Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Stay-at-Home Survival Guide - Melissa Stanton

Author: Melissa Stanton
Year: 2008
Country: USA
Pages: 385
Rating: 5 out of 5

Author's website can be found here.

First sentence: Surely, for some women, being a Stay-at-Home mother is an entirely magnificent, totally blissful, always fulfilling, happily-ever-after dream come true.

When I first became pregnant, there was no question in my mind about becoming a stay-at-home mom. I had just finished a four-month stint of physical therapy after a car accident, during which time I had lost my full-time job at a refugee resettlement organization. I was doing some freelance grantwriting work, and thought I might pick that up again after Maya was born, but knew that I wanted to focus on my daughter for the time being. Since my husband works 80 hours a week as a surgical resident, and a qualified position in my field often involves 50-60 hours, I was afraid if I didn't stay-at-home, our daughter would never see either of her parents. When an amazing job offer came along when I was six months pregnant, I did consider it, until I researched child care costs, which would have taken 80-90% of my income (unfortunately, we don't have a retired grandparent nearby and said job required a fair bit of international travel). 

After Maya was born, six months ago, my world instantly became one of dirty nappies, marathon nursing sessions, and hours of pacing our apartment trying to soothe a colicky baby. For the first two months, I was too tired to even think about what my daily life involved. When I emerged from the fog--and Maya left the colicky traits behind--back in January, I slowly began to realize just how draining the day-to-day life of raising a child can be. I jumped at the chance to review The Stay-at-home Survival Guide, both for the comfort in knowing that I am not alone, and to glean some advice on how to deal with the occasional mind-numbing boredom and isolation that can be a part of staying at home.

I love my daughter. I wouldn't change my decision to stay home with her for any reason. But every time I get the urge to punch someone for saying "You don't know how lucky you are to be able to stay home", I think I'll pick up this book instead. (Off to play peek-a-boo, go on a walk, put Maya down for a nap).

Melissa Stanton's The Stay-at-Home Survival Guide: Field-tested strategies for staying smart, sane, an connected while staying for your kids, is definitely what it claims to be. One of the best tidbits of advice is found in the preface:
If there's one thing I hope women will learn from this book, it's that it is okay to sometimes not love being a Stay-at-home mom. Women often fear that admitting as much as tantamount to sayin gto the world and themselves that we regret not being part of the paid workforce...Few people love their job every minute of the day. The same goes for the job of being a Stay-at-Home mom. (p.7)
As soon as I read that I knew this book was for me. I could identify with almost everything she talked about. The Guide is reassuring for days when I pass Maya off as soon as my husband walks through the door, and run the other direction--usually into the shower.

The Guide, as Stanton refers to the book, covers a host of useful topics: how to come to terms with your new identity when asked with the all-pervasive "What do you do?" question, balancing raising more than one children, especially when a child has special needs, how to fight the feelings of financial dependence on your spouse, making time for yourself, and your love life, and tips on finding meaningful activities to do away from your kids, and transitioning back to a career.

The advice is great, but what I love the most about The Guide is the real-life anecdotes, both from the author and all the SAHM mom's she surveyed while writing the book. I could really relate to her acknowledgment that the reason there are ten half-completed tasks scattered throughout the house is because "you have spent the day performing dozens of tiny, uninspiring, seemingly meaningless tasks and chores and errands, each of which took a little bit of time, but when added together, consumed the entire day." (p.229) That passage was underlined, highlighted, and left in plain view for my hubby. He also was requested to read the following passage in the chapter 'Sex and the Stressed-Out Stay-at-Home Mom':
...instead of pouncing on her when she collapses exhausted into bed, make and take her on a real date. (p.206)

Her experience on being introduced to others as "Brian's wife" instead of "magazine editor"at parties  really hit home. I struggled with my husband's social functions before Maya was born. When I used to respond to the "What do you do?" with "grantwriter for a refugee resettlement agency", the person I was talking to (usually a doctor) glazed over as soon as they realized I was not in the medical profession. Now that I answer that I am a SAHM, the conversation almost always stops there, while I want to scream "there is more to me than that! I AM interesting!!" For it seems, when the placenta was discarded, so was my backbone.

The Guide is a wonderful resource for stay-at-home moms, and it will definitely be added to my list of book recommendations I give to pregnant friends. The topics are well-organized, made for the mom that only has snippets of reading time. You can read it in the bathroom, while pushing a stroller, waiting at the bank/pharmacy/etc. drive-thru window. And the next time I meet a "life is perfect, I'm blissfully happy" SAHM, I won't feel overburdened by guilt for thinking I'm a terrible mother. 

This review is part of a MotherTalk blog tour.


Chris said...

I've had that reaction from people at my husband's office party. They looked at me like I was 'just a boring mom'. It's very aggravating. It's not like everyone in the world wants to hear their boring work stories either! I'm much more secure about it now. I think it comes with time and experience.

And, yeah, not everyday is a day at Disneyland for a SAHM...unless you count the long lines in the sun with a grumpy, hungry toddler, then yeah, it's just like Disneyland. It's okay to wonder "what was I thinking?!"

Teddy Rose said...

I have a friend who could benefit from this book. I will let her know about it.

Chris, I can't imagine you as "boring". No way!

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