Stay at Home Moms …. kill me now!

If I have ever spoken derogatively to a stay at home mom, I would like to offer my sincerest apologies.

If I have ever used a tone in my voice to make it sound like the fact that I have a job to go to (that allows me to brush my teeth and leave the house) is in any way better than your situation, please let me offer my humblest apologise.

I am working from my little corner in my house.  Each morning I wake up and get out of bed, as if I have a place to go to work.

I shower and brush my teeth simultaneously, dress, scream at kids to get ready, throw kids in car, forget something and have to go back, scream at kids for fighting in car, try to explain to Connor that I am slightly not interested in his Star Wars sticker collection ….. check that everyone is buckled in, reverse, argue with Georgia over {insert several options}, check time realise I am late …. get a bit stressed

I stick to a schedule that in my head I need to be “at the office and working” no later than 08h30.

All of this “drop off madness” goes on for about an hour.

But then I have three kids safely deposited at various schools across the northern suburbs, and I head home to make some tea, a nutella smeared sandwich and quietly (yet happily) work until about 16h40 and then I dash off to grab kids and it all begins again.

I have quiet content working time from 08h35 – 16h40.  Bliss does not even begin to hint at it.

No one is screaming.

No one is arguing.

No one needs a bum wipe.

I just get on with my day and it is all rather blissful.  I am a little worker bee content with my lot in life.  Happy. Happy. Content is me.

But then last Wednesday Isabelle was sick and stayed home.

My day descended into crying, moaning and the constant pulling of the corner of my jacket and the high pitched whine of “Mem, Mem, Mem …” in ever louder repetition (from Isabelle, not the maid, though she also calls me Mem….go figure).

Isabelle was off sick on Wednesday and Thursday.  Thursday I said that even if she has the bubonic plague she is going to school on Friday.

I don’t care if she infects every last child in her school, as long as I can have a few hours away from that incessantly whining and crying.

50 kids sick is a small price to pay for my 8 hours of peace and mental stability.

Friday arrived and she was still really sick.  I dressed her for school oblivious to the fact that she was coughing up a lung and green coloured sputum.  I just wanted her to go to her place where they make something arty with a Marie biscuit and she gets to play with her little Asian friend, and be 2km away from me.

Kennith called and said I really should not be sending her to school.

I cussed, only because he was right and I knew that the next 8 hours were going to be painful and only one of us was going to get medication.

Geez Louise!  At least I had today to send her off to school – and I think I might have hummed in happiness after I dropped them off.

I have absolutely no idea how stay at home moms cope.  I am convinced they are made from a certain mettle (not sure how to spell that, too lazy to go and google it) which I appear to have an alarming under supply of.

Stay at home moms, I seriously have no idea — like none —- how you do it, and appear to remain sane!  I don’t envy you, but I am amazed in wonder and humbleness.

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It works for me …..

There really is so much rah-rah-rah for Stay at Home moms, but there does seem to be little support for moms who choose to work.

I think the vast majority of us, have chosen to go back to work for one of two reasons.

The main motivator is financial.  The lifestyles we lead and the high costs of food from Woolworths does force us, in most cases, to be a two-income family.  Few families have the luxury of one of the parents staying at home to care for the kids.  Both parents need to be out there earning a living, else someone is going to be wearing PEP hand-me-downs and be home schooled <shudder>.

I have realized that I might belong to the second set of moms-who-work.  Those who have chosen this as an option.  I admit that I make a better mom working, than the mom I would be staying at home all day.  There is something in my DNA that makes it really difficult to remain at home with my kids (or any kids  -so do not think you can drop yours off with me).

Usually this comment illicit a response (in a slightly haughty tone) of “well, why did you choose to have them then?” My reponse:  “I chose to have kids because I like my kids, I did not choose to be with them 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

When I was pregnant the second time around, I really felt quite heart-sore that we could not afford for me to stay home with my new baby.  Kennith said, sure you can stay home, but then you need to realise there are going to be some financial sacrifices.

I figured he was alluding to the sacrifice of the full-time maid.  If I was choosing to sacrifice a virgin or my full-time maid, the virgin will lose hands down every time.  Though I lamented and beat my chest in frustration, I still was not willing to give up my maid, and decided to traipse back to work.

