Many fears are borne of fatigue and loneliness - Desiderata
I’ve been a SAHM for almost five months and, in the spirit of full disclosure, I want to mention that my transition from Working Mother to SAHM was not exactly seamless. My girlfriends who had gone before me, while thrilled for me, all warned of the “adjustment period” that would inevitably come. One close friend, who had left her career nearly five years prior and just before the birth of her first child, explained it best.
“It’s going to feel like an extended vacation at first, or like a materity leave. It’s going to feel great, and restful and you’ll be giddy. But trust me, all the while your subconscious will be preparing to return to work. And when it finally gets the hint that you’re not going back to work – ever – well, BAM!”
I remember sort of flinching when she told me this, but I had no idea what she meant. I do now. As if on cue (self-fulfilling prophecy, perhaps?), 1.5 months after I quit my job I stopped sleeping. I’m and eight hour/night girl, an I started getting a scant four hours. I felt worn down and anxious, as though I were forgetting something important. I quickly realized that if I didn’t keep the little ones busy, they would descend upon me with relentless demands that I find something for them to do, and I would sort of stare at them curiously. How did I get here? Who are these children? Who am I? Okay, it wasn’t that bad, but I spent a good two months feeling…off. The sleep deprivation alone was slowly driving me batty.
So I called up that same good friend and told her what I was going through. She laughed and said, “Yep, that sounds about right.” I asked her if it would pass on its own. If I waited patiently, would the anxiousness just dissolve? “Oh honey, no,” she said. “You have to take action.” And then she outlined for me the things that had helped bring her around years before:
Maintain adult contact
This one took more effort than I expected. I’m a bit of an introvert anyway, and over the years the proximity to grown-ups at the office had made me lazy. But after spending almost two months in the company of people aged four and under, I was desperate for adult conversation. My husband was very supportive during this time, but even he started to gently push me to get out more often. Apparently I have hermit-like tendencies. So I reached out to a handful of relatives and close friends and made standing dates. Some were play dates, some were grown-ups only. All were necessary.
I fell off the fitness wagon the moment I came home – which is exactly the wrong thing to do. Vigorous activity is anxiety’s archenemy. I started running and I kickboxed when time allowed. I never should have stopped, but admittedly I was overwhelmed by the enormity the change I’d made. After about a week, I was smiling more often, I had more energy, and…
Early to bed
The other thing about exercise is that it helps you sleep, and soon I was ready to crash by about 7:30 p.m. I didn’t, but I did make sure I hit the hay by 10:00 p.m.
I realize this contradicts Maintain adult contact, but in truth both are necessary. I started waking up an hour before everyone else. I used the time to think or pray, plan or just sip coffee and stare at the wall. Even now, if I don’t give myself this morning time, if I “hit the ground running,” I can feel the anxiety gremlin start creeping back.
It’s a challenging change, coming home. There is no place I would rather be, but there is also no way I could expect, after working for fifteen years, to stop cold-turkey without experiencing some sort of withdrawal. If any new or aspiring SAHM’s are reading this, I hope my little story will help you. You’re not alone, and the strangeness does pass. You have to help it along, but it passes. Most importantly, experiencing the “adjustment period” does not in any way mean that coming home was the wrong decision.