Dear Stay-at-Home Mom,
You’ve been doing at-home with your kids long before this “forced rest,” haven’t you? You’ve been at home since making the choice, only to wake up to be at home again.
Your days might might feel like Groundhog Day, with less (or more) frustration than that of grouchy, TV weatherman, Phil Connors.
Though your routine repeats, you know with thought and intention you can create a day that flows differently from the one before.
You wear the self-described SAHM title well, unseen to some like labels sewn to the back of shirt collars. At times it pokes out, like at a social gathering or holiday party when the dreaded, “What do you do?” is before you like a plate of hor d’oeurvres being passed.
It’s not that you’re ashamed of your branding, it’s just that it can bring out the ghosts of career pursuits past that sometimes make you feel self conscious in being home. Your assigned parking space may now be the driveway bordering a front lawn in need of cutting, and rather than gathering around a conference table with colleagues, you manage young worker bees who are drinking from sippy cups, gluing craft projects and finalizing math problems at the kitchen countertop. Throw in special needs, learning challenges or a diagnosis, and your clock is running well past 5:30.
While "How Parents Can Cope with Staying-At-Home" headline stories flood social media, you might be thinking, “Been there, been doing that,” and perhaps embracing the absence of inferiority that is known to creep in. You may now find yourself standing on a leveled playing field that's been dug up to accommodate every working-out-of-the-house mother in the land.
In your season of giving to dependent children, you, SAHM, have much to bring to a population of desperate adults. Here are some ways you can help support that friend who might be struggling with the temporary transition:
1) Share your understanding that being at home with kids all day is hard, especially when pats on the back or smiles communicating a job well done may not be said. Affirmation and speaking aloud the traits you admire in her, can lift that mom’s heart, confidence and self-esteem up from the sidewalk-chalked pavement.
2) Communicate that fun doesn’t have to be as thrilling as a day at Disneyland nor last for consecutive hours. Several minutes of good, meaningful times, count. Enjoyment can take place in spurts and doesn’t require a ticket purchase.
3) Affirm that everyone “blows it.” 24/7 of any one thing or person can be challenging. That’s not to say unleashing frustration without attempts at exercising self-control is okay, but suggest to that mom she can apologize to restore connection with her kids, and to resist the temptation to load up on guilt. Humility is key in making peace and models for children how to respond when their pieces in the “I lost it” battles need picking up.
4) Present an airplane view so that mom can see beyond the street level. Her time will re-shift, just as it did when she began working, and just like it will do upon retirement, when children leave home, and when this quarantine ends. The days of calling out, “Have a good day,” from the front door or driver’s seat of the car in the school drop off line, will return, and these present moments will become past ones.
5) Think about what you would have wanted to hear when you began your at-home season. What were the life giving words a friend spoke to you? Share what worked when needing to settle a child, offer crockpot recipes for dinner, your favorite read-aloud books or the ingredients for homemade playdough. She might need coaxing to let her kids pull out pots, pans and bowls, and stack them high without the perceived mess in mind. If she has older kids, she might need to hear that having space is okay, and likewise, flopping atop her teen’s made (or unmade) bed with a, “What’s going on?” is a simple way to meet them in their wolrd. With all the opinions relative to raising children, you’re simply extending empathy and sharing resources. She need not fear judgment nor a debate on parenting approaches and philosophies.
6) She may not have a reason to slip into heels, slacks or wear a blouse, but she can enjoy casual wear and there will be reasons to dress up again. The days to pull out a business card from her wallet will return, and though her life’s work is worthwhile, her identity does not solely come from the imprinted title or colorful company logo stamped on card stock. Her unique talents, gifting, character, and all the reasons that make her a special woman, mother, spouse and friend, matter just as much, if not, more than her job. All those great work skills and strengths? They can quickly be deposited into her role as mom and jobs within the home.
In a time when passing something on is of grave concern, it’s nice to know encouragement isn’t one of them.
And that, SAHM, is something you can safely spread.