I did not see much point in not working at an office, so I could stay at home to do house-work, which last time I checked pays very little and basically is a shite job with little chance of promotion!

Granted I was in a fortunate position to move to a flexi-time/part-day job which gave me more time to fetch kids and be with the new baby.  At the time I did not realise that my boss was also going to start paying me late/never/sort of when he felt like it, which did not really go a long way to making me a calm and serene soul, so I left that after a year and returned to full time employment (actually to the job I have now – which I am eternally grateful for – thanks job!!).

When pregnant with Isabelle, I was so sure that I would not be returning to work.  I told the folks at the office I was coming back.  But I thought in my soul that I would want to stay at home with my little wrinkled little person more than anything else in the world.  Because I was a mature mom, and I had this entire thing sorted … yes I did.

Kennith, being wise and more philosophical about things, took one look at the situation and knew it was doubtful I would even stay home long enough to get through my maternity leave.   He knew the safest route at the time was to keep his opinions to himself.  He had learnt long ago that trying to reason with a heavily pregnant women, was just not worth the blood shed, so he held his own counsel on the subject.

Second pregnancy, I lasted 28 days at home before heading back to work.  So he was pretty sure that 4 months at home, or an indefinite stay would probably be unlikely.

But I set out to prove him wrong!!

I had tons of books to read, friends had lent me four-score-and-twenty DVD box series sets, I had my freelance work to do, I was set, I couldn ‘t fail.  I was going to juggle this baby, and my need to be a fulfilled individual.  I was even a bit smug about the entire thing.

The disappointment – the devastation – when I realized I really was not happy being home was a tad crushing to say the least.  I could not believe that I could not be happy staying in my jammies all day, feeding and burping my little cherub.  (I had also not read one book or watched one DVD, so clearly time management was a bit of an issue in my little plan for domestic domination.)

The reality was that I was not happy. I was climbing the walls, I was deeply unhappy and I had inclining that I was going to harm this baby – I was so frustrated.  I did go a little off the deep end, and found a therapist, started some meds and really was feeling it was all a bit bleak.

But then I had an “ah-hah” moment and that was “get your arse back to work! Now, do not wait another day.” I tend to listen to the voices in my head. I phoned – actually I emailed – and asked if I could come back early.  Of course they said yes, and there I was three days later at my faux-wood desk, drinking tea out of the blue Disney mug, with the sound of the factory around me and my annoying telephone ringing – it was such bliss, it made my soul so happy.

As soon as I got back to work, I no longer needed the meds and the therapy.  I was not miraculously better, but I definitely felt more hopeful and much happier than I had in weeks, and able to cope with the little things life hands us.

I was really disappointed with myself that my baby was not enough for me to stay home.  Just to be with her was not enough to keep me satisfied and sane.

I love my daughter so much that I get a little knot in my stomach when I look at her. I whisper sweet nothings into her ear when ever I see her. I love getting up in the morning to pick up her warm snuggly body out of the cot.  I love the way she nuzzles in my neck for a love.  I love the smell of her, I love putting my face against her cheek and just breathing her in. I really am obsessed with her.  But I just cannot be with her all day.

I need to work.   Working is what I do.  I find me in my work.  My work restores my sense of self, my balance in my universe.  Part of who I am is because I work.

I really am jealous of stay-at-home moms.  Not because they get to stay at home with their kids, but because they can, without going certifiably insane.

I really really wish I could.

My next hurdle is that soon I am going to have my son in Grade 4, and my daughter in Grade 1, and my other daughter in pre-school.  I think at a point not to far in the distant future, there  is going to come a time when I need to be available in the afternoons to cope with homework, extra-murals and school stuff.  Already I am finding it a bit of a challenge and that is with one in the school system.  So I am hoping that by 2012, I make another plan, but for now I get to skip off to work and be a big person.

Of clichés and “Just be happy” ………….

I am not a fan of clichés – no doubt I use them, however I do try to check myself and work them out of my language suitcase.

