8 Things I Am Learning From Being Unemployed

Workstation

One of the things I decided this year, was to blog a lot more often and to share from a place of authenticity and empathy. The Goal is to do 52 posts this year – quick math, that is a post a week for the rest of 2019. I am still on track so far, with these posts for the month of January.

  1. The 30-day Mental Wellness Challenge 
  2.  7 Lessons I Learned in 7 years of Motherhood
  3. This is What I Did Not Post on Instagram
  4. 7 Important Things I do During My Morning Routine

In today’s post, I am sharing lessons I have learned on been unemployed since late December last year. Admittedly, I cannot compare my experience with anyone who’s been unemployed for years, because I cannot imagine how much harder it is. On the flip side, I cannot downplay the fact that the past few weeks have not been the easiest of days for me.

Stay At Home Motherhood

So, I have shared before on the blog, that I have been a stay/work at home mom. After my son was born, I couldn’t go back to work and, for the first nine months of his life I stayed at home – literally. During this time, I was also battling severe Postpartum Depression (but didn’t know it for a while) and staying at home made the symptoms more intense.

Read More: My Postpartum Depression Experience

Towards the end of the year, a friend introduced me to online writing. By then, my son had settled into a pattern of sorts, and I could juggle motherhood and getting some work done. I kept at it, and would later grow into it through the different seasons and years. This past December holidays, however, two of my contracts came to an end, perhaps a little unexpectedly. It threw me off balance quite a bit, as it would anyone. Towards the end of the year, and for most of January, I have been applying for jobs as a freelance writer, sending cold pitches and generally keeping hope alive.

Today though, I broke down. There is something about seeing the calendar page flip to mark a new month when you don’t have a job. It is a subtle-not-so-subtle reminder that bills are due – rent, groceries, electricity, school fees, transport, insurance… name it. Today that reality just kinda smacked me in the face. It took all of the energy in me not to have a total breakdown. Part of what it took was to journal – my all-time go-to coping mechanism. I write and write and write and write, and as I did, I thought to share some of the lessons I am learning from been unemployed.

Lessons I Am Learning From Been Unemployed

Lessons From Unemployment

  1. There is no shame in being unemployed

Of course this is easier said than done. It is easy to feel embarrassed about a conversation that ends up with, “So, how’s work?” or “So, what do you do?” But I am realizing that this is nothing to be ashamed of. That many people will, at one point or another, go through unemployment for a period of time. If anything, you are encouraged to speak out and network because you never know what opportunities abound with the persons you interact with.

  1. Work does not define me, but it is intricately tied to a sense of self-worth

Knowing and reminding myself that I am worthy is one of my key affirmations. But even that, in the face of unemployment, gets shaken to the core. Having a job to go to or to do, every day is closely related to one’s self-worth and self-esteem. Part of the reason for this is that, subconsciously, going to work makes you feel as though you are making a contribution to the society. In the absence of this contribution, there is a sense in which one lacks purpose.

Add to this the existence of mental illness and it is easy to see how unemployment, lack of self-worth and depression create a vicious cycle. This study done by Gallup-Healthways in 2014 showed that depression rates are significantly higher for those who have been unemployed for six months or more. It underpins the link between work and self-worth and makes it easier for me to understand why, these past few days have caught me questioning my worth and contribution, even with PPDKenya.

Read More: Stay-at-Home Motherhood affected my self-esteem

  1. Having a support system makes a big difference!

The truth of how I have survived this past month, and especially with kiddo going to a new school, is the anchor that my family is. I have a super supportive family, and my sister has been incredibly gracious to me. My close circle of friends has also been incredibly resourceful in checking in and offering encouragement. This is something I cannot be blind to. I recognize it somewhat cushions me from the very jagged edges. I am also cognizant of the fact that not everyone has such a support system. For this, I am very grateful.

  1. Do not quit everything

Granted, life does slow down to a certain extent when you are unemployed. After the frenetic pace of school hunting, my days slowed down noticeably. The mundaneness set in after my sis went to work, and my son was off to school. I would find myself asking, “Then what?”

With this, it is easy to quit everything – quit eating right, quit exercising, quit sleeping well… and plunge into job hunting. But the truth is, this will easily cause burnout. What I have learned to do these past few weeks, is to keep a basic routine of sorts. Part of this has been in form of my morning routine that includes a daily 30-minute intense workout (for those who have been wondering where the zeal comes from!). The morning workouts give me something to look forward to, space to process my thoughts and a toned body at the end of it all.

  1. It is okay to have good and bad days

Someone recently Whatsapped me and said that they envy my lifestyle (having followed my daily workout selfies) – and I wanted to cringe. Because what she didn’t know, was that for the most part, those workouts keep me sane and grounded. On some days though, I will drag myself out of bed, workout and then watch the hours go by with barely any strength to look for a job or make connections. I realized that those bad days are okay too – I just don’t want to linger there too long.

Read More: 17 things in 2017

  1. Having an emergency fund is KEY

Yes, I did have some cash somewhere that helped changed schools for my son, but in retrospect, it should have been bigger. I am reminding myself why it is important in this season. Closely related to this, is that it is wise not to put all of one’s eggs in one basket. Ever since I started freelance writing, I would work with at most, two clients at a go. But I am now realizing how detrimental that is to my financial well-being – and I am taking it for a lesson.

