Sunday, March 16, 2008

A frustrated homemaker

Mrs. C, who contacted me by email, left the work force after many years of climbing up the career ladder to become a stay-at-home wife and mother. She now has a wonderful husband and two lovely children - but she finds it hard to adjust to her new lifestyle. Switching to one salary means that there is less spending money, and Mrs. C's home is very modestly furnished. Mrs. C is considering starting her own business, but wonders if it's a good idea with a small baby on her hands.

Mrs. C is delighted to have the opportunity to take care of her children, but at the same time she feels bored and lonely because her husband is busy working long hours, which leaves little time for him to pay attention to his wife's thoughts and needs. I also assume that the majority of Mrs. C's neighbours aren't stay-at-home moms - and thus have more time to spend doing activities without the children, something Mrs. C finds extremely difficult to arrange.

"I'm overweight and don't have time to go to the gym," - says Mrs. C, - "I don't spend time with my friends anymore. I'm neglecting my hobbies. I'm frustrated. I'm not good at all as a stay-at-home mother. What do I do?!"

Well hello there, dear Mrs. C, and thank you for giving us the opportunity to discuss this important issue! Please keep in mind that my perspective is very limited, though, since I'm not a mother and I'm not even married yet - I'm a young, excited bride-to-be, thrilled with the thought of settling in our little home and making it a sweet and welcoming place for my dear new husband.

I'm so delighted with becoming the mistress and queen of our new home, however small and modest, that right now I can't imagine ever being bored with improving it and doing lovely things for my husband. Having limited financial resources only means I will have to be more creative. But this doesn't mean that a moment won't come when suddenly tiredness and frustration might challenge me. Maybe one hot afternoon, heavily pregnant, cleaning the floors or washing dishes, I'll let out a depressed sigh and think to myself - "I'm miles and miles away from the glamour of professional advancement my friends are living out. I'm not doing anything real with my life. What do I do?!"

I think that many people, when confronted with such a situation, would say - "Why, of course you're bored and unhappy! You're trapped in your home with no company but two small children you can't get off your hands. You aren't doing anything mentally challenging. You don't have time for yourself, and you don't have enough money to buy nice things which would fill your life and make you feel satisfied. Go out there, drop your children in daycare and get a job!"

... Go back to work. Sure, that's the easy, "obvious" solution. But it wasn't without a reason that you quit your career after so many years, was it? I'm sure you seriously considered everything when you made the switch from career woman to stay-at-home mother. You did that because you felt it was the right thing to do.

Why exactly? I don't know your situation well enough to answer that. Perhaps you felt God calls you, as a woman, to take care of your husband, children and home. Perhaps you felt it was more important to invest in what will last for eternity - the legacy of your family - than in temporary goods that could be bought with the income you would bring; or maybe your husband felt Mom is needed at home with her children. Maybe you felt pressured by the unbearable rhythm of career and longed for the peace and flexibility of a well-managed, orderly home. Maybe you and your husband even decided, after making the calculations, that your salary would be reduced to nothing or almost nothing, after considering gas, childcare and other work-related expenses.

Whatever were the initial reasons for your coming home, I believe you should take time to think about them all over again. Often the big decisions in our life become overshadowed by the endless flow of routine. Who knows, maybe after the n-th load of laundry I will forget for a moment that I'm making a haven for my husband. Maybe I'll pull my hair in frustration and exclaim, "there's nothing but dirty laundry in my life!"

Perhaps this is happening to you. Maybe when you were preparing to become a mother, you had a vision of your children growing happily at home, with Mom by their side. But after a long day of preparing meals, picking up and cleaning after your children, changing diapers and giving baths, you feel like wanting to get away.

