Chloe

Feeling isolated as a stay at home / work at home parent

IMG_2869How I work and combine childcare most days.

Socially, the first year of Arlo’s life was alright. Baby groups, weekly meet-ups with the members of my NCT group. Sure, the common denominator being that you have babies of similar ages does not necessarily mean that everyone you meet will end up being a friend for life, but it beats not having any plans or anyone to talk to throughout the whole of your maternity leave.

The second year was great. Although most of the friends I’d made in the first year had moved on – either back to full-time work, to different parts of the country, or even abroad, Arlo was much more independent from me and sleeping (slightly) better at night, so I regained my pre-child social life and started seeing my friends more. I was happy spending most days on my own with Arlo, as I balanced things out by going out in the evenings at least twice a week. It felt like I could really have my cake and eat it – have my old life back, as well as fully appreciating motherhood without the constant tiredness.

Then, somewhere between year 2 and year 3, things got really tight budget-wise. Sam and I both stopped going out, and I didn’t address the balance by upping the day time activities – partly through fear of spending any money at all, and partly because I was now busy being a work at home mum.

Although things are getting slightly better for us on the money-front and there is a bit more breathing room, I still find myself with an aversion to spending any money. As I wrote previously in my budgeting post, I see part of my role as the stay at home parent when we are strapped for cash as to not add to our expenditures in any way. So I won’t go to groups that cost money, do anything that involves buying extra petrol or bus/train fares, meet people for lunch, nor will I meet friends in cafes, pubs, or other places that require me to spend money. With so many social events for mums being geared towards spending money (come and get pampered, meet other mums, and part with your money…. come to our cafe, put your child in our soft-play area so you can chat to other mums…and part with more money), it can feel like my options for weekday entertainment are limited.

On the occasions that I do meet up with my non-parent friends, (which is now strictly birthdays, leaving dos and very special occasions), I find myself with nothing to say when they ask what I get up to during the week, and do I have lots of “mummy friends”.

It’s different, being a stay at home parent to a toddler. Because most people return to work, there aren’t as many groups for toddlers, and there aren’t as many parents around during the week. Plus, in the baby days, meeting up with other parents was all about my social life, my want of people to talk to. We chose the venue, usually a nice cafe or sometimes we’d even go to the cinema. Now my days revolve around what Arlo wants to do. I dedicate my time to toddler drop-ins and stay and plays, not cafes, pubs, and lengthy chats with my friends. What I want to do with my day doesn’t get a look in.

Working from home adds another angle to the isolation. Whilst I do get to meet and chat with lots of parents during my weekend photoshoots, most of my week is spent editing at home on my computer, not talking to other adults all day. Working at home with no childcare is a further complication, I can’t always afford the time to get out and about and explore new friendships on top of entertaining Arlo 24/7 and making sure I leave enough time to stay on top of editing, enquiries, correspondence, etc. In this situation, again, it’s what I want to do with my time that suffers.

I feel like I can’t win either way. On days when I’m really busy with work and battling feelings of guilt at fobbing Arlo off with more Cbeebies, we are both pretty desperate by the time company arrives in the form of Sam getting back from work. And on the days when I don’t have much work on, I find myself at a loose end, wishing we still had the frequent social activities we had going on when Arlo was a baby. Wishing I had more entertainment for Arlo, and that I was being a ‘proper’ mum, like my friends assume I’m doing all week.

Like many of the things I moan about, I know this situation is temporary. I love being a stay at home /work at home parent in summer. On sunny days it’s absolutely the best job in the world, I feel so grateful for my position and I never find myself feeling bored or in need of extra company. Plus, I’ll soon have two children to look after and I’m pretty sure, like in the early days with Arlo, I won’t have time to concern myself with feelings of isolation. But this winter has been so long and boring (I am seriously gutted that we are still getting snow and minus temperatures in late March). The lack of time, money, and opportunity has taken its toll, and in all honesty, has been a lot more isolating than I’d ever imagined it could be.

