This little photo popped up in my Facebook news feed today and it resonates with me.
There was a time in my life when I couldn’t imagine anything more fulfilling than being a mother. I longed desperately to be a mother and finally, finally got my wish. A struggle with infertility had made being a mother feel like the only thing I needed to be complete. And for a while, it was.
Before having children, I worked full-time. I enjoyed working and had no intentions of becoming a stay-at-home-mom. However, once my oldest son was finally here and those weeks were speeding by to the end of my leave, I realized that I just couldn’t leave him. I trusted the daycare providers we had chosen and visited, but there was a strong bond between my heart and this new being’s that pulled me ever so close to him. There was no way I would be returning to work. That was just over four years ago and I’m now a stay-at-home-mom to TWO little boys. My boys are still young, but they are no longer babies. They are capable of playing independently for longer stretches of time and I’m no longer caught up in bottles, naps, and mountains of diapers and spit-up laundry. I’m still quite busy being their mother, but I’m often not nearly as content as I was in those first three years.
Being a stay-at-home-mom has awarded me the luxury of witnessing so many of my children’s firsts. I saw first steps, crawls, rolls, laughs, words. I’ve watched fine motor skills become more precise and language skills flourish. I’ve watched my children began to discover just who they are and what they enjoy in life. It has truly been miraculous. When they were infants and still loved to nap, I reintroduced myself to sewing and learned that my talents and passion for it were stronger than I’d remembered. I learned to crochet, cook from scratch, and grow a garden. I became an advocate for living more naturally and frugally. I learned to help moms learn to cloth diaper and embrace more natural products. My children not only brought me (and my family) joy, they brought me back to life. They were an awakening I hadn’t known I’d needed. It’s almost painful for me to look back on a life before them because there was always such a strong emptiness with me back then. There was always anger covering a pain where my soul was aching for these little beings that I didn’t even know yet. There was part of me there…but my kids brought back the rest of me.
I love being able to stay home with my kids. We make sacrifices so that I can be so involved in their lives and I truly wouldn’t change that. I would be lying though if I told you that it still left me totally and completely fulfilled as a person. I wish it did! I know mothers who are truly content and happy being ‘just’ moms and I admire them so much. While my children changed me for the better, I am and will always continue to be an individual. My own wants and desires did not fade to black when the occupation of mother was added to my résumé. I am very proud of the me who was so content and happy staying home and devoting her every being to the care and love of her children. I’m still that mom, but one wants to add in parts of my old self once again. After all, isn’t melding parts of our old and new how we evolve into something better?
We all too often doubt who we are as mothers. We shouldn’t. Whether we’re the mom who is juggling a career and motherhood, the mom whose whole life is staying home, or the mom whose found a balance somewhere between – we should embrace the parents we are today. We won’t get to relive these moments, we won’t get do overs. If we’re teaching our children to love and we’re loving them back, we’ve got at least part of it right. Love yourself mama, your kids already do.
Many people have asked me if you can really use it postpartum and if I did. I’d love to tell you that I proudly packed all my mama cloth and carried it with me to the hospital, but I didn’t. I knew I’d be tired, I knew I had a history of postpartum hemorrhage and very heavy postpartum bleeding, so I took the ‘easy’ way out and packed a box of giant maxi pads. However, I do wish I’d taken my cloth as it would’ve been far more comfortable. The disposable pads did their job well, but they also caused more soreness and chaffing than my cloth does. As soon as I got back home, I grabbed my cloth and it was more than adequate for my postpartum flow.
Which cloth pads work best postpartum? It depends solely on you and your personal postpartum needs. If you’re someone whose postpartum flow is like a regular period, you can probably get by with whatever mama cloth you currently use. If you’re like me and those first several days are far heavier than a period, you’ll want to go with a cloth pad designed for postpartum use and then ease back into overnight or regular pads as your flow decreases. If you’re in between, a nice overnight pad will likely work well. For me, one of the keys was that the pad be longer than what I’d ordinarily wear. Postpartum care can be rough. There will be vaginal and perianal swelling, you may even have stitches. A pad that is longer will tend to be more comfortable as the edge won’t be hitting any spots that are understandably very sore. Longer pads will also give you more absorbency and can allow for a bit of a looser fit as their coverage area is wider. I didn’t find tight-fitting underwear very appealing during my postpartum period.
