The struggles of being a stay-at-home mom

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A reluctant stay-at-home mom shares her experience and why she came up with an exit plan Click To Tweet

Any time 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. 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 assumes the position of a provider.

This term has become a cliché in some countries —thousands of women proudly wear this badge in a show of their sacrificial parenthood. In many societies outside Nigeria, stay-at-home moms are often seen as good models of motherhood because it is not everyday 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 is she watching ‘Zee World’ or ‘Telemundo’?

dont-judge-meIn this part of the world, there is something so ordinary and basic about being a stay-at-home mom. Out of personal experience and data check, most stay-at-home moms in Nigeria take on this role out of frustration of not getting a job after childbirth 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.

Most stay-at-home moms in Nigeria take this role because they can't find a job Click To Tweet

If by staying at home all day and writing occasionally 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 that I found myself in. 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 woman regardless of marital status. Nigeria is a patriarchal space, where being a woman 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 mom. 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 as I helplessly watched other women excel in their careers be it as entrepreneurs or career women. Nothing robs us of our joy like the helplessness of not being able to determine one’s fate.

I would feel inferior every time I heard the success stories of my colleagues. I began to look for excuses to stay indoors and revel in self-pity. Before I know it, I became a recluse instead of the strong, extrovert and go-getter I used to be.

I lost 3 things being a stay-at-home mom; myself, my voice and my bravado Click To Tweet

Being a full time mother opens a door of vulnerability; it reduces us to helpless creatures. I had a rude awakening of this in my second year of marriage when an in-law came around and subtly hinted at my ‘jobless condition’. He constantly tore at any suggestion I made during our family discussions. To him, I was just “an entity whose main job was to breastfeed a child”, as he put it then.

The mere fact that I wasn’t bringing in any income was enough reason to shut me up. 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 had had enough, I began to outline ways to get out of this pathetic state.

Have a time line

It sure doesn’t matter what made me a stay-at-home mom, what is important is the time line for my exit.

A frustrated stay-at-home mom, like me, definitely needed a detailed plan on how to put an end to the cycle of helplessness. Questions like these should be included in your time line:

  • 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 you 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 mom, 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 your career. I must confess that it is hard to get back into a career or a business after a hiatus, but it is doable. Since I decided to get back to the corporate 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.

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Keep on dreaming

This is one thing that kept me sane in my five year stay-at-home mom experience. I never for once stopped dreaming about who I would be in my chosen career. This vision kept me awake at night and gave me a clear perspective on how to attain my career goal.

Children need to see their mothers in places of strength and independence Click To Tweet

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 moms. Children need to see their mothers in places of strength and independence and let’s be honest, being a stay-at-home mom will never create that reality.

4 simple hacks for combining motherhood & entrepreneurship

Having been an entrepreneur running a market research firm for eight years, I did not give too much thought to how I would handle motherhood and work. Juggling, creating value, and keeping a keen eye on productivity were already familiar hurdles I had already crossed — or so I thought!

Very early into a somewhat complicated pregnancy, I knew that I would have to change certain aspects of my orientation if I was ever to be productive again; I don’t mean that as a hyperbole. Along with warmly welcoming motherhood, I was left wondering whether I could continue the business I had built. 

While it has been and still continues to be a wobbly journey to finding my footing as a CEO mommy, here are several tips I’ve picked up along the way, which can help to keep the lights on even as your little bub requires more and more from you.

1. Compartmentalize your life

Divide your days and hours into blocks and devote 100% of your time within any specific block to whatever task you’ve assigned it. One of the great things about being a business owner is the flexibility it allows — you are not restricted to a strict schedule of work.

If you have to make dinner by 6pm, play peek-a-boo with bubba till 8pm, and then hit that laptop till 11pm, then do it. Trying to answer emails while playing peek-a-boo is the key to being frustrated and burning out. Whatever you set out to do, try to be present for the time assigned to it.

2. Delegate with gusto

It will not be perfect and it may take longer, but it will be done and sometimes that’s what’s most important. At work, break tasks into little bits and ask colleagues, friends, family  — anyone—  to help you get those little bits done.

At home, take the time to build a support system and don’t be shy to accept help from loved ones or to voice requests for domestic help  — even if help doesn’t come in exactly the same format as it would if the task were completed by you.

There will be times when your spouse does not buy exactly the same diapers baby wears or the nanny does not feed the little one at the right time, but at least those tasks are done, and that truly is the big picture. motherhood

3. Ditch perfectionism

You will drop the ball. You will drop the ball more than once. There will be very little explanation (outside of yelling, “Can’t you see how busy my life is right now?”). Give yourself a little time to get back to your old levels of productivity.

Allow some lax time for deadlines and let those depending on you know that there will be just a little give or take. It is perhaps more important than ever to set yourself a task list except this time, success will look like crossing off two-thirds (or maybe even half?) of your list rather than the 100% get it done amazon that you are.

4. Prioritize Sleep

In this crazy world were everyone seems to be rushing to and fro, and there are incredibly much more tasks getting added than getting done, it may seem frivolous to be rigid about your beauty sleep. It is not.

Many studies have shown that sleep is one of the best ways to clear the mind (thereby increasing productivity), reduce stress, replenish depleted energy, and more (another is exercise). It can even help with weight loss!

If you are lucky and able, schedule in power naps and let everyone in your office know that you are not available during those hours. If you cannot, try to schedule in catch up naps during the weekend. Try just 20 minutes at a go for starters, and then increase gradually as you feel more confident about your sleep priority.

In the final analysis, what truly matters to all of us is that our loved ones are proud of us and proud of the person we’ve become along the way. No matter what your choices, your child will most likely look over your body of work and be proud of the courage it took to follow your dreams and fulfill your potential.

So don’t be afraid to explore and find your own rhythm —in whatever quirky combination— so long as it works for you and your family, then you will already be quite a success and inspiration!