Anytime you see a woman who tells you that her main job is to take care of her children 24/7, know that you just met a stay-at-home mom (SAHM). The definition for this term is someone who stays at home all day to raise her children and manage her household, while her spouse gracefully assume the position of a provider.
This term has become a beautiful cliché in lot of western countries; thousands of women proudly wear this badge in a show of their sacrificial parenthood. In many societies excluding Nigeria, stay-at-home moms are often seen as good models of motherhood because it is not every day you meet a woman so selfless and willing to let go of her financial independence. But the question remains; what does a stay-at-home mom do all day? Is cleaning and doing laundry a daily routine or most times she is often lost in the world of soap operas e.g. ‘Zee world’ or ‘Telemundo’.
In this part of the world, there is something so ordinary and basic about being a SAHM. Out of personal experience and data check, most SAHM in Nigeria take on this role out of frustration of not getting a job after child birth or lack of zeal to further pursue career goals. It is sometimes very easy to give up trying but the consequence of this decision is a grave one.
If by staying at home all day and doing occasional writings qualify for being a stay at home mom then I label myself a reluctant one. The state of not being able to be financially independent is one of the lowest pit of depression that I have found myself because Nigeria happens to be a peculiar country where the depth of one’s pocket determines who the boss is. These days, it is not safe to solely depend on one’s spouse for everything; financial independence is a must for every female regardless of one’s marital status. In case you don’t know, Nigeria is a patriarchal space, where being a female is enough trouble, talk less being a jobless mum.
LOSS OF WHO I AM
There are three things that I lost in the period of being a stay at home mum; I lost myself, my voice and my bravado. As someone who has previously worked in several highly structured organizations, full time motherhood threw me off balance. Day after day, tiny pieces of my self-confidence began to ebb away into oblivion as I helplessly watch other women excel in their careers be it as entrepreneurs or professions. Nothing robs us of our joy like the helplessness of not being to determine one’s fate.
The gradual loss of myself started with the thoughts of inferiority complex that fill me whenever I hear about the success stories of my colleagues. I began to look for excuses to stay indoors and revel in my world of self-pity by indulging binge watching of film series. Before I know it, I became a recluse instead of the strong, extrovertish go-getter I used to be. Being a full time mother opens a door of vulnerability that any woman in Nigeria shouldn’t dare to walk through; it reduces us to helpless creatures at the mercy of whatever circumstance. I had a rude awakening of this in my 2nd year of marriage when an in law came around and subtly hinted at my ‘jobless condition’. He constantly tore at any suggestion that came from me during any of our family discussions; to him, I was just “an entity whose main job was to breastfeed a child” as he put it then.
It doesn’t matter how intellectual my opinions and perspectives sounded, the mere fact that I wasn’t bringing in any income as that time was enough to shut me down. To him, I didn’t exist, likewise my thoughts, in his mind, I was just a human with mammary glands and a womb to frequently push out babies.
One day, I decided that I have had enough of my own whining and self-pity, I began to outline ways to get out of this pathetic state;
Have a timeline
It sure doesn’t matter what made me a SAHM, what is important is the timeline for my exit. A frustrated SAHM like me definitely needs a detailed plan on how to put an end to the cycle of helplessness. Questions like these should be included:
When do I pull the plug?
How do I integrate myself into the chosen career or business?
What are my new strengths?
These questions will best guide on the next step to take when considering an exit.
Never stop learning
Don’t ever be deluded into thinking that motherhood takes all your time and energy. There are millions of women who are beautifully juggling child rearing with careers; so even while you are stuck being a stay at home mum, compel yourself to take lots and lots of self- development courses. Nothing stops an online course or even a distance learning course. These courses will one day help to advance one’s career. I must confess that it is hard to get back into a career or a business after a period of hiatus but it is doable. Since I decided to get back into the working world, I have constantly learnt how not to take NO for an answer; I don’t get fazed by the number of rejections, I just keep on pushing.
Keep on dreaming
This is one thing that kept me sane in my five year stay at home experience. I never for once stopped dreaming about who I will be in my chosen career. This vision kept me awake at night and gave me a clear perspective on how to attain this career goal. Never allow anything or anyone to rob you the power of dreaming big. I once read online about how children of career women excel in life compared to children raised by stay at home mums. Children need to see their mothers in places of strength and independence and let’s be honest, being a SAHM will never create that reality.