If you’re handy with a sewing machine, I would highly suggest purchasing this pattern and making some of these for postpartum use. What didn’t I love about the Mamma Can Do It Postpartum Pad pattern? Nothing, I loved everything. It really is a winner, and no, I wasn’t paid to try it or say that. It’s longer than your regular flow cloth pads and it acts like a shell that you can reuse a few times without laundering if it isn’t soiled. You can put an ice pad or a rice bag in it for relief from postpartum swelling. You can use it with cloth pads OR disposable pads. Heck, you could even fold up a flat or prefold diaper in a pinch and put that inside this shell. The bonus of making your postpartum pads yourself is that you can customize the length and width to fit your preferences and needs.
What if you don’t sew? No, fear. The lovely cloth pad makers out there have you covered with postpartum pads available for purchase. Pink Daisy has postpartum pads available with stay dry tops or organic cotton tops. Pink Lemonade pads are some of my personal favorites and they have some truly gorgeous 13″ postpartum pads that work great. Wee Essentials is another personal favorite.
Can cloth pads really work for your postpartum flow? Absolutely! They can work great and they can make it a little more comfortable because sitting on plastic, even if it’s cotton topped, is just not fun. With lush fabrics like minky, postpartum care can be far more comfortable with cloth.
*Some of the links provided in this post are affiliate links for which I will receive a small portion of the sale. You don’t have to use these links to make a purchase, they just help support our blog if you do and for that we thank you! You can view our full disclosure policy here.
One week (or perhaps just a few days) before Christmas, we were to find out the gender of the baby that I lost in September. Just as I had made an elaborate video to announce our new babies impending arrival, I had a big plan to reveal baby M3’s gender. I was so excited that the time was going to work out so that we’d find out right before Christmas. As soon as the ultrasound was done I was going to rush over to my favorite baby store and buy an outfit in the appropriate colors that screamed BOY or GIRL. Two outfits actually – one for my mother and one for my mother-in-law. And oh how a big part of me prayed for a girl. One tiny precious little girl among my rough and tumble, but painfully sweet boys. If that box had been filled with a pink outfit, my heart would have leapt higher and higher. Of course, if that box had been filled with more blue I would have rejoiced just as freely at having another protector. Another precious little heart for me to teach how to be kind and love. And who could teach me in things like superheroes, race tracks, and playing in the dirt as my other boys so love to do.
I can’t help but be a bit sad – occasionally weepy this holiday season. I am so blessed to have so much good in my life that it can often overshadow what I feel is bad. Yet in the quiet of the morning and the stillness of the night I’m often left alone with the thoughts of what could’ve been and it becomes a heavy burden. While there will be presents beneath my tree, there will not be the promise of another child’s birthday to await next spring. There is not a growing life in my womb to be celebrated…
As it so happens, my oldest son was born just two weeks shy of Christmas. It is always such a celebratory day for us. We celebrate this beautiful child who brought into our lives so much more than a new life. Through his labor hope and proof that miracles happen were born. He proved to us that dreams come true if you never give up on them. He was a beacon of light that pushed his way out of a darkness many mother’s sadly know about – but not all escape. His birth showed me that I embody strength and courage and still kept a soul gentle enough to be brought to tears by a brand new baby’s cries. Such a small baby, born three weeks before he was to come, just couldn’t wait to tell the world – we did it. My mom, dad, and I – we beat this infertility thing and we’re here.
I view my two boys as true miracles, it would be hard not to when you look at how many of their siblings failed to thrive in my womb. With so many living, walking miracles in my life I often feel guilty that I still pray for just one more. God placed within me a mother’s heart and that is one calling that I have never wavered upon. There were many times when the darkness in me called upon me to give up…but, I was never one to be told I couldn’t do something. My mother’s heart always won out in our battle to become parents. And, I do sincerely believe it will win out in our battle for “just one more”.
