NB: This post was originally authored and posted by me on bellanaija.com, a Nigerian lifestyle blog.
I was excited to have her visit me, this stay-at-home mom friend of mine with 2 babies under 2, chasing the one academic degree I think is reserved for gods and other celestial beings: a Ph.D.
As is the case with most domestic queens, we want to know how to balance our time, especially when we have babies and toddlers singing ‘I just wanna be where you are’ all day every day to us moms.
Being no expert in this area, I shared with her from my little but effective knowledge on how I navigated that season of my life too. Allow me to make this a little personal, sis, so pull up beside me in this purple couch reserved for domestic queens and let’s have a heart-to-heart.
I know you adore your children, you almost wanna chew them.
I know you don’t want your baby crying at all, so you do what you can to fix whatever is causing the tears immediately.
I agree with you, sis, but part of being a mommy – an intentional strategic mommy – is knowing how to manage these kids so that you too have time apart from them for yourself. Time to maybe work on your Ph.D., work on your home-based business, work on that certification or skill, work on your CV for job applications, or just stretch leg and sleep, my sister. God knows you deserve it.
As a stay-at-home mom, you most likely spend all day with your babies, and as a result, they are so used to you. With my first son, my husband lived and worked in another state so ‘Mama’ was all he knew, and he made sure to not let anyone else come close to him even Daddy on his first night home.
Then one day, it occurred to me the same thing I asked my Ph.D. friend, which I am asking you today: “Does this boy need attention or does he just need activity?”
And to take it a step further, “Does he need it from me right now?”
My sister, whatever he needs can also be gotten from someone or something else besides you.
I’ll nag, and go ahead to repeat it.
Whatever he needs can also be gotten from someone or something else besides you
Queen, you cannot be everything at every time to your child. At some point, that child will need both attention and activity from others that exclude Mommy.
Let me share this cool but true story, lean in.
There was a time my son was permanently attached to me. When I had to run quick errands around my estate or go to the market, I would strap him to my back and off we went. One day, hubby was around for a short time so I quickly ran off alone to do this and that. On my way, I greeted this older lady with whom I was familiar, but she responded rather curtly. So, I paused, then she looked closely at me, then exclaimed, ‘Oh, it’s you. I am sorry, I am used to always seeing you with your baby on your back all the time, so I didn’t know it was you.’
I was shocked.
She couldn’t recognize me outside of my baby on my back.
At that point, I knew I had to enlist my ‘village’ to help me raise this child. If I was going to be more than mommy, then I needed to share the burden of activity and attention with others, in healthy doses of course.
Let me break this down even more
Sometimes, we make the mistake of thinking that every time our baby cries, he needs attention. No. Granted, sometimes he needs attention, so please make sure to give that child enough attention. But sometimes he just needs activity or attention which can be TV/screen time in controlled portions (cos ain’t no mama gon’ let Nickelodeon raise her babies, I know), playdates with a friend or neighbors’ kid, a weekend at Grandma’s, playtime alone with lots of safe age-appropriate toys, or activity as provided by a creche or daycare if too young for school, or even time alone with a maid or nanny at home, all of which exclude mommy.
Granted, the child is bound to cry, possibly wail at first, but tears are a part of life, and it is not every cry that we should worry about. Most times, quicker than we expect, these babies adjust to their temporary activity or attention providers.
After that incident with the lady who couldn’t recognize me without a baby strapped to my back, I decided to take a critical look at the matter. I realized that even within the home, my son was always with me except when he was asleep, and even then, when he stirred, he wanted to feel me beside him or he would start wailing. I wasn’t getting so much done outside of him and I was quickly getting frustrated. So, I decided to start reducing such attachment.
First, I introduced screen activity alone. I would put him on his high chair, make sure he was neither hungry nor wet, put on the TV for him, then shut the door behind me.
He bawled. He screamed. My heart broke. But until the allotted screen time was up, I didn’t budge.
Soon, he got the message and cried less and less until he got used to his time alone so mommy could have time alone too.
Right after then, we got a live-in domestic help, and yes, it took some time for my son to adjust to her, but he did eventually. And they became buds. I could have my me-time to work on my own ‘Ph.D.,’ by which I mean my home-based business.
After my help left, I decided to try out a creche and he cried at drop-off for the first 3 days. I recall one day, I stood outside to calculate how long before he stopped crying. It lasted less than 5 minutes. These children, stronger and wiser than we know.
When he finally started school, he looked sad as I left him on his first day but he didn’t cry. By that time, he was used to finding attention and activity from others besides mommy, creating an even richer life experience for him. I noticed his social skills and level of interaction and acceptance of others get better, and then he truly became a more independent child, or what you would call a ‘big boy’.
Now, every step we took concerning alternative sources of activity and attention was guided by wisdom, intuition, and research. I didn’t just abdicate my mommy roles to others, rather I found a way to balance it all using my ‘village’ because indeed, it does take a village to raise a child.
Otherwise, as a stay at home mom, you would find that you are stuck in mommy mode all day, which can lead to frustration, meanwhile, you can have a richer experience as you carefully enlist help, free up time for yourself, and then steward other parts of you to bear fruit in other areas of your life beyond mommy. Who knows, maybe you would even go ahead and get that Ph.D.
Of course, this doesn’t apply if you know you have been called to be mommy only. I have met a few domestic queens like that, and I respect that decision. I am just writing to those who need permission to share the burden of activity and attention for their kids. I don’t have time to tell you how after I had my second son, we still lived in the same estate and two people, at different times, told me how they saw me a lot when I was pregnant but since my tummy went down, they had never seen me with the baby outside. I am sure they wondered why I laughed so hard, but one day, I carried my baby to them and said ‘You don see am now?’
Ok, I want to end this on a serious note.
Dear Stay-at-home mom,
Please rock a life outside your kids. Find an alternative and a safe source of both attention and activity for them. Don’t make them the center of your world and let everything and everyone revolve around them. You be the center of your own world and raise them in such a way that you still have time to lead a rich and fruitful life going after your own ‘Ph.D.,’ whatever it is.
Cheers to rocking the fruitful life right at home.