You know it's said, "grass is always greener on the other side". Compare the frustrations you have now with the frustrations you would have if you hadn't left the workforce, for whatever reason. Imagine you would have to trust a stranger with your dear children's health, hearts and minds, every single day. Imagine you wouldn't have time to take care of your home. Maybe you would have had a bit more money to spend on furniture or decorations, but you wouldn't have time to enjoy them. As for spending time with your husband and communicating your needs - I don't think it's easier when both of you come back from work exhausted. By the way, this is something you might take into consideration when you think of starting your own business as well: working at home gives you flexibility, that's true, but talking from experience - it might steal quite a bit of your time, and you must think just how much you can give away at the moment.

I do believe you should find the time to have a calm and sincere conversation with your husband and let him know how you feel. Do it when you are both relaxed and unhurried, and without accusations ("You aren't meeting my needs!"). Let your husband know how much you appreciate everything he does to become a good provider for your family, and how much you value the blessed opportunity to be home for him and for your children. Tell him about your challenges - and how much you want to become happier in your noble vocation. Each one of you may give suggestions as to how make that happen. Perhaps just your husband's attention, understanding and appreciation would be enough to boost your confidence and give you a fresh shot of energy!

Consider the given situation (your husband's work schedule, your current financial resources, etc), and think of how you can work with it. If you haven't done that yet, start developing an orderly and efficient schedule for your household duties/taking care of the children/homeschooling - and it should also contain a window for your creative hobbies, however limited at first. Work on making a healthy, balanced menu for you and your family, and find creative ways to do your exercise without going to the gym (squatting several times when I have to mop, or lifting a light weight with my hand when I'm dusting with the other hand works for me!); browse second-hand shops or online sales for inexpensive items to decorate your home and make it more welcoming - or if you can't afford to spend anything at all right now, you can rearrange your furniture, pick some flowers, or dig out a centerpiece you haven't used in a while.

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. And remember that what you do is important; you are the heart of your home, and you are building it up, when every day you dedicate yourself to your husband and children over and over again.


USAincognito said...

A suggestion as my sister is a stay at home mom with 2 children....
My sister gets up an hour before her husband does in the morning and she uses that time to workout. The kids are still sleeping and her husband is still home to take care of them if a need arises.
Once my sister is done working out and gets back home, she is able to then get the children up and get the one ready to go to school.
And while the one child is at school and the other one still at home, my sister takes her daughter out to run the errands. She gets together with other women friends from her church (that also have children) and they have playdates. The women can socialize and hang out while their young children play together.
And even if my sister needs to go do some adult things on her own without a child under foot, one of her friends from the church are always willing to watch the child for a couple of hours. And my sister does the same for them.
Then in the evenings when her husband is home, he likes to spend time with the children so this also allows her free time to herself. But the children have also been taught that if mommy and daddy need to spend time doing some things together around the house, then they are to entertain themselves in their playroom. And the children know this and respect this.
Just some suggestions....

Rebekah S. said...

Beautiful post yet again, Anna! You have such a way with words! :)

My heart goes out to Mrs. C. I want to encourage her and strengthen her by telling her(she probably already knows this, but may have forgotten due to the fact that she feels so overwhelmed) that what she's doing will last forever, and will heavily affect future generations. If she was to go back to work, not only would she, her family, and her home suffer, but that decision of hers would affect future generations heavily. What she is doing in the home is of lasting importance. Most of us don't even realize how HUGE of an influence the stay-at-home mom has on her numerous future generations. Also, going off to work again would not help get rid of the tiredness, etc.! It would only make it far far worse. Because then, her story might end up very much like it did for Mrs. H. in your story a few weeks ago, Anna.

Mrs. C, stay strong! I know it may be hard, but you're exactly where the Lord wants you to be! :) Always remember that. Be strong and of good courage. Cry out to Him and He will give you rest and peace!

I also suggest that you head on over to the Biblical Womanhood blog as well, as Mrs. Paine is amazing with schedules, etc.! A schedule would help you a whole lot right know, I'm sure.

May the Lord richly bless you!


Michelle Potter said...

Just a few thoughts from a mom of 6 who constantly has people asking her, "How did you find time to do that??"

