…was the gist of a blog entry I read the other day from a lady who was a married, working mom who spent a couple of days as a stay-at-home ‘single mom’ when her husband was away somewhere for the weekend.
Now I’m not going to point a judgmental finger today or say, “Well – you just try being a single mom all the time lady.” Because, lucky for her and her child, she’s not found herself in that awful position. She has a husband who, from what she was writing, is a very helpful and actively involved father. Good.
“I can’t take it anymore” lady had been driven to the brink of insanity and into the depths of utter exhaustion by spending the weekend alone with her one year old son. And today I’m taking the time to say: “I can’t take it anymore” lady: It’s not your fault.
“I can’t take it anymore” lady felt like a total failure of a parent for not being able to handle her kid by herself. But the truth is – none of us should have to handle under fives for hours and hours upon end in utter isolation. It’s not the way things were set up originally.
Now I’m not saying everyone should shuffle themselves off into corporate cubicles and employ full time live-in nannys. What I’m saying is that before the time of the invention of deodorant, the raising of a child used to be much more of a tribal event. And that’s the way it supposed to be. Half way through the last century we started to forget that. And then these poor women who are left at home alone and unsupported looking after these kids all day long wonder why they are going insane. Yes – I know there are lots of SAHMs who take it all in their stride and don’t ever have a melt down moment. Good for them! Some women are also brave enough to serve in the military – guess what – they are in the minority. I think the majority of stay at home moms are probably secretly driven to the brink everyday and can’t figure out why. “It’s supposed to be this way.” They think: “It’s the most natural thing in the world for a woman to stay at home and tend to her children so why am I going crazy? Why am I so exhausted? Why am I considering going back to my law job? This was supposed to be fun…”
You are going crazy because, yes, though it is the most wonderful and natural thing to be able to stay at home with your children and raise them – you are not supposed to have to do it for 10 hours straight ALL BY YOURSELF. That’s right. It’s too hard. Back in the day when the raising of a child was more of a tribal affair there might be as many as three women in the home raising the kids: mom, grandma, ma in law. And next door or two doors down lived your sister; over the road was your cousin. A short stroller ride away was your best friend. There were more people around. These days we all live 12 states away from our parents and the other side of the Atlantic from our siblings. Our best friends live half an hour’s drive away. You know what I’m going to say – there’s no community anymore and that leaves women looking after their children all day in utter isolation. And that’s not a natural way to live – it’s too hard.
As you know I’ve been a single mom since Finn was 8 weeks old and have no family in the area. The wonderful friends I do have don’t live that near (no one lives near to anyone in LA) and they don’t have kids. So up until quite recently I was functioning as an isolated unit most of the time. And I have to say – as much as I adored my baby from day one – it definitely took the shine off the whole the parenting experience. I only know this in hindsight as these days I rarely spend anytime with Finn alone. BB is normally here in the mix. And having him around makes parenting the delight I always knew it was supposed to be. Not because I do less work or am less engaged with my son but because if I need to take two minutes to go the bathroom, or I fancy drinking a cup of tea, there’s no issue and if Finn throws a fit or does something heart-meltingly cute there’s someone else around to talk to about it.
Stay at home parenting is so hard because of lack of community. Women need other people around them. 10 hours alone with an under five is just too hard. I’m not saying we should all move in with our mother in laws; I don’t really know what the solution is. But what I am saying today is: I hear you “I can’t take it anymore” lady and please don’t beat yourself up any longer over it or think of yourself as unsuited to parenting. That weekend you were stuck in a situation that wasn’t supposed to happen.
If ever I find myself in the position of being able to stay at home with my kids I think I’m going to have to remember how important it is to create a strong community around me. I’ve seen it happen outside of big cities so I know it can be done. I remember when I was a kid my mother had a constant stream of friends, neighbors and relatives dropping round and we were always out shopping or visiting one of the many friends, neighbors or relatives. I think that’s the easier way to do it.
So stay at home moms – I take this day to salute you and to remind you that if you are finding the battle too intense, get out and make some strong bonds with other mothers. They are probably as desperate for adult interaction as you are. If you are lucky enough to have relatives around, as annoying as they may be – go hang out with them – drink a full cup of coffee safe in the knowledge that you’ll be allotted the time to pee it out later.
For it is my belief that every woman in this great land should have the freedom to visit the bathroom whenever she needs to.
SAHMs would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.