Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Reflections on my new full time job: SAHM

I've only been a full-time stay at home mom for six months, but I thought I'd write down a few thoughts on how it is going so far. It's hard. Really hard. The on-and-on-ness of it is exhausting (stole that line from Downton Abbey's Dowager Countess.) I can only speak for what my reality has been with a three year old and a baby. Maybe if you only have one kid, it is easy. Maybe if your kids are school age, it's a cake walk, but I doubt it. Seems like every parenting stage has its challenges. So once your kids don't need you for everything but breathing, then they need you for other issues--like dealing with bullying or mastering math skills or shuttling them all across the city for their extracurricular activities. At least most of the issues we have in our house can still be fixed with a hug and kiss (or a nap and a feeding.) However, I could see that if you have a cleaning lady, a chef, and a lot of extra help with the kids, being a stay at home mom would be the "easy" job a lot of the world thinks it is.

One of the frustrating things about being home with the kids more is letting go of the expectations of how you thought things would be. For example, one would think that if you're home more, you will have more time to keep your house clean, right? Wrong. The more you are home, the more opportunity you have to get it dirty. Most days, we have three meals at home. That's preparing three meals and cleaning up after three meals and three opportunities for your three year old to get stuff all over your clean floor. The more you are home, the more toys get dragged out. I could go on and on with examples. Of course I want my home to be neat and tidy, but there are only so many hours in the day and right now a great number of hours are taken up with baby care--nursing, diaper changes, trials of baby food, baths, baby laundry, rocking, reading, playing. Then, there's all the time spent taking care of Emily--preparing her meals, shuttling to/from preschool that is 15 minutes away, playing with her, taking her outside for fresh air and exercise, helping her nap, reading to her, etc.. Then there's all the every day things that must get done--making beds, doing laundry, cleaning up the kitchen, grocery shopping, meal preparation, etc. Now, take away eight hours for sleep (if you're lucky) and some time for a shower for yourself and you're not left with much extra.

Some days I am able to give myself the grace I need when I've had a hard day of parenting. I can say, "Well, the kids are alive and well so that's good enough for today!" Other days I find myself feeling overwhelmed and disappointed in myself. Most of the time, I have a good outlook. I love my family and I love my life. I'm thankful that I'm not also juggling a demanding career. I notice that my attitude sours quickly when I haven't had any time for myself in several days or if I have been stuck inside the house all day with the kids. I need to get outside for fresh air. (Thank God spring is finally here!!!) I need a change of pace and I desperately need exercise. It makes me feel so much better when I can take care of myself. Unfortunately, there are many weeks when I only have two hours ALL WEEK when I'm not taking care of one or both of the kids. Of course I have more time if you talk about when they are asleep at night, but you're still "on call" and at home so I'm not counting that. I get a few hours break when Emily is in preschool, but I still have Caleb. Two hours isn't enough time to keep from going crazy. Two hours isn't enough time to get to all the projects you want to do, but can't do them when you have the kids. I thought that I would be able to accomplish these organization and house decorating projects if I was a stay at home mom, but I find that when I get those precious two hours of me time, I want to RUN AWAY! I want to go to the gym or read a book or buy a new pair of shoes. I don't want to organize the closets or clean windows or clean out the basement during those sacred child free hours.

When I was preparing for my career, I had no idea how much work it was to be a mother. Does anyone ever truly know? Naively I thought that of course I could work full time and have a big family. I didn't realize that even though I COULD work full time and have a family, I might not WANT to. My new mindset is that we have seasons in life and we don't have to do everything during the same season. I have worked for ten years as a physical therapist. Before that, for three years I completed a demanding grad school program and worked some as a waitress. Prior to that, I was a full time undergraduate student and worked part-time as a pharmacy technician. During high school, I waited tables some and babysat while playing two varsity sports. During this season of my life, I'm primarily a mother and wife. At different seasons, I've been a student, an athlete, and a full time working professional. I expect that there will be new seasons when I will work more outside the home. I may take up a new hobby or perhaps volunteer in some meaningful position. My story isn't finished. I'm still trying to figure out how to balance the "me" I was before I had kids and the new "me" that has been changed from the moment my precious little girl was born three and half years ago.

I get glimpses of how life may be one day when the kids are more independent. My oldest can dress herself and take herself to the bathroom. Before long, she won't need me standing over her shoulder to make sure she brushes her teeth right. She won't need me to help her bathe. She won't need me to make her sandwich. Somehow I feel happy and sad all at the same time to know that I won't always be so needed. I think of how much I already enjoy her company as a preschooler and how much I'm going to love being with her as as she grows up. I'm looking forward to hiking with my children in the national parks and serving with them on mission trips. Perhaps we will explore a new country while visiting family. But, I need to not miss the blessings of this time we're in now. Older ladies stop to smile at the children and me all the time when we are out and about. They tell me how beautiful they are. They love to see Caleb's little head poking out of the Ergo carrier as I hold him close to my body. They compliment Emily for being such a good big girl. I will miss those sweet compliments when the two kids walking beside me are as tall (or taller) as I am.

No comments:

Post a Comment