Thursday, March 3, 2011

Stay Home, Stay Happy - Chapter 1: Say It Loud, Say It Proud

And now I start with my book reflection and sharing of the things I read from the book "Stay Home, Stay Happy". I really believe that this is indeed a good book especially for stay-at-home-moms who often feels unhappy, unsatisfied, like there's something missing in their lives and roles as mothers. It has helped me a lot to rediscover myself as a person, a mother, a daughter, a friend and a wife. 

I will be highlighting statements in the book which I deem important and will probably give some of my insights. This book reflection is going to be divided into 10 parts which correspond to the 10 chapters of the book.

I hope you will learn a lot, as I have, from this book through my blog, and feel better, happy, proud and confident as a stay-at-home-mom.

Chapter 1: Say it Loud, Say it Proud
Celebrating At-Home Motherhood

A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves; vanity, to what we would have others to think of us. -- Jane Austen

"Even in our own families, it can be difficult to get the respect we deserve for the work it takes for moms to hold it all together." And she is right. I guess this is because we moms are expected to do the things we are doing, so most of the times, we are not receiving the gratitude we always seek. Not receiving any appreciation for the small things we do "can be depressing and cause a lot of frustration". That's why some moms, like me, sometimes feel unhappy with or not proud of our "job" as a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM). 

Ask Yourself: How did I get here?

"...reflecting on that very simple but profound question may be all it takes to bring joy and satisfaction back into our daily life." How did you become a SAHM? Was it a personal choice? Was it forced upon you? Whatever the reason maybe, we probably all agreed to play this role in our family life. At first, we probably thought this would be a good decision and that we would do a good job at it, only to find out after sometime that there is something amiss. Maybe because this is the "most undervalued of all vocations" and you slowly feel it kicking in. Although we don't really think of it that way, how people around us perceive the role also affects how we see ourselves, how we value ourselves.

This is not saying though that we don't value our roles as at-home moms because we probably do. Why would we even thought of becoming one if we don't believe in the importance of this role. But there is something missing - validation.

You're not crazy: Validation Matters

Rachel (the author) realized that the more she valued and appreciated being an at-home mom, the more she "understood how undervalued and ignored her work was". Why? Because more often than not, when we introduce ourselves as at-home moms, people are not really that impressed. Questions like "what does she do all day?" and "you must enjoy those free times not working an 8-5 job?" often come up. Some people have misperceptions of what an at-home mom does throughout the day. Even worse, some even think that at-home moms are less "intelligent" than their working counterparts (eg. working moms). Doesn't that just make us at-home moms feel frustrated? I know I do.

Based on a study cited in the book at-home moms were the least satisfied as compared to working moms and part-time working moms. Why? "Because they receive virtually no outside validation for the very important and often difficult work of being home with their children."

"Nowadays, most adults are happy to tell you all about the impact, especially the negative impact, their childhood had on their adult life - so why such indifference toward those who have dedicated their days giving children happy childhoods?"

I particularly liked the part where Rachel mentioned about her friend's (Judy) "bold social research" to "expose society's prejudice for paid work vs nonpaid work (eg. being an at-home mom)" because she was "totally frustrated by the "conversation stopper" she perceived at-home mom to be whenever someone inquired about her occupation. Here is how the story went:
"At the next dinner party she went to, she told the guests she had a new job: household manager for a very successful land developer and widower. She explained how she was his "right-hand man", supervising and managing everything from his kids to his home. In addition to serving as family nutritionist, she was advising the widower on his extensive home renovations, dealing with contractors and design dilemmas. Plus, Judy, an accomplished athlete in her own right, managed the training and athletic schedules of his four very active and talented teenagers. Finally, she explained her role as a family counselor, advising her employer on business and family issues, while serving as surrogate mother to his kids, who came to her for advice on everything from dating to picking a college. Judy couldn't believe all the interest and follow up questions she garnered at this dinner."
 I think her experiment worked! "By simply pretending that she was being paid to do all the things she does everyday for her family for no pay, she was suddenly so much more interesting to other people." I wonder how people would react if I do the same experiment? Hmmmm. From being an at-home mom to being the Executive Assistant of well-established IT manager who takes care of all travel arrangements, helps in

The experiment shows that the primary problem for at-home moms is that "in this line of work, there is no salary, no raise, and no bonus - not even an "employee of the month" award next to the bathroom door to let you know that you're doing a swell job."

This doesn't mean though that we need the money for all the work we are doing. It's not the financial benefits but simple the acknowledgment that we are after. I definitely agree with her on this matter. Like we, as parents, are constantly showering our kids with praise for even the smallest and simplest good deed they have done, we at-home moms also "respond favorably to praise". This is a source of motivation for us. It fires us up.

