Self Respect and the Stay-at-Home Mom

Maybe it’s my American time-is-money upbringing, but self worth is something I’ve struggled with since becoming a stay-at-home mom.

It’s not like I planned it this way. I was lucky enough to work at a place that valued me, at a job I may have been able to take my baby to, at least once or twice a week, enough for pocket change. I had a great school supervisor who offered to watch the baby on location for me so I could work more. Sounds terrific, right?

But nature didn’t cooperate. I had a threatened miscarriage and six weeks of bed rest, during which my husband was transferred and moved away, leaving me at his parents’ house. I was alone all day. Bored, scared, fearful, plagued by feelings of guilt that something I had done led to this, (my doctor had firmly planted the seed of this in my mind,) tortured by the thought that the baby inside me might be suffering.

When the head office called and asked me to resign, I didn’t give it a second thought.

Eventually, things stabilized and I was able to join HRH where he was stationed in Shizuoka. I liked it there. He walked to work. He was home by six. There was a park and a pool and a kindy on the same company complex where we lived. But HRH wasn’t making much money, and we were down to one income.

I’m used to making do. I’ve spent most of my life scraping by, but when your husband says he wants to change to a job where he makes more money but is never home, what can you do? He’s already made the leap in his heart. The family isn’t first to him anymore.

So we moved back to Yokohama. I had the baby, then another 2 1/2 years later, and I kind of built a life that revolved around the kids.

They’re bigger now, but still need me for a big portion of the day. Their school schedules are erratic;they get sick often, especially Me Too with her upper respiratory trouble, and even though a part of me longs to get out and be part of society again, I know it would inconvenience everyone and destroy the fragile balance we have at home.

I am busy most days, but I’m doing stuff society views as being worthless, not worthy of income or respect or recognition (until I screw up.)

What did I do yesterday? I got up before dawn to handle laundry and my preschooler’s lunchbox. (She had shoga-yaki, ginger pork sautee, and a veg stir-fry, rice ball with salmon filling, cheese, and tomatoes.) I cooked three healthy meals and an insanely low-sugar but surprisingly tasty apple tart. I vacuumed and dusted, mopped floors and folded clothes. I took children to school and then picked them up. I worked on their English. I helped them with homework. I took them to the park and let them kick my butt at soccer. I gave them a bath and read them books. I did the extra load of laundry that needs doing every once in a while.

And I got complained at all day long. “I don’t like this!” “That’s not fair!””Where did you put my socks?””おかずはこれだけ?”

And then I wake up to do all of it again today.

I’m hoping staying busy will at least keep me from asking myself,”What’s the point?” Because if I start down that road it will tumble down a hole I can’t climb out of. I’ve done that before and barely survived. I certainly don’t want to try that in Japan.

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ros Barber
    Oct 02, 2012 @ 17:28:50

    You have to know you are doing SUCH an amazing job. Even when HRH and the rest of society doesn’t acknowledge it. Believe me, you are being an incredible mum to your kids, and even though it is a thankless and grinding task – and God, don’t those complaints get a person down – it is an incredible thing to do for another (or two other) human beings.

    And I know about that hole. I fell down it myself, eventually. Here’s hoping you never do.

    He could pull his weight a bit more, though. Really. He needs to know he is being an arse before he loses (even the potential for) your love and respect completely. Men don’t realise they are being arses. Especially when society backs them up so much in their arseness. (That’s ass, I think, where you come from…)

    Reply

    • hamakkomommy
      Oct 02, 2012 @ 22:00:18

      Thanks for the kind words, I needed that today. I gotta say my son’s impressive four-letter-word vocabulary is probably a good testament to my lack of parenting control. He’s been saying “bugging hell” a lot recently. So close….but yet just wrong enough to make you sigh with relief.

      Reply

  2. Kym (@kymmytha)
    Oct 03, 2012 @ 07:06:11

    I think being a SAHM has its moments, but on the whole, I’d rather not be doing the full time, Groundhog Day thing. And being clinically depressed in Japan would be an absolute nightmare. How about DIY cognitive therapy if that’s ever a real threat – along the lines of, maybe, when “What’s the point?” comes to mind, repeat to self “I’m a smart, talented woman with beautiful kids, and I can get us out of this situation if I really feel the need.” Or, my favourite baby-raising mantra: “This too shall pass” x 100.
    The crappy bits are raw material for great blog posts, so, thanks for putting up with and writing about it so well ;)

    Reply

    • hamakkomommy
      Oct 03, 2012 @ 10:01:40

      I don’t think I could do full-time, either, especially not the way it’s done here!

      Me Too has started coughing again and is home from preschool, so I’m not feeling quite so useless today. Until she grows out of this or is old enough to manage the meds herself, she really needs someone to be close by.

      The bad feelings are easy to write about. At least it provides some entertainment for others!

      Reply

      • Kym (@kymmytha)
        Oct 03, 2012 @ 14:08:41

        Very entertaining, and oh-so-familiar.
        Get well soon Me Too!!
        Oops, my Groundhog Day comment was a bit unclear – I meant the SAHM stuff feels like Groundhog Day sometimes, especially the housework. A couple of days of paid work each week sounds very appealing. Then I wouldn’t feel so guilty about letting the housework slide from time to time either…

  3. americanlostintokyo
    Oct 03, 2012 @ 22:32:48

    During my 5+ years of stay-at-home-mother time, I have to agree that I was probably bordering on clinical depression. I also have to agree that I would probably not enjoy undergoing psycho-therapy or counseling here. I have tried to imagine what a counseling session with a Japanese psychologist would be like many times…and it just depresses me further. At this point, going back to work part time has helped me immensely…to regain my pride, to regain my sense of self, and to regain a bigger chip at the bargaining table in relation to all family and financial decisions. I sort of feel half whole again…but since I am only in the third month of this arrangement, I cannot tell how it will turn out in the end.

    Reply

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