do they get the patience? Where do they get that amount of dedication? I know it’s not all love all the time for them. I know that really well. But all of them, they stuck to it and got through it. Or are in the process. They bitch, moan sometimes, coo and pride some others. I don’t know how stay at home moms do this parenting thing. There’s no end in sight. Everyday seems like the other. Just a little different. Maybe it’s no different than my 6 + hours I used to spend with little A everyday. Maybe it’s completely different. I don’t know. But I’ve been in awe. They’ve always scared me, nevertheless. Even intimidated me a few times (especially the ones that insist on saying it’s the most beautiful thing ever and they wouldn’t trade it for anything and that everyday is such a enlightening journey! And trust me there are tons of them around). Maybe I’ve begun selling myself short .. maybe I do it all too I don’t know. (Mental note: maybe launch a research project shadowing stay at home moms for a long period of time for benefit of self!!)

It’s been more than 6 weeks I think. I have lost count of the days. I don’t know if it’s 5 or 6 or 7th of April. I didn’t know when Feb turned March. I’ve struggled, cried out of desperation doing this. I’m sure some of little A’s issues were a direct reflection of my own struggles as well. They mirror so much, don’t they? And you know how things like that can lead to endless cycles of guilt. It did. I would wake up, finish up my kitchen chores by 9 and then sit staring at her. Of course, things like the empty house didn’t help either. But I would just hope I could press a button and disappear somewhere without anyone finding me until I came back. I’ve heard other friends say this a lot. I felt this way for the first time. My whole body was consumed by this overwhelming feeling of tiredness and a weight so heavy .. I could barely drag myself around the house to do the things I needed to. Cook for her, feed her, clean her, put her down for a nap, wake her up, clean her, bathe her, take her to the park or send her with the nanny for a couple of hours, clean myself up a little, make dinner, put her sleep … the cycle just went on. I’ve never been so excited to see daddy A home in the evenings. Those 3 hours he took over … I begged him not to tell me how the startup was going. I begged him not to tell me about the problems, ask me for solutions or give me work to be finished. I couldn’t play co-founder, team mate, employee or any other term he wanted to throw at me. I just couldn’t. My brain was rotting I told him. I’m exhausted by 5 pm. I can’t think anymore. I feel so many things that all I can do is blog about them. Blog. Yes. That’s the one thing I managed to do everyday which was not domestic work. I’ve realized I write best when I feel such intense feelings. I can’t really write otherwise.

We do fun things. Parks, friends, relatives, painting, gardening .. yes we do a lot of fun things. But they get buried in the chores and the care taking. It’s so hard to focus and keep the perspective on. Progress is even harder to detect. Does she rebel because she’s smack in the middle of her terrible twos or because we moved and she’s still adjusting? Does she ‘disrespect’ elders so much because the hierarchy here is so overwhelmingly in your face than back there and she has to learn the rules of the hierarchy here or is she just that way, rude I mean and I didn’t teach her otherwise? Are her values very American and she’s just in her ‘fitting in’ period here? Does she not know how to share because of her age or because she didn’t have the same ‘always on’ company she seems to have here? I mean all the girl kids – note, girl kids here share. They listen. Obediently obey. Seriously. They all do. The ones that rebel around this community all have working moms. Yes random stupid observation. Yes that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever said. But there I did say it. I know that it is a ridiculous conclusion to come to. But try telling my emotionally bound, irrational self that. I’ve never punished or given so many time outs to little A until I moved here to India. I never found the need for it. She’s not sorry for screaming, shouting, throwing or anything else. One punishment and 5 mins after that she’s apologetic and very clearly articulating her mistake. Promising to never do it again. It’s heartbreaking. I have such mixed feelings about this punishment / time out thing. I never wanted to be this mom. NEVER. But here I am. Endlessly giving her timeouts. What choice do I have?! It’s not like she doesn’t understand. OH SHE UNDERSTANDS! TRUST ME! Like any other toddler I suppose she’s just acting out. I ignore sometimes, playfully distract when that works. But they don’t work most times. She’s focused as hell. But what about all these little girls around me. How are they all sharing so perfectly, always on their best behavior in front of me or when playing at our place or theirs with my child? I’m sure they rebel when we’re not around, I know they do but they’ve aced the social game, the way they present themselves in front of anyone other than family. That’s ridiculously smart and aware for toddlers. Should I be happy or sad that my little girl behaves exactly the same irrespective of who’s around? Same treatment for everyone. Period.Tantrums are not exclusive to anyone or any time. Though the best ones are of course saved for mom and dad!

