It is a good idea to book an appointment to visit with a stay at home mum or homeschooling mom rather than drop in at your convenience.
Exactly the same way you would do with someone working in an office, call before hand and find out if they are available to see you, or when it will be most convenient for you to pass by. Magdalene, a mother of a pre-schooler and a toddler has given up on getting people to respect her time. Those who do not take time to call before they visit either miss her altogether, or are left sitting alone in the sitting room as she goes about her tasks. Sounds out of this world right? We are accustomed to the traditional housewife who sits on the couch all day watching her favourite soaps as she waits for the children to come home. She most likely spends most of the day in her night clothes, especially if she has a house help to do the chores.
The stay home mum of today is of a different breed. She is involved in the affairs of her home and her children. The house help may be assigned the daily household chores, but the children are the responsibility of their mother.The concept of being a stay home mum in Kenya is still relatively new. The term ‘housewife’ rolls off the tongue more readily than stay home mum. Misconceptions abound and many cannot understand why one would put all their degrees, and the opportunity to make money or advance one’s career aside to take care of children.
Raising children and being at home with the children are two different things. Raising children is all about being involved in every aspect of their lives and ensuring that they learn good habits and values. That said, there are general things stay at home mums think about but rarely say out loud:-
1. Becoming a stay at home mum was a conscious choice
Some mothers end up being SAHM’s due to circumstances such as losing a job and not being able to get another one. Still, the choice to be at home has to be a conscious one. There is a lot of stigma around being a SAHM in Kenya today.
Petronilla Maina, a trailing spouse and stay at home mum to a six and three year old says that it is easier to be a stay home mum abroad. Out there, they are accustomed to that and people live on schedules so it is difficult for someone to drop by unannounced. But when she gets back home to Kenya, there is a stigma that latches on almost immediately.
2. We love being with our children
I once had a friend comment about how monotonous it must be to be at home with the children all day meeting their demands. As a SAHM it goes beyond just being there with the children. It is an opportunity to invest in their lives. This is the time to reach them the values you want them to stand on when they grow up.
Wanjiru, a mother of two children below five years, purposes to interact with her children when they are at home. ‘They are not background noise in my life’, she states, ‘I bake with them, make breakfast with them sometimes, and I love planning and doing activities with them.’
3. Free time is not automatic. There is always something to be done
One would imagine that because you are at home all day, you have a lot of free time. Not true for the stay at home mum. One has to purpose to make free time. This can be when the children are away in school, but one has to balance between pending chores and ‘me’ time.
A support network and a supportive husband makes a world of difference says Petronilla. She gets her time on Sunday when Dad takes off for a couple of hours with the children. One needs to be careful that the children don’t take over your life because when they are around you, they are your focus, when they are away from you, you are still thinking about them.
4. There are subtle and obvious challenges. It is hard work
Being a SAHM is hard work and there are numerous challenges that surround that. Magdalene shares that one challenge she faces is being able to concentrate fully on being home rather than getting carried away by other activities out of home. It can also get lonely sometimes especially when the children are younger and there is limited interaction with other adults.
One of the subtle challenge is financial especially if both of you were working previously. The family budget reduces significantly and there may be some stress on the husband to increase his income to support the family. Also, where the lady was used to having her own money, having to learn to rely on her husband for even the smallest thing can take getting used to.
5. Being a SAHM has rewards that are better than cashing a pay check.
Petronilla says she would never trade being a SAHM for anything in the world. If it were possible, she would remain a SAHM for the rest of her life. It is so rewarding. She shares, ‘Being with your children and watching them grow through the milestones is the most rewarding thing’. Wanjiru knows everything about her children and I glad to have the opportunity to walk with them though life. ‘They tell me everything; I am their first port of call in any situation. I would not trade that for anything!’
6. You get to determine how the early years of your child turn out
The best thing about being a SAHM is that you be deliberate about how the early years of your child turn out. Being with your child before they head off to school, and when they get back from school, gives you a lot of insight into what is going on in their lives. They may not say much, but you can see any changes in their behaviour and respond accordingly.
7. We have our dreams too!
‘One day the children will grow up’ says Petronilla,’ what will happen then? Sometimes I wonder about how I will ever go back to building my career.’ SAHMs have to think about how bridge the career gap even as they get attached to their children. ‘You know that no one can take care of your children the way you do, so even though there are things we want to do, we have put on them hold for now. The children come first’ shares Magdalene.
Being a SAHM in Kenya today may have its challenges when you come face to face with the outside world, but within the comfort of your home, you are impacting your children in a way that will remain with them for years to come and may even affect future generations.
At times like that, it really does not matter what anyone else thinks.
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