An open letter to all stay at home women

I always thought women who stayed home were mediocre. They were either too scared to come out of their comfort zones and face the real world or too lazy to give up on their sleep-TV-eat-sleep routine. I took pride in starting my career at an early age of 19- I am 29 as I write this. I never took a career break may it be my wedding or my first pregnancy because I thought it was what weak women did; and I was anything but like those women. I went to work till the day I sat for my ‘mayun’ and submitted assignments via email the night before I got hospitalized for my cesarean.  I rejoined office just after five weeks I gave birth.

I took my son with me to work and breastfed him when I didn’t have a meeting or assignment for which I had to travel. On other days, I left him with my mother often times without changing his diaper or feeding him in the morning. At that time my husband was running his own business from home so he used to take the night shift with the baby. When my son turned six months, I also got help for him. I was married, had a child, had a career many envied, had domestic help. I got it all figured. Until recently.

Five months ago, I was advised complete bed rest for a fortnight by my doctor due to a health complication. I thought it will be over soon, but I was wrong. One thing led to another and my health worsened. I spent three months on the bed. My domestic help ran away and I had physical exertion constraints due to my medical condition. It meant no work, no stairs, no gym, no travel- to me, no life. Having communicated the same at my office I was taken off assignments so that I could rest well and regain my fitness and energy. During this time, I cried and sulked because for the first time in a decade I was a stay-at-home mom. How I hated the title. I loathed it.

My routine now involved:

• Getting up in the morning frying two eggs (one for me and one for my 1.5 year old son), toasting 4 slices and making two cups of tea- everyday

• Watching Hungry Henry on Baby TV followed by Grandpa’s Gallery and Dora

• Coloring the already colored Tom & Jerry pages- every time with a blue crayon because that’s the only one my son gives me

• Putting my son to sleep for nap time

• Cleaning up his nursery

• Feeding him a home-made meal

• Building blocks and sorting shapes with him

• Dinner

• Putting him to bed- rather going to bed because I am too exhausted to do anything else

• Repeat

For the first few days, I hated doing all these ten things. I was frustrated and there were times when I would just have a sudden outburst or I would yell at my child. But then things started to change. I was making the usual breakfast one morning when my son came running to the kitchen, pulled me by my pajamas and took me to his room. He had put crayon marks on his freshly painted white-colored cot. He was pointing at those marks and clapping with joy and looking at me, perhaps expecting appreciation. He had discovered that crayons work on other things besides paper. How could I not be a part of that celebration of discovery? How could I not clap and laugh with him? So we clapped together, laughed and put on more marks with other colored crayons too.

When I really got exhausted I’d put on nursery rhymes on my laptop and make my son sit and watch them. I did the same few days ago when he began saying, ‘Mamma! Mamma!’ I was so annoyed because I was watching a season binge. I went to him and he asked me to sit beside him on the floor. ‘The wheels on the bus go round and round’ was playing. He looked at me and started to spin his hands- like that of a wheel. I started to spin my hands too. We put the rhyme on repeat and did this for 20 minutes. We do this every day now.

One thing I dreaded the most was bathing my toddler. It was a lot of work. Making sure the water’s temperature was right. All his diaper changing accessories, clothes were in place. Being careful that water didn’t go in his ears while bathing. Drying him properly to avoid chest congestion and the list went on and on. Until last week I found a solution. I’d just put him in an inflated rubber tub and pour water on him hurrying my way to scrub him with the baby head-to-toe wash. We were doing the ritual day before yesterday when he just refused to come out of the tub. When I tried to lift him by his arms, he splashed water on me. I was furious and on the verge of losing it. But he giggled; and continued giggling. He splashed more water on me and I giggled too. Now we take toys with us so that we can both splash water on them and have fun.

Today I write this because I owe an apology to all women who stayed home to make their homes a warmer place; whom I thought were mediocre and lazy. I never understood until now that they like me now enjoy the exact same ten things they do every single day. I still don’t know whether I will resume office or take a career break but one thing I am sure of- I have found spontaneity in my monotony.

This article is written by Saman Zehra Ali

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