I Thought I May Deal with Being a Keep-At-Dwelling-Mother. LOLOL
Before I had children, I was convinced that I would be a great home mom. “How hard could it be?” I was wondering when I got pregnant with my first child. After practicing commercial litigation for a renowned international law firm for almost seven years, dueling in court, accepting and defending affidavits, quarreling demanding clients, playing law firms and turning himself upside down with opponents for over 60 hours a week it sounded like a no-brainer to be a SAHM.
Cue hysterical, uncontrollable laughter.
Boy was I wrong
Being SAHM was the toughest job I’ve ever had. When my daughter was 9 months old, I just felt like, “Yeah baby I did!” I found out that I am pregnant with my son. (PSA: You can actually get pregnant while breastfeeding, regardless of what your husband wants to believe.) In less time than it used to take me to solve a big case, I was exhausted from a high-profile attorney in pencil skirts and heels to one Mother of two under two years of age who was covered with unknown body fluids at all times.
Two years after I turned in my lawyer card to support my family, I realized I wasn’t happy. Chasing one child to make sure it didn’t kill the other while simultaneously feeding, cleaning, and entertaining both tiny people, trying to be a housewife and – oh, yes – wife, had dampened my identity. I was completely lost in motherhood. I had nothing that was mine except to be “mom” and “wife”.
Although I was afraid that people would think I was ungrateful, or worse, that I wouldn’t love my kids, I ended up admitting out loud that I wanted to go back to work – no, I had to.
I settled in with a home-based company and ended up doing lawyers again in an office. My kids got to school and my brain started shooting in ways I didn’t know I missed. I felt successful and driven. I found myself again.
Then March 2020 happened.
I was suddenly forced back into the role of SAHM under the weight of a deadly pandemic that closed offices and schools around the world. Although my husband was at home with us, the difficult task of keeping our homes in order and feeding our children naturally fell on me. Sigh.
Every weekday morning, I drew all my ounce of willpower from every part of my body to make distance learning fun and interesting for my 6 year old, who was throwing himself on the floor every moment and moaning about how boring I am. I also received periodic interruptions from my 7-year-old who insisted that her math problem “doesn’t make sense” (it always made sense, by the way, and that comes from an illiterate math attorney) or announced to her brother and me that it wouldn’t distract him from his homework. . . and distracted him from his schoolwork with this announcement. Sigh.
When that tingling fun was over and “school” was over, I climbed onto my creaky desk stool to log into my laptop to take care of lawyers. At 5:30 p.m. I stuffed my face with cheese, crackers, and chardonnay in between chopping and searing dinner or, when it was my husband’s turn to cook, I’d do the cheese-cracker-chardonnay filling before an HGTV marathon “Hometown”. Sometimes I would fold laundry in the quiet retreat of my bedroom for pleasure. Sigh.
Passed out, I know.
I was quick to admit that I felt trapped. Trapped to be a teacher, cook, cleaning lady and everything repairer – and mother and wife at that – all at once. I’ve lost the momentum to pursue my goals and dreams. I felt overwhelmed and a burnout that I couldn’t shake off.
Did you ever feel this way to be a mother during the pandemic? Rest assured, you are not alone. Far from it, in fact; Around 10 million working mothers are currently struggling with burnout. While some people might say we should get used to it by now, I say it’s okay if you aren’t. The good news is that you can absolutely regain your footing. The following worked for me:
Make a conscious plan.
The first person I opened up to about my struggle was my husband. Having walked this path as a SAHM before, this time I knew better than to pretend I could do it all on my own. My strategy? Brutal and absolute honesty.
I openly confessed my misery to him. I never signed up as a primary school teacher. Most of us don’t. And I don’t know about you, but I’m not great at it. I needed my husband’s help in organizing my children’s schooling, especially when it came to our youngest children.
So we made a conscious plan. I took Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and he took Tuesdays and Thursdays. This division made all the difference – for all of us. The energy I gained from taking a step back to do something for myself, even if it was work, overflowed into everything else I did. And to everyone’s delight, my patience returned.
If your partner doesn’t have the flexibility to help you at work, or if you are raising alone, rely on someone outside your home whenever possible. From extended families to neighbors and friends, there are people in your life who want to help you. Don’t martyr yourself or, worse, don’t believe in the lie that you are a burden. Women love to help other women; most of us just have to ask. So ask.
Give up the blame.
It’s so easy to buy yourself into mother’s debt when your kids are with you and you might wish they weren’t. I found myself wandering through feelings of resentment as my kids pulled me away from what I was working on, followed by intense feelings of guilt for not having the patience (or desire) to have them on my face for hours, and then back to grudge again.
At some point I realized that my mother’s guilt didn’t make me a better mother. You know what? Acknowledge that it’s hard being home with kids and not apologize if I take a certain amount of time to work on my own passions. It’s okay to have goals and dreams outside of your role as a mom, and it’s okay to want to work on them – even if that means asking someone else if they can’t find their letter tiles or dry-erase markers can. That doesn’t make you “less” a mother. It makes you human.
Let it all out.
As mothers, we tend to put so much pressure on ourselves that we always stay “together”. The truth is it’s okay to cry. Getting upset about yourself for crying is like berating yourself for having to pee. Of course there is a time and a place for everything. I don’t run around the clock, regardless of my surroundings, and I don’t fall to pieces in front of my children at every turn.
But I don’t hold onto it either. Being at home with children is difficult. When I have to let go of the tears, I give myself this release. I give free rein to my best friends and my husband. I don’t care how I sound or how completely “disjointed” I seem. I have to get it out – and so do you. It may look ugly for a hot minute, but you’ll feel so much better afterward. I guarantee it.
Remember to do your best. (Of course you are! You didn’t wake up today and thought up all the ways you could be mediocre! Come on.) Being a working mom isn’t easy, but it does mean you can teach your kids to deal with adversity to deal with; how to show up; how to pursue your dreams and destroy your goals; and how to get up again if they come up short.
Be nice to you Give yourself grace while you are at home with your children. You are a great mom. And you totally did.
Nikki Oden is the founder of Your Ideal Mom Life and host of the Love Your Mom Life podcast. She teaches working mothers how to make their day and crush their goals without the mother’s fault. She is also an attorney, happy wife, mother of two, and the creator of the Super Mom Starter Guide. Download it for FREE to learn the three things all moms who rock it know know!