Exercise does not have to be done in the gym, and it doesn't have to be done when the kids are asleep or away. If you can find one, get a double jogging stroller. Depending on where you live, you can probably get one from Freecycle (free) or Craig's List (cheap). Children LOVE to go for walks, even just in circles around the neighborhood, and you can even jog if you are so inclined. If it's hot where you live (like where I live), go in the early mornings.

You can also get an exercise video and do aerobics or pilates or whatever you like. They even make them specifically for moms and kids to do together. Again, children LOVE this! My kids were way more excited and way more motivated to do pilates than I was. And the videos are much cheaper than a gym.

As for your hobbies, do you have any that you can teach the kids to do, too? If you scrapbook, the kids would probably love to color pictures and put them in a notebook or folder while you decorate your pages. If you enjoy making jewelry, you could give the kids some yarn and cheerios (so it's ok if the baby eats them) and let them make necklaces. Honestly, with some hobbies you might have to wait until the kids are a bit older, but for now do what you can.

Friends can be harder if you don't have a car or if they work all day. Could you join a playgroup or meet some other moms at the library? It's so much easier when your friends are stay-at-home-moms, too, because they are also interested in doing things during the day when you are.

Kacie said...

What an uplifting post! I'm going to save this for whenever I'm having a down day in the home.

The first thing that came to my mind when I read about the reader's situation is "could she have postpartum depression?" Perhaps she can talk with her doctor about it, just to be sure.

neuropoet3 said...

This response is so encouraging! This woman is facing a very common frustration of SAHMs. It's not that we actually want to work out side of the home, but sometimes we feel like we might go crazy with the monotony and routine of everyday life at home. The best thing to do is something "different" - change the furniture, or take the kids somewhere for the day - even if it's just grandma's house. This time of year it's easy to get depressed because there isn't a lot of sunshine, and you can't really go outside (at least here where I am) - so that adds to the "trapped" feeling.
I think this problem is harder for us in this generation because we don't have the resources to draw from to help - a SAHM is often the only person home all day in a neighborhood, so there's no visits with other mom's and their children over coffee or tea, and since we never saw our mother's deal with this "trapped" feeling, we don't know what to do (we were lucky if we saw our mother's much at all during a day). The problem is common, and it requires real answers - thanks for taking the time to respond to it Anna. :)


Anonymous said...

Those are great suggestions! It's easy to become discouraged, and easy to become discontent! I personally can't wait to be married and not (for once) have to live in a dorm, worry about tests, and sit in class all day! But I'm trying to cultivate an attitude of contentment now, because it will help me in the future when I can finally be his wife! :)

Kim from Canada said...

Dear Mrs. C;
I, too, am a 'reformed' career woman who is now a stay-at-home wife and mom. There are many women who have come to realize that the rewards of staying home (to be a helpmeet to your husband and to raise your children) are far greater than any reward involved in giving your life to a company that cares little about you as a person.

And (for Anna, also), of course there are days where we look out our windows and wonder if we are missing anything in the big world. We have bad days where our children are testing us at every turn, when our husbands don't seem to be meeting our perceived needs, when having to wash yet another load of dishes seems less than invigorating. But, hang in there. What we put into our days is what we get out them. If we complain (aloud or silently) our hearts will darken to any of our daily tasks. If we see only work and no pleasure, we will quickly tire and eventually blame the very husband and children who should be our reason for getting up in the morning.

We, as wives and mothers at home, must smile through the tough days. We must revel in the final result of menial tasks. The more we take pleasure in doing the best we can do for our families, the more we will be rewarded with smiles from our children and compliments from our husbands. Then we can look at the unending pile of laundry and realize we are the most important person in their lives.
There is no outside career that can give that kind of satisfaction and everlasting reward. But it is entirely up to us to make the decision to do it!
(Suggestions: ask your husband what is most important to him about what you accomplish in the day and focus your energies there; a child of any age enjoys being part of your daily work - create duties that they are capable of helping you with, i.e. sorting laundry, drying or just putting away dishes, dusting. Sing as you go, tell stories, talk about daddy and what special surprise you can do for him; when it comes to exercise, forget the gym and the money you would spend there - get a good stroller/wagon and get outside! Walk, play.)

