Staying home has been a roller coaster ride, and here are ten lessons I've learnt:
1. Your home is probably messier, but that's ok.
If you're not working full-time, you'll be staying home more often, and the same goes for the kids (that applies also for kids of working mums who have relatives or help who care for them at home). A more lived in space will naturally be a messier place. But then, memories are made too, amidst the messes right?
|How our dining table usually looks during school time (actually it looks like that most of the time!).|
Books and pencils and random scribblings litter the table. I'm learning to shut my eyes to some of their mess.
2. You'll have to spend a fair bit of time on housework.
Unless you have a stay-in helper, you'll find yourself spending quite a bit of time doing housework. A messier place needs more tidying, there's also the laundry, the cooking, the cleaning to do. While you might have stopped work to spend time with your kids, you'll find that a high percentage of time would be spent tackling chores, but that doesn't mean you are sacrificing time with the kids. Rope the kids to help out with age-appropriate chores, so that you can work side by side. I feel it's also fine to work on the chores while the kids learn to play on their own: they learn that the home doesn't get clean on its own, that their clothes don't magically appear cleaned and ironed in their wardrobes, that housework is valuable and meaningful, as it provides comfort and is an act of service to the family.
3. You can't do it all.
With Facebook highlight reels, and the media spotlighting mums who seem to "do it all", there is a tendency to want to try to do the same. I found myself trying to juggle writing this blog, updating content on the FB page, cooking, cleaning, homeschooling, caring for the kids, and working on the shop. I sacrificed on sleep, and was constantly exhausted and quite cranky. A few months back, I realized that I really can't do it all (even though I would love to!), and that we only have one life to live on earth, and 24 hours in a day. So I reduced my commitments for the shop, started planning simpler dinners on days when we were out, and made it a point to sleep enough.
These days, I sleep at 9 pm with the baby, and rise early to sort out chores or other matters. Sleeping early has helped: I don't use an hour or so at the end of the day to unwind by mindlessly scrolling through stuff on the Internet, I get enough sleep, and I keep a better grip on my temper. However, while I get enough sleep, I admit that I have very little time to do anything aside from the necessary chores. I have a whole lot less time to blog or work on home/DIY projects, but as the kids grow older, I foresee I'll find more time for those.
4. Your rewards are mostly intangible.
I think this is one of the challenges that stay-home mums face. You don't get paid, and there are no awards. The people you "work" to serve aren't exactly the most appreciative, and are usually not very co-operative, you won't get much affirmation or praise. Children are like seeds, and it takes years to grow a tree. Meanwhile, the journey might seem long, and many times you might not seem to be making any progress when it comes to the kids.
But for those who stay home, I think you know those moments that lift your heart right? The ones which are hard to pin down or capture in pictures? The time when your little one tries to control his temper, when he usually finds it hard to rein it in? The time when you see the siblings playing nicely together and not fighting? The time when you sit on the sofa, exhausted, amidst a mess of toys and blankets and cushions, and realize that home is the place you want to be? Catch these moments and store them in your heart. They might not be Facebook-able, or blog-worthy, and they sometimes are so fleeting that you can't freeze them in a picture. But these are the moments that make staying home worth it.
5. Don't compare. Or compete.
I've shared this before here. Don't compare what you do (or what your hubby or family members do) with others. If you can't do it all, then focus on your strengths and interests. Like to cook? Make good meals for the family. Enjoy crafting? Take out the paints and toilet rolls and get messy with the kids. We aren't Martha Stewart (who has a team of designers, photographers and stylists anyway!), so just do what you love, and don't try to be someone you're not.
6. Staying home doesn't rot your brain.
I've had people tell me they can't stay home because they'll be bored. On the contrary, I've never learnt so much in my life: I've learnt to cook (before I became a mum, my repertoire was restricted to spaghetti bolognese and instant noodles, but now I've widened it to a way more varied selection!), I apply science principles to housework, I get to read so many books in a day. I used to only know 4 different dinosaurs, but now I know more than 30. I'm still learning how to equip my kids with skills and the love for learning, and I'm learning how to be a better mum. You won't be bored, since the kids will make sure they'll keep you busy and on your toes!
7. Neither does it dull your social life.
You are not stuck in the workplace, so you get to go out any time of the day! (Sort of that is, except nap times for us.) The kids are out half the time, and I get to catch up with good friends every week. Being a stay home mum does not mean you have to stay home all.the.time. And for those friends that I don't get to meet up, there's always the phone or Watsapp. I found that staying home actually makes me more pro-active about meeting and making friends. At work, you have your colleagues to hang out with, but if you stay home, you need to take the initiative to meet up or connect with others.
|Lil J at the zoo, observing a mother cichlid and her fry.|
We get to go on so many more outings together compared to if I was working.
8. Me-time can be a luxury, sometimes.
I've learnt that me-time is important, because us mums are humans, and also need time to ourselves. However, me-time can be a luxury in certain seasons in life: when the kids are sick, when you are taking care of younger kids, when you don't get much help from family. While I'd encourage every mum to get some me-time to recharge, I always remind myself that me-time just has to be sacrificed sometimes, and isn't something I should be whining, or feeling bitter about.
9. It can be a challenge for introverts.
The greatest challenge for me wasn't the loss of income, or the feeling like I didn't matter. It was the constant noise and being around the kids non-stop, where you just couldn't get a moment to yourself. Since we homeschool, I more or less don't get a break from the kids unless the hubs or my dad takes them out, and even those times alone are spent cooking or doing housework. There was little time away from the kids or family, and I found that exhausting as an introvert who needed time alone. Staying home can be a double-edged sword: the introverts might enjoy more time home, but find the non-stop noise from the kids grating, while the extroverts might like the freedom to head out more, but chafe at being stuck home with less adult interaction.
For my case, I learnt that I start to get really cranky if I don't get those short breaks away from the kids. So my dad tries to bring them to the playground in the evenings so I can cook in sweet silence, without having to carry a baby or break up yet another fight, while the hubby tries to give me a short break during the weekends. If you are an introvert and find staying home tiring from all the time with the kids, do rope your family or friends in to give you that short break! (Even if it is for you to fold the clothes in peace.)
10. Your husband's support, and words matter. Very very much.
Unless you stay with other family members, your hubby would be the main adult you would be chatting with at the end of the day. So what he says would matter very much! (Hubbies, please note, and mums, send this to your hubby so he can take note! This applies to working mums too of course.)
At the end of the day, positive and encouraging words from the hubby mean a lot, simply because we spend most of our time just dealing with the kids and hear little affirmation for what we do. Some appreciation goes a long long way, and after a tiring day dealing with fights and tantrums, negative comments can hurt really deeply. And husbands, actions speak louder than words, so chip in with the dishes or housework if you can!
I guess I decided to reflect on my journey staying home with the kids, after hearing some friends ponder about whether to stay home. It is not easy, it is exhausting and many a times frustrating, but I really thank God for this privilege, since not everyone gets to stay home and have a supportive hubby on that decision. While I still sometimes bemoan the loss of time away from the kids, there are no regrets!
PS: You can read our 10 tips on how to survive being a SAHM here.
PS: You can read our 10 tips on how to survive being a SAHM here.
PPS: I have a deep respect for working mums, and how they manage to juggle both work and family. It is not easy balancing both! This post was written to share openly about the challenges and advantages of staying home, and not meant to put down mums who are working, or suggest that staying home is the best way.