I’m not wrapping up any big news to place under the tree this year. The day that I was so impatiently waiting for will not be. I am wrapping up love and hope. I’m walking proof that perseverance is a trait worth holding on to and that if you want something to happen, eventually it can. I do not hold time’s playbook. I don’t get to peek under God’s Christmas tree and see what he has waiting for me. However, if I take the time to breathe, let go of my fears and anger, I can open my eyes and watch all the past gifts that mean so much play out before me every single day. For that I am thankful. I am clearly blessed….
My social media feeds are always filled with moms or things about parenting. Mom friends, mom blogs, parenting sites, parenting products…I’m bombarded with motherhood all day every day, even when I’m taking a ‘break’ from my own children. Most days, this is what I enjoy. I was born wanting to be a mother. I nurtured baby dolls from a young age and was overjoyed to finally get a baby cousin when I was older. I even pursued a degree in Early Childhood Education. I would say for many years, I was a bit obsessed with children.
Then I had my own. And yes, they are snuggly, often sweet, and always irreplaceable. I still love hearing about other people’s children and I still find pregnancy and infancy fascinating. Yet, as I sit here in my third pregnancy, I can say that after this baby, I think I am ready to close the chapter on ‘baby obsession’. I feel like I have fulfilled all the wants of motherhood, babydom, and ‘pregnancy euphoria’ that I could handle.
I am by far not the same person who gave birth to my oldest son almost four years ago. While some of me has remained the same, much of what I have experienced and learned has changed me. There is no more wild-eyed curiosity at all things baby. I no longer wish to stroll through baby stores and baby departments for hours. Almost every baby thing I need is packed away downstairs in my basement. Yes, I am excited to see my new little bean on the ultrasound screen. I am excited to feel s/he kick and move. To find out the sex, nail down a name. I’m more scared of delivery now than I ever was. After hemorrhaging on the delivery table twice, I’m left a bit scared of what’s to come. Granted, my doctors and nurses were amazing. The bleeding was stopped, I did not get dizzy until I stood up afterwards to pee, and I required no transfusion. So things went really well for me. But, hemorrhaging is still scary. Especially when you have two little ones already and tend to be the type of person who reads up on every potential bad outcome… It’s scary.
I spent yesterday in a horribly melancholy mood. As I scrolled through my social media feeds, I saw moms doing fun things with their kids. I saw birth announcements, newborn cloth diapers. I saw moms praising their children, some lamenting. Normally when I feel like I’m not being the best mother, those posts about what crafts, perfect outfits, or nutritious meals other mother’s children are having make me feel bad. Yet somehow, yesterday, they didn’t.
My children weren’t doing anything fancy. They played with scented stickers, watched some shows about letters and learning to read. They built forts, played mailmen, and chased our cat. We had peanut butter crackers and graham crackers for lunch. Yes, I let them drink juice and no, nothing was organic. We even had super, not healthy pizza for dinner and boy did we gobble it up! I wasn’t ‘exceeding’ any expectations yesterday, but I didn’t let myself feel the mom guilt I so often do. Why? Four years of parenting has taught me this…
What you don’t see in those photos of moms with manicured nails, perfect hair, and NOT in their pajamas, is that they have dirty piles of laundry too. There’s a room in their house where toys likely cover the floor. They have days they aren’t taking photos where they get stuck in their yoga pants and ill-fitting t-shirts just like me. While we love to take pictures of craft time, learning time, and ‘good’ days, we’re not taking photos of tantrums. We’re not taking photos of us crying in the bathroom because it’s Thursday afternoon and we’re lonely, tired, and need a break. There are rarely photos of poop explosions, crayon walls, and food covered kitchen floors. Yet these things make up parenting just as much, if not more so, than the other things.
