“Junia, I’m such a lousy mother. I feel like a failure. My son doesn’t listen to me, and my husband says it’s my fault. I really don’t know what to do!” When a fellow SAHM (stay-at-home mum) confided in me with this, my heart broke a little. These silent cries take great self-awareness to admit. And even more courage to share.
Conceal, Don’t Feel, Don’t Let Them Know…
Many mothers prefer to hide our insecurities because that’s what we’ve been taught to do. (I think that’s why the ‘Frozen’ theme song resonated with so many.) Because even if we share, other mums may not understand, or even worse, judge us. So we bottle our guilty, shameful, negative thoughts.
But suppressed emotions will, like unexpressed breast milk, inevitably leak out. Always. So we get triggered at the smallest issue. Our patience drops to such low levels, we begin to hate ourselves for not being more forgiving.
We ask ourselves, “What happened to that happy version of me (before kids)? When did I become such a short-tempered person? When did I lose the spark in my eyes?” Sound familiar? I know. Because I’ve been there too.
Like many others, I had chosen to be a SAHM. I was initially excited about anchoring the kids with good values and being present to guide them in their studies. What I didn’t expect was that I would slowly, unknowingly, turn into an angry mum.
Having a Bad Day Every Day
The thing about being a SAHM is there are no definitive KPIs (key performance indicators). I mean, good grades and good behaviour became the standards by which I judged how well I was doing my mothering role. And I was failing on so many counts!
Toys were strewn on the floor if I did not nag them to pick them up. I had to scold them every bedtime or they would refuse to go to sleep. And there was certainly no joy in teaching the basic Maths concepts for the umpteenth time. I would blow my fuse when teaching the kids and they didn’t accomplish what I asked them to. Then when they cried, I got angrier.
I couldn’t understand why I was busy from day to night, busier than when I was working. I didn’t even have work-life balance to blame. But worst of all, I was triggered so often, the kids began to mirror my outbursts. They would argue, fight, and shout at each other, which would naturally incur my unspeakable wrath. It was a vicious cycle.
(See also: Should Your Kids Share a Bedroom?)
Make the Decision for Change
One day, looking into the mirror in utter frustration, I realised I was transforming into a monster. As I connected with me, I cried at whom I had become. A reactive, angry mother. I had never felt so defeated. This was definitely not the life I had envisioned when I gave up my high-positioned job to be a SAHM.
I decided to change.
Decision is the first and most important step in change. Only when we are absolute on not repeating the cycle can our minds open up to look for solutions. Most mothers never decide. They share, complain, lament about their lives but do nothing to change anything. Decision is a powerful choice because it comes from within. It is an inner resolve when you choose to do whatever it takes for a different outcome.
It’s not magic. It does not mean an overnight change in external circumstances, but it does shift something significant within. You know you will settle for nothing less. Uncertainties and guilt no longer stop you from taking action. That’s the human spirit rising up against our circumstances and saying, “I choose to regain control over my life.”
Then Make the Change
Over time, I tried different things and different approaches, and I found solutions that worked for me. Every mum is unique, and so are her children, their circumstances, and their problems. So what worked for this SAHM might not work for you. But if I were to share just three overarching tips, they would be:
1. Stop playing the victim.
You are more powerful than what you give yourself credit for. Think about all the wins in your life and get up, because you can. Even if you feel otherwise at the moment. Even when guilt whispers how you’ve fallen short. Even if your family members say otherwise. You can choose a different path.
2. Reach out.
This may be easier for some and harder for others. Often, the excuse we give ourselves is not knowing whom to call or what to say. We think too much. Or we hide behind being busy so we allow one day after another to pass. The next thing you know, months have gone by and nothing has changed. We still haven’t reached out.
3. Love yourself.
Have compassion for the harshest critic in the world. The voices in your head that remind you when and where you haven’t measured up. If you’ve decided on a shift, do this: Look at yourself in the mirror and own these words as you repeat them out loud: “I am enough.” Do it till you believe it and whenever you need a boost.
You see, we are constantly bombarded with picture perfect images on social media that we unconsciously measure ourselves against. Why do we do that to ourselves? Stop comparing and start practising compassion to the most important person in the world. YOU. Everything else will fall into place.