JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

5 ways to survive 'stay at home mum syndrome'

Date

Daisy Dumas

No-one can prepare you for life as a new mother, but a new book hopes to help you see its funnier sides.

Meg Mason shares her tips on how to give endless days of baby talk a modicum of structure.

Meg Mason shares her tips on how to give endless days of baby talk a modicum of structure.

“The worst thing you can say to a new mum is ‘What do you do all day?’” says Meg Mason. “Each day with a newborn is a wasteland of hours – it’s the first time most of us feel we are off society’s radar and it’s a real art-form to learn how to manage that time.”

The answer to that dreaded, on-repeat question, as Mason writes in unapologetically droll terms in her new book, Say It Again In A Nice Voice, is simple: “I ‘do’ that”, she says as she points to her newborn. “I wipe it, I read to it, I feed it, I rock it, I change it, and now I even bathe it.”

The mother-of-two, 34, learnt how to deal with vast swathes of endless new mother duties but empty diary pages the hard way: on her own, aged 25, thousands of miles from family and in the far-from-salubrious confines of her west London home.

Mason, now 34, found herself lonely and depressed after having her first child.

Mason, now 34, found herself lonely and depressed after having her first child.

Part memoir, part parenting guide and wholly self-deprecating, unmitigated anecdotal pandemonium, the book, out today, is a string of mishaps, faux pas and un-PC clangers that only a new mum with a “despotic little toddler president” could get herself into.

“There are so many shocking things that happen to you in terms of body and life and career, but to me, the most surprising thing was this absolute surfeit of time to fill. The days are ‘boneless’ and have no innate structure,” Mason, now living in Balmain, NSW, told Life & Style.

“That’s why I wrote the book. Whether you’re a working mum or you plan to never go back, you’re going to have to learn how to fill your hours.”

<i>Say It Again In A Nice Voice</i> by Meg Mason is out now.

Say It Again In A Nice Voice by Meg Mason is out now.

But there’s a heavyweight superlative involved, too – and that is that being a mother, in Mason’s opinion, is the hardest graft around.

 “I still think”, she writes, “a stay-at-home mother looks forward to the weekend more than any other person on earth.”  And, yes, that includes hospital cleaners on night shifts and “people who sit in toll booths five days a week.”

New mothers, enter five tips to survive the seemingly interminable build-up to a Friday evening glass of wine…

1)      Days are a product of your invention. And inventions are completely legitimate. Fill your diary, make work for yourself – even if just a simple outing. “Often our outings would be pegged on some kind of errand… ‘Buy stamps’ or ‘Get some of those felt circles that go under chair legs’ I’d write on a blank diary page.”  There’s a fine line, learnt Mason, between a day punctuated by a refreshing outing and a day crammed with over-ambitious plans, but a rule emerged: “I would never go to bed on a Sunday night without at least three firm fixtures, real or invented, in my diary for the following week.”

2)      Don’t hate on your husband. “You’ve got to laugh…or you’ll end up hating the one person who is legally obligated to help you.” Andrew, aka Shab, finds himself on the receiving end of sleep deprivation, mood swings and over-enthusiastic yearnings for adult conversation – it’s perhaps no small surprise then, that the couple soon had to master the art of “diffusing the landmines that a new baby plants in the domestic realm.”

3)      Have a shower. Simple as it sounds, says Mason, having a shower is the holy grail when a newborn suddenly takes precedent. “It’s a good idea to have a shower before your husband leaves. Leaves in the morning, I mean. Not leaves leaves.” It’s as much about your sanity as it is of those around you. That would be your husband’s, then: “The last thing a new mother needs is a nervy, hyper-vigilant life partner who keeps threatening to take her to the GP for a depression questionnaire, just because of lazy dressing.”

4)      Rally. “Rallying is an indispensable, fundamental survival skill for the currently-at-home,” writes Mason. She explains more: “That feeling of waking up, feeling gross, having an empty fridge and dirty hair… You don’t have the luxury of indulging in that feeling. Open the window, look forward to coffee, fold the blanket so that you’re not staring at the barrel of a gun that is your day.”

5)      Embrace other mothers. “That braying, intimidating pack of stroller-pushing mums is a port in a storm,” Mason told us. “Learn to manage women and deal with comparative parenting. You must break into that circle as it can be very valuable. So what if they were all 40 and I was 25? You are only as old as your baby.” Navigation of “mothers of super-advanced babies”, the “failing mother” and the “shameless maternal meat market” that is playgroup are, she says, essential lessons in survival.

