Friday, July 24, 2009

At home and not happy

This is the title of an article in this month's Adelaide's Child magazine (and therefore I presume also in Sydney's Child, Melbourne's child, etc).

One disappointing thing about these magazines is that they do not provide copies on the internet (it's a free magazine, so one wonders why not? and they don't even have an email address to send this suggestion to!). So sadly I cannot give you a link to the article, but hope instead that if you are a parent, you are able to get your hands on a copy.

This article At Home and Not Happy, written by Mary Kirby, really stood out to me, mainly because of the honesty in her writing:
I am sick of motherhood. Completely sick of it. More accurately, I am completely sick of stay-at-home motherhood.

I have two children, a three-year old boy and a 15-month old girl, and I laugh bitterly at that oft-proffered advice to 'enjoy the pre-school years because they're gone before you know it'. In my past life, nobody ever felt the need to advise me to enjoy something. If an activity was enjoyable, I simply enjoyed it, without making a conscious decision to do so. The fact that when it comes to raising children, people feel the need to remind you to 'enjoy yourself', validates my experience that parenting toddlers full-time is filled with many more moments of frustration, boredom, self-doubt and resentfulness than periods of unbridled pleasure.
She goes on to make a number of comments about the division of labour in the home when mothers stay home and also about how if her husband does anything at all for the children, he is immediately labelled a 'great father' where she does the same things and more all the time. She ends with:
I don't want to write an article that complains about the burdens of being a stay-at-home parent, but ends with a declaration of how much I love my children, or how stressful it was at the time, but now we all look back on it and laugh, in order to reassure people that despite the difficulties, parenting is a noble and worthwhile pursuit. Perhaps one day I will look back of the toddler years with fond memories of my children's innocence, and chastise myself for not enjoying these fleeting years more. However, here in the midst of toddler-land, I'm finding lots of aspects of being a stay-at-home parent very tough, and I want to be honest about this so that anyone else with similar thoughts knows that they're not alone.

In many ways, I am thankful for her honesty in this article, she echoed thoughts I have had and I know friends have had. We have chosen to be mums-at-home, but we struggle with it - because it is hard, hard work, unrecognised by many and unappreciated by the little ones we care for.

However, it also concerns me. I hope her children never read the article when they are older, and it is not complementary about her husband, mother or mother-in-law either. The way she finishes also raises questions - surely she does love her children, and that makes much of what she does worthwhile. And the points she makes at the end, are often the point - it will pass and you do love them.

So, it made me think - for those of us who are mums of young kids, or those who have passed this stage, but remember it clearly - what helps you to keep on going??

Here are some thoughts (or some things that have worked for me at times):

1. Remember the grace of God. God loves us, he cares for us and he strengthens us. He loves our children and he has given them to us as a precious gift for a short period of time.

2. Remember how you would feel if you did not have your children (or for those for whom conception was difficult, remember that grief) and thank God for them. Many women grieve the loss of children, through miscarriage, stillbirth, infertility or the lack of opportunity - and would happily trade your daily drudgery for their pain.

3. Be open with others. I have found opening up with close friends (especially those whom will pray) about the challenges I face as a mother has helped me many times.

4. While it seems like forever in the middle of it, remember that this, like everything is another season of life, and it will pass.

5. Remind yourself that your goal is to see them mature and grown, both in Christ and as responsible adults - and that takes time, a lot of time! We are not there yet, we cannot expect more of little ones.

6. No amount of dissatisfaction or discontentment with being a mother is an excuse for sin. We are still to be self-controlled, gentle, loving, kind and patient. (And if you are like me, to pray daily for it!)

7. Some practical things I have found helpful:
- when the children are really bothering you, get out a camera and try to take photos. Babies are usually photogenic and even a screaming photo is worth having to show them later! Older kids often like to pose and smile for the camera. It can break the bad mood feeling as you have fun smiling for the camera together.
- more seriously, and related to #2 above, when you are up in the middle of the night (again) and are exhausted and want to sleep - pray for friends who are trying to conceive, knowing that they long to be up in the middle of the night holding their child.
- if you are listening to crying (again) and trying to get a baby to sleep (again) - be thankful that you know where they are and that they are safe. It's very likely that in their teen years you will long for them to be home and safe in bed at night.

Do you have any other suggestions?


Amy SUN said...

You are a copious writer.

I read your blog ‘Angry mummy’ posted on April 17, 2009 as well. They made me think that I should be a better mummy.

I have one four-year old boy and he started his pre-school this week. I am sometimes mad with him when he is really bothering me. I realized that I should hold my temper. It’s a big challenge for me. Now I know I am not alone. I pray that God may give me the grace to make me a gentle mummy.


Wendy said...


Just a few things I wanted to write about this week, that's all! It will slow down, be assured.

I think we all need to pray for God's grace in this area - I know I do!


Pip said...

Sounds an interesting article.
I was struck by your comment that mums staying at home do work that is unappreciated by the children - will be thinking about that one this week and might need to adjust my expectations a bit.

I was greatly encouraged by Leslie Ramsey's talk on motherhood when she said that it is the little conversations that happen between a parent and a child - often just about daily life that allow you to teach your child about God.