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Staying-at-home to bring up your children is an option that often makes sense. When the cost of childcare outweighs the benefits of working, it’s counter-productive to pay someone else to bring up your child. There are two problems with this, the obvious one being the huge cut in your household income. The other one, is how being a stay at home mum affects your confidence, skillset and can sometimes lead to depression.
Here’s my take on the stay-at-home mum rollercoaster, how to break through it and how to rediscover your confidence.
The Joy of Becoming a Mother
When your little one finally arrives, he or she brings so much life into the four walls you share together. Every visitor you’d ever imagined comes to meet your new arrival, and you feel like royalty. You’re both so loved and you feel amazing! Life as a mum is everything you hoped it would be, and more.
But, over time, the visitors dry up. Dad goes back to work, and it’s just you and your baby. If you’re a first-time mum, you’d better hold on tight, because you’re about to ride one huge learning curve.
Of course, you join lots of mum and baby groups. From breastfeeding support to baby-massage, to local mums and tots groups. You look forward to swapping stories (and comparing – we shouldn’t do it, but we do). You fret about the night wakings and the constant feeding and feel the relief of sharing your woes with other women who simply get it. You’re part of a new tribe, and early motherhood is hard, but you’re ok.
However, fast-forward a few weeks and there are days that you’re just so tired, you can’t face going anywhere. And so it begins.
Isolation and Depression as a Stay at Home Mum
Because you’re so tired, you don’t make it to BF support group, or baby yoga, or mums and tots. The next week, you can’t face it. You come up with a long list of excuses NOT to go, because it’s easier to find an excuse than find the energy to socialise.
I was a SAHM for 8 years before finally taking the plunge to grow a blogging business and a writing business. From my experience, I can honestly say it’s too easy to stay holed up indoors. A once extroverted woman can quickly become an introvert. There’s no adult interaction, no good old banter like you relished at work. Before you know it, your confidence drops and your social media ‘lifeline’ via Facebook/Instagram/Twitter becomes a trigger for depression, because on the surface, it looks like everyone else is having fun – except you.
When Your Baby Starts School
When the little people go to school, it gets harder. Unless you go back to work, what’s your excuse for getting out of the house? If you’re a stay-at-home mum, shouldn’t you be a good wife and make sure the house is spotless for when the kids and your husband get home?
Or should you look at many different avenues to retain some of that independence you had pre-kids? When my eldest was in preschool two and a half days a week, I was pregnant, and climbing the walls. I wanted to go back to work, as I was bored, lonely, and craving human contact. I applied for several jobs and got knocked back, presumably because I was pregnant. So instead, I sucked it up, and focused on our pending new arrival.
You Have to Get Out There
With my first-born, we went to various groups, but not regularly enough for it to feel like we belonged anywhere. So eventually our trips out for social interaction became few and far between. We weren’t house-bound; in fact, we had a secret love-affair with Ikea and often visited once a week.
But adult company was certainly limited, because I found it easier to avoid people. My confidence was at an all-time low, and I struggled to talk to people for fear of being judged. Looking back, I have no idea what on earth I thought they would be judging me for. But something in me had changed. I didn’t have the self-confidence I had before becoming a parent.
I think quitting my job and focusing on parenting made me lose my identity.
Once she started school, I had to make a conscious effort to get out with her baby sister at least twice a week. I couldn’t go through another 4 years of the same isolation. So I made sure we went to the same places for consistency. I also joined a running group and stepped onto my local preschool committee.
Fortunately, I was able to create a life full of social interactions, and I soon wondered why I found it so difficult to socialise before. Looking back, I think the act of quitting my job (which I’d never enjoyed, by the way) and focusing on parenting made me lose my identity. I no longer knew who I was.
Networking and Socialising – The Essence of Confidence Building
Whether you’re a stay-at-home mum, work-at-home mum, or a single mum, taking the first step to carve a social life for yourself is the hardest. It’s a real juggle. With your confidence at its lowest, you begin to worry what people think of you. You’ve become painfully shy, and fret about people labelling you as ignorant, when the reality is the complete opposite. Your confidence is so low, you think no-one will be interested in what you could possibly have to say.
But, once you make that step – once you get out, you realise how much fun you can have. With regular appointments, you begin to come out of your shell. You make new friends. You’re enjoying yourself, and you start to look forward to your new schedule. Your life takes on new meaning. Your confidence grows to new heights and you realise that actually, being a mum is pretty ok.
You’re a different person to who you used to be, but that’s ok. You’re growing, and you can use your newly acquired skills in so many other areas of your life when you’re ready.
Use Your Parenting Skills to Your Advantage
Think about it; you grew and nurtured a small person. That’s a huge responsibility, and you’ve achieved it! In fact, you’re actually really good at parenting. Not every day is plain-sailing, but you pick yourself up, you do it again, and eventually, it becomes second nature. Parenting is the hardest, but the most rewarding job in the world, and you need to give yourself a huge pat on the back.
But how can you get your confidence back? How can you get back to being you; to being the person you used to be before you were ‘just a mum’?
Make a list of all the skills you have; everything you’ve learned and all that you’ve carried with you. Celebrate your plus points and big yourself up. Affirm to yourself daily how great you are at what you do, and how great you can be in whatever you decide to do next.
Now here comes the biggest step of all.
You need get out there. You have to push past your comfort zone, and just do it.
Trust me, I know. Take it from someone who has lived, breathed and worn the t-shirt of broken confidence.
Join groups, take up a hobby, decide where you want to go in your life. Make a plan, write down your goals. It’s your life, and you’re in the driving seat. Go on, take control.
If I can do it, so can you.
If you’re juggling debt and feeling isolated as a stay at home parent, take a look at Lonely in Debt: 8 Ways to Avoid Isolation
If you need something to keep you sane outside of motherhood and have thought about starting your own business, here are 10 UK Side Hustle Ideas You Can Start For Free (or very little money).