The mind of a stay-at-home-mum is not easily decipherable by many people. I am almost into my fifth year as a stay at home mum and still have quite a stretch ahead of me, and the number of clarifications I have had to make to various people has been escalating yearly . Some want to know why I do not want to go out there and create wealth, some want to know what was the purpose of my education (and higher education), some want to know what I do all day, some want to know how I even manage to live this way and some are genuinely concerned that I am making a big blunder by not being in a “job”.
My experience is not unique. The general Kenyan society is nowhere near accepting that a lady in our generation can make a choice to be out of career to solely concert her attention on her children. Many women who choose to become SAHMs have to face antagonism from the society, and many more cannot even summon the nerve to become SAHMs.
Being a SAHM is a tough decision. It is also a blessing and an opportunity that many mothers can only wish for, and the following F-Tips will prove necessary for a SAHM to thrive and flourish through the season.
1. Fear not
“What would happen to you if one of these days your husband left? “
Every SAHM has to face the reality of this question. I will not go into exploring whether the husband is leaving for another woman (he got bored? ha ha) or to eternal rest. Either way, life changes. Fear is very paralyzing; it stops people from reaching for their dreams. Even when a mother is sure that her family best profits if she takes a break from career and gives the young children maximum attention, she fears they will not have enough cash to go by. She fears her husband might change, or leave. These seem very valid fears, but here is the spanner in the works; even if you were a career woman and dear hubby left, life would change. His financial contribution to the family will be felt. With one salary you might not live in the same standards, children might not go to the same schools, and a lot of other might’s. But you would move on, and you would make it. So will the SAHM. It is very unfortunate that fear determines the thriving of a SAHM, because yes your husband may leave, but what if he does not? You will have missed out on an experience in your children’s lives that you could never reverse, simply because at the prime moment of decision-making, you let fear rule over you. My advice; consider life insurance, education policies and investments, but really, take life by the horns.
If you are confident in your role as a SAHM, you will thrive in a society in which you are not celebrated. And do not even for one minute lie to yourself that people understand, they do not. You can only stand your ground when they come asking. Especially most relatives, they really wish you were out at work.
2. Finances – Be Realistic
The decision to live on one salary calls for a lot of sobriety. Both the husband and the wife must see the benefit of the mother being physically present and primarily involved in raising their children. If your husband is not willing to solely bear the financial burden, that is the point at which we agree that the opportunity to be a SAHM is indeed a blessing. It is for those whose husbands will be willing to not only handle the financial responsibilities of the home, but also not use money as a tool to manipulate their wives into submission. Such men might seem rare to find, but they certainly do exist. To such men, the sacrifice made by their wives is a motivation for them to work harder and make more money. If your husband is in the category of these amazing men, you will then need to be realistic in spending the money he makes. You must be very organized and accountable. Remember you are both in this sacrifice for the sake of your children. You must be realistic about the financial support you extend to your extended families; neither side is to go without because “their child” is not working. And you must accept that your help to them can only go up to a certain point. At least for now, because hey, the children will grow, and everybody will make wealth.
3. Focus – Make the time you spend with your kids count
Beyond all else, a SAHM is at home for her children. However, the temptation to be a busy stay-at-home-mum is real. A busy SAHM is out of employment but always on errands outside home or busy pursuing other causes to such an extent that the time spent with the children is no different than if she were at work.
Your child is your gift from God (I am a Christian). Your child comes to you with a personality of his own, but without a world-view, with a brain as a clean slate. You have the opportunity to mould that brain and to influence its world-view, and you have very very very few years before everybody else steps in. For three or so years there, you are the main guy for the job. A little later, TV is quite an influence, that is why you are there to guide the young mind on what is real and what is fake. A little later, teachers and classmates step in (which is why you need to get your child quality education within your means). A little later the boy/girl can read and everyone who can write is now an influence. A little later, they might be off to boarding schools and even the few months of school holidays they have, you might be working. So guess what, your time to offer quality and passionate parenting to your child is reducing every minute. And this goes beyond being there to make sure they are not getting sick due to exposure to germs or that they are not being mishandled by other care-givers, as important as that is. It is also thrilling to be there to watch every milestone, and there is the sense of security that the child gets knowing that you are there for him, but beyond that, take time to INTENTIONALLY parent, and you will thrive.
Do not be cheated into thinking that the time you spend with your young children does not count. Remember Moses of the Bible, he was given back to his mother (for nursing) for just few years of his early life, after which the mother had to surrender him wholly to Pharaoh’s daughter. No doubt, the few early years were all it took for Moses to know who he was and what was expected of him, and no further influence of the Egyptian society ever got that away from him. You,too,have very few years to instill the values and virtues you prefer, give it your best shot, make it count. And leave the rest to God.