And then there are mornings like today’s. All she wants is to cuddle up to mommy, make chappathis together, help mommy make more kozhambu in the kitchen, read a few books with her cuddled up in her bunk bed, eating her doses and cheerios by herself. Then at lunch time she said “mommy, little A’s cranky and tired. Can you give her some mammam (food)?” It broke my heart. There’s progress. I can tell. I can’t necessarily see it everyday. It’s hard to see the big picture. This work is not easy. But there are moments, when I’m rewarded for the hard work. I find her acting out our scenes with her toys. I find her articulating lessons so well, imparting them to her lions, dogs, babies and cats. Even friends who come over. It’s not like I’m hopeless. I’m being a little irrational (ok maybe a lot). I’m being as emotional as my not-so-toddler toddler. Yes I have 28 years over her. But no one prepared me for this. And by this, I mean being a stay at home mom. Not a parent. Being a parent the past 2 years was so awesome. She was so much fun despite all the work. But a stay at home mom .. that, no one prepared me for. And I can’t help feeling exhausted all the time. I have friends who raise 4 and 5 children. Yes read that again – 4 or 5 of them. I will never stop seeing them with such fascination. This is not glamorous work. This is one of the hardest things to do. EVER. I’m not saying it’s a breeze for the working mom. But it’s different. And I’m still largely confused about my opinions on this. Am I working so hard on parenting now because I don’t have the outlet I used to and my lack of adrenaline and passion in the form of my work? Or am I having to work harder than before because she’s almost 3 and age of the child is working on me? Or is it the move? Or is it all of them? And none of them and just that I’m not necessarily cut out to be a mom? God, seriously! There are so many options and possibilities. This is definitely not a controlled experiment, is it?!?! So many variables. Very few answers. No other option but to do the right thing. The thing I know is the right thing to do now. The things that I know will have the long lasting impact I want, even if it’s not in the best interests of the moment. Even if the work seems endless, to believe that it is not. I just must keep going.

It’s only been 6 weeks and all this ends in a month or so when I have to go back to work. Sabbatical ends. The big move must be made by then. Whatever it comprises of. “I’m in the middle of a relocation” is not an excuse anymore. Office resumes. And the startup can’t wait longer without me either. All my peers traveled and explored the world when they had their sabbaticals. I guess when I get back and everyone asks me, I’ll tell them, as though it’s a short term 2 month activity, that I was busy raising my child.

(P.S The other day the bride was making an argument, giving a perspective (whatever you want to call it) on what it means it make a choice about having a baby. I argued for the need for the perspective. I loved her post. Not because I want everyone to have kids. Hell No. My best friend and I used to make fun of silly parents we encountered at different places claiming there should be an exam to become parents. Not everyone should be allowed, we said. You can guess that that was before I had my own. I don’t say things like that anymore. But this post and the way I feel today brought back the bride’s thoughts on having kids. I knew for sure I wanted kids. I always did. I had little A when I was 28. It just felt like the right time. And most times when I look at her … I see someone with so much determination, confidence, attitude, analytical skills, and a lot of brilliance. So much that they are probably what scare me about raising her now. I know this is what I want and love in her. But those very qualities scare the daylights out of me. They must be harvested and directed the right way. And maybe that’s what I’m realizing in this stage of parenting now. My experiences now don’t change the way I feel about having children in general, it has made me think deep about work, kinds of work, where having a child intersects, disrupts and makes better different kinds of work, how you as a person change because of these, and the responsibilities you have in raising the child to be a wonderful adult). So this post maybe a little summary view of what it could take to raise your child, if and when you decide to. And note that I said COULD, not IS .. I’m sure other parents have different songs to sing. Mine is a mixed bag. And I’m not ashamed of admitting it. And just like marriage, there’s no preparing one for this. You just need to know that if you ever want it, you’ll learn it on the job as long as you’re open to the experience).

