no-man’s-land (\’nō-,manz-,land\): …(2) an anomalous, ambiguous, or indefinite area especially of operation, application, or jurisdiction.
We’re conditioned to expect that whether we chose to stay at home or return to the career world, that having children will be fulfilling as long as we follow our hearts. The truth, I think, lies closer to the old adage that, “the grass is always greener on the other side” and we find ourselves in a sort of no man’s land – or, no woman’s land as the case may be.
Having chosen the former, I can’t speak for the women who have returned to their careers. I welcome your comments. But speaking for myself, I reap tremendous rewards from spending so much time with my daughter; sharing our days and shaping each others’ lives. That being said, it can also be tremendously isolating. And isolation is a slippery slope toward the bog of depression.
The core of a day in the life of a stay-at-home-mom (SAHMs as they are known) doesn’t vary much without a concerted effort – it’s the same day in and day out, all day and every day. There’s tidying and keeping on top of that favorite activity of toddlers: The Strewing of Toys and Books; personal hygiene when a smaller more dependent body’s priorities usurp yours; entertainment plans made more complicated by society and the marketing world wagging their figurative fingers at you that your child will be a complete dunce if you do not engage them physically and psychologically at a level that will surely have them prepared for high school by the time they are 3 years old; mealtimes that demand an advanced degree in health and nutrition in order to ensure variety, flavor and interest; preparations for bedtime with a conscientiously prepared and relaxing routine. At the end of the day, rinse and repeat most of this for your equally exhausted husband. Oh – and hey – try to find time to be romantic! Then, if you have any time left over, take some time for yourself [insert maniacal sarcastic laughter here] you’ve earned it. And at the risk of their feelings, don’t forget your other family: parents, siblings, in-laws, grandparents, etc.
Considering that these activities typically do not involve your friends or other adults, or even leaving the house, the result is fairly obvious. Isolation – physical and psychological. The stress of fatigue, frustration and isolation takes a tremendous toll. [If at this point you’d like to counter that your job is stressful and you work with mental midgets, I’ll retort that at least they’re adults – and you probably get out of the house for a change in scenery for those 5 days per week, even if it is the office. There’s only so much intellectual reward that an adult can glean from a 2 year old.] As an added bonus, the initial self-sacrifice of pregnancy often conditions women to continue in a Me-Last mentality as their attention shifts from themselves to the care and protection of the tiny developing person relying on them for life itself.
This has been my experience and I’ve allowed myself to fall victim. But join me and decide to try rebalancing your life and take back what you rightfully and healthfully deserve. Breaking the cycle of monotony and isolation demands effort and planning but requires little more than adult interaction and a chance to reconnect with the world as you – not as mommy. Hey! Remember her???