Okay, I'm done talking - I am sure other ladies will have suggestions for you!

deb said...

I quit college when I married with every intention of returning once my then oldest child was school age. Yet, when the time came to return to school, I found it impossible to put my son in an after school program. My son seemed to need the stability of someone being at home.

What has helped me is the knowledge that anything that you do for the glory of God is a type of prayer. If you wash dishes for your family or clean up your baby's spit, that sacrificial act is a prayer.

It is also good to look at the bigger picture. Now that my children are older, my husband has begun to express thankfulness at coming home to a peaceful, halfway clean home. My boys like that a parent is home if they need one.

As far as the occasionally moments of boredom. I think the key is to find a hobby that works your mind. I love to read and started trying to read every classical novel that I could. The list of classical novels is endless. Once you get past Austen and Dickens then you have Wilkie Collins, Ann Radcliffe, Thackery etc. Amazon is good about listing similar type novels.

Kristi said...

As a mother of two toddlers with another on the way, I have found that there are times where housework can seem to overwhelm me. I know it is important to keep on top of the housework and not allow clutter to accumulate, but there is a balance. Like Anna was saying, there is the n-th load of laundry that is always waiting to be done, and the everyday care and training of the children, etc.
I agree, as a wife and mother, it is vital to create a pleasant, welcoming atmosphere in the home for our husbands and families - and all who enter. Not discounting the importance of keeping the home, we need to take care of our bodies and our relationship with God as well. Sometimes I have found I need to just let some housework go for half an hour, or more, so I can take the children and go for a walk/bike ride. I know my Mom would do a 30- minute exercise video when she couldn't go out. (She homeschooled 6 children.)
Sometimes if I don't have time to spend reading the Bible, I can still pray while I walk, and certainly while doing housework.
Even if the house isn't spic-and-span, a cheerful, content, happy wife and mother will make the house into a home, and I believe every husband would prefer a happy wife to a spotless house.
And perhaps this isn't the best solution, but invite your friends to your home to visit if their schedules are more flexible than yours. I don't know what to tell you about when the children get older (I'm not there yet!)but what I have found is that as things come, you learn to adjust. Just keep in mind that motherhood is a place of highest honor in God's eyes, and it will help keep the right perspective.

Gurl4God said...

She could join a moms club or womens bible study at the local church. Or arrange to have a play/coffee date with some other friends of small children. Another option, if she really misses her work, perhaps she could work 1 or 2 days a week.

Anonymous said...

Just to highlight something Anna's said, namely rearranging things. My husband loves changes (which may be some small part of why he's in the Army), and one thing he likes to do from time to time in order to have a change is to rearrange things. You're right about how much that can freshen the appearance without spending one cent, even if you do nothing more than move the pictures around from here to there.
-Mrs. G.

Ashley said...

My advice to Mrs. C - look into the details a bit. :) I'm a mommy of two boys, a 2yo and a 5mo.

By detials I mean this: if you are fusterated by your children screaming or whining, for example, figure out how to fix it so you aren't fusterated. Research it. Find moms who have dealt with the most agervating thing you face each day and have SOLVED it, not parents that are waiting for their children to out-grow it. :)

If you figure out a few of the major issues, you free up a lot of time. I've found when my son has a bad attitude, it helps to have him sit on the sofa or in rare cases, go to his room until his attitude improves. Getting on top of his bad attitude early in the day can shape the rest of it!

By detials I mean looking into how to run your home more effectively. This, too, will free up a bit more time.

One thing I do, personally, is keep a basket of note cards handy. Sometimes, I scribble off a few lines and drop it in the mail when I'm feeling down. It's a way to encourage someone else and I find it a wonderful 'extra' that only takes a few minutes. Tiny detials like this can make me feel like I've really accompished something worthwhile.

