It started out as a one-month contract that led to two months, then three and then contemplation over whether or not to accept a full-time job. All this immediately following my son’s first birthday. Here I was freelancing in an environment where the unspoken rule was to work well beyond the nine to five, where the client said jump and we answered, “how high?” and where Google Chats were preferred over face to face interactions or phone calls…hence the long hours.
Sure, I was more than grateful to have been given the contract. One of my reasons to work for myself was to experience new things but, ultimately, I was looking for balance. This was a stark reminder of how easy it is to fall back into the conventional routine with little regard for what you really want or even need.
So when the third month was up I decided to take some time off and enjoy the summer with my kids. Unfortunately, I’ve come to realize that finding fulfillment as a stay-at-home mom when you’re used to working a traditional job is very difficult. You can read all the self-help books in the world but at the end of the day it comes down to shifting your perspective. This is extremely difficult to do when you’ve spent your entire life defining yourself by what you do. Author Elisa Morgan describes the internal conflict pretty accurately in her book What Every Mom Needs:
“We live in a day when what you do equals who you are but that an identity based on accomplishment is an identity at risk in a stage of life when we accomplish little more than going to the grocery store or keeping up with the dirty dishes and diapers.”
“If your work is constantly unfinished, coming undone, exhausting or without tangible reward, you question your worth.”
I think what exacerbates this feeling is the intense loneliness that can come with motherhood. More women are working than ever before so if you do decide to stay home, the chances of being surrounded by like-minded females are pretty slim. The emotional and intellectual support that comes from community isn’t what it used to be. Yes, mothers are connecting online and leveraging social media more and more but there’s simply no replacement for physical interaction. If anything, the heavy use of social media among mothers is proof that we’re craving social interaction.
According to one of the longest running studies on adult development, healthy relationships are key to a long, happy and, ultimately, healthy life. Not surprisingly, results show that keeping to yourself and experiencing loneliness is toxic and unfortunately for me, that seems to be a large part of being an at-home mom.
So what does this mean? Get a full-time job if you don’t want to feel alone, devalued and unproductive? I’m not entirely sure what the answer is but, I don’t think it’s as simple as going back to the daily grind. I do believe it requires thinking outside the box I’ve built over my adult life. I had goals when I took time off. Goals rooted in growing both as a person and professional and in order to do so I need to let go of the beliefs that hold me back from pursuing them.
In the words of Mark Manson from his book The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck,
“Don’t just sit there. Do Something. The answers will follow.”
“Action just isn’t just the effect of motivation; it’s also the cause of it.”
So I guess, here’s to not giving a f***.