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29 responses to “On being a stay at home mom

  1. see if your daughter has special needs like adhd , sensory issues ,learning disabilty etc ,it makes a huge difference when you stay at home .Otherwise , nope
    My mother was a working woman and so was my BFF’s mom from school .
    We both had half days at school where we had to stay alone at home before the fifth standard .She was the school topper and I came 19th 🙂
    Emotionally we were much mature than our peers because nobody was there to hold our hands etctetc .and lead us
    If you feel tired and drained out because of this move ,R2I,consider WAHM …or work for sometime and take a well indulged vacay somewhere where your mind will be relaxed and then decide .
    Whatever you decide will then not seem rushed

  2. A vacation is just what I have in mind. Soon! But I’m not sure I agree that children with working moms are much more mature 🙂 I also think working moms of yesteryears were very different from working moms today. I think I’ll go searching for books on this topic now. There must be some good authors out there that have explored the differences historically.

  3. I think your little girl is perfect -she is doing everything a regular toddler would do. She may be more spirited than the rest – but she is just a kid. Please dont make it harder for the both of you by expecting her to conform to adult levels of (illogical)good behaviour ( dont get me started on dis-respect to elders- who makes these rules ?).

    • I know. It’s kind of hard to keep the perspective on, in the moment, partly because I guess I’m coping with these new rules myself as well. It’s one thing if I have a clear perspective on how I can deal with it myself .. I’m just taking it an incident at a time and still learning how to react and respond to some of these illogical rules on one hand and helping her cope and learn as needed on the other. Making it up as I go.

      • “Its hard to keep the perspective”.
        Bang on!! I am a working mom, and am consumed by guilt everytime my son does something remotely anti-social – tantrums, non-sharing, pushing etc… it doesnt help that all SAHM immediately point out how this is because I dont spend time with him.

      • Guilt! Oh yes. Endless cycles. Though I’ve not had too many issues from SAHMs honestly. The nosy ones seem to come in all shapes and forms. For me, I’ve been getting the direct sticks and stones for not being SAHM from all my relatives than other SAHMs. From neighbors, it’s been the ‘oh my life is amazing .. my children are amazing .. we are very social, I guess you America return have to slowly learn”. The joys of meaningless power struggles.

  4. Lots of issues raised in the post…my general impression was similar to KA above’s. Your girl seems like a regular toddler. I think the move combined with the toddler stage might be exacerbating her behaviour. As a parent, you would be in the best position to judge whether your child is turning bad, or just angsty about other things. But I would tend towards correcting only the major stuff, and “disrespect” to elders would not be major according to me (depending what the disrespect is).

    I would feel like you if I spent 24/7 for an extended period of time with my kids. I’ve made my peace with who I am, and as long as I’m not a terrible parent, i’m okay with not receiving any awards. Here’s an interesting post on the topic: http://mommygolightly.wordpress.com/2013/04/11/wont-stay-at-home-mom-how-i-came-full-circle/.
    Actually, the link she links to is the most interesting part.

    • Thank you for the article and helping me discover her. Diminishing marginal utility is not something most moms would ever have the courage to discuss in the open. I’m really glad you shared that link and what 24/7 mommy hood would do to you as well. A majority of Indian mommies seem to be stay at home than working and it’s getting overwhelming having them all around me 24/7 insisting on trying to convince me that this SATH thingy is the best thing for me and my child. I think this all goes back to the door (previous post).

      As for my girl, she’s definitely a regular toddler. And I keep coming back to the point of perspective. At the end of the day I guess I just need to develop a strong perspective and understanding of my new environment so I can help guide her down a path best suited for her. Hierarchy is something I can easily teach her to ignore under the wrong contexts, but she’s not old enough to differentiate between legitimate hierarchy and random illogical situations. And hierarchy is just one reason she gets confused and starts acting up and pissing someone off. I’ve noticed every time she’s confused, she acts up. So part of it is helping her sort her confusion with situations. Something that clearly I’m dealing with as well. We’ll just have to get through the journey of learning this together.

      • I clicked through to the article, and the article she linked up too, and the immediate thing it made me feel was extremely sad. My opinions may be way off, considering I am neither a parent nor an aspiring career-woman, but I just felt by reducing everything, including the process of bringing up a child down to “hours of fun”, measuring how much enjoyment one can gain from every hour of it, and how eventually we can balance it out with other things that give us enjoyment is a very bleak way of looking at it.

        This is not to say all mothers should abandon their careers and stay at home, but I think people make these choices for different reasons, and somehow basing it purely on diminishing marginal utility seems really shallow. I cant imagine parenting is a fun-ride all through, but surely one cannot be reducing the entire process to a how-much-can-I-get-out-of-every-hour-spent-in-this school of thought.