Time is limited with two littles, and money is "tighter" - or maybe I just feel less free to spend money not my own... either way, I'm finding ways to bloom where I am planted right now. Being home can be a lot of fun, and you have a wonderful chance to explore things such as cooking, scrapbooking, sewing, gardening, caligraphy ... I only dabble in a few areas myself. Try not to stress so much and have a bit more fun with it. I hope your husband isn't expecting perfection in things like houseword and is instead enjoying having you home to raise your children.


Anonymous said...

Anna, you are such a blessing for everyone who reads your blog. I love how contented you are and how you're always putting things from such a wise perspective.

I hope the last few days before your BIG day are going to be well, and I wish you many happiness in the future to come in your upcoming phase of life.

God Bless You!!


Terry said...

Having been where Mrs. C is, I realize how hard it is when you intially make the switch, and yes Anna, thouhts like these do cross your mind from time to time (heavily pregnant woman talking here:-):

"Maybe one hot afternoon, heavily pregnant, cleaning the floors or washing dishes, I'll let out a depressed sigh and think to myself - "I'm miles and miles away from the glamour of professional advancement my friends are living out. I'm not doing anything real with my life. What do I do?!"

But like anything in life,we have to keep our eyes on the prize, the end result. I don't have any magic answers for how Mrs. C can get past her emotional crisis right now. What worked for me was considering the alternative for my family: my kids being cared for by strangers, my husband not having my attention because I'm just too worn out to consider what he may need, unhealthy fast food and takeout for convenience sake several time per week.

And I know that sometimes it can seem lonely, but there are other young mothers out there, I'm sure. Take your kids to a local park just before lunch and you will quickly learn that while we SAHM's are a minority, ther are still a few of us around. Blessings to you, Mrs. C and hang in there. You have made a wise choice with eternal significance attached to it and it will pay dividends for years and years to come.

Pendragon said...

I think it is extremely important for mothers and homemakers to have their NEEDS met. The needs for exercise, free time, and adult companionship are very important. Exercise in particular is crucial to both mental and physical health. I have learned the hard way that I can't be effective in my duties to other people if I don't care for myself. The same holds true for full-time homemakers.

Mrs. C will need help from her husband in order to meet her own needs. I think she can have a respectful conversation with him about that. A couple of solutions on the exercise issue come to mind, which may or may not work in Mrs. C's situation: (1)He can watch the children for an hour in the evening while she goes to the gym; (2) You could invest in a treadmill or other exercise machine and use it while the children are napping or while hubby is taking care of the kids; (3) even more cheaply, you can buy a workout tape and use it at home any time; or (4) you could incorporate regular walking into your daily schedule with your children in tow perhaps in strollers.

I am also guessing that there are organized mother's groups or play dates you could attend for some adult company. Setting up a reading or internet schedule for some adult ideas can be invigorating as well. I read for 15 minutes every morning --longer on weekends-- and while it is not as much as I would like, it provides necessary intellectual stimulation.

As a feminist, I feel very strongly about the rights of homemakers to have their needs met and to have some time for themselves. The problem is we expect women who choose to sacrifice for their husbands and families to sacrifice all day long. That need not be that case, and I dearly hope that Mr. C respects that fact.

KTHunter said...

I think being a stay-at-home mom is a lot more difficult than it was 50 years ago. The social structure that helped support that simply isn't there any more. There are very few multigenerational households these days. Few neighbors are home during the day. "Home" is more isolating than it used to be. We don't have neighbors that can drop by for a cup of coffee in the middle of the morning for some adult company. I think that is part of what is frustrating Mrs. C. She's lonely, and loneliness is a very powerful pull on the soul. It doesn't sound like she's poor at being a stay-at-home mom. She's just not dealing with the isolation very well. But who can? Humans are social creatures. If she can locate other stay-at-home moms in her area and maybe arrange to get together with them once or twice a week -- just gather up the kids and go play for a while -- she might feel a little better about it. Maybe get together with the ladies and their kids and have Craft Madness day every once in a while or go for a hike or a walk to exercise together and take care of several needs at once. The important thing is, arranging the schedule so that you're not so lonely. Being a stay-at-home mom doesn't mean you have to BE at home one hundred per cent of the time. A break can be refreshing and give you the mental strength to get back home and finish what needs to be done. Even us "career girls" have to take a day off every once in a while. Stay at home moms need breaks, too. And company.

