Keeping Your Sanity Being a SAHM

Let’s be honest here…

Being a stay at home mom can be boring

I mean, I love it. Absolutely. And there are days I feel so busy my head may burst.

But other days….not so much. There is nothing I hate so much as idleness.

I take that back. There is one thing I hate more (get ready for a tangent here). It’s when people talking about women’s repression like since the beginning of time women have been stuck chain smoking cigarettes a la Mrs. Draper, bored out of their minds while men did all of the significant work. It shocks me the amount of even “feminist” women who talk like this is fact. For instance, Virginia Woolf’s claim about Shakespeare’s “sister” who never became famous because she didn’t have the time or opportunity or support to write as her pampered older brother did.

Have women historically been disregarded? Absolutely. Have women been historically unfairly treated in the eyes of the law? Without a doubt. But does that mean that women have never been given the chance to do anything great? NO

I think most of this is a classist assumption that since the only real records we have are of rich people, and rich women usually have very constrained roles, that all women had constrained roles, because we tend to read and perceive things on a much more equal playing field that is reflective of our own modern culture. In reality, women have always been great producers, great shopkeepers, great members of their community. Although they were often kept out of top roles, because our culture has a patriarchal structure to it, that doesn’t mean that women didn’t DO anything…it just means that that top tier of society didn’t recognize it as significant.

To put it a different way…women are kept out of art books, not because they didn’t produce art, but because those at the very top of the system didn’t deem their work worthy. So Virginia Woolf’s argument shouldn’t be that Shakespeare’s “sister” never had the opportunity to work, but rather that her work was relegated to the lower classes, where things that  concerned her…practicality, religion, children…were not of interest to those highbrow intellectual men who put their minds to thoughts of philosophy.

To this day, I still question why our textbooks don’t have more women writers. I know that it is in large part because the definitions of what constitutes “literature” are still so stringently set in what those old highbrow intellectual men thought it was that wonderful books like Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management are still excluded.

This is what I’m getting at. Sexism in that 50s and 60s kind of housewife way didn’t appear until then because that’s when the middle and upper classes really began to combine, and all women were expected to abide by the same rules upper class women had been adhering to for years. Prior to that, sexism was mostly institutionally based, dismissing women not necessarily because of their sex, but because their interests and education was much more practically based. We see proof of this by the fact that those few women who did have luxurious amounts of time, and were given high levels of education, did push through and could be more or less accepted into some kind of intellectual sphere.

I say all of this in a very long winded way to point out this…

There is no reason for you to be bored.

Being a housewife does not mean that you need to be a housewife in the relatively recent sense of sitting at home, looking pretty, keeping things neat, and then giving your husband a nice meal. Because you know what, most women have never done that. Most “housewives”  have worked their butts just as hard as their husbands….not just cooking and cleaning, but farming, teaching their children, sewing clothes, mending house clothes, and broken hearts. For a long time men have always known that women did important work, that they were valuable and (more or less) equal members of the household. Just think of Sarah Plain and Tall, how widowed husbands would send out advertisements for a wife….because they just couldn’t get along without one. Not just for companionship, but literally in terms of work.

So make yourself valuable!

  • Really like business? Start one in your own house, selling things online.
  • Like fashion? Sketch out some ideas, buy a cheap machine and teach yourself to sew! Make clothes, bedding, curtains for your house. Instead of working for a month to buy a designer dress, buy some material and make it yourself.
  • Like being outdoors? Grow a garden, be helpful to your elderly neighbors and help with their yard work too
  • Need to be with other people? Volunteer somewhere. Lots of retirement homes allow children to come with their volunteering parents…there’s no “no babysitter” excuse there.
  • Like animals? Volunteer to raise or rehabilitate adoptable dogs and cats. There are so many animals that are euthanized just because shelters don’t have enough foster homes to teach these animals how to behave in a home well enough to be adoptable. Or if you have the space raise some farm animals.
  • To all those teaching moms who are not sahm, do you miss teaching? Get together with a homeschool  or afterschool group or work as a tutor.
  • Mechanically minded? Take on those typical “guy” roles and learn how some basic car maintenance, or plumbing, or electrical work.
  • Enjoy sports? Volunteer to coach a league, or start your own.
  • Daydreaming about acting? Work as an assistant for a school or church play, or better yet, put on plays with your children. My kids and I love making and setting up small plays for when Dad comes home from work.
  • Like just reading or painting or other artistic things? Invite your children to do them with you. Sometimes there’s nothing better than letting those dishes sit in the sink while you just lay and stare at the sky.

All of these things can be easily done while you are “staying at home” with your children, and not only that, but doing these kinds of things really broaden children’s horizons, and allows them to see you in a much different (and I think most would say positive) light. There is nothing that can come between your family happiness and your own happiness faster than feeling like you’re being buried alive staying at home with your children.

Sometimes the best medicine is simply forcing yourself to do some small things. I have to get reasonably dressed up and make all the beds and sweep all the floors to feel like I’m not a completely failure and wasting my life. And the best thing is, creating something with your life doesn’t have to come at the expense of not having children, or putting your children in daycare (not that anything is wrong with daycare :)). As much as people talking about the kind of brainwashed mindset that women used to have…only thinking that they could be pretty little housewives…I wouldn’t say many people are better off now because it seems that you either feel guilty and work or feel smug but suffocate at home. But you can stay at home and still have a life, still produce something significant, still develop yourself. You just have to change your ideas about what it means to be successful, what it means to “bring home the bacon,” what it means to do something. Because if you’re keeping busy, and managing to do it with your children, you are being successful, you are bringing home the bacon even if it’s in terms of values and character building instead of money, and you are doing something very real to other people.

I always like to tell people about how in primitive cultures women never had work/home dilemmas. There were friends and family to babysit if the mother needed them to, but most of the time babies were strapped to women’s backs from birth and they would go about their business, carrying and nursing their baby while hardly having to stop their cooking or gathering or other work.

So if you are a stay at home mom, find your way to do this. Women like to make themselves out to be kinds of martyrs to their children sometimes, like they are sacrificing themselves so they can let their children grow up at home, but I find this so silly, because there is no need to be so centrally focused on your children. Being able to be near them is good for both of you, but working is good for both of you too. So find your way to work. If corporate American wont allow you to be a mother and a working then you find a way to be a worker without them! Keep busy and you’ll keep the mommy blues away.

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