Tuesday, March 12, 2013

JUST a Stay at Home Mum

For years now, I’ve bought into the idea that it’s somehow a bad thing to be just a stay-at-home mother. Since O was very small, I’ve piled myself up with extra activities, convinced by the childless and the naysayers that I wasn’t doing enough if I just enjoyed being a Mummy to my child. I gave in to social stigma, ignoring warnings from doctors and family, convinced that I was a superwoman with the power to do it all.
I tried to be her. Turns out I was going the wrong way about it.

When O was tiny, I worked at a local business doing payroll and administrative tasks, before finding I wasn’t handling the pressure of having to be dressed like a human and out of the house three times a week. Then, I took on a Certificate in Business Administration, because I was told it would be valuable. I involved myself in small jobs here and there, telling myself that it would be good for O to have a mummy who was making something of herself. All the time, I was neglecting O, who was relegated to daycare, and sending my body and mind into a turmoil of exhaustion and depression and feeling awful for being ‘not enough’.

I have to interject here that I love, and always have loved, my daughter. She has never gone without anything, and has always been my gorgeous baby. Neglect probably isn't the best word, but it fits.

Just after O turned one, my boyfriend at the time convinced me to start a photography business. He told me he would help me with setup costs, and that I needed to do something more than being ‘just a mum’. I began this business in 2010, working hard to produce images my clients would love. It worked reasonably well for me, I loved the work. But all the time my house was turning into a disaster, and I was getting more and more tired and overwhelmed. I lived alone with a small child, just mobile enough to create a disaster zone and the split focus of mothering, housekeeping and work was sinking me further into the pit. But still I slogged on.

When I moved in with said boyfriend, the pressure to succeed got greater. He figured he had started his own business at 21, why couldn’t I manage? It was hard not living up to his expectations, so I pushed harder. I was with O as much as I could be, and when I wasn’t I was working or cleaning the house, constantly falling down on one count or the other, because it was just too much. At the same time, I was completing a certificate in adult training and education, teaching photography and computer skills classes three times a week and increasingly becoming the shoulder that friends leaned on when things got tough. I did all of this with a smile on my face. At the time, if I complained of exhaustion or misery, boyfriend would admonish me and I finally stopped complaining, my dissatisfaction instead eating at me. He didn’t clean or cook, that was all up to me, as was parenting of O. After all, why should he do anything? I was living in his house (paying an exorbitant amount of ‘board’ as well as food and bills) and he had helped me start my business, so I should show my gratitude by looking after him. And O wasn’t his, she was my responsibility. I told myself all of this, knowing that was the prevailing attitude in my house.

In late 2011, convinced that my dissatisfaction was due to a hole in my life, I took on a university degree. I’ve always wanted to be a counsellor and began studying Social Work full-time, adding further pressure to each day. Pretty simultaneously, I came to the realisation that I wasn’t happy where I was. In fact, I’d been backed against a wall for months, pushing myself to the limit to satisfy someone I didn’t particularly like much anymore, and probably hadn’t in a very long time. Someone who seemed to derive power from my tears, exhaustion and misery. During my first semester break, I made the decision to leave, and on Boxing Day 2011, O and I moved in with some close friends who had a spare room in their share house situation.
Just after leaving. Happiest we'd both been in a LONG time!

Since then, I have met and married (in rapid succession) my soul mate, B. Every day, he reinforces with me that I’m pushing too hard, that my responsibility is to look after myself, my child, my family and my home. I’ve pulled back from my business a lot in the past year, and at the end of March I’ll be closing operations entirely for an indefinite period. I’ve finally been diagnosed with the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome that I’ve undoubtedly had for several years now. I’ve been through several small jobs, but have left them all when my limit has been reached. I’m appreciating my daughter more with each day that I allow myself to be her mum and to feel the joy of that privileged position. Today, I applied for leave from university. I plan to use my credits to fast-track a TAFE certificate in Counselling in my own time. I never wanted to be a Social Worker, and I’m learning to accept ‘good enough’.
This guy... he saved me.

I still push myself a little too hard most days, but I’m learning. These days, I listen to the people who tell me how important my role as a mother is, rather than worrying about being just a mum. I laugh with my kids. I enjoy my husband (mostly). I commit to my friends, but I’m learning to say ‘no’ when I just can’t cope or when their issues are impacting on me and my family too much. I’m not running away from my life anymore, I’m accepting that the role I can’t escape is my most important.

Yes, I’m just a stay-at-home mum. But you know what? I couldn’t be happier.
How could this ever not be enough?

It's Tuesday, guys. Therefore, I Blog on Tuesdays with Essentially Jess


  1. Oh what a story! I'm so sorry your ex partner was not supportive. It is hard enough without our nearest and dearest putting extra expectations on our shoulders :-(

  2. I'm totally envious and proud of you at the same time. There is nothing more awesome than being a SAHM if you want. We are expected to do everything but I think it's a crock. We can't have it all if we want to stay sane and not be cranky moles! I'm SO happy you left a bad situation and found your soulmate - best outcome ever! Emily x

  3. Glad you got out of the situation with your ex, and found your Mr. Right! I'm, like you, working to put the important things first, and forget about the details. For me, as a mum, I have worked outside the house, but that is just "details". Being a mum is the important thing for me right now.

  4. So glad you got to this place eventually. I personally believe being 'just' a mum is the greatest thing a person can ever do.
    So nice to hear a story with a happy ending xxx

  5. How wonderful you were able to make that break and then to find your soul mate! Take care of yourself and your beautiful family, CFS is really tough to cope with at times from what I have seen. #teamIBOT