I hope things turn out well for Mrs. C, I really do.

Loving Her Beautiful said...

Hi, Anna,
Congratulations I your upcoming marriage! May you both be truly blessed together!
I also love the comment at the end of your Frustrated Homemaker post: "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are." So simple sounding, but so powerful when put into practice. Great job!
I'm also writing to tell you about a project I'm working on. It's a collection of Thank You Stories, to
be published in a book titled I Never Got to Thank You.
I would love to include one of your Thank You Stories.
You can read about the project on my post:
If you like what you read, I would also be very grateful if you would pass on my link to anyone else you're comfortable with -- even if you don't write a Story yourself. My goal is to collect 100 Stories by March 31st, but that date is certainly not a cut-off. Everyone is welcome to contribute a Story -- or more than one!
Thank you for reading -- and congratulations once again.
Blessings to you!

Anonymous said...

Anna -- That was a fantastic post, something I needed to hear today too. :)

You made a lot of great points with the "grass is always greener." And you have very good suggestions for working with very little money.

You will be a wonderful wife and mother!!

God bless -- Lisa in ND

Anonymous said...

I thought I would recommend a "newish" book that is out on this very topic: Passionate Housewives Desperate for God, by Jenny Chancey and Stacie McDonald.

Also about not being able to get to the gym... I was a gymnast for many years and know what a time commitment it can be just to stay in shape. But you can do small things at home through out your day. Run the stairs a couple times a day(carrying something to make the load heavier if you want), dance with the kids to some up beat music for a half an hour, carry two jugs of milk and do a couple of reps while getting them from the car to the fridge, play tag with the kids on at a park day... The list could go on.

Fitness is more about being aware of your body and what you are doing with it through out the day. You need to constantly be aware of making your muscles work, your movements count, your energy level up and at a steady pace through out the day.

Stretching is the next best thing to a massage. It is a great pick-me-up and it will not take much time. You just have to remember and be committed to do it consistently(morning or evening are the best, refreshing times).

Those are my tips for you all...


Michelle said...

Just wanted to let you know - I'm praying many abundant blessings on you and your chatan for your wedding tomorrow, and for your marriage! I'm so happy for you guys - (and I wanna see pictures!) Congrats!

ChRlswfe4Jesus said...

Good Post. I totally can see both sides. At times it is like a cloud and you just cannot get past it to do you suggestions. At times there is this mental block and getting past it is moving a mountain. And in moving that mountain I would like to know how to do it more easily. Dawn

Millie said...

What helps me is knowing that this is where God wants me (at home with my babies), that it was MY choice to stay home with them, and that like anything else worthwhile, it's a sacrifice. Absolutely it's frustrating and hard sometimes.

I hope Mrs. C. will realize too that she is still learning to be a mom and homemaker, and that makes it even tougher at first. There's much to learn, but it gets easier with time and experience. I wish I had known that and given myself more of a break when I was a younger mother.

I would also say, find some other moms who are uplifting and positive. At church, maybe.

Catherine R. said...

I just want to say I don't blame Mrs. others have said, it is much different being a SAHM today than in the past because of decay of family lines and a general lack of support from social and cultural structures. I am pregnant with my first kid and I am going to be a SAHM. Shall I invite over my neighbors for tea; several gay men who use drugs? Doing the job of a homemaker and mother is really fighting against everything society has stacked against us since our broken world has increasingly embraced immorality over the past couple generations. Just remember that you are doing it unto the Lord and it is meaningful work, especially at this time in history. Also, do find ways to care for is important.