Sorry About The Mess is a personal lifestyle and family blog. documenting the life of London blogger and photographer, Chloe. This is our family story.

Comments (21)

  • I can really relate to this. The first year of Iyla’s life was full of me meeting up with my friends and doing fun things. Then all my mum friends went back to work, apart from me and I became pregnant and started to work from home so that’s where I ended up spending most of my time. I have decided that when the baby is born I am going to make a real effort to get on track and try to fill our weeks with fun activities but the fact that everytime I take Iyla to soft play she gets ill and I get a headache puts me off. I guess no matter what the work situation is it makes you feel guilty as we are mums and that’s what we seem to do but Iyla does seem happy enough most of the time and I explain to her that I have to work to earn money so guess that’s just how it is. So sick of this weather though, apparently it’s meant to last till the end of April! X

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    • Arlo gets bored if we spend too many days at home. He tells me he wants to go out. He loves doing the groups and playing with other children. Massive mum-guilt. It’s a tough balance, but will be so much easier in warmer weather when we can use the garden and do more outdoor activities.

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  • Can relate to this, it’s only since Alex started preschool that I feel slightly better. This winter has really taken it out on us all I think, everyone is so fed up of it now, I can’t wait to get out to local parks/out the front (as we don’t have a garden). I’m sure this time last year was actually fairly nice! x

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    • I think I’ll feel a lot less pressure to constantly provide enterntainment for Arlo once he’s at preschool. Trying to get him a place for this September, but due to the time of year that he was born and our local area’s policies, we will be extremely lucky if he gets a preschool place before Sept 2014 (when he’ll be almost 4!)

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  • Do you have One O’clock Clubs in your area? I went to one every single day when I stayed at home with the kids. Free & fun.

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    • Our nearest one charges £5 per child. Sometimes when work isn’t busy, we go to the free stay and play at the children’s centre (virtually the same facilities as One o’clock clubs but no charge). But it doesn’t run all day every day (it’s 2 hours in the morning every few days), so not always as easy to fit around work.

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  • I hear ya! (And have no useful solutions)

    Part of my problem is that the baby groups here are on Mondays, which is when Izz is at home. Toddler/pre-school groups are on Tuesdays when she’s at preschool. I’ve not socialised at all with Oliver, aside from a business networking meeting which was for me, not him! Poor kid is going to grow up a recluse :p

    Things might be changing here anyway. After yet another battle this morning to try and get Izz ready for preschool I’m tempted to just pull her out altogether. It’d mean juggling work but I’m not getting much done now anyway. We’re about to go through a massive change daytime-wise as Karl’s hours are changing mid-April so it’s all up in arms. Arghhhhhhhhhhhhh.

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    • Sorry, that ended up all about me :S

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    • Yep can imagine it gets trickier with two kids at home, I know a lot of the baby groups round here are not too open to bringing a toddler along with you (plus Arlo would probably be bored out of his mind). Toddler groups are fine with babies, but it’s a matter of fitting them in around work commitments.

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  • I can kinda relate. I was an au pair for 3 years before becoming a mum. That said, the kids and I made friends at the playground and used to have very structured days to help keep boredom away for everyone. It was park every morning after breakfast, until almost lunch time (unless it was pouring with rain) without fail.

    Now, for my own son, I just can’t be bothered/don’t have time for that stuff on my few precious days off work (back at work part time). Everything at home is done by me as my hubby commutes for 2 hrs a day. I have to walk to work as I can’t afford the bus (which is good really). I’m jealous of sahm/wahms because that’s what I wanted but feel its been taken away from me as we have family to look after my son while I’m at work and we wouldn’t be able to make ends meet without my modest contribution to our finances. I’m extremely bored at my job & am starting to dread work days… I don’t go out with friends as my son doesn’t go to bed without me. We have 1 “date” a month as I work alternating weekends and we need some family time too. Oh and we used to live walking distance to a children’s centre now I live in a rather isolated area and don’t drive…
    Stupid squeezed middle! Grr!