My transition from idealistic motherhood to the real life thing was not easy. Find a mom who says it is, and I’ll bet she has a full-time nanny. The more I let my children guide me and let go of the expectations to be ‘perfect’ – the more we thrive. I don’t measure my worth as a mother by what other people, or other mothers, think of me. I don’t care if you bottle feed, breast feed, cloth diaper, baby wear, work, stay home, eat organic, vaccinate, or live off easy meals. What I care about is that you love your children. That you provide for them. That you teach them what it means to have love, respect, and compassion for our world and the people in it. I don’t devalue you if you need help from SNAP or WIC, we’ve all needed help at some point and it does not determine your worth as a parent or a human. I don’t care if you home school, public school, or send your kids to private school. Just teach them, in whatever way you can.
The point is, all these little things that others choose to judge us for – they don’t matter. What matters is that our children grow up loved, educated, and nourished. There won’t always be good days and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If every day were filled with rainbows and lollipops, we wouldn’t learn. If we received everything we ever wanted, we’d know nothing of value, respect, and hard work.
Motherhood took off my blinders. The world isn’t always nice and pretty and there are certainly people in it who are out to destroy any piece of happiness and contentment you offer yourself. However, you don’t have to let others judgment change you. You don’t have to take it to heart. In turn, you don’t have to be the one who judges.
If you see a mom who looks like she needs a hug, offer her one. Offer the mom with two kids just trying to do her grocery shopping a hand, not judgment. Play peek-a-boo and make her kid laugh, it doesn’t take much effort. Stop rolling your eyes at the whining toddler, the crying baby. It’s stressful enough without a stranger’s judgment. Don’t sigh and make a scene when you get behind a mom or dad using WIC in the checkout line. Think about how you would feel if you had to humble yourself to ask for help to feed your baby. I guarantee you, it isn’t easy and they are doing what they need to do to make sure their child has what they need. Don’t turn your nose up at the kids munching happily on nuggets and fries. You don’t know their daily eating habits or how long of a day their parent(s) may have had.
Stop judging and start respecting your fellow human-beings… Stop judging yourself and embrace the world through the eyes of your child. They’re too young to care about those things that we place our value in. They see your value in its truest terms – how you treat yourself and how you treat others. As parents, that’s a lesson we would do well to learn.
Before I became a stay-at-home parent I had my own preconceived notions about what being one meant. I assumed that laundry was always caught up, houses clean, and there was a bit of leisure time once everything for the children was done. Clearly, I had never been alone in a home with an infant or toddler before. While some of my uneducated guesses did ring true, many did not. Here are the ways that my life as a stay-at-home mom is much different from what I imagined.
- Cleaning My Home
Before I had my first son, I could get away with cleaning the house about once a week. We’d fill up the dishwasher a couple times a week and I might have to run the vacuüm twice. I only really had to mop maybe once a month. In short, we weren’t really home enough to mess the house up much so it more or less stayed clean all the time.
When I brought my newborn home, I was amazed at how many bottles he went through in a day and how long it took me to clean them. I was washing bottles in the morning and at night, mountains of bottles. Our breastfeeding plans didn’t work out and I hated all this bottle washing. There were also burp cloths littered all over the living room, his bed room. He wasn’t even able to crawl or sit up, but he was already changing my tidy home into a messy one that I couldn’t keep up with.
When he was a bigger baby, my house did stay remarkably clean until I got pregnant with his brother and was almost too sick to move from the couch for the first several months. Now that I have a toddler and a preschooler, hahaha. Our house is clean, it isn’t always tidy.
Honestly speaking, this one didn’t change much for me when I first became aS AHM because I was no longer washing my work clothes and my ‘normal’ clothes. The babies laundry sort of took the place of my work clothes so the laundry was more or less the same. I did laundry on Fridays or Saturdays and didn’t do it again for a week. When I started cloth diapering my son at fifteen months, I added in a load of diapers 3 or 4 times a week.
Then we brought home our second baby and wow. I don’t know how that changed the laundry dynamic so dramatically, but I now do laundry at least every other day. There is one thing I will say, our laundry room always smells like fresh laundry. It isn’t always wrinkle free and my husband now has to pitch in and put a lot of it away, but at least we’re not suffocating under mountains of dirty clothes the way we did in the first few weeks as parents of two.
