Don’t forget to mind your mum

Convinced that being a stay at home mum is a breeze and can’t really be that tough? Trish O’Neill paints a picture, which many women will relate to and says it’s OK to feel down and defeated... but talk it out
Don’t forget to mind your mum
Trish O'Neill and her children Conor and Aoibhínn. Picture: Denis Minihane

IT’S the hard knock life really, being a stay at home mother to a bunch of kids.

A day in the life can be so stressful. Starting the day the right way and ensuring they all eat their overnight, organic oats with chia seed, without spilling some on their perfectly pressed uniforms.

Then there is always one of them that just will not have their carrot juice!

Trying to fit everyone into the 4x4 and dealing with who sits where… by the time I get them to school and day care, I barely make my nail appointment. And running late for that eats into coffee time with the girls — I hate being the late mum! Thank heavens for the fact I get the afternoons to myself so I can recharge before collecting the kids again….

If you read that paragraph while nodding your head and relating to it, then I warn you now that this article may not be for you. That describes a life I could only dream of; and I suspect that there are many more like me.

Because being a stay at home mother is a damn hard job. The hours are relentless, the pay is crap and the staff are demons (literally!).

Oh, and did I mention that we don’t even get lunch breaks?? No union, no HR, no contracts — so nothing to complain against really.

Misconceptions of yummy mummies living the high life, sipping multiple lattes, is clouding the view of what is really going on. Mum is the knot that holds all the strings together and cannot be seen to fail. Sadly, more and more of us are slowly sinking and not asking for help.

We hear more and more that ‘it’s ok not to be ok’ but mothers tend to suffer from guilt — especially if we cannot look after everyone and everything. So we are less likely to admit defeat.

Still not convinced that being a stay at home mother can be tough? Let me paint you a little picture.

Firstly, getting up to an audience of cranky children after a night of broken sleep (I just love teething, don’t you?) can set you off on the wrong foot. Breakfast is whatever cereal they will eat without protest — get enough Weetabix flung at you and you will learn to pick your battles. Besides, when that stuff sets it’s like concrete!

There may be a few sips of coffee. Most likely that will need to be microwaved back from tepid seeing as I neglected it while taking on the one and a half year old at Mixed Martial Arts or, as it is more commonly known — ‘nappy change and getting dressed.’

Any bundling of bodies into cars is met with a chorus of whinging and giving out — the acoustics of which are made even more painful given how small my Opel Corsa is. Nail appointment? No not since 2015. Lattes with the girls? Eh, more like lukewarm coffee number two while begging the toddler to stop turning off the washing machine, again.

But at least I have my quiet afternoons… oh, wait, I don’t. Because we cannot afford after school care and we don’t have relatives that call to give me a hand. It’s just me, my kids and Fireman Sam (on rainy days). Every, single, day.

Now you might think this is a bit dramatic or negative. Yes, some days are better than others. (Saturdays for example, lol). But I recently learned that it’s ok to feel a bit down and defeated.

I have found that working in the home can be isolating. People think because you are surrounded by your kids all day you cannot feel lonely. Wrong! Kids cannot conduct adult conversation. So there are days when as a mother I don’t speak to anyone. The reality can be loneliness, fatigue and monotony. With a sprinkling of stress and anxiety. When left unchecked, this can lead to depression.

Some stay at home mothers did not choose this path — and due to rising childcare costs in Ireland, have had to walk away from hard earned career paths. They no longer contribute financially and have lost a sense of self, a sense of equality. And after a few years of raising kids, they cannot return to the work place at the same level, as they have a ‘gap’ in their CV. Which can be a bit of a slap in the face to many well qualified and experienced women.

So as it turns out, it really is the hard knock life for these mothers — and it’s time that society recognised this.

My message to all the husbands, partners, relatives and friends of a stay at home mother is simple — Mind your mum. Recognise how hard she works every day taking care of the most precious thing we have in life, our family.

Support her — give her a call to say hi, call in for coffee during the day or make arrangements to meet up in the evening.

Husbands/partners — please don’t come home and launch straight into your day. Ask her how hers was, and let her talk it out. Treat her concerns with respect — feeding a fussy toddler might not interest you, but if it upsets her enough, listen.

Thank her for doing what she does — because if she didn’t, you couldn’t do what you do.

Or for the more materialistic amongst us — you would be paying a hell of a lot in childcare to allow you to do it!

To my esteemed, hard-working colleagues at ground level (yes mothers, that’s you) — mind yourself. You have one of the toughest jobs in the world. You are a caregiver, nurse, playmate, sleep consultant, chef, maid and taxi driver all rolled into one.

You work endless hours for no pay — you don’t stop when they sleep and you don’t sleep when you try.

You don’t get lunch breaks, you don’t get coffee breaks. And there are no sick days to take.

But if you don’t feel ok — you need to speak up, without fear of letting anyone down or being perceived as being ungrateful.

I now take at least an hour for myself every day and do not feel guilty. I leave the house and all child related thoughts behind. I switch off.

I still get lonely, I still get down. But that’s ok. I recognise it, and I give myself the time to deal with it.

Remember, if you are still feeling down, talk to your doctor — they are always there to listen.

If you don’t spend time caring for you, then you cannot care for anyone else. You deserve to take care of yourself. You are important. You are a ‘key player’. You are an invaluable part of the team. You deserve to be happy.

You should be proud of your job. You are amazing. You are a Mum.

Trish O’Neill is a coffee loving mother of two, an autism mammy and owner of Blarneymum — a parenting blog sharing stories of modern motherhood. Find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pg/blarneymum/about/?ref=page_internal

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