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    • It can feel very restricting when they need you at bedtime, Arlo was like that for a long while.

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  • Hi Chloe
    Does your local library do Rhyme Time? I think they’re national. It’s only 30 minutes, but it’s free and you can take children until they are 5 years old.
    My boy is only 6 months old, I felt very isolated to begin with. I felt like the highlight of my day was to put a few photos on facebook so that people would comment (human interaction!) and taking him to be weighed ALL the time (actual human contact!). 🙁
    Saying that, do you have a children’s centre or surestart centre nearby? They often have free playcentre courses.
    x

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    • Hi Heather, we do use the free stay and play at the children’s centre and also go to rhyme time – anything free in our local area and you’ll probably find us there : )

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  • I have one friend and am saving for a mortgage deposit so I struggle to find things that occupy MY mind. P1 is in childcare 4 out of 5 weekdays. So I only have to amuse P2 and I don’t want to end up in bed all day every day.

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    • bed all day sounds great! (I know what you mean, though)

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  • A really honest post, you should feel proud of all the hard work and sacrifices you & Sam are putting in now to give Arlo & his future sibling(s) the best – big pat on the back – but it’s important not to totally neglect yourself at the same time. I have a thought you might be open to, will DM you on twitter xx

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  • I could have written this myself, maybe not as eloquantly as you though! Mine are3and 20 m, my goodness the boredom, the desparation and the constant spending money that has nothing to do with me but everything to do with them.

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  • I think the reality is that no matter what activities you do or don’t do, unfortunately, you are likely to always be a bit outside the normal social circles when you work from home and have young children. Those of us who work from home are in an odd sort of limbo – we work (often more hours than our part time work out of the home counterparts) and we aren’t always available at regular times like SAHM – but we are also at home – so don’t get the social interaction of an office. Having been them all since having kids- working part time in an office, staying at home and working from home, working from home is in many ways the hardest.

    The deal we made is that I have put my 2 youngest in childcare 3 days a week. At our low income, child tax credits actually pay 70% of it, and it means that I don’t feel like I am failing at everything. But then, I really disliked staying at home with the children and would rather sacrifice money for the sanity that means knowing my little 2 are well taken care of 3 days a week so I can work. We lived through a summer of me basically throwing food in the living room while they watched TV and I worked, which we simply can never do again.

    There is no question it is hard. Really unbelievable hard, but you get through it because you have to.

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    • Yes exactly. It’s not the availability of free local activities that’s the issue, it’s that I hardly ever have the time to do this stuff with Arlo without getting behind with my work. Have spent most of this winter doing the ‘throwing snacks’ method, I feel awful about it but we just can’t afford childcare (no tax credit help, I’ve checked and double checked) and we have to keep working to keep a roof over our heads. I will feel so much happier once he gets.a preschool place with the free hours, feel so guilty that he doesn’t always get enough stimulation, but places are so in demand here that it will be a miracle if he goes to preschool before he turns 4 years old. You do what you have to do to get by, but it doesn’t mean the feelings of guilt go away.

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  • […] love this post Chloe wrote recently about being a work at home mum with no childcare. Have you experienced a […]

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  • Sorry, I’m a bit late to the party on this post – only found it through your feature on Tots100.

    Had to comment as I completely relate to this. I run a nail and beauty supplies company from home and also have toddler, baby and no childcare.

    Finding the balance is so hard, and I really struggle to think ‘I am doing OK in both areas’ and instead tend to feel like ‘I am doing two things badly’ most of time! CBeebies is my childcare too much of the time.

    When I just had my toddler I could pack my parcels when she was in bed but with baby now it takes so much longer, then in the day I have bits of emails, questions and admin crap to deal with. I am grateful I can be at home with them and work too but juggle is right!

    Definitely makes it really hard to meet people when everyone goes back to work after maternity leave and finding the time to meet friends from before kids is so hard when we don’t have much common ground any more.

    Thank god for Twitter to keep us sane eh? L x

    Reply

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