- Utility Bills
I had no idea that our energy and water usage would increase so dramatically. Sure, part of that is adding extra humans to your household. The other part is that now you’re home almost all the time. My house used to sit empty for nine or ten hours every day. It is almost never empty now. Toilets get used more, sinks, appliances. Our house is certainly lived in now.
I was never one to eat out a lot while at work. I’d pack my breakfast, lunch, and a few snacks. I worked an hour away from home which meant a two-hour drive daily so I was away from home for about 12-13 hours every single day. I packed a lot of quick things – cheap, processed things. I didn’t enjoy eating those things so staying home has allowed me to get back to real food. Real foods cost more, and we’re feeding more people now. So, obviously, our grocery bills went up.
We also spend more on things like hand soap and toilet paper. The toilet paper was crazy to me at first, I couldn’t figure out why we were going through it 2-3 times faster than before. You don’t realize how much time you spend at work vs. home and how that even affects how much toilet paper your house goes through.
I assumed being a SAHM would mean I’d get a few more hours of downtime every week. Time to relax, unwind. Oh man guys, this one slapped me in the face. Before children, despite working full-time and commuting 10 hours a week, I had a lot of downtime and didn’t realize it. My husband and I would spend Sundays lounging around the house after a night out on Fridays and Saturdays. We had a lot of fun, and a lot of lazy Sundays.
I have not had real downtime since before I went into labor with my son. In fact, labor was my last downtime. Seriously, it was the last time I didn’t have something I HAD to be doing chore or kid wise. Any hobby I do now is multi-tasked with cooking dinner or caring for my children. Date-nights are few and far between. And I sit through them thinking oh no, I forgot to tell them where this is. Oh crap, I left laundry in the washer. Did I remember to fill up the cat’s bowl? I mean seriously, there isn’t downtime as a SAHM. If there is, you’re using it to budget or clean out the kid’s closet.
Obviously, your finances change in a big way when you quit your job, forfeiting half your income. I assumed that it was going to be hard. And at times it has been. However, if I had continued to work, all but about $200 a month would’ve went towards daycare and my 10 hour weekly commute. Much of that would have also went into car maintenance. Our finances were going to change either way and $200 a month wasn’t worth me only seeing my son for a couple of hours a day for me. By the time I had a second child, I would have paid to work.
So yes, we have far less money coming in, but we have become better with our money. We have learned what we can live without and how that often improves our lives instead of hurting it. We are so rich in love and happiness, we don’t need ‘things’. Becoming a SAHM taught me a lot about money. We learned to budget, coupon, thrift/clearance shop, and enjoy the simpler things instead of always wanting a new material possession. I enjoy what we have learned about money, but never dreamed that being a SAHM would benefit us in this way.
I did not plan to be a SAHM when I gave birth. It wasn’t until my son was a few weeks old that I sat down to do the numbers and realized that it might be a better suited option. I had never dreamed I could be a SAHM. When a coworker or friend told me they were going to quit their job and stay home, I’d always think, “Well,that must be nice”. I pictured my children in daycare, and me spending all my free time with them. I saw them learning at daycare and playing at home. I thought SAHMs must spend all day doing ‘lessons’ and have a little preschool set up in their homes. Maybe some SAHMs do this, and I commend them.
My children spend much of their days playing. I do formalized lessons with my preschooler once or twice a day, but much of their learning is through play. We read, do flashcards, learn shapes, but we don’t have ‘school’. I pictured myself as the mother who was always doing crafts and learning activities, perhaps bouncing through play groups, but it isn’t me. I am not the mother I pictured. Sure, we do some of those things. But we don’t do them all the time. Some days I am just trying to float and not drown in all my responsibilities as mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend.
I’m not one of those super moms. I’m a normal mom. I love my kids, I want the best for them, and I do my best to give them a good foundation. I value lessons in love, support, and acceptance far more than lessons in math and science. Reading to my children while I snuggle them is one of my favorite things. There is no chalkboard in my kitchen as I imagined. There is a tidy box of workbooks, flash cards, and boxes full of crafts that we don’t touch every day. I’m not the mother I envisioned, but I don’t hate the mother that I have become.
