I read an article the other day about the loneliness modern stay at home mothers have. They had statistics and fancy numbers, but alas, I cannot find the article. However, that is likely a good thing. As the article in question suggested some very, well, in my opinion, terrible advice. But this is something that has been on my mind lately.
Stay at home moms often have very little adult interaction. Our Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat feeds might give that away. But little people, while adorable and awesome, aren’t always the best kind of company. They are always demanding and give very little back. This along with the fact that our work is never done, often very underappreciated, and usually overlooked- well, it can quickly lead to feeling like less than a person. Then when you take into account our inability to shower, constantly fluctuating bodies, and not a lot of time for trivial things like nail polish and facials, well, it becomes easy to see how we get depressed. The perpetual joke of the wife who “let herself go” isn’t so funny to us because we understand and feel the weight of that. It isn’t what we wanted. But life is like that, isn’t it?
In our current culture, many of us find ourselves living far from family. We’re far from the free help of family babysitters who just want the joy of hanging out with our kids. Date nights become costly as we factor in childcare and pizza for the kids into the expense it takes. It very quickly feels not worth it. No support. No help. Just us organizing all of this alone.
As Christians, we aren’t likely to move to a commune or give polyamory a try. (Which is what was suggested in the initial article.) So where does that leave us? Just treading water until the kids go to college? I don’t think so. I think we can do better than simple survival.
First, whether you chose to be a stay at home parent or it simply happened, it is for a purpose. Whether it is temporary or permanent, there is a reason. Knowing that you have a purpose and there is reason for your labor can make the work itself seem easier. Dishes washed get dirty quickly. But dishes provide the canvas where you nourish those in your care. There is meaning in what we do. Making our house happy for those in it provides deep benefits to those living with us. It means something, even if the work is never done.
Next, we have to build community. It is okay to reach out through virtual means. Staying connected on social media is absolutely okay. (Especially when you are keeping in contact with people you really know in real life.) Just don’t forget that what you see isn’t always the truth. I can photoshop my life to look any way I want it to look. That isn’t the real day to day in my home. That is just a peak. Just the highlight reel. Just remember that. And if the comparison trap entangles you often, it is okay to say no to social media.
You also have to build your real community. Real people you can talk to and count on. The easiest way to do that is through your church. Join a small group. Reach out. Know that there are other people like you that need someone. You can be their someone. And they can be yours.
Practice hospitality. I know, having people over for dinner seems like the last thing you need. More work. But inviting people into your home is inviting them into your life. These are the people you know you can call when you need emergency childcare at 2 am. These are going to be the people at your door with dinner when you need them. It is a little extra work, but it is well worth it.
Don’t let trivial junk drive your friends away. I know you think you wouldn’t do that, but we do it all the time. We distance ourselves from those who make different choices. Homeschool moms flock to homeschool moms. Public school moms flock to public school moms. The diapers on our kid’s butts somehow tell other moms if we are worthy of their friendship. Don’t be like that. Don’t let literal crap matter that much. Friends are people who are there for you. Choose wisely, because friends can make our lives worse. But know what matters and what doesn’t. Don’t let the small stuff keep you from getting close to people.
Be the friend you want to have. I wrote a whole post on this that I decided not to post. But I think the point still needs to be made. You want someone who will bring your chicken soup when you are sick? Then take a friend chicken soup when they are sick? Want someone to babysit your kid free of charge so you can have a much needed date night? Babysit someone’s kid(s) free of charge so they can have a much needed date night. You have to create the community you want to be a part of.
Don’t push your spouse away. It can get so easy for us to get resentful of their adult interaction and their time not spent scrubbing bathroom walls. But this isn’t an us versus them scenario. We are all working together to make this family thing work. Don’t push away your partner in this endeavor.
Don’t push away from God. I know you’re busy. I know you have things to do. I know the idea of “quiet time” is laughable. But you can still find ways to seek God. You can turn on music while cleaning and praise His name. You can read devotions with your kids that will feed all of you. You can pray while doing any task. Seek Him. He is our Friend.
You are not alone. You are doing a great job. Whether this is for a season or forever, the time you give to your family is not wasted. Now, I think someone out there is praying for a friend like you.