I have a confession.
There have been times when I have not enjoyed being a (mostly) stay-at-home mom.
There have been times I dreaded it. The sheer monotony, the loneliness of no other adults, the feeling of my brain sharing too many similarities with the mashed bananas Ada ate for breakfast.
After Ada was born, I had a particularly tough time. It was a combination of factors, really. Ben was finishing up student teaching, taking a full course load at school, plus an extra class he had to get permission to even take, and working as a volunteer football coach in hopes of pumping up his resume. And he wasn’t working at all, you know, for money. So, basically I was a single-parent while simultaneously trying to be the stay-at-home mom for Ada that I wanted to. I worked from home during the day, and worked nights at the hospital. I was exhausted, never saw my husband, and then there was the small fact that I got hospitalized twice in a month with postpartum complications.
But enough of the pity party. My point is, it was hard to pinpoint exactly the cause of my struggle. Was it exhaustion? Typical mom stuff? Actual postpartum depression? I don’t know. What I do know is that whatever it was, I wasn’t particularly basking in the new mom glow during the first few months of Ada’s life. I felt so isolated and alone. We lived in a small apartment in the small town where my husband grew up and I didn’t really go anywhere. There were days I dreaded waking up in the morning…how would I fill all those hours? I felt certain that Ada was bored out of her mind with me, because I was bored with myself. As anyone who has struggled with similar feelings knows, the way you feel only makes you feel worse…as in, you know it’s irrational to feel that way, you know you have so much to be grateful for, health, a beautiful baby, sunshine, etc., etc., so the fact that you aren’t feeling happy makes you feel like a horrible human being. And so the cycle continues.
It got better, of course. Ben finished school, got a “real” teaching job, I was able to cut down on my hours at the hospital, Ada got to more of an interactive age, but I still struggled. The best way I can describe it is I felt like I lost all passion for life. I just felt like a boring blob (it didn’t help that I resembled a blob either…).
I would read about other moms succeeding, loving being home with their babies, moms who sounded passionate, or even worse, I would be reminded of the olden days, when women would have ten thousand children while still running a farm, making everything from scratch, and lacking even such luxuries, as say, a toilet.
I felt exhausted just thinking about it. How on earth did they do it? I began to wonder what was wrong with me. I couldn’t even enjoy being home with my baby? I had her to myself all day, every day, and I wasn’t happy?
It took me about seven or eight months until I began to feel more like myself. I switched to days around the summer for work, and that helped too. And then before I knew it, I was pregnant again. By that time, Ada and I had settled into a nice routine, and I worried about bringing another child into the picture. I irrationally feared losing that “me and Ada” time. We bought our first house, moved, settled in, and prepared for baby #2. I dreaded that I would struggle with the depression again–I thought it would be even worse with two children, any gloomy feeling amplified times two. I feared being alone all day, outnumbered. Of course, wracked with guilt for my fears.
Hopefully I am not alone in confessing all of this…
Two days after her big sister’s birthday, Mya Therese entered the world. Ben took his allotted one day off of work, and I was on my own.
Enter lifesaver sister, Shelby.
My dear, sweet, amazing sister Shelby came over every day for I don’t even know how long, in my post-baby fog brain. I think it was at least a month. She came every day with distraction and playtime for Ada…able to squeeze into Ada’s blow-up pool when I could not (for public sanity purposes, mostly), helping me change Mya’s diapers and outfits fifty times a day (she was a puker), taking over on countless laps around the house to soothe Mya’s colicky belly. I don’ t know how I could have done it without my sister. I am weepy just thinking about it. Said weepiness can be found exemplified in Shelby’s Facebook pictures from Christmas, when I tried to express my gratitude by purchasing my shopaholic sister a Coach wallet.
All my gratitude for Shelby’s help got me thinking. Maybe I wasn’t crazy after all. Could it be possible that this is the way it was supposed to be? I re-evaluated my view of those toilet-less supermothers. Sure, they raised a million kids and worked non-stop…but were they alone? Were they expected to spend all day nursing a baby, playing leggos with their two-year old, cleaning and cooking without adult interaction? I realized that women have historically lived in a community of mothers. They worked, birthed, cooked, cleaned, and raised their babies together. One could corral the children, one could churn the butter. Their work lives were their home lives. There wasn’t the separation like there is now–the never-ending working mom vs. the stay-at-home mom battle. No being cooped up in a house, alone all day, every day with their children. Who likes that, honestly? They worked, period, because they had to, but they didn’t do it alone. And so, my conclusion: Women need each other. We rely on each other to get us through the crazy world of motherhood, those exhausted, monotonous banana mush filled hours.
With this revelation, I let go of my guilt. I gave myself freedom to not enjoy every minute stuck at home alone with my kids.
And you know what?
I’ve ended up enjoying being home alone with my kids.
Part of my new attitude is the sheer fact that with two, I have less time to mope about and feel sorry for myself, but the other part is, I feel that I have embraced the fact that I don’t need to do this alone. It is ok, even right, for me to rely on the help of others. My mom, my sisters, my “mom friends,” my pseudo-mom friend ( you know who you are), and everyone else far in and in between. Whether it be a text to say hello, a play-date to make cookies or go sledding, or even the knowledge that somewhere, someone is going through the same thing I am going through, I am grateful that I belong to a community of strong mothers. I am not alone.