I assumed that stay-at-home parents prepared nice meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I thought, hey, they’re home, they have the time. Oh boy. Why didn’t any of these SAHPs that I knew warn me? They probably enjoyed watching me those first few months as I struggled to get my teeth brushed and find time to get out of pajamas (it didn’t always happen). I did prepare nice meals when I had one infant. Once he got more mobile it got challenging.
Once I was pregnant, had a toddler, and sick as a dog, I’m not sure I cooked a ‘nice’ meal for months. My husband handled dinner while I tried to eat anything that wouldn’t leave me sick. Some nights I cook something nice and some nights we do easy. My kids prefer cereal for breakfast. And their favorite lunch time fare includes things like peanut butter crackers, grilled cheese, and chicken nuggets. I can do fresh-baked breads, stews, and decadent desserts. Alas, I forgot that SAHPs have KIDS, who normally prefer something simpler.
The hardest part of staying home for me is friends. I feel like I never see mine and I lost so many when I stopped working. It stung and hurt like hell to see friendships melting away into nothing. I cried many tears and then I realized there wasn’t much I could do except try to reconnect or just let it go. I thought staying home meant I would have more time to spend with them. I do, but they’re at work. And I can’t cart my kids around to concerts or drag them out on Friday nights. Sure, I can get a sitter now and again. I cannot predict a fever or a sitter cancelling. People without kids don’t always get that. I miss my friends. I miss concerts, late nights just talking. I miss messaging back and forth at work, having friends over for sporting events, just because, or just laughing over dumb things that don’t matter. I would love for these people to come back into our lives and realize we’re not that different from our pre-kid days, in fact we’re way more laid back and fun. We still listen to loud music, enjoy concerts, and yes, I still have a potty mouth and a sense of humor. I miss being more than someone’s mother…
The flip side of this is the amazing mom friends I have made. They are fiercely supportive and caring. While most of our chatting is done online, they are a lifeline I didn’t know I needed. They have seen me through late night fevers, nursing troubles, postpartum blues, depression, and anxiety. I never expected to form these bonds and friendships with these women, many whom I’ve never met in person, but I am grateful that I did.
Naturally, your view of family changes when you have children. I think I had a close family before I had children and started staying home, but my open schedule has allowed me the freedom to grow closer to my family. I have bonds with them I didn’t have before. I can swing by for lunch dates, pop in on their days off, or have a little day trip that I never could’ve done without lots of planning while I worked. I didn’t fully expect or anticipate how much closer we’d grow. My extended family is amazing. My children are so loved and cherished. And I feel as though I could never repay all the kindness and support my extended family has offered to my little family.
- View of Self
I never realized how much my view of myself would change as a SAHM. I thought I would just be blissfully happy to spend my days in my home with my children. There have been times that I felt worthless. I have gone through periods where I felt like my lack of financial contribution and professional status meant I didn’t mean much to anyone. I have been reminded of all that I do contribute and do to keep our family running and happy. It has taken time for me to see this and value myself and what I do.
I have a confidence in myself I did not before. I also know that I have limits and imperfections like everyone. I know that my value is not tied to how much money I make or what job title I have. That’s a lesson I probably didn’t know I needed, but it has changed my view of the world and myself.
- My Marriage
I am amazed at how much my marriage has grown and changed in the last few years. Parts of becoming a SAHM were very hard on my marriage – the stress of changing finances and becoming parents can be tough. There have been dark moments and difficult arguments. There has also been growth and positive change. I am even more amazed at how we’ve matured and grown closer. I love my husband more fiercely now than I did before. There is no doubt in my mind that I can happily spend forever with him. We’re more honest, open, and closer than we were. Parenthood and the changing dynamics of our family fixed something I didn’t know was broken.
Whether parents work or stay-at-home, their lives change. Each time you bring a new child home, get a new job, even change working hours, your family changes and grows. Change can be scary, but it can also be beautiful. I’m supportive of parents who work and stay home. Both offer challenges and rewards that have to be tailored to each family’s needs. I’m blessed to have found the balance that works for my own family and to be thriving in our little corner of happiness.