4. Fore plan – Being a SAHM is not a life-time.
Look ahead, mum. Unless you will be home-schooling your children, they will certainly get away from the nest very soon. I would not want to assume you will sit at home doing house-chores as you wait for dear hubby and kids to come back, as much as I think it would be lovely if you are the first person they meet after their long days, the person who gets to hear how their days went (this is another very good opportunity to intentionally parent), the person they “offload” to and the person they are sure they will find at the end of the day. But what is your plan? Will you go back to career? Will you get into business? There are things you can do in preparation for the life ahead of you; sharpen a skill, start a course, study the market, start-up something. As much as point 3 above suggests you make your time with your child count, I do not mean you neglect yourself.
5. Find help – you are not superwoman
A SAHM without help will not thrive as she should. Being a SAHM does not mean that you have to handle all the house-chores by yourself. This will only leave you too tired to have quality time with your husband and children. As you get realistic on finances at point 2 above, that means also budgeting to pay a house-help. If you neglect this, you will always be under house and baby arrest and this can be very detrimental as you will find out in the tips below.
6. Fit in
Iron sharpens iron, find other SAHMs to be friends with in your location. You can organize play dates for your children and it can be a good opportunity to pick the brains of other mothers on issues that you are all dealing with. It is also a wonderful time to get a much-needed adult conversation, baby-talk and pre-school rhymes can be quite exhausting.
7. Fading out – don’t!
I would like to assume that you are a SAHM out of a mutual agreement between you and your husband. As such, it is only fair of him to make sure that you are not slowly fading out from the society because truly, your universe does not revolve around your children. You had a life before your babies, it does not end when they come. Get yourself technologically connected, do not be behind important news. Internet is your friend, have the world at your finger-tips. . Read widely in the subjects that interest you, comfortably be able to sustain a conversation that is not about babies. Do not feel the need to compete with your corporate friends by out-smarting them, but be relevant, or at least do not stare at people blankly when they talk about anything that is not baby-friendly. Get out of that house every now and then (see why you need a help?) and do something for yourself. Go see what is new out there. Meet with your friends. Again, dear hubby should see to it that the financial plan in number 2 above caters for your social life.
8. Fashion is for you.
Yes, we get to be the people who can get away with spending the whole day in our pajamas or track suits. After all, it is not so meaningful to play or carry the baby in six-inch stilettos. But still, a SAHMs obligations do not only extend to children, but to self and to dear husband. When you are well dressed, in something you actually feel good in, your moods will be good. If you are in the tee that has mangoes smeared all over and hair that is too kinky you can’t even imagine styling, you will most definitely have a mood to match. But it’s the husbands that I really pity here. Imagine the sort of people that your husband gets to spend the day with. People that are well groomed and who actually have to pay attention to their looks because their jobs require them to. People that have to have perfect manicure and pedicure, I won’t even talk about the eyebrows. People who have to have a cheerful demeanor and a lively attitude because their job expects them to. All day long, your husband spends time with these wonderful people, regardless of whether they have to fake wonderfulness. Only to come home to a wife who is grumpy because situation allows her to. Shabbily dressed because really, why go all out? A wife who has been taking a nap and woke up with shaggy hair that she does not even feel to style. Really, I am not implying that your husband will cheat on you on this sole basis (cheaters are just cheaters, even if you were miss-world), but I am going to frankly tell you that seeing you is not interesting. Plus he also has to put up with the sullen mood? Ey sister, neither would I want to be your hubby.
9. Fitness and Exercise
Why do we get fat and unfit? Because the calories consumed are not in proportion with the calories burnt, and because of lack of physical activity. Let me keep arguments on hormonal contraception out of this. (Oh I am not skinny, well-toned or fit, but I am working on it). Being a SAHM is a blessing that comes with the liberty to indulge in hearty meals that we ourselves prepare, and the cakes that we have time to bake, in as many tea breaks as we can make. We top it up with opportunity to not be involved in as much physical activity as some of our corporate counterparts. They also do get fat and unfit, but the temptation is more on our side, seeing as they do not have the same indulging opportunities. It is therefore important for a SAHM to get out and exercise. not necessarily in a gym, you can get exercise DVDs (see why I say you must be technologically connected?), you can skip rope, you can go running or walking, but be sure to burn those calories. This will also give you a great feeling of well-being.
10. Fix a dad-at-home-time
Yes, I mean it. Get an errand or something to do outside home, and leave the children with the dad. Sometimes they forget that this is a real job we do as well, and no, explaining how you spend your days will never suffice. Let your husband experience life on your lane, he will understand why it can be hard to get some ironing done, and he will get to appreciate what a wonderful job you do all day.