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As a stay at home mum, there’s one question I dread

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As a stay at home mum, there’s one question I dread

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Tarryn (R) with her two kids (Picture: Tarryn Viney)

‘So, when are you going back to work?’

It’s a question I’ve been asked by friends or relatives more times than I can possibly count.

I’m a stay at home mother – and, thanks to comments like these, I feel completely invisible.

‘Well, I do work,’ I’ve started replying. ‘I run the household and I look after my family.’

Then there’s the classic response: ‘You know what I mean!’.

I could leave it there, but I owe it to myself not to. ‘No,’ I say, firmly. ‘Just because I’m not employed, that doesn’t mean it’s not work. I am working – it’s just for free’.

I have two sons. My eldest, Joshua, was born in January 2020; and Matthew was born in October 2021.

I had planned to go back to work as a Private Nanny after Joshua was born. But it was personally a difficult juggle for me – I would have been looking after four children, with two under the age of one – and because of Covid, everything was so up and down. I didn’t feel I could give the family the care I was giving them before having a child of my own.

Then, I fell pregnant with Matthew and I didn’t want to lie to any potential new families about my situation. So my husband Jay and I made the decision that I would stay at home.

Tarryn (R) in the park with her two kids (Picture: Tarryn Viney)

I spend a typical weekday morning getting everyone ready for the day before Jay takes the boys to nursery. We get our 15 free childcare hours per week with Josh. We pay for Matthew to go for six hours so that he gets used to others caring for him, and so I have time to catch up on household things.

I’ll then juggle the never-ending laundry, meal prepping for the family, food shopping; cleaning, tidying up, clothing organisation, admin for Jay’s business, any household errands and toy rotation – alternating toys to keep play time interesting.

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I try to come up with new activities for the kids – something artistic or energetic, or working on numbers, letters or writing – and take them on playdates or outings.

I help care for my Nana too, doing her food shopping and errands, helping her out with household chores, hospital appointments and anything else she needs.

Then, I’ll cook dinner for everyone, sort things out for bedtime and the next morning, put the kids to bed with Jay – and I do it all over again the next day.

I lost a lot of friends when I started talking about what I went through after I had Josh

There’s a lot of juggling, and trying to keep everyone happy.

I work out what to feed everyone each day and try to provide a healthy variety, make sure everyone has the right size clothes and shoes at all times.  

Essentially, I, like so many mums, do all the behind-the-scenes stuff that happens within a family with children. It’s like a play: The audience sees what happens on the stage, but they don’t see what goes on backstage.

That can be incredibly isolating.

I love my children more than anything, and Jay is incredibly supportive. He always says, ‘This family wouldn’t be where it is without you’.

But I feel invisible and isolated because of how society treats mums – and these are feelings I’ve experienced since I had Josh.

I felt so anxious, stressed and vulnerable. I had Post Natal Depression and I was prescribed anti-depressants over the phone. I took them for a couple of days and then called my GP, because I felt even worse taking them.

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‘That’s normal’, they said. ‘It could take up to two months for them to start working.’

‘I won’t be here in two months if I keep taking them,’ I replied. I felt that low, like my world was ending.

My husband was (and is) my rock; he looked after me every day and held me when I was crying.

It was a really difficult time, not helped by Covid and the fact that I couldn’t go out and meet other new mums or see family.

Tarryn reading to her two kids (Picture: Tarryn Viney)

And talking about how I felt during that dark period felt impossible.

There’s this societal expectation that: You want a baby, then you have a baby, and it should be all amazing. But if you say ‘It’s really hard’, the societal reply is: ‘Just keep on going, you’re all right’.

‘No, it’s really hard. I’m really struggling’, I’d insist.

‘Oh, everyone struggles in the beginning,’ is the reply I got from many who couldn’t fathom what I was feeling.

I lost a lot of friends when I started talking about what I went through after I had Josh.

I felt like the ‘Debby Downer’ of social groups when I started tentatively opening the box, and saying, ‘This stuff happens, not all of us are happy…’. But people just didn’t want to hear it. 

My anxiety is much better now; and having Matthew really helped with that. I realised that, actually, I did have it really hard with Josh during Covid.

But the invisibility and loneliness continues. As a stay-at-home mum, you juggle everything for everyone else; but you’re very alone, because you’re just with your kids all the time or looking after the house.

And society thinks you just sit on your bum and do nothing all day – hence, the questions about when I’m ‘going back to work’.

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It’s so isolating unless you have a friendship group; and even then, you have to be proactive, because forming friendships when you’ve got kids is really hard.

I’ve made some great friends through the app Peanut, which helps women to meet and connect with others who are in a similar situation.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not hard. As the main caregiver, your work isn’t seen by others and you can just forget about yourself, because you’re solely concentrating on other people.

I used to judge mums, whenever I saw them on their phones, thinking ‘Why are you on your phone?! Your kid’s right there!’.

Now, I know it’s probably because she needs five minutes without someone hanging on her, or needing her. She’s likely thinking, ‘I just want to watch some memes, have some time out, feel like me again – although who am I? I’ve lost my identity’.

Goodness knows, I understand.

Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing Ross.Mccafferty@metro.co.uk. 

Share your views in the comments below.


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