Part Three in my Becoming a SAHM Survival Kit series. This week, Confidence. Do you have confidence in yourself as a parent? I do … sometimes … but not all of the time (as evidenced by my recent post!). I’m not just talking about having confidence in your parenting skills though, but more about how you need a bit of confidence in various situations if you decide to be a SAHM. As always this relates to dads too, and some of it relates to all parents, working or otherwise.
As SAHM you need to have enough confidence to do the following:
- Get out of the house. Go to Mum and Baby/Toddler groups, I would go insane if it was just me at home with Monkey all day, every day so in my opinion getting out to these groups is vital. I know not everyone agrees with this, and it can be scary to go on your own to somewhere new, but it’s great for the little one – to socialise with other little ones, and it is great for you as you do not have to be the sole entertainment for your baby, even if just for half an hour or so. It also gives you a little bit of adult conversation….
- Talk to other parents at these groups. It can be pretty intimidating, especially if the group is well established. Other parents probably know each other already and cliques sometimes form. If you are intimidated and think they are judging your parenting or giving you funny looks, remember that they are there for the same reasons you are, are probably as intimidated as you and are probably far more judgemental of their own parenting than they are of yours. I spent a lot of time worrying about what other mums thought of my parenting, until I realised that if I wasn’t thinking about what they were doing, then presumably they weren’t too fixated on what I was doing either. Also in these situations empathy can go a long way and be a real ice-breaker. You see a mum with a clingy wailing child, she’s slightly red in the face and you can see she is not having much fun that day? I find a friendly smile and saying something like ‘oh, one of those days is it?’ goes a long way and makes them feel less judged.
- Talk to other parents at play parks or play centres. I know some of my mummy friends never do this and are too nervous, again largely because they worry what they will think of them. But I have had some lovely conversations with parents at the park or play centre. If your kids are playing (or fighting) try and spark a conversation with their mum or dad. In my experience most of us adults feel a bit self conscious standing around watching the kids playing, and on bad days when it has been just you and the little one all day it can be nice to have even a 30 second conversation with a complete stranger as it makes you feel less alone.
- Try a new activity or play idea at home. It breaks up the day. Yes the little’un may hate it. Yes even if they love it it may only last a few minutes before they get bored again. Yes it may make a massive mess or be a disaster, but you will never know if you don’t try. If they do hate it, maybe try again in a couple of months time. If it makes a mess, take a deep breath and try and think of a way to contain the mess next time. It passes the time, can teach them new skills (and you) and is something nice to tell your other half about when they get home. And you never know, it may turn out to be their favourite activity and keep them occupied for a while!
- Walk away and take a deep breath. Thankfully I don’t need to do this as often these days but when Monkey was younger and he seemed to cry for no apparent reason, or wouldn’t stop regardless of what I did, it really helped. As long as they are safe, in a childproofed room or in their cot, sometimes for your own sanity you need to walk away and take a deep breath. It’s not easy, especially when they are little as your mummy instincts hate to leave them crying, but as someone once said to me, no baby ever died of crying. And you are not neglecting your child by walking away, gathering your thoughts and then coming back fresh. I actually found sometimes that after a couple of minutes crying Monkey would get it out of his system a bit and was easier to soothe second time round.
- Have some me-time. As a SAHM you need to take it when you can get it. I sometimes feel guilty about leaving Monkey with his daddy for an hour or two at the weekend so I can do something for myself (like browse some shops without a toddler in tow, or have a bath), but it always does me good. And actually, it does them good to have some Monkey and Daddy time. I suppose I feel guilty as weekends should be family times and I want to spend time with my hubby too, but sometimes it just does us all some good so I feel less guilty about it now. A night out with the girls is wonderful too, as most of us are mummies now it’s not quite as late or raucous as it used to be (not quite as tempting when you know you will have a 7am wake-up call regardless of how you feel!!). It also doesn’t happen as frequently either (matching up dates with babysitters, partners, work shifts etc make it more complicated when there is a kiddy at home) but when we can sit together for a meal out and have a good natter without having to constantly watch what the kids are up to it is just so relaxing and I feel quite refreshed after a night off!
- Disagree with others, be it family, friends, strangers, the media about how to parent your child sometimes We are all individuals and every child is different. You as mummy or daddy the primary caregiver, know your child best. Just because something worked with so & so’s child, doesn’t mean it will for yours. You want to wean using pureed food rather than baby-led, or vice versa, do it. Be open to new ideas and of course accept that people may only be trying to help – and sometimes their advice will work. But if you disagree with that advice then have the confidence to stick to your guns.
- Feel proud of yourself. Easier said than done I know. But you are doing your best at this parenting lark and doing your best is always something to be proud of.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but you get the idea. If you struggle with any/all of the above, I have one more tip for you. Fake it. Put a smile on your face and pretend you have the confidence to talk to a stranger or try something new. I have a lot of insecurities and find social situations really difficult sometimes, but I have learnt that hiding behind these insecurities doesn’t do me any favours. And you may be surprised that if you fake something for long enough it starts to become real. The fake smile, isn’t so fake any more, and the nerves at speaking to a new person, the slight stutter… become less noticeable.
None of this is easy and I by no means succeed at this all the time and I hope it doesn’t come across as preachy as that’s not how I mean it. I wish I had this kind of confidence all the time, but like I say, on the days that I don’t I try and fake it and sometimes I succeed….