My sister had her first baby a few months ago, she sent me a text message recently asking a question that took me back five years to when I had my first baby. It prompted a memory reel in my mind…of being stuck on the couch every day watching ‘Dr Quinn Medicine Woman’ while my tiny baby slept soundly on my chest…for hours. After Dr Quinn it was ‘7th Heaven’ and when that season ended I watched an entire season of ‘Touched by an Angel’. I spent many hours on the couch in my pj’s stuck under a sleeping baby, for many weeks, and even months.
I remember thinking;
“Am I going to spend the rest of my parenting life here on this couch? Will I ever get out of my pj’s before 1pm? Am I destined to life inside my house until my child starts school? Will I ever shave my legs again?!”
Fast forward to now – two children and another on the way – five years of being a stay at home mum – and her question is still something I grapple with at different times and in different seasons of parenting.
My sister asked me: “What do I ‘do’ now?”
She wasn’t asking me to answer what she does in a day now that she is a mother – if we wrote down all that we actually physically accomplished we’d be mind blown. She was asking me “How do I survive now – how do I do this ‘being at home’ thing?”
I don’t believe she’s alone in asking that question either. If I’m honest I wouldn’t be surprised if a large percentage of women who return to paid work do so because ‘being at home’ is actually a really tough gig. Take the kindergarten teacher I spoke to a few months ago. She returned to full time work directing a kindergarten when her baby was ten months old because she found it “too difficult to be at home full time”. Or the admin assistant at my Husband’s work who has to take her children to child care at 7am in order to be at work on time and picks them up at 6pm, every day, because she too finds life at home too frustrating, too isolating.
I get it. I really do. After years in the paid work force I understand how difficult it can be to find yourself stuck on the couch in your pj’s all day with a tiny human glued to you for hours while your life seems to be passing by around you – or at least – everyone else’s life on social media makes it seem that way!
I think we live in a society that undermines the mother who stays home to care for her children. There. I said it. I think society tells us we aren’t useful or worthy unless we’re earning dollars in the paid work force, or that we aren’t successful unless we manage to hold down a job while wearing the motherhood hat as well. Or if we have decided to be at home with our littles we really must be involved in some sort of group or hobby… what do you do with all that time unless you’re serving in some volunteer organisation and making cupcakes for fundraisers? Surely you can’t be happy just, sitting on the couch in your pj’s…can you?
I think the answer looks different for each of us. I think we each find the balance that helps us maintain our best selves for our family, for some this is returning to paid work, for others it’s slugging out the every day at home while embracing the glamorously mundane that forms part of the life of a stay at home mum.
I want to encourage you…I’ve been a stay at home mum for five years and it is actually do-able! If you’re happy to pee in front of an audience and lack adult conversation for extended periods until your spouse walks through the door, it’s totally awesome. In all honesty, childcare just wasn’t an option for our family and so I had to learn how to ‘be’ at home, I’ve read many blogs, spoken to lots of different mums and I’m convinced of this one thing…being at home with small children for any period of time is tiring, relentless, and largely thankless – but if you find the balance that’s right for you it is the most rewarding, wonderful, spirit enriching and satisfying job in the world.
I wanted to pass on some wisdom from my mama tribe – I asked them the question:
“How do you ‘be’ at home – what keeps you sane while navigating the days, weeks, and months of early motherhood?”
I share their answers with you here in the hopes that it may encourage you and give you a resource to draw on when you feel you need it. Enjoy.
Katie – mother of 2
“I would say, give baby all you can in the way that you believe is the best for bub, but also give yourself care…emotionally, physically, mentally. There are new adjustments to self-care in motherhood… For me, taking baby for a walk in the pram helped clear the ‘fog’. Also things like, having a bath with bub, having a tea outside while baby naps.”
Marley – mother of 4
“Being connected to other mums was a huge normaliser for me…weekly library baby rhyme time was my first connection point to make friends with other mums in the same position, therefore I didn’t feel as isolated. Also I walked a lot with baby.”