Anonymous said...

Hi everyone

I am very very touched at the beautiful and useful comments - thank you!

The changes to my life I will make are:

- adopt a schedule that includes more than just housework (I looked up the suggested website and gained some great ideas)
- get some exercise videos
- join the local mother's walking group I read about in the paper
- join a playgroup and attend regularly
- remember the importance of my role (big picture) instead of focussing on all the small tasks
- invite other stay at home women into my home for teas even if they don't have children
- remember that being a working mum just wasn't working and how I longed to be at home with my children
- talk with my husband about working as a team

Thank you!! everyone (and Anna) for your wonderful words, kindness and ideas - I feel invigorated! I'll be watching for any more comments as well.

Mrs. C.

Elizabeth said...

"I'm so delighted with becoming the mistress and queen of our new home, however small and modest, that right now I can't imagine ever being bored with improving it and doing lovely things for my husband ..." - how beautful, Anna! Thank you for sharing!

Karen said...

Very good advice! I know with little ones it's hard, but here's 2 magic words for you: JOGGING. STROLLER.

Also, get creative WITH the kids. Even little ones love to cook, make play-doh, play simple games, dance, etc. Fun time for yourself may be limited, but there's no reason you can't grab a little while you're "on the job".

Anonymous said...

Hello All!

I am 39, married, no kids and have always worked (still need to right now to obtain health care). I took 2 months off work a few years ago and found myself getting restless because I was simply not accustomed to being whipped through the day by never-ending tasks. It's hard to change your mind set when you are home! Think of yourself as a skilled artist and move at a slower pace as much as you can. I think we are made to feel unproductive these days if we are not going at breakneck pace. Give yourself permission to slow down and enjoy!

Robin said...

My dear, Mrs. C., I completely feel your pain! Last Monday was my last day at work, and today is my daughter's first day of homeschool. I feel like I jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire! I like that you listed out objectives for yourself. I will adopt a similar schedule. What I find most frustrating is that I have so much neglected housework because of work, taxes to complete before April 15 with lots of unfiled paperwork to sift through for documents I need to complete them, 3 children (daughter is 8, son is 5, baby boy is 8 mos.) to take care of and educate, some really bad spending habits to break, and a significantly reduced income to manage. It's all quite overwhelming!! Thanksfully, my husband is very patient. I've been keeping my eye on the big picture and praying a lot!!

Rebecca said...

I tackled my baby/toddler years with a husband in a surgery residency and the closest family 8 hours away. It was very tough. But I think the most important thing I learned was to submit to what is, not what I think ought to be. In other words, if the baby is teething and the toddler is going through a negative phase, don't plan on getting a lot done. Make a (very) short "must do" list for yourself. I would include a walk around the block with babes in tow. Then add a shower for yourself, the beds made and a healthy dinner cooked. Ask your husband for ideas. Then let everything else go until your head gets above water. Never allow yourself to become a slave to the ideal.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mrs. C,

I was touched by your frustration because it reminded me of my own just a few years ago. I also made the switch from career to staying home. Before I married my husband, I said I would never be a SAHM. ha!

While working, I hardly had time with my children. I dropped them off early in the morning, picked them up for our "quality time" on the drive home, and they'd watch a video while I was tired and cooked dinner. Then it was off to baths and perhaps a book before bed. All this just to get up and start the routine the next day. I was missing my children. I felt guilty and had many career women telling me not to feel guilty; that there is nothing wrong with persuing my own interests, defining myself outside the duties of being a wife and mother.

Coming home gave me time with my children, but it was a hard transition. I worked hard and was still tired. Even today, I don't care how many happy SAHMs try to make cleaning toilets sound glamorous, it simply is not. Nor do these tasks bring me joy. But, honestly, if you expect to find peace, contentment, and joy in mopping, doing neverending laundry, or washing yet another pile of dishes, I fear you are idealistic.