When I hear clichés I experience a similar sensation to that of biting wool – my personal favourites include:

  • Always look on the bright side
  • You can’t have your cake and eat it too
  • Good things come to he who waits

But the ones that really go right to the top of the list for me are:-

  • It happened for a reason ….. errrr tell that to a raped six year old girl.
  • It’s all part of God’s plan …… really, he has a plan that included the above…. really??
  • Decide to be happy….. excuse me while I go and get some more bullets for my gun!

What I am building to, so how people gloss over people’s sadness and ill feelings by passing off some meaningless cliché.  I think this is especially galling for people who are struggling with depression and “being happy” ui is not really a choice, it is an unattainable dream.

People who have not suffered from depression, think that if I plaster a smile on my face, and put a look of eagerness on my mug that things are going to just feel okay. Possibly these are the same idiots who think a migraine is a little head ache and IBS is an upset tummy.

Depression is such a feeling of despair and sadness that envelopes you each day. Its like sliding down a black hole. At some point you do hit the bottom, and then you need to start the long and painful journey of literally clawing your way out of it.

I describe it as mourning for a death that never occurred. You feel bleak and sad, and no matter how much you smile and think happy thoughts, your default position is rather black.

Socialising and relating have always been hard work for me. Initially I put it down to shyness. Social interactions can be EXHAUSTING for someone suffering from depression. It takes a huge amount of courage and energy to fake happiness and an interest in people’s small talk. You learn to wear a public face, and become rather an accomplished performer, with various interchangeable masks.

One of my favourite shows is Dexter. Dexter Morgan is a covert serial killer governed by a strict moral code who works for the Miami Metro Police Department as a blood spatter analyst. The part I can relate to in this show, is when he is doing something socially, you hear him talk to himself, giving himself instruction that he needs to “smile now” and “place his arm here” and so on.

The book is more descriptive and you get a real sense of how he play-acts to fit in and appear “normal”. I relate to Dexter, not because he has a “dark passenger” that talks to him and encourages him to go and maim and kill bad people – not so much …. However it is the way that he needs to cue himself on how to behave and react to fit in to normal society. In a social setting I have been doing that for years.

As soon as I saw Dexter, I was able to really connect with this guy. I also realize that I am feeling better because I have similarities to Dexter a fictitious serial killer … that may well need therapy at a later stage.

The other thing that was a real “light bulb” moment was doing a Myers-Briggs personality profile about three years ago.

It is a longish process, but the bottom line is that it has an introvert/extrovert quota as part of the personality profile. The I/E ratio has nothing to do with whether you like people and enjoy a good party and a great glass of wine.

What is important is where you get your energy from (I para-phrase slightly, but if you are interested in a more technical discussion pop along to http://www.myersbriggs.org/).

For me socializing especially with people I don’t know – is draining and requires the use of large stores of energy – I also put this down to depression. With the Myers-Briggs profile it basically allows for the fact that some personality types socialize well because they gain energy from it, while other personality types can socialize, but for them, it requires energy, and often leaves them drained and wanting to go and hide in a dark corner somewhere. EUREKA – get the Myers person and his/her friend Briggs a glass of wine!!!

Before I close off, I stumbled across these statistics on depression in women come from the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) which I thought were really interesting:-

  • One in four women will experience severe depression at some point in life.
  • Depression affects twice as many women as men, regardless of racial and ethnic background or income.
  • Depression is the number one cause of disability in women. (Wow that is a bit of a shocker when you see it set down like that.)
  • In general, married women experience depression more than single women do, and depression is common among young mothers who stay at home full-time with small children.
  • Women who are victims of sexual and physical abuse are at much greater risk of depression.
  • At least 90 percent of all cases of eating disorders occur in women, and there is a strong relationship between eating disorders and depression.
  • Depression can put women at risk of suicide. While more men than women die from suicide, women attempt suicide about twice as often as men do.
  • Only about one-fifth of all women who suffer from depression seek treatment.

Okay, so that is pretty much my rant on depression and my inability to be a social butterfly.

However that being said, this weekend I did manage to wear my hair like Pippa Longstocking and make it through a party and not be the first person to leave – its all about progress done in baby steps.