      • I agree the phrase ‘diminishing marginal utility’ is a weird one to assign to any form of parenting. But I think it reveals something else. The article for me, opened up another space that moms regularly over think, whether that was the intention is a whole other thing. And I didn’t certainly interpret the article as laying the final word down on parenting. I generally never read articles that way. There’s so much noise and so many opinions being thrown so liberally out there on how parents should and shouldn’t be, that taking any of these seriously in their whole form is generally not the way I approach them.

        At the end of the day, diapering is diapering, feeding is feeding, bathing is bathing. Just that. While parents can regularly inject moments of joy, surprise and delight into these daily routine activities, when you go through them each day, they end up becoming a ritual of sorts. Most of it is just getting the kid to get through the day aka basic daily activities. I think moms in particular (working ones especially) are filled with guilt everyday for missing out on these or spending lesser time doing them and so on. And like any theory out there on domestic chores and what women have been made to think about them, I think these notions of diapering / cleaning etc are also thrust on women as something they are required to feel obligated to indulge in. I’m not saying everyone feels obligated or forced but many many working women do.

        To me this article reminded me of the idea of quality time. That’s not to say that everyone must work longer hours and just focus on quality time. Quality time doesn’t come out of thin air. It needs to be built over time with presence of all other kinds as well, I get it. But remembering that quality time and spending the time we have with our children wisely (given there’s diminishing marginal utility) can certainly help with focusing on the things that matter.

        What I actually disagree with this article, is it’s stupid title.

  5. I felt some some stuff was not typical with my daughter so I got her evaluated ,most of my intution was right .
    She got help and now I am not seeing the same shortcomings/difficult-for-me -2 handle behaviour in her .
    Typical kids are relatively easier to raise , whenever I felt something was not right I got help for her …I never lived with it

    • First off, I disagree with that statement that typical kids are relatively easier to raise. I’m certain there is no concept of a typical kid. It’s no coincidence that the saying “no two kids are alike” exists. While I mentioned that girls and boys here display certain social values and behavior, it doesn’t mean their personalities are similar or typical. In fact, I’m proud that my daughter doesn’t fall into any preconceived predetermined class that the society has created for her. If that makes her not typical, then that’s the last of my issues currently. Second, I think raising kids is not just about the child itself but the state of the parents as well, which is kind of what I was getting to here with describing my state of mind.

      It’s wonderful that you managed to detect issues and get help. It’s not often that most parents even begin to question that. So kudos. With little A however, the issues are most certainly related to the relocation, her standard toddler tantrums and inability to understand the social and cultural norms and values here. And I’m kind of coping with that as well and much slower in helping her I suppose since my opinions are themselves, just forming. I haven’t detected anything funny in her that is completely out of the ordinary that requires attention. I’ll be sure to keep an eye out.

  6. @Haathi -I agree with your opinion -its not way off .I am a mum -of 2 kids and I’m a SAHM too. I chose to stay at home, because I *wanted* to. (Law of diminishing utility – really? Are we not talking about kids/people here?).Not to say that I enjoy every single moment of it. I do have days when I wonder what I’m doing, but I wouldnt have it any other way (for now as my children are below 6) – bad days included as they are a part of the whole package. I must be lucky in a way that I dont really care (or listen) to what anyone else has to say about my SAHM status (except my husband -as he is an equal partner in raising our kids.) I also dont go around advocating SAHMing or WOHMing to anyone.

      • Crunch, To me its like this : It all boils down to what you are comfortable with. Once you realise and accept that, things will fall into place. If at any point you are feeling guilty, ask yourself one question – what can I do to make it better. If you can do it, well and good , do it and voila!- end of guilt. If you cant , then whats the point of wasting time feeling guilty? You just need to accept that its something you can never do and let it go. (both the issue and the guilt)
        If you are happy with your choices, how can someone “make” you feel guilty?

    • Unable to respond to your comment, but wanted to say that I agree completely. In a separate discussion about the decision to become a parent I had alluded to the fact that it requires some thought. And I think thinking about whether you are okay with more give and less take, is something to factor. Because joy of parenting aside, it IS a taxing responsibility. I have heard my mother tell tales of how tiring, difficult — both physically and emotionally (what with sticking to your guns and not giving in to every 2-bit piece of advice you get) — frustrating and just downright thankless it can sometimes be. But she also always said the joy overrides it all. That was her, and maybe it is not as satisfying or joyful for all, but it is something one has to be prepared for, is all Im saying.