Say It Again In A Nice Voice by Meg Mason, published by Harper Collins, is out now.

36 comments

  • and your advice for us stay-at-home Dads would be?

    Commenter
    Glenstar
    Date and time
    July 02, 2012, 9:04AM
    • Write your own guide for stay at home dads!

      Commenter
      Jill
      Location
      psychedelia
      Date and time
      July 02, 2012, 11:29AM
    • I'm all for Stay-at-home-dads and it's probably much the same experience for dads as it is for SAH-mums, except in one sense it can be harder at school or playgroup if the mums are cliqu-ey and don't want to include a man in the circle. But keep trying, because not all mums are like that, I wasn't.

      Also, dads might get more criticism from some men (thankfully not all) that they're "not doing a real job" (as in work outside the home, breadwinning, etc) not competitive or goal-oriented enough if they're happy to be at home doing "women's work", but thankfully those attitudes are not so common in the younger generation. You have to be thick-skinned enough to value what you do regardless of the opinions of others.

      Commenter
      MO4
      Date and time
      July 02, 2012, 1:43PM
  • This sounds for all the world like a female corporate climber's regretful decision to leave the dizzying heights of a corporate law firm or other such dehumanising machine - with an apparent loss of identity and self value. Why should this be so?

    Sure it is a major adjustment but the article alludes to undertones that motherhood is somehow a pretty poor choice to a career, one of regret and loss as if something other than raising children could be considered a more worthy endeavour.

    Perhaps I am too harsh but a bit too self-pitying I rather think...Exaggerated much? Probably but I know loads of mothers who love being...well...a mother and do not seem to have these same alleged experiences of unpleasantness. Their time is their own, they are well supported but have realised the significance of being responsible for another human being in every way.

    That is pretty important stuff.

    Commenter
    Petero
    Location
    West End
    Date and time
    July 02, 2012, 9:20AM
    • Petero, I'm not sure how far a 25 yo has climbed in the 'dehumanising machine', but the concepts she expresses are real. All our life before children, our world is structured- by school, by work hours. Now, for the first time, YOU have to provide your own structure. Sounds easier than it actually is. It takes practise to learn the art of 'filling your day'- even with a newborn. And yes, somedays having a shower is a highlight.. I'm not sure many new mums would descibe their time as 'their own' when they have a newborn. It sounds like you might be that 'well supporting' partner. That's great, but don't think the early days are all a walk in the park for the SAHM. Some days you actually wish you were the one flying off on business for a week or two.

      Commenter
      sahm
      Location
      KL
      Date and time
      July 02, 2012, 11:00AM
    • Thanks, Petero! Now I have a whole row in my Replies To Every Article About Motherhood Ever Writen bingo!
      Thanks to you, I can cross off 'Motherhood isn't hard!' 'Everyone I know loves it!' , ' Corporate job reference', and of course 'Boring cliche about the importance of raising kids'. (I got extra points on that last one due to the complete lack of self awareness that led you to imagine the person actually raising said human being needs to be told that it's significant - Isn't condescending fun?!).

      Commenter
      ScienceGeek
      Date and time
      July 02, 2012, 11:18AM
    • Ok fair point. I'm referring more to mothers of older kids rather than neos..

      Commenter
      Petero
      Date and time
      July 02, 2012, 11:31AM
  • And for stay at home dads? As normal we dont matter to the media or when someone comments about parenting. Are women the only ones that care for their children?

    Commenter
    SAHD
    Location
    Manly
    Date and time
    July 02, 2012, 9:28AM
    • I think the author is just writing this from her own experience - that of being a stay at home mum. She can't really write about the personal experience of being a stay at home dad - maybe the experience is similar, maybe exactly the same ... I don't know, guessing the author doesn't either.
      If you're a stay at home dad, maybe this is a market gap you can fill!

      Commenter
      Claire
      Date and time
      July 02, 2012, 10:45AM
    • Why don't you and 'Glenstar' collaborate and write your own book then?

      I really don't think this book has been written as a serious parenting guide anyway, so why not just have a read of it and accept that as a Woman, the author probably couldn't write her memoir from the point of view of being a stay at home dad. No doubt you will be able to empathise with a lot of her experiences anyway, so quit whinging and just enjoy a good read!

      Commenter
      Fleecy
      Location
      Tassie
      Date and time
      July 02, 2012, 10:50AM

More comments

Comments are now closed
Featured advertisers

Horoscopes

Capricorn horoscope

Trust others to think for themselves. Don't be snobbish about what seems obvious. Everyone learns at their own pace, including you.

...find out more here