Hints for the Newly At-home Mom
Okay, so I’ve heard about some new moms who are taking on the at-home lifestyle, and feel emboldened to share my meager expertise (though the last thing a new mom needs is more advice, she’s been assaulted with it every five seconds since conception), and maybe help them avoid my mistakes.
Staying home with the kids has risen in status in the last 20 years. Earlier seen as part of a patriarchal system that assigned child-minding to women when they could be putting their talents to better use, being at-home evolved into a status symbol. A luxury item. Like an SUV or a vacation home. Then, when attachment parenting became a cross-economic rage, it became equally cool to stay home with baby as to resume the career after six weeks.
But there are hidden dangers in the stay-at-home life:
1. Isolation—the near-paranoia that strikes many parents with newborns can make you avoid germy areas (meaning anywhere with humans who haven’t been swabbed down with antibacterial wipes), so basically everywhere. And your life is dominated by your spawn’s need for food and sleep on a regular basis, killing spontaneity. Soon you’re staying inside all day wearing sweats. Agoraphobia can follow. Don’t let it.
2. Small World syndrome—when your world is orbiting around your offspring, everything in that world seems more important and everything outside it can fall off the radar. When all you can talk about are diapers, pediatric appointments, ear infections, the subtext in Disney movies, mommy-and-me yoga and the cute thing kiddo did today (and the only thing you care about on the news are items related to toxins in plastic), you’ve got Small World syndrome.
3. Plummeting self-esteem—so now you have a more than full-time job that gets no salary, no awards for exceptional service, no quarterly review to keep you going when the going gets tough. Instead you have a needy, selfish housemate who loves you to death and shows it by spitting sour milk down your back (or in your hair, that’s a fun one), and a job that no one wants to hear about if you actually get to socialize with adults. They all “know” what you do and some think that a chimpanzee could do it just as well.
4. Guilt—you and the “working mom” share most of these. She also gets guilt for the hours she’s away, the milestones she’s missed and the reality that she can’t use all her energies on Baby. The stay-at-home mom gets guilt for all the times she hasn’t been perfect, didn’t sign up for the right enrichment classes, slipped the baby formula because she couldn’t stand being sucked on a moment longer, thought about wanting to go back to work, missed her pre-baby life or went out with the girls and Baby cried the entire time she was gone. The list could go on forever.
So I’ve fallen victim to all of these. It’s too late for me, but not for the newly blessed and blissed-out moms starting on the stay-at-home path. It all boils down to: get out among other adults, listen to NPR (besides the informative programs on toxic paint in toys and poisonous plastic), and forgo the guilt whenever your soul will let you.
Blogger Bio: Beren deMotier is a Carol Brady in Levis/tattooed lesbian mama in a mini-van, obsessed with safety, doing the right thing and the amount of dog hair on her wood floors. She is a regular contributor to both Curve and Black Lamb, and has written for Hip Mama, And Baby, Pride Parenting, ehow.com, and for her blog, “That Lesbian Mom Next Door.” Her multi-award-winning book, The Brides of March: Memoir of a Same-Sex Marriage, recounts her giddy leap through a legal window, straight onto the barbeque pit of public debate when she and her partner married in Oregon in 2004, their three children along for the raucous ride. (berendemotier.com)
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