      I found it unnerving to read a piece that makes it sound okay to have children and then treat them almost like products for consumption, measure the value of the satisfaction you get from each hour spent. Ultimately, I think choosing to be a SAHM or not is a very personal decision that comes from many different factors, the most important of which is what sort of parenting works for you, I think. And in the face of what one is giving ones own child, little else should really matter.

      And the only reason I said I might be way-off is because I’m aware this might sound rich coming from someone who hasnt experienced any of this 🙂 So this is the last comment I am making on the topic.

      • Parent or not, you’ve been spot on most issues including parenting Haathi .. I might have differing opinions but you’re certainly not way-off! 🙂

  7. Oh And I wanted to add -why do we need to justify our actions to ANYONE ? Why do we need to make a song and dance about our choices? (Ok, maybe that’s me -I really couldnt be bothered explaining things to people -after 2 children, my spine has made remarkable strides in the strength department ;))

  8. @The Bride – I really like the way you think (about accepting who you are and what you are happy with). I wish more mothers would be encouraged to think like this and more mothers would take it on themselves to understand this . We would have less of this “constant urge to tell others what to do”!

  9. If you don’t mind me asking, where do you live KA? I felt precisely this way until my move back here. Precisely. In fact I had such confidence about never explaining anything about my style of parenting to anyone. My spine was made of adamantium, I used to think. I’ve been proven wrong after having moved here. Distance and space can generally help maintain what you just wrote about. I’m not saying there’s no peer pressure or social pressures of any kind in other countries .. or that India doesn’t have women that reflect your opinions and live that way but I’m certainly yet to come across them in person, not just online.

    • Crunch, I live in Singapore:) I understand how hard it is to stick to your convictions in India (especially with family around!), but it is a little like that here too ! I get random bits of advice from friends, parents of the kids friends,relatives, neighbours here too.But I smile and ignore. With family (which visit often and whom we visit often) we simply stick to our rules -we have just a few -and we dont budge. At times, it seems like we are making mountains out of molehills, but I owe it to myself to not give in. I think you will get there too,you just need to recover from your move 😉

      • I know that’s the theme to every piece in every post that I write. I JUST NEED TO RECOVER FROM THE MOVE. 🙂 I need to make that into 2 pieces of typography art and hang them up in my living room. Your suggestion: “I just need to recover from the move” that can go in my bedroom and “Excuse me for being rude .. but I’m trying to make sense of this cultural/social transition. I’m not saying I will fit in .. I’m just saying I’ll learn to be comfortable being, what you think is rude, with time” at my door maybe. Refer door status messages on other post! There .. those are the sign board I need to get working on.

  10. Or you should meet more working mums! They may not have the time or the patience to make you feel bad , heheh! I really hope you make good friends soon -they are a life saver. And not all SAHMs are like the ones you have met -some of my closest friends are SAHMs (bumbling along and struggling like me ) and have always had only nice things to say! 🙂

    • None of these opinions or comments pertain to only SAHM or working moms. I’ve had some amazing SAHM friends these past years. So I don’t make judgements on that category whatsoever.

  11. I’m sure you dont 🙂 .Sorry, I assumed that the SAHMs around you were being judgmental and causing you grief.

  12. I’ve been all 3 at some point in my life – a SAHM, a full time working mom, a part time working mom. No matter which one you are, you will have some regrets. That’s the result of modern life, I think. The workplace is too fast paced, and it is hard to find good supports at home. I enjoyed the part time working phase the most – I was able to spend lots of time with my kids, and do something of my own, something that challenges and interests me. Currently, am going slightly crazy in a full time role, and planning to get back to part time by the end of this year. All the best with whatever you choose. I love the picture of your house, BTW. Lovely palms, swing set, bench, sand box – looks so inviting:)

    • 🙂 That’s my parent’s place in the village near Chennai. Gorgeous isn’t it? My place smack in the middle of Bangalore city isn’t half as refreshing or inviting. Photos of my place are in bits and pieces across posts.

      As for the mom bit. I absolutely don’t have any regrets having been a working mom. 🙂 Thanks to my wonderful employers and team back in Cali. I was surrounded by working moms everywhere in my group. I was very comfortable and had my act together. I’m just coping with this new role. Learning to navigate each day in this new environment as a temp SAHM.

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