As parents, we spend so much time taking care of our children and our families that we often become the background noise in our own lives. We spend each day ticking off items on a list – appointments for the kids, a project for friends, maintaining our homes, work obligations…. At the end of those long tired days it is very easy to just snip off the end of list that we’ve put ourselves on and forget those tasks. But the easy way, isn’t always the best way.
As I stared down the barrel of what looked like sleepless nights and a plate fuller than what I thought I could handle, I started taking off the parts that were for me. When your days are already filled, it’s hard to imagine adding anything else even if it’s something you want and believe in. I thought taking away those parts would make me feel relieved and at peace, but instead it left me feeling empty. Yes, my days would be clear to fully devote myself to my children and my family, but there would be little room for myself.
Room for self – that’s an important part of being a parent that many people forget. It’s easy to do. From the time you become pregnant people’s reaction to you changes. It goes from, “Good morning, how are you,” to , “How’s the baby, have you picked a name yet?” For nine solid months your life will revolve around your growing baby and that growing belly. When the baby enters the world, your own focus is fully centered on feeding, diapering, bathing, and loving this new being. You will think of your child almost every single second of every single day. Their care will, at first, leave little time for your own. You may feel guilt when you leave them for the first time even and if you aren’t careful, you may very well lose yourself entirely.
The role of mother does not have to be the only one you take. It does not have to replace your role as wife, friend, daughter, co-worker, even business owner. While it can permeate each of your other roles, molding and shaping who and what you are, that isn’t a bad thing! Motherhood can teach you patience, compassion, and perseverance. It can show you just how strong you always were and how much you can accomplish when you are dedicated. It can teach you to be humble and you will learn to multi-task with far greater ease than you ever have before.
Last week I gave up. At least temporarily. I threw in the proverbial towel and I resigned myself to give up the roles I wanted for myself. Lucky for me, I’m not alone. I have friends, family, prayers, and a power greater than myself. Thanks to a combination of all these, I was guided back on track. I realized that deciding to give up on the parts of myself that were just for me might make completing all my daily duties easier, but it wouldn’t be living in its truest sense. When we exist without passion or goals, we aren’t truly living and I want to do more than exist – I want to truly live.
There’s a popular saying that God only helps those who learn to help themselves. In one sense, I very much believe this. I believe that God helps those in need, but I also believe we have to play an active role in bettering ourselves and our lives. When you’re given an opportunity – take it. When you’re given a chance to try something you’ve always wanted, you owe it to yourself to do it. To be the best parent you can be, you must also take care of yourself and learn to let go of guilt when you do. An evening away or a decision to take on roles in addition to that as a parent are good for you and your children.
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.
We did a post on dating your spouse a few months back and I got many emails and messages thanking me for the reminder. I think it’s an important topic and so it’s one I’m going to bring up again.
There’s so much pomp and circumstance that normally accompanies the beginning of marriage. We go into marriage thinking that there must be something special and magical about it to require such celebration. And marriage is indeed special. Among all that celebration and planning, the most important part is simply that you are committing your life to another person and they to you. All the work that can go into planning a wedding? It’s nothing compared to making a marriage truly work and last.
I always cringe when I hear someone say that good relationships don’t take work because it isn’t true. Anything worth having – anything good and real and true – takes work. You wouldn’t build a business without hard work, failures, and lessons learned. Marriage is the same. I still think of marriage as the foundation upon which you build your life together. Foundations must be carefully planned and reinforced if they are to be strong. Foundations require maintenance. No house would continue to stand if it’s foundation were continually flooded, nor will your marriage. When you reach an obstacle that causes discontentment between you, it’s your job to work together to find a solution.
Working towards my eighth year of marriage, I can tell you that most of our fights have started because of words. Words are tricky. Sometimes they tumble out of our mouths without our consent. Sometimes words come out sounding much different than we meant them. Sometimes, the day has just been long and a sentence is all it takes to unleash your anger on the person who happens to be in front of you – your spouse. Whatever the reason, words can start fights. It’s a lesson I am still learning, but it’s an important one for happy marriages. If we want our marriages to thrive, we have to remember not to poison our language with anger or contempt. We have to learn to use love language in our every day lives.
What is love language? It’s not universal, but unique to each relationship. Love language is free of blame, free of anger, and a reminder that relationships take work but they are worth it. Love language is thinking before you speak, removing blame from the conversation, and working together instead of individually. Love language is not, “You forgot to do this and now I’m stuck doing it before I can wind-down.” Love language is, “We can finish this together and then we can both have some quiet time.” Love language is NOT bringing up past fights when new ones emerge and love language is not always having to get the last word. Love language is laced with patience, encouragement, teamwork, and of course love.
Happy marriages are not marriages where the couple never fights. All relationships and