"Lack of positive feedback and validation explains why full-time at-home moms often scored among the lowest on happiness polls." Validation, therefore, is a component to happiness. Since at-home motherhood doesn't really have any conventional means of bestowing approval, we should think of how we can make it happen. After all, this simple pleasure can make us stay home and stay happy.

Self-validation Makes us Happy

...:the first step in being home and being happy is appreciating and valuing what I do." Of course, everything has to start within us. How can we expect others to appreciate us if we don't appreciate ourselves? Some at-home moms, including myself, have fallen into the "volunteering" role in search of validation. But "if the purpose of volunteering is simply to garner the respect moms should already have to themselves, no amount of volunteering will fill that void". And she is right again. So moms out there, if you are thinking of volunteering just for the sole purpose of being recognized for the work you're doing, it may not be a good idea. I have learned, in the process, that we should volunteer because we love what we do and we enjoy what we are volunteering for. It's an extra activity that we spend time on in addition to our role as at-home moms. Let's not find ourselves with too much activities in-hand, thereby having not enough time to do our "main job" which is to be a good at-home mom.

With that, let us remind ourselves again why we are who we are now - at-home moms. Why did we choose to become at-home moms? Isn't it because we want to enjoy every minute we spend nurturing our children and taking care of our family? Every hug and kiss and smile that comes from our kids is indeed already validation. But "self-validation still needs to go a step further". We don't need to be demanding but it sure does go a long way to motivate us and keep us satisfied and happy.

Take Ten: You Need Breaks

"Like so many other things in life, at-home motherhood requires distance in order to truly appreciate it. Time away, even a brief time away, say to take a walk or meditate, is often all it takes."

"These breaks are valuable tools for keeping your sanity and coming back into mothering mode with a refreshed and happy spirit."

Rachel's idea is having a "mental break". By this she means visualizing the offending child's last precious thing done or said or some other act that made her proud. Having a positive thought through a chaotic or stressful situation helped her get through. Then she ends the "moment" with a prayer of thanksgiving because considers being able to spend time with the family a privilege, which I think is true enough with all the financial demands of life right now.

"When I model a healthy attitude for my kids and love them and myself through the difficult times, I feel proud. When I succeed at handling a difficult parenting situation, I experience deep satisfaction in return."

Being an at-home mom can be very stressful. Having little breaks every now and then, especially when the situation calls for it, brings us back to focus, calms us down, and invigorates us. For me, a break can be going in the bedroom and cooling down, or sitting on the sofa and reading an inspirational book. I do something which makes me feel good, which takes away the negative feeling/vibe. 

Dad's Appreciation Matters too

"Appreciating at-home motherhood begins with you, and you have every reason to take pride in what you do."

"... the grind of running a house will deplete any good soul deprived of external appreciation."

"The degree of respect and appreciation your spouse shows for your work as an at-home mom will be emulated by your kids." Praising each other for the contributions to the family in the presence of your kids will help. Praising yourself can also be an option. ..."so put it out there and give yourself your own due".

"As an at-home parent, you have accepted the position of highest accountability and personal sacrifice. In exchange, you are entitled to their utmost respect and devotion."

Taking Stock

  • another great way both to get some good old self-validation and also some help from dad
  • a story shared by Rachel was very eye-catching. She listed the qualification her "replacement" would need to have in case she goes back to work
    • "she needs to be energetic, love children, cook breakfast, lunch and dinner, and be tidy. We need someone who is willing to do laundry, grocery shopping, and run family errands. Also, Evita loves to be read to, sung to, and taken to the park. Of course, we need someone bilingual. Oh, how about a post graduate degree?"
  • with this, her husband replied, "we can't afford somebody like that!"
  • Taking stock is an important step toward taking pride in being an at-home mom. We have to make sure that our spouses are aware of our "qualifications" to let them know that our contributions to our household were invaluable, and irreplaceable (as what Rachel wrote)
So Go Ahead, Toot your own horn

  • most of us probably plays down our contributions to the world as at-home moms (humility), but we all know that "none is more significant than mom"
  • "Never, ever say that you are just  an at-home mom. You have the most important job in the world. Be proud of your noble occupation."

At the end of the first chapter, I have been "rejuvenated" by the fact that I am important (which I know but need constant reminding of). I just have to be more convinced of my worth and be proud that I have chosen this path.

now off to the next stage...

Chapter 2...

Source: Stay Home, Stay Happy by Rachel Campos-Duffy

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