So I made the leap early this year and took on a new position: the stay-at-home mum, or SAHM.
I’ve kept quiet about my new title. Partly I didn’t know how to make an announcement on it. Partly I’ve been spending an extraordinary amount of time battling some horrible feelings – loss of identity, sudden anxiety due to the loss of income, and just generally feeling overwhelmed. And of course the heaviness that comes from the realisation that I’ve got nothing much going on in life apart from caring for three kids under six 24/7/365.
Will I go mad? Will I become “aunty?”
What am I doing with my life? My skills?
On bad days dealing with my neanderthals, I can’t help but feel a strong urge to run back to civilisation. I itch to start getting productive again, and I mean productive in a different sense from being able to change a dirty diaper at lightning speed – lest my hyper-toddler runs off butt naked and pees on my sofa.
Some mornings when I’m woken up at 6am by a screaming baby – and then left wide awake while the baby falls back to sleep – I ask God, “Is this all? Is this what I’m meant to be doing for the rest of my life?”
Don’t be silly. It won’t be for the rest of your life.
Oh. So I can quit after a year of plugging at this?
Well, you don’t actually get to quit. But the kids do grow up at some point. Usually…faster than you know.
I wish I could say that I actually am able to have such God-conversations. But what I usually get is silence. So I totter through the rest of my day, often wishing for more sleep, and more meaning in my existence.
I feel there has to be more than this. After stopping work, I found myself searching and asking what should I be doing with my life? Wait… Am I saying that staying home and bringing up 3 precious lives isn’t good enough? Of course not, I know that’s totally untrue! But it didn’t stop the questioning.
I feel inadequate to tackle the chores plus cooking plus kids plus husband. On top of that, I also try to keep up with writing and blogging, which serves as a creative outlet for me. I’m also tempted to get a helper. But that kinda makes me feel horribly guilty…
I realise that being able to spend more time with the kids doesn’t automatically result in parent-child bonding. I still need to make the effort, to switch from bringing them through daily routines and tasks, to just being with them, playing with them, and being more intentional overall. Not to mention being patient and trying not to make scolding /yelling my normal tone of voice.
Truth is, I’ve always dreamt about being an SAHM. I’ve always looked forward to this day. But then, why am I not fully relishing the moments now?
So I realise that there is no perfect work-life arrangement for mums. SAHM or FTWM or WAHM, there is always a trade-off. Now that I’m at home, I’ve got little / no income but a lot more time with the kids. That’s something I have to accept and be able to be happy about.
To help myself along in this new chapter, here are 5 things I’m going to remind myself on daily:
1. Simplify life and focus on what is essential. This involves cutting out excess and distractions – things that take up our time but don’t necessarily add real value to our lives.
2. Focus on what you do have instead of what you don’t. Make the best of the time I can spend with the kids.
3. Believe that it all adds up. God uses the small. God honours the small done with a happy heart. All the mundane messy things actually does amount to something in the bigger scheme of things, in the larger project of Life.
4. Just Be. Home is where I can be myself. And perhaps that’s all my kids really need – For me to be me, to be present, to be joyful, and to learn to embrace the tough moments as teaching moments.
5. Keep a thankful spirit within me. The hubby and I worked hard to enable me to have this time at home for a season. I need to be grateful for that, and to relish the simple joys that this season brings.
Lastly, I think I need to sift out the essential from the minor, and make daily decisions to pursue small and simple wins in areas that are essential.
Instead of trying to accomplish it all — and all at once — and flaring out, the Essentialist starts small and celebrates progress. Instead of going for the big, flashy wins that don’t really matter, the Essentialist pursues small and simple wins in areas that are essential.”
– Greg McKeown, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
Most of all, I need to plug deeper into the vine, to gather strength for this new season. SAHMers out there, please do share your tips and experiences with me.