Monday, March 7, 2011

A Stay-at-home Mother's Lament

Dear Folks who think SAHMs have it all,

I need to write this today…now…this moment… before I finally lose the last strand of sanity left in me. I am a Stay-at-home Mom (SAHM) for the last six years. I have two sons – one is 5 years and the other is 7 months.

I had a life before these six years in which I was a Chartered Accountant, who passed out in first attempt with flying colours. Not only was I a school topper, I was also a rank holder in the Madras University. Apart from all those academics, I had scores of cups and medals won in elocution competitions, debates, etc. conducted all over the Chennai city. I have taken part in innumerable dance shows in my school. I was the anchor for nearly every programme conducted in my school during my last three years there. I am the pet of all my school, college & CA teachers. I was the school captain. I played the veena as a hobby. I did yoga and aerobics for years before marriage. I am a self-taught artist who always had a project running and who has stopped work on canvas only these last few years because I wasn’t sure how safe oil paints are for my infant and toddler. And the best part is I did all this before I turned 22.

Still I dropped everything and got married at 22. Nope, I didn’t regret it! I thought it was another new adventure and sailed along happily getting accustomed to a new place, new family, new language, new rules (or maybe, I should say ‘no rules!’), new guy and even, new food! Before it could all even sink in, I found myself pregnant! And how… the morning sickness hit me real bad and I was throwing up all the time. And along with the vomit, my hopes and dreams for a career went down into the sink.

And then the baby came. However, much before that, I decided that this little darling was just too precious to leave in the hands of an ayah or a crèche, even if a grand parent is going to babysit along with help. Well, folks, remember something. A grandparent is just that…a grandparent and they can never ever replace a parent or what a parent can do! No, I do not blame them. They have done their duty and it is over. Expecting them to parent again is neither fair to them nor helpful to your child. I personally know three people who were brought up by their grandparents during childhood and all with disastrous consequences now. Sorry, I was not going to do that.

So, I stayed home.

People called me LAZY. Can you believe that? Here I am running behind a toddler 24x7 along with feeding an infant who loves to nurse from 12 to 7 continuously every night and they have the guts to call me ‘lazy’.

They tell me I am getting fat, have a tummy and should EXERCISE. Thanks, folks, for the insight. I do have a mirror at home. If you can babysit for an hour or at least sponsor a maid who will babysit for an hour (by the way, she charges Rs 600 for an hour which my poor hubby cannot afford!), I am ready to turn even cartwheels for you. But I will do it right in front of your eyes only. My kids are too precious to leave in anyone’s care.

Also, when you have your stomach cut open twice, it does leave its mark in the form a misshapen lump of flesh. Ask any gynaec if you don’t believe me. Then, how do film stars flaunt bikinis even after c-sections? They have money, time, babysitters, personal trainers and car drivers to take them to VLCC and back. I don’t have any of this. I can barely make ends meet. Forget all this crap.

Now, all of you people know that I am married. Why not ask my hubby to look after the kids for an hour every morning while I go for a walk? Nope, his time is too precious. In case he does wake up on some particular morning, then he would head for the gym. “I am working… busy all day… no time… you are at home only… you can exercise any time you like! Maybe when the elder one is off to school and the lil one is asleep…” ha..ha.. that one hour is all I have to have breakfast, a bath, dust and clean, pick up toys, prepare infant food, make calls, prepare for my son’s evening study session, get any favorite foods demanded by him ready and work on my writing project (by the way, did I mention that for the last five years, I am a freelance writer who works from home?)? Till 10, I am too busy to have breakfast and if I miss lunch at 12, then I cannot eat till 3. So, I never get a chance to eat when I am hungry with the result that slowly my gastronomic juices have started playing havoc on my digestion. That’s a totally different story! Lets get back to what we were handling here! I remember my yesteryears when dawn meant aerobics and dusk meant yoga. I loved it, pals. So, believe me… it is not out of choice that I don’t exercise.

Some others ask me, with disgust in their voice, WHAT DO YOU DO AT HOME THE ENTIRE DAY? HOW DOES YOUR TIME PASS? ‘Where is the time to pass?’ I wonder. My typical day is just so busy that before I realize the next day is here. Okay, let me tell you…

6.45 am - I realize I am still feeding Aaru. My back aches from the last 8 hours of being continually hunched up in sleeping cum feeding position. I slowly and painfully get up and out of bed and pop in the Eltroxin. (those rare days when I forget to pop in my hypothyroid tablets, I am in deep trouble - tired, dull & teary)The lil one gives me a huge grin. ‘Finally, mommy’s up and into her arms I go.’

I put him down in his crib with his toys and get the milk ready for my elder one. He’s got to leave by 8.30 for school. The maid rings the bell and I send a silent prayer up to God for bringing this woman into the world. Actually, for me, she is God-send. Though she costs a bomb on our little salary, I would rather die of starvation than ask her to leave. She starts getting breakfast and lunch ready. My hubby carries home-cooked food.

My elder one, Sanju, has this whiny morning tantrums for milk, brushing teeth, having bath, breakfast and all. I have the principle of not allowing him to cry before leaving for school. (Mostly, it is the younger one who cries his head off this entire hour pleading for attention which none of us have time to give.) So, the morning routine stretches and Sanju needs a total one hour for the entire process – milk, brush teeth, bath, moisturizer, sunscreen, uniform, breakfast, potty, hair combing, kissing mom and off with dad. Dad has this bus to catch and many times, he has no time to leave Sanju. “Go with the maid,” he tells him and runs off without hearing his son’s protests.

