If you have been following my blog and/or IG, you know my current state of affairs pretty darn well. I am a tired, sleep deprived, has-been engineer mum on maternity leave. I have postpartum flab and shiny spots where hair once happily lived. My eyebags make Christian Grey’s mere 50 shades of grey, green with envy. Most days, I am knee-deep in nappies and dirty laundry that sprout like weeds everywhere I go. My world has narrowed down to my two bedroom flat and mummy-baby playgroups. I feel outdated and isolated. Lonely and forgotten. All my clothes are spotted with a cocktail of milk, drool and vomit.
Unlike what MANY people think, being a stay-at-home mom is NOT a holiday or staycation. Days and weeks pass by without offering me a moment to myself. I get by with such little human interaction that the Tesco customer assistant ranting about milk-stealing thieves rouses deep emotions within my sleepless soul. I am grateful for friends who put in the effort to read between my typo-filled lines. My brain cells have dumped Heathrow’s surveillance coverage plots, learned over months and years of hard work, and loaded them with a dozen renditions of Baby Shark (doo doo doo doo doo – see, I can’t help it)! My default setting is either ‘what is the next thing that needs doing?’ or ‘I am too tired to think straight.’
If I say that there is a lot I am enjoying in this chaotic process, am I mad? Probably not. Motherhood, for all its trials and tribulations, is extremely rewarding. My son is my pride and joy. The love I have for him cannot be measured by any barometer in the multiverse. But what if I say that this enjoyment runs deeper than the bliss of motherly love?
For context, let me give you a short recap of my life. I moved to the UK in 2008. Worked like a horse to secure an engineering degree. Spent a year looking for a job from a garden shed (I kid you not). Struggled for years with a job that was way out of my comfort zone. Got married and adopted my first child. Got rudely relocated out of my cosy social life in London to the small city newness of Southampton. Spent last two years proving I am worthy of a promotion in an all-male team. Finally pregnancy happened, aligning with my career’s busiest spike. In short, I was too busy. Too busy for books. For hobbies. For self-care. For quiet and peace. Life did not allow me any time out. Of course I am not going to claim motherhood has (ROFLING at the mere thought). Let’s just stroke my dramatic imagination for a second and say that I have been kidnapped by a parallel universe. I am living life on the other side of the fence, grazing on different pastures, which, depending on the day, can and does seem greener. When the pros and cons are weighed down to the last grain of truth, I have to admit that SAHM life has given me permission for sneaky things working woman life absolutely did not.
My original photo idea for this post was to perch on an untidy bed, cuppa in one hand, Bubs on the other. I kept the mum bun but ended up discarding the untidiness. Because this post is not about the mess and chaos of newfound motherhood. It is about the self-growth and self-discoveries that came out of that fertile pandemonium. Despite being disconnected from the world at large, here’s why I think life as a SAHM is still bloody brilliant.
I am chasing my dream.
The writing bug in me has been begging for a proper outlet for years. I was notorious as a serial poster on Facebook, my extra long statuses navigating people who bothered to read them to a separate tab. YUP. Ideally, I would love to pen a novel. I have built a story in my head of a bad ass female protagonist who goes around breaking hearts and living life on the edge (think Lisbeth Salander from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). I don’t know if life will ever allow me to find time, space and solitude to write that book. But blogging, albeit a tad less exciting than penning stories about unapologetic women, is doable. And I am going for it. I have failed at blogging once already so I feel kind of invincible. The worst thing that can happen is that I fail again. Been there, done that. The BEST thing that can happen is that I have an awesome time putting words to my endless thoughts while recording one of the most precious times of my life. What’s NOT to love about this hobby-meets-mommy scenario?
I am enjoying ‘lie-ins’ (of sorts).
I wake up multiple times every night. I haven’t slept the recommended 8 hours for adults since the second trimester. My son cries the moment I get out of bed to go to the loo, shrilly and persistently. He has some superpower that just knows. BUT. I don’t have to wake up at 5 am. Or 6. Or 7 OR 8 for that matter. Sometimes I wake up at 10, and if Bubs looks peaceful, I savour his sleepy little face and go right back to bed. Happily forget breakfast and everything else that needs doing. Because sleep > regret, anyday. Diving back into bed used to be my wildest, naughtiest fantasy. I am now living and loving it. Sure my back hurts from sleeping in skewed breastfeeding positions and sometimes Bubs decides no, mummy ain’t having a lie in. On those days I force myself to wake up and stumble through life all bleary eyed. My life is largely alarm-free though and that, makes me ecstatic.
