“Mine, mine! I can’t manage to read anything … Aurora takes all my time… and there are moments when she does only what she wants! … she gets upset with me if I scold her and she would not talk to me anymore.” This is a fragment from the Skype message written by a friend who is the mother of a 2 years old baby girl. She took up studying for a new degree while being a stay at home mother.
Before becoming a mother myself, I used to think that mothers must have so much fun in the world of games and toys of their kids. I am now discovering the journey of motherhood – the reality of a stay at home mom. This is what I wanted to do for the first few years of my baby’s life. I had waited for such a long time to have a baby that I just didn’t want to miss anything that my little one is doing.
Leaving aside the expectation of having loads of fun, I had no other expectations about how my life would be. There are articles that build up the expectations of being a stay at home mother and that discuss whether it is healthier for the baby if the mother stays at home or gets back to work but in the end, it all boils down to what each mother wants to do (http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/owning-pink/201111/do-working-moms-raise-healthier-kids, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/adventures-in-old-age/201105/are-stay-home-moms-happier, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/one-true-thing/201009/candy-band-stay-home-moms-who-rock). I didn’t live up to my boss’ expectations when I extended my maternity leave. The most important aspect for my decision was that I was fully convinced that I am ready to embrace the role of a mother.
It’s been one year now when I haven’t slept an entire night. If I am lucky, I sleep for four consecutive hours. The day that follows, I find the creative energy to invent games to play together with my baby, which makes me very happy. If I am less lucky, the little one wakes me up every half an hour. The following day, the toys spread on the floor are but an annoyance. The scarce energy that I possess is saved for feeding and changing diapers, and I feel I am not a good mother for not being able to offer him more.
And there are days when the little one gets sick. On those kind of days, he is glued to me and I wish I was a kangaroo so that I could carry him in my marsupium.The whining is omnipresent in our apartment, which feels smaller than its actual size. More than ever, he cries to get what he wants.
Had my friend communicated her frustration one year ago, I would have probably thought, “Why is she complaining that she dedicates all the time to her baby?”. But now, I feel for her. In addition to frustration, I usually get lost in the pitfall of impatience with the baby, irritation with my family and bitterness with the world.
Why didn’t anyone tell me about this aspect of motherhood? The day progresses slowly while I am having a constant inner fight between what I need to do in the house and what my baby wants me to do. How can I manage this inner tension, which nests in me every week?
Let the baby cry while I proceed with the housekeeping duties? Tempted, but no.
Change my goals for the day? Yes, yes, yes! I put on hold my housewife duties so that I can prioritise the baby’s needs. Still, I have to admit that it is easier to make this choice than to actually implement it. And that’s the challenge of a stay at home mother – the inner struggle to get out of the pitfall with negative emotions. What it usually works for me is to write a few words to a friend, another stay at home mother who can sympathise.
I sometimes laugh at my naiveté to ever think that when you become a mother, you step into the land of never ending happiness. On the contrary, according to my experience, motherhood amplifies the weakest aspects of yourself. Sad examples are the new mothers who can be affected by post natal depression or, a more severe type of illness, puerperal psychosis. Statistics say that 20% of new mothers are affected by post natal depression and 1 in 1000 mothers can be affected by puerperal psychosis (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-14011669).
I have not suffered of PND nor puerperal psychosis but I do feel that my mind is more unstable than what it used to be. Even in days which I think they are good, there are moments when I find myself experiencing panic attacks. The adorable smile of the baby is not enough to bring back the required energy to carry on with the day.
When the mind restores its balance, I become aware of the space that has opened up in me. I assume that it happened when I was fighting my negative emotions but after all, it does not matter when or how it happened. What counts is the discovery of a new territory in myself. In this new space, I feel in touch with myself, more than ever before. I feel strong and bathed in a peaceful energy which springs from the reservoir of pure and unconditional love.
My mind and soul are free of personal limitations – at least for a day. The journey of motherhood continues at another level now – the level where resides the acceptance of my imperfections. There are still many fights to be carried on at this level, fights between the newly acquired awareness and my personal weaknesses.
When the personal weaknesses wins, I’ll say to myself, “This too shall pass and all that counts is that my baby is healthy!”. Furthermore, it may help to write on a post it note, “It’s up to you, woman, to get back in balance, so find a way, be creative!”. I will stick it to the fridge or to the baby’s crib to read it when shit hits the fan.