SAHP Life- Alone But Not Alone...
This is, by far, the hardest part for me as a home-parent. I recently did a Twitter poll and although the response wasn’t huge, isolation was also the most challenging for other SAHP’s. The sense of identity part is interconnected, as isolation breeds an inordinate amount of self-analysis. Scary stuff indeed. Without an active world around to reflect us back at ourselves, we can become rather eccentric. Weird becomes our norm and we start getting quizzical looks while chattering away during rare instances of adult interaction.
When the kids are at school or napping, it’s just you and four walls. People that work full time and haven’t done the SAHP job almost always say they’d jump at the chance to be home with all of that ‘free’ time. They say that they wouldn’t have to deal with idiot colleagues and office politics, etc. I was that person, too. Don’t get me wrong; as hard as it is, I wouldn’t trade this time with my children for anything. But now I see the other side of the coin.
A stay-at-home parent has no workmates; at least in the traditional sense. They have nobody in the adjacent cubicle to safely rant to about something going on in their personal lives. They don’t have a ‘piss and moan club’. Without this type of support mechanism, repressed emotions such as frustration and anger can fester and create a host of physical and emotional problems as well as addictions.
The idea of staying at home with the kids and not being accountable to an adult supervisor is very appealing from a conceptual perspective.
However, a baby-boss can be the most brutal of taskmasters … and that’s a boss you can’t quit. Whether or not you knew who you were before your life as a SAHP, all sense of identity is stripped away into the vortex of an empty, yet paradoxically very full house. The frightening part is not knowing if you’ll ever be ‘you’ again and if that person will be recognizable in the mirror. This job transforms you. The metamorphosis may or may not be overt, but rest assured, the person you were before kids will seem like they’re from an alternate universe. The isolation, stress, and also love for your children are powerful catalysts for change.
Whether or not you want to revive the person you were before kids, or completely reinvent yourself, I think it’s imperative that you have something just for you. Maybe it’s running a small business, or working a part-time job, or perhaps an interesting hobby that makes you feel joy. If you’re not already doing something like this, please take the first steps. Do it for you, and for your family. Isolation does strange things to the mind.
If you feel depressed, and the idea of doing anything except the bare minimum is inconceivable because your kids are exhausting, you’re not alone. My first few months at home were a shocker. I couldn’t get much more accomplished beyond feeding them, dressing them, and driving them around. Oh; and a lot of yelling. Just like any new job, and I think even more so with this one, it takes at least six months to settle into it. At the time of this writing, I’m coming up on a year and still struggle daily.
When you’re alone or with kids most of the time, your intellectual side starves. Well, at least mine did. I longed for a proper, two-way conversation but nobody was ever around. On the flipside, this loneliness can make you self-isolate against your instincts. It’s such a strange dynamic, and when you’re in the middle of it, you feel nuts. You desperately want to talk to people, so you run away from them? Huh? It makes no sense.
This reminds me of a time after I had completed over two months of school holidays with the kids...