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A funny thing happened yesterday. A writer called Maria Guido wrote a post titled 'I’m A SAHM And I’m Bored Out Of My Mind' on website Mommyish.com. Funny and honest, the post contained observations like "Toddlers are great and all, but their conversational skills suck. They are so damn self-centered. They never ask you how you are doing. It’s all gimme, gimme, me, me, me, Yo-Gabba-Gabba, blah, blah, blah."
Sound familiar? How about referring to infants as "adorable, little cuddly-lumps of incessant, repetitive need"?
Yeah, she said it. Remarkably, instead of the flaming Guido expected to receive the response was overwhelmingly positive. "I was a SAHM for 12 yrs. I too totally lost my freakin' mind on a daily basis," wrote one commentor.
Sure, mothers may be in the paid workforce in record numbers, but it's still often considered out of financial necessity than genuine preference. There is still a hesitation I see other women make before admitting that maternity leave it is not the time of their lives; in fact, it was the opposite of what they'd expected.
"I guess I just always thought that not having to show up physically to a job would make me feel more free," writes Guido. "It’s kind of had the opposite effect on me."
It is hard to talk about the dissatisfaction some women feel when they are out of the workforce and at home with small children without offending parents who do geniunely enjoy days devoted to primarily domestic duties.
Too often we see stereotypes: the Huggies mum, bathed in sunlight, lovingly playing with her baby in a pristine home. And then there's the other ad - a woman hunched, crying, in front of the dishwasher. She must have postnatal depression.
Most of us fall somewhere in between. In reality, life at home with small children is how Guido describes.
What’s that honey? You’d like to read Tickle Time again? Awesome. Maybe after that I can make you the third plate of food you’ll turn your nose up at today – that will be fun. Then we can play that game where you dump literally every single toy in your drawers and toy chests on the floor and kick them all around the room. I’ll be sweating by then. It will be 11 am. Only 10 hours to go until I can pour myself a glass of wine.
Sure - there might be a spot of baking and craft and outdoor fun - but if you have a baby as well, just getting dinner on the table might be an achievement. Why doesn't anyone tell you that before kids?
It's exhausting, it's tedious and after a while you forget how to talk to grown-ups. Which brings us to the other dilemma with talking about the drudgery of home duties - it devalues the importance of these activities.
Tedious is not the same as easy. Parenting is hard for most of us, harder than running in the Olympics said Cathy Freeman recently. (Whether it is the 'hardest' or 'most important' job in the world is still up for debate). Yet most Australian women prefer to work part-time, if at all, while their children are young. Clinical psychologist Vera Auerbach says parents want to be with our children because ultimately “you know you will probably look after your child better than another caregiver”.
While we continue to stereotype stay-at-home parenting as easy or something that we should feel privileged to be able to do, we will fail to appreciate the fact that it takes a fair deal of sacrifice to put other life goals and experiences on hold to make Play-Doh from scratch while simultaneously toilet training a two-year-old. It's also a sacrifice still primarily made by women.
Yes, parenting is all about sacrifice and we wouldn't have it any other way. But let's not sugarcoat the reality. The majority of women will find themselves poorer and more isolated after having a baby and that can be really tough.
Admitting you're bored and unfulfilled at home doesn't make you a failure of a parent. Likewise, having a Pinterest-worthy house and no further career aspirations doesn't make you a freak. What you need to be able to do is find a way to cope.
Remembering that the act of providing children with safe, loving care and running a household is really important work may help in getting through the 'drudge years' of parenting with sanity intact. Perhaps it will inspire more men to take up the role too.