What helped me was not seeking to find joy in menial tasks, but a complete change in my perspective. I don't have to enjoy or love the jobs I mentioned above. I simply must do those because they need doing. Life is full of jobs that need doing. I'm teaching my children now that if someone is lazy, that means another person has to pick up that work. Someone has to do those jobs. Sure, I can hire someone to do them and go back to work, but that is a decision I would never make now because I view life so differently.

Everyone has to serve someone. It is a myth, I believe, that working women are these independent women, who are fulfilling their own dreams and desires. Even working women are servants, may get paid monetarily more that SAHMs, but still they are servants. Your boss wants something done, you do it. If you are the boss, you typically still are working for yet another boss, or for your customers who also have demands that need to be met. You are not an oppressed woman at home. You've just chosen to be a servant to your family, instead of other people.

While feeling particularly sorry for myself one day, that I never did anything of importance or value, a young man made a comment that helped me greatly. We are Christians and he had gone out witnessing for Christ with my husband. When they returned, I said something pathetic about how I wasn't participating in things like this, which I thought were more significant. He turned to me and said that what I was doing was far more important because if I did my job well, someday he would never have to knock on my children's doors and tell them about Christ. That really hit me. I realized then that staying home was not about the unpleasant tasks, it was about my family. Yes, I serve my husband, just as he serves me and our family by providing for us. In addition, I am the one who spends the most time shaping our children into the people they will become; their faith, their values, their character, etc. And instead of trying to find joy in joyless tasks, it was right in front of me the whole time; in my husband and children. Laugh with them, love them, play with them, teach your children, hug, kiss, dry the tears, pray with them, read to them, clean their wounds, correct their errors, praise them, help them accomplish their goals, rejoice when they succeed, cry with them when the fail and teach them how to persevere.

Turn your eyes away from all the daily things that will discourage you and turn your heart toward serving your husband and your children. Get rid of idealistic expectations. Forget expecting Mr. Wonderful to come home and praise the chores you did. When's the last time you went out and thanked your garbage man for hauling off your stinky trash? No, you expect him to do it because it's his job. There is nothing wrong with your husband expecting certain things to be done. You expect him to do his job and you take care of yours. I'm not advocating he be a tyrant, or an unthankful man. But the reality is that someone has to do the work and he trusts you to take care it. Instead of demanding he recognize this, love him when he gets home. Spend time building your relationship with him, not criticizing him because he does not appreciate all you do.

Now, when I say I don't find my happiness in the chores I do, I'm not saying to mope about them or do them with an attitude. Though those times hit all women. Instead when you have joy, you can do those chores with a happy heart and they don't weigh on you or consume you. You don't allow them to steal your joy because your life is more than that, much more.

I find that when I don't focus on serving myself, I do have time to relax or participate in my hobbies. When I focus on myself, I'm never satisfied with how much I get, I'm become discontented easily.

I hope reading about my transition will be a bit of a help to you. I would like to encourage you as a SAHM.

One more thing. I noticed other commenters suggesting getting involved in playgroups, etc. I would like to say be careful in this. My experience has taught me that the wrong group of women will make your discontment worse. There are groups of women that meet to get out of the house and let the kids play together. Then they sit around and complain about their husbands, children, and all they have to do. They feed each other's discontentment and misery. If you find yourself surrounded by women like this, consider pulling away from them. I did this in my own life. In time, I have gradually built friendships with women who are such an encouragement in life; some of the best women I've ever met. We don't spend our time complaining to each other, but trying to love and build each other up. There are times of discouragement, frustration, and sorrow in all our lives, but we try to be a blessing and help to each other through those times. If you find that your friends bring you down, make a change.

Just my thoughts. Hope you work through this transition and all the emotions that are a burden to you now.

With Love,
A Happy Stay-at-home-wife-homeschooling-mama of three kids!

Shamal said...

Thank you so much Kim From Canada. I really felt good after reading your thoughts. I was highly frustrated after leaving my 10 year wonderful career to look after my lil one.

Your post made me feel better.