When staying at home with a kid you have two options: sink or swim. It´s that dramatic. Either you´ll learn to make a good use of your time and psyche or you´ll get depressed, I don´t think there is a middle way.
There are significant changes in your life when staying at home with a child, I highlighted a few here:
Even if you had lived alone (while child-free), you were not alone for too long. You either worked full time or part time and you surely spent most of your day surrounded by other people (usually in the form of adults). Now it´s different.
You have company 24-7 – your baby. But other than that, you are pretty much on your own. Your schedule is now the baby´ schedule. Usually, this translates to wake up at five o´clock in the first few months of the baby´s life (if your son or daughter is like mine that can go on for over two years) and after a mommy day, you are socially inept to talk clearly after 6 pm.
Friends are great. They offer to help you. They will come to help you indeed. But most of the time, they are not there. Nobody is. It´s just you and a baby and you doing some baby talk. You can´t even chat on the phone or browse on the internet because you´ll be interrupted too much. When you go out to meet people, you talk and all, but again, you are always doing things to make sure your baby is comfortable, so that diminishes a quality interaction with other adults. You often feel isolated. You are isolated.
Being a mom is hard work. It consumes all your hours and your availability. Forget about a coffee break, going outside to smoke a cigarette or even going to the bathroom for number two in peace. Taking a shower? It´s not up to you to decide if you are stinking enough, wait for an opportunity and grab it with your life (if you are a single mom, like me, forget about taking a shower alone for the first two years, your beloved kiddo will always want to follow you).
If you are not a mom and have a regular job, you probably work 8+ hours and then you are done. You have breaks, you check your e-mail and your Facebook. You can even allow yourself to be unproductive, but forget about this when at home with a kid.
No skipping tasks, no leaving the cloth diapers to wash the next day, no chatting, no complaining about your boss at the corridors, no nothing. Work, work and then work some more.
Reaching your physical limit of exhaustion (every day)
As I said before, it´s the most consuming “job” you can ever find. On top of this, you are deprived from enough sleep. Whether you breastfeed or bottle feed, you are waking up at night at some intervals and that prevents you from a needed deep sleep (remember that sleep deprivation is a form of torture).
This translates to you working in the toughest “job” of all times without ever resting enough. You can be a sportive person and yet, you were not prepared for the non-stop bending, standing up endless times in a day and carrying in different position a baby that keeps getting heavier (probably hurting your back way before you notice a backache).
There is more. Soothing a colic baby late in the day, rocking him standing up (because often he won´t accept you sitting on a chair while you comfort him), washing, cooking, cleaning the floor (and anything else you see in a house), caring for the baby and on and on.
All the previous aspects of staying at home bring you to this: sometimes you feel at the verge of depression and many times you are at the verge of unique happiness – it’s so wonderful and fulfilling to have a child.
You learn to control your moods, for you baby depends on your stability (or at least you feel that he needs it). But you might not be a zen master and it´s very challenging to keep sane (check my recipe for maintaining sanity).
You feel guilty for feeling overwhelmed and then you feel that it´s probably normal to have all these mixed feelings (joy, anger, solitude, proud… all very intense and in one day).
Sometimes you can´t cope with everything and you allow yourself a minute or two of crying and then you feel guilty again, for you feel your baby shouldn´t be disturbed with your weaknesses. My goodness, the guilty feeling might be present all the time if you don´t get a grip. But you do. You get a grip and get things going like you feel you have too. Feel feel feel, it’s all about feeling intensely all day long for years to come.
The basic description of meditation is live in the present. That’s something you do now without any specific training. There is little room for wandering around and planning different things at the same time. The baby needs you and you are there. Or the baby is sleeping and the dirty clothes need you and you are there. You are completely present for what life is giving you.
It´s not just about taking care of the baby but also watching the baby, being amazed of little achievements the baby does. You are witnessing every moment, feeling accomplished by the little things. You are aware of the importance of a life developing in front of you, nothing could be more meaningful and you know it. Life is right there, your baby is right there, you can´t hide from this truth. You are there from moment to moment.
No other happy times in your life compare to the supreme joy of being with your child. You can only realize this when it’s happening, for before you didn’t have anything to compare really.
This happiness must also be some kind of natural defense in human nature to prevent you from going nuts or abandoning your duty. You go through all the overwhelming stages I described and yet, you wouldn’t trade this for anything.
As tired and acquiring nervous twitches as you can be, you never felt so happy. It feels like all the goodness in the universe is inside of you. This is what really keeps you going. From now on, you can´t imagine life without sharing the presence of your little one. What a joy to be a mama!