I am mall-hopping on weekdays.
In my mid twenties, I used to be a savvy Londoner who thrived on the chaos at Oxford Street. 6 months away from my dirty thirty, I hate crowds with a vengeance. Queuing for trial rooms is a luxury I can no longer indulge in. But walking aimlessly around the one lone mall in Southampton while munching on Auntie Anne’s cinnamon pretzels at 1 pm on a Monday? HELL YEAH I CAN! Honestly, just sitting inside a coffee shop on a weekday afternoon feels so naughty! I love it. The fact that most people are typing away at their work desks while I am lounging at Waterstones with Bubs makes it even more special. Does that make me a sadist? Probably. Do I care? Absolutely not.
I am learning more about money.
This bit is no fun. Accepting a pay cut is a horrible thing. In the UK we get to take a year of maternity leave but only 4 months of that is on full pay. I always wondered about the logistics of two salaries reducing to 1 point something when there is an extra mouth to feed. I am now in the thick of that madness and kinda proud of making it work. I am proud just because, poorly or award-winningly, I am doing it. Keeping my act together. Being an adult. Resisting emails from ASOS (sigh). Maternity leave has made us take a good, hard look at our earnings and spendings, forcing us to find ways to make our money run the extra mile. And that, is a VERY important life lesson that I am grateful for.
I am more compassionate.
Motherhood has made me more aware of people in the world than ever before – it’s almost an exponential exposure. All the mums stooped over pushchairs I never glanced at twice as I jovially headed towards my baby free Sunday brunch? I can now truly see them. I understand them. I smile at them. I make mum friends with them. We exchange glances of knowing that the rest of the world blissfully overlooks. When I see Mums and Dads eating out with their children, I marvel at their bravery. I pray for them. For parents. For babies. For SAHMs, in particular. I see how unkind people can be towards them and I realise I used to be pretty ignorant myself. I am glad I am not that person anymore.
I am enjoying a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I will never get back.
Taking care of a baby means long and monotonous days but I will never get these precious moments back. I get to disconnect from work stress, exclusively be with my baby, and adjust to the daily grind of mumhood. It’s hard stuff but it’s for my baby. My family. And I love the fulfilment from it. I might have a second kid and second maternity leave but who knows how that will be?
I am learning to be comfortable with lack of control.
I have never thrived too well on flexible routines. I had rigid boundaries for work, personal life, cooking (cuz we all know THAT is a job in its own right) which had to happen in their own allocated times with very little shuffle. Then Aryan came along and my timetable went up in flames. It takes a certain amount of courage, at least for someone like me, to accept a lack of control and just go with the flow. I no longer have hours to take pretty pictures to add to blog posts that I tweak and judge for days before hitting ‘publish’. It’s more like running around in my jumper and socks trying to keep baby happy while also ironing the skirt/trouser/what have you, making sure somehow to get ready in time for Nizar to come home, then asking him to take some shots outside our apartment (EXACTLY what happened for this post). If I get ready too early, the possibility of unknowns happening is too damn high. If I get ready too late, I am wasting an evening that is extremely tight to begin with. It’s a fine balance that needs to be struck. And you have to be ready to accept failure despite your best efforts. “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong” is the governing law of life with a 4 month old. Murphy must have been a Dad.
I realise a lot of what I am enjoying right now has got to do with my demanding work life which had very little give. I am inside a time capsule that has a best by date which makes me more appreciative of every little perk. It probably would have been a different article altogether if I was doing this SAHM thing long-term. I will tell you an honest truth. I don’t think being a stay-at-home mom is something for me. I am an explorer at heart and I thrive on getting out of the house to learn and grow as a person. I have an acute need for inspiration and connection. Does that sound selfish? Maybe. I wish I could work out a way to be there for my child and earn and learn at the same time. Preferably writing my debut novel somewhere by the beach, sipping on a virgin piña colada while Bubs zooms around my peripheral vision building sand castles. With cash flowing into our lives from some generous great grandfather’s offshore account. Now that would have been ideal. But life is not ideal. We have to make do with what we can. So here I am, figuring out what makes me happy in the face of baldness and jeans-lessness, and being grateful for them. I suspect that is a good way to live.