  1. Do the things you have always wished you had more time for

It is easy for the days to waste away when there is no work to go to, but time is valuable, even in such a hard season. This past month, I have tried to make good of this time by

  • Working out a lot more consistently
  • Reading more books (onto my third read for the year)
  • Blogging a lot more
  • Sharing content consistently on the PPDKEnya platforms
  • Brainstorming and writing down ideas
  • Networking, making cold pitches and generally putting myself out there.
  1. Do not give up

I could as well be telling myself this every day. Do not give up. Continue to put in the work. I keep reminding myself that the worst anyone can say no when job hunting/ looking for opportunities, is a NO. The best that can happen, well, there is no limit to that. I will keep putting myself out there. Something will work out, and when it does, I will add an update to this post.

For the record: I am a freelance writer and have been published before on Standard Digital’s Ureport Platform, and you can read the articles here and here. My main niches are Parenting, Wellness, Productivity, and Maternal Mental Health, but I can cover just about any topic on request. Additionally, I have built and continue to run this, and the PPDKenya website which you can visit here. Please get in touch with me if you need services to be provided by a freelance writer. Here’s my LinkedIn profile too. 

 

 

Stay-at-Home Motherhood affected my self-esteem

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day, and disclosed how, I was a little anxious about setting up my LinkedIn account. Yes, I am the one in a zillion who had never bothered to create a Linkedin account until the point I decided to get PPDKenya registered legally. And partly because I subconsciously didn’t think there was anything worth writing about myself in the professional circles. Walk with me, I am going somewhere with this.

See, I have been a stay (and work) at home mom since my son was born – in January 2012. Even typing this makes me pause for a few seconds. It’s going to seven years since I last set foot in a regular 8-to-5 job, which amazes and shocks me in equal measure. It hasn’t been easy – it cannot be easy to make the switch from a travel junkie whose work involved lots of travel, to staying and raising a child round the clock.

Becoming a SAHM was not something I sought out to be. In the second trimester of my pregnancy, I realized I was going to be raising my son alone. Shortly after, I lost my job. So jobless and with no partner support, I ended up going back home to my parents and figure out life from that point. My son was born with no health complications, thankfully. My parents were very supportive, and I am thankful for that to-date. I knew however, I needed to find something to do to help me raise my child and get the basics (diapers, clinic money, clothes etc) because at the time, I wasn’t paying any rent or utility bills.

Read More: This is Why I kept my Postpartum Depression a secret

That’s how I stumbled onto online writing. A friend suggested the possibility of working from home and I embraced the idea because it would keep us afloat. Years later, it has provided a lifeline for my son and I, but it was not without its own challenges.

At the onset, it gave me a profound sense of self to be able to stay home and cherish whatever memories I could of raising him before Postpartum Depression stole the precious moments. But as the years went by, I realized I was starting to feel overwhelmed by it all. SAHMoms find themselves alone, quite literally, for long hours every day. I found this aspect of SAHMotherhood particularly challenging. I am an extrovert by nature, and love to be around people. Here I was, spending up to 10 hours indoors, alone, with nothing but baby talk, bibs and nappies to fill my days.

The lack of adult interaction for most days made it difficult to articulate the emptiness I felt. Caring for my son almost 100% of the time made it very easy to forget about myself. Add to this the monotonous routine of daily life and it started to feel like my sense of self was slowly but surely slipping away.

My PPD didn’t make it any easier. I remember asking myself, ‘What’s the point of dressing up anyway, if I wouldn’t be going anywhere? Why make my nails if I will spend half the day cleaning up mustard-coloured nappies?” Let’s not talk about the matted nest that was my hair. I let go of myself. I just did not see the point of making it… and over time, how I looked on the outside began to seep into how I viewed myself.

Read More: Changes

It started to feel like I had lost my sense of identity, I had lost the person I was before motherhood, so much so that on several days when I got someone to watch over him, I’d spend the whole day trying to remember what it was I loved doing – what it was I enjoyed most. I couldn’t find myself in the haze of motherhood. I didn’t feel attractive anymore, and struggled to look at myself in the mirror. Under the layers of baggy tees with several milk patches and saggy track pants, I felt completely lost.

The intrusive thoughts I had with PPD worsened how I viewed myself. My mind kept telling me I was frumpy and ugly (frugly if you like), and it didn’t matter because everyone seemed so put together on IG but I was struggling with my sense of identity and self-esteem.

I did go for therapy, and that helped quite a bit. I recovered from PPD, but the scars on my sense of identity linger on many days, particularly on those days when there’s an impending change or I am embarking on a new project as is the case with the organization. I second guess myself so many times, I doubt my abilities, I hear the subtle voices in my mind telling me I am not good enough.

But,

But I am learning to look into the mirror and tell myself I am doing an amazing job raising my son. To say out loud positive affirmations, and to remind myself of the wonderful work PPDKenya does to help moms with PPD. I am learning to create boundaries to practise self-care. I am learning to say NO. I am learning that this is part of my journey. And it is helping me find myself, and teaching me to let go.