Category Archives: Motherhood

Is It Better To Be A Stay At Home Mum?

I will be honest and admit that before the arrival of the sprog, I did not fully comprehend the amount of work involved in raising a child. Indeed I did not know how much time and emotional investment that go into looking after a child. I think having been raised in Nigeria, I was always surrounded by family, and friends and nannies (as is quite common in middle class Nigeria) and thus did not think how raising a child without that support system can be quite difficult.

Increasingly, as the world becomes more globalised and the pressures of economics mean that people are moving further away from family, children are being raised without that treasured presence of grandparents, multiple aunts, uncles and cousins. The result I think is that primary carers of babies and young children are increasingly faced with the choice of putting their children straight into child care or putting their careers on hold in order to look after children.

I am ashamed to admit that when I was younger, I thought that women who stayed at home to raise their children had the luxury of watching soaps on TV all day and painting their nails. Well, I have been at home with the sprog for nine months, and I can tell you that my nails remain unpolished, and the closest I have come to watching any soaps is falling asleep on the sofa after dinner with the chief. It has not been easy. There is the physical exhaustion that comes with looking after a baby, there is the monotony of speaking “motherese” all day, and there is the emotional draining that crowns it all. When I put her to bed at 7pm, I skip out of her room and rejoice for the few hours that I get to be alone before bed. I am thankful that we do not have to spend thousands of pounds on childcare. I am thankful that I have been present for all her milestones so far.

However, I do miss the buzz and the fulfilment that came with my job. I worry about what this break means for my career growth, employers do not like gaps in CVs. Most importantly, I think that my career in many ways gave me a certain validation, and without it now, I feel almost bereft. You see, I grew up surrounded by strong educated women who beat the odds in a patriarchal society, who had day jobs, and could hold their own anywhere. My mother was a teacher and raised four of us. She was pregnant and breastfeeding through most of graduate school and teacher training. So part of me wants to work because I thrive in that environment, but also because I was raised surrounded by strong independent women who built excellent careers.

Choosing to raise one’s child full time is a sacrifice and a full time job, which can only be good for the child. One must remember that the alternative to staying home full time is paying or beseeching someone to do it. Stay at home mums have two jobs really; looking after the child, and also running the home (those meals, that laundry, the cleaning, will not do themselves). Conversely, choosing to be a working mum is a sacrifice too, often for a much needed income and a burden of guilt about leaving one’s child. Let us not forget the question of proving themselves at work because for the most part, women are held to a different standard than men. There is also the question of dealing with the guilt of fitting in mummy and wife at the end of a long days’s work.

What do the professionals say?

A research published by the Telegraph claims that children who go to Nursery do better than those who stay at home with their mothers. The research found significant progress in stringing sentences together and dexterity that comes from interaction at Nursery.

A research by Jay Belsky, a child development researcher at London’s Birbeck College, published by the Huffington Post, corroborates research which states that “long hours in child care are associated with behaviour problems”.

My Verdict

Babies go through monumental and rapid development milestones. These are as varied and as important as their emotional needs. Some babies will require more emotional support than others and no secondary care is better or greater than that provided by parents. It seems to me, from reading the literature that being a stay at home mother, or going to work, both have their pros and cons. Invariably, it does take a village to raise a child, babies will benefit from social interactions with the world, be it grandparents, neighbours, friends or extended family.

As for me and my household, I believe I will stay home for now with the sprog. I plan to return to work, but perhaps when she is a year old and walking, when she has some understanding of object permanence and where Mama has gone. Additionally, I think she will benefit from the social interaction at Nursery, because although I take her to mummy and baby classes and groups three times a week, she has recently become very afraid of strangers. I understand it is a milestone, but I often wonder of this is heightened by the absence of “the village” in our lives as we live far away from our family. What I would prefer is a combination of both worlds. It would be great to have a home based role or a part time job, so that she benefits from some vital nursery time, but also spends time being emotionally nurtured by yours truly.

How To Prepare For Baby

My life has changed. It has changed absolutely and completely, I realise it is probably unnecessary to use these two words together, but at least you get the gist of it. I got married, and before we could embark on a honeymoon, there was a sprog on the way. Hurrah! The sprog is now five months old and has turned our lives upside down.

Nobody tells you how hard it is to look after a baby, nobody tells you about the love that almost overwhelms you at times and makes you question if you are doing enough. Nobody tell you about the exhaustion; mental and physical, that comes due to the sleepless nights, the crying, the breastfeeding, the not knowing, the 5 seconds showers (or not 🙂 and the raging hormones and pain in your body. I always saw childbirth and the looking after baby that comes with it, as a walk in the park (perhaps on a mildly rainy day). I suppose it could be a bit easier if you had a lot of family members around you to give you a break and a chance to catch up on sleep or something else.

Anyway, I did read a few books, but too many of them had photos of perfect mummies with their shiny teeth, shiny hair and perfect babies. Lies! I love lists, so here are a few things I have learned since welcoming our little star into our lives, particularly for a first time mummy.