Kelly – mother of 2
“’Be seen” is a biggie for me at home. I want my husband to tell me I’m doing a good job. I tell him the good (and bad) stuff that happened during the day and the chores I got done. I remind him to tell me I’m awesome when he forgets. And connect with other mums, that was a new thing for me, but it really helps.”
Jill – mother of 1
“Spending time with other mums is the BIGGEST savior! Before I actually met other mums my coping mechanism was walking. Strap the baby in a carrier or pram and walk and walk and walk. You can be in the worst mood but if you go out into the fresh air and walk you feel so much more hopeful and positive”
Terri – mother of 2
“Connecting with like minded mums was probably the only thing that kept me sane in the first year.”
Fern – mother of 1
“Keep trying activities and mums groups until you find the right mums for you. There are so many if you look, but you need to find mums with similar parenting opinions as yours. Some mums you just have to walk away from but you’ll find your tribe of mums.”
Sarah – mother of 1
“Go easy on yourself and realise that everyone feels what you’re feeling. Meet new mamas but also call upon those people who are already in your life to be a support. Oh and I think it’s helpful to remember that work will always be there but our babies are tiny for such a small amount of time, you have to relish it while it’s happening. Once I realised this I found it much easier to let the work driven part of me go a bit more for a time.”
Mari – mother of 1
“Definitely find your mum tribe – get out to activities. Talk to your partner about the good and the bad – sometimes they just don’t realise. Another thing is to be selfish with your mental health – do things that you enjoy rather than forcing yourself to do what’s expected. It has helped me prioritize to think of bub as my main job and the rest of the stuff as not so important. Also NAP – do not feel guilty for napping!”
Missy – mother of 1
“If you’re breastfeeding know that it is normal to spend A LOT of time sitting on the couch with your boobs out in the first 6 or so weeks. Just embrace it and don’t even bother wearing a top! Though be sure to keep the blinds shut to avoid awkward encounters with postal workers…I also found it hard to transition my mind from the satisfaction and sense of purpose/accomplishment I received from my pre-baby job until I realised that ‘this’ was my job now and I am happy with it. It sounds simple but it took me a bit to click and once I did it changed how I viewed our day and the success/rewards and learnings taken from each day”
Eliser – mother of 3
“The hardest thing is surrender. Going from a structured work life to no structure at all. Swallow that pride & say yes to help! Yes to meals, yes to help with housework, yes to someone else cuddling your baby while you take a bath/shower and/or toilet. Don’t feel bad for never getting out of those pj’s, find a good TV series to watch while you ease into breastfeeding & sleepless nights. Exercise, is a winner! Small walks are enough to shift a mood, good for your body, mind & soul. And like the others have said don’t be afraid to try lots of different mums & bubs activities until you find your fit, your tribe. Block out some you time every now & again, even if it’s just a solo walk around the block or a quiet cuppa on your own.”
Winnie – mother of 1
“I found just getting out of the house gave us an easier day than staying home. Even if we just went to the shops, I wasn’t trying to “get stuff done” which I would be when we were at home. Out and about I would focus on bub more, and he would be happier (and therefore I was, too).”
Dani – mother of 2
“I read a blog once that talked about living slower…having little expectation of the day and if necessary setting just 1 goal to accomplish if that made you feel better (this could be as simple as cutting the baby/toddler’s finger nails!). I felt changing my mental focus to living a slower, more relaxed lifestyle was the key to feeling rested and at peace with ‘being at home’. All these years later I still remind myself to slow down, nothing is as important as the connection between my children and I, and if that connection is still close and positive by day’s end, I’ve done my job well for that day…and I’ve learnt that that, is enough”
Be encouraged dear Mama, you are doing a wonderful job.
This guest post is by Dani Avery, a mama from Queensland, Australia. She is the mum of two boys and her third baby is ‘due’ this week. You can connect with Dani on her Instagram page here
If you are needing support and connection with other mums, you may enjoy our Parenting by Heart Mummy Meetups. Check these out here or have a look at Pinky’s book Parenting by Heart for practical information about baby care and baby development, along with coping strategies to support you through your baby’s first year.