Sometimes, Sanju just bursts into tears and wants only mummy to go with him. So, I run inside, change into tracks and kurti and rush to drop him at school taking Aaru on the hips with me.

9.00 am – I am back home and Aaru is ravenous. Thankfully, I had got his food ready as I was preparing Sanju’s milk early in the morning. I feed him and put him down to explore the world. I suddenly remember I have neither brushed my teeth nor had anything to drink since morning. I set that right and Aaru cries for sleep. I give him a massage, bathe him and feed him to sleep.

10.00 am – I go for a bath feverishly wishing that Aaru doesn’t wake up while I am in the loo. Is the other bathroom door closed? Did I leave the eltroxin bottle on the bed? What if he wakes up and starts exploring? These thoughts are enough to get me out of the bathroom in three minutes. If there is a Guinness record for the fastest bath, I need to be awarded that.

He is still sleeping and this is a good day. I switch on my antique laptop to complete the writing deadline for the day. It is awfully slow and before it starts up, I complete all the tasks I had mentioned above. (….dust and clean, pick up toys, prepare infant food, make calls, prepare for my son’s evening study session, get any favorite foods demanded by him ready…) maybe I write around 100 words before my son is up! (Remember, this is a good day!)

11.30 am Lunch for Aaru followed by lunch for me.

12.45 pm Sanju is back home and I take him into the bathroom for a wash. That is followed by Sanju’s lunch followed by half hour of television for him.

1.30 to 2.00 I put Aaru to sleep and might slip away myself into 15 minutes of coma.

2.00 to 3.00 (Good day, again!) I work on the comp, Sanju plays in his room and Aaru is deeply asleep.

3.00 to 4.00 Sanju’s homework cum study time.

4.00 to 5.30 We read books, play, talk about the world, discuss about friends, have some snacks (healthy, hopefully!) and get ready to go down to the park below the apartment.

5.30 to 7.00 The boys are having a blast while I am running around trying to make sure Sanju is safe, doesn’t run into vehicles or fall down from the swing. I sort out quarrels atop the sliding board and act like a policeman for the entire time. I am so drained out by the end of this.

7.00 to 8.00 Dinnertime. I really have a hard time in the evening convincing the boys to eat.

8.30 p.m onwards Sanju is off to sleep and sometimes, Aaru dozes off too. However, Sanju won’t be up till 7.30 the next morning unless he is sick but Aaru just won’t be down for more than half-hour without his mummy. I feed him – he sleeps – up again – feed again – sleep again - up again and it goes on till I go to bed myself. Meanwhile, hubby comes, has dinner, and watches TV. We chat for sometime till he realizes that I have gone to sleep with eyes open once again. We are off to bed and Aaru is happy to have his pacifier beside him for the entire night. I have a chill sleeping the entire night with the buttons open.

Trust me, folks, this is a good day. Put in a doctor visit for immunizations, baby with fever, Sanju in vomiting fit or Aaru in teething woes and the schedule gets crazy.

I know there are some super women who manage this entire mothering job along with another full-time career in place. Hats off to those super women! However, I am not one and cannot be one physically and emotionally. I don’t trust anyone (little skeptical of hubby too!) when it comes to looking after my kids. My life might seem to be stuck in a rut to you but I am enjoying these years. I might be able to get back on a career but would a working mother ever get back her kid’s childhood?

Today, I am super cranky because someone gave me a few suggestions yesterday. Let me quote the exact words, “I think you should have worked at least for sometime after marriage,” “you should decide these things (i.e. whether I should work or not) only after consulting with hubby,” etc. So, if my hubby wants me to work, I should whether I and my kids want it or not. Is that what you mean? And what is this about sometime after marriage – I got pregnant within a month of being married… do you suggest I should have been on a job for 20 days to add value to my resume! Women’s independence is still lacking in this country if she does not have the freedom to decide whether she wants to work or not.

A SAHM is a lonely person whose conversations revolve around imaginary dinosaurs and nursery rhymes. She doesn’t study balance sheets but analyzes diapers checking out for indigestion symptoms. She has drool and spit-up all over her clothes. She has traded her salon haircut for a ponytail and her designer handbag for a heavy diaper bag. Her self-esteem shakes like a jelly when she sees people wearing ironed cotton clothes and high heels. Her confidence is pretty low as she is still not so sure how God trusted her with two little kids. She is not perfect. She is only a mother!

When you are on a job, you are thanked for your help, cheered for your achievements and appreciated for your efforts. A SAHM never hears the words ‘Sorry,’ ‘Thank you,’ or ‘Please’. The baby never says, “Thanks for changing my diaper” nor does the toddler say, “Thanks for that trip to the park where I threw sand on your hair.” Still we persevere.

Again, the rewards are invisible. The baby still trips and hurts himself. The toddler still throws tantrums and the house is still far from clean. They say that some day in future the kids would turn up right because I am there for them now. In that hope, we wait for the day to pass.

I have spoken too much. It is time to end it with one last statement.

We, Stay-at-home Mothers, are so fragile. Please don’t shatter us!


  1. awesome! And I am with you...we dont even do half the amount of work you guys do. Hats off! - Jammy of Ouchmytoe

  2. wow ... First time reading your post.. really nicely written..
    And please do not listen to people who belittle stay at home mother. It does take courage to leave job and all its independence (financial and emotional) to be at home for seemingly non rewarding job of a mother...
    Hats off to you and all the very best ...



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