1. You can never be ready  enough, be flexible enough to accommodate and bear the fact that upon waters breaking or however the baby comes, you will need something that was not in the bag or you forgot to park. Your partner can be on had to solve that problem.

2. The first night with baby, outside the hospital is nerve wracking. Babies breathe funny, sleep funny, or not. For the first few nights, you will peer at this little thing in worry and concern. Is he breathing well? Has she got enough milk? Is he warm enough?

3. Babies eat, cry, poop, sleep, rinse and repeat. They may decide to sleep only in your arms, in which case you really cannot do anything else. They feed 12 to 14 times daily (breastfed babies) and they poop after every single feed until they get to 2-3 months. So you will be busy. Babies are so new and used to the situation in the oven, that they mostly like to be cocooned and held. This can pose a problem for a mummy by herself, forget the TV shows or books you bought, you will be too exhausted for any of those. Try to sleep whenever you can manage it. My baby refused to sleep anywhere else except in our arms for the first six weeks! It was insane! She refused to sleep in her Moses Basket. I was out of my mind with exhaustion. Every time we put her down, she would startle herself awake because we put her down on her back per the Sudden Infant Death (SID) prevention protocol. All I can say is make plans to have help; your mum, a relative, a friend, a paid Doula, if you can manage it.

4. Many babies are very windy or have colic. Their little tummies hurt and they pull their legs up to their stomachs and cry and cry in pain. That keeps them awake and noisy, and keeps parents worried too. Gripe water or Infacol typically helps and putting them down on their stomach while you watch can also help.

5. Babies have no sense of day and night, they sleep and wake at the oddest hours and sometimes cry for hours on end, and sometimes they have been changed, fed, winded, warm and they still cry. Something I found to be the answer to that? Skin to skin. Take your baby’s clothes off and leave only the nappy on, take your top off and put baby to your skin. It works wonders.

6. Going out will become a pain and a pleasure all at once. A pleasure because babies tend to fall asleep once they feel the fresh air and are rocked in either a car seat or pram. That doesn’t necessarily give you the gift of rest or sleep for yourself, but at least it gives you a chance to meet up with other adults, have a cold or hot drink in peace, or just breathe in some fresh air. It will be a pain because you have to carry your baby gear. Changing bag with nappies, wipes, muslin cloths, change of clothes, food warmer or breastfeeding cover (if you use one), and the list goes on.

7. You will probably be in pain from your childbirth depending on what kind of birth you had. Be aware that you could be in pain for a few weeks and never hesitate to seek medical advice, a well mummy is the start to a well baby.

8. Your baby will poop once you are all dressed up, changed and ready to go. The sprog gave her Papa and I a few explosive surprises just as we were about to get in the car, our clothes were ruined and so were here. This happened on different occasions to both of us. At least she shared the love equally.

9. Research shows that breast is best, but be aware that you could have latching problems and excruciating nipple pain for the first few weeks. The good news is that it gets better, I found that myself. Make sure to seek knowledgeable help if you are struggling with nipple pain, latching or even baby getting enough milk or not. Sometimes there are medical and biological reasons why baby is not getting enough milk, the professionals will recommend an appropriate solution. For nipple pain, Lanolin nipple cream by Lasinoh was my saving grace and after an agonising 4 weeks, we began to flourish. The sprog is still being exclusively breastfed, hopefully we can carry on until the UNICEF recommended 6 months.

10. Babies have relatively problematic skin and scalp in the first few weeks to months of life. There is cradle cap , eczema (and no, eczema is neither infectious, nor caused by dirt), baby acne, and some other rashes.    If in doubt, have it checked out by a professional to rule out meningitis. The best way to care for newborn skin according to my GP, is to bath in warm water once a day and moisturise with simple hypoallergenic moisturisers such as vaseline, coconut oil, shea butter. These will also ensure moisture is not stripped completely from the skin and cause dry skin conditions.

11. Nappy rash is quite common in babies. It is caused by exposure to urine and poo for long periods of time. The best way to avoid it is by regularly changing baby’s nappy, cleansing baby’s bottom with cotton wool and water, and rubbing a barrier cream regularly such as sudocream.

12. Nothing prepares you for the cry of pain your baby may have during immunisation. Give baby 2.5ml calpol (baby paracetamol) straight after and put baby on the breast. That is very comforting. Be aware that your baby may have a temperature after immunisation or the next day. Keep an eye out for temperature above 38 degrees and crankiness. The sprog was quite warm and cried a lot the day after her 16 weeks shot. Luckily, she was fine by the following day.

I want to write a few more things, but I can hear her over the monitor. She is chewing her legs ( she hit that milestone, yay!) and that’s a prologue to crying. All I can say is that it gets easier as they get older, I could never have dreamt of sitting down and writing at this time, a few months ago.

In conclusion (albeit rushed), it’s the best gift, but it is equally difficult, particularly if you do not have help, or if your baby is one who demands constant interaction and attention. Have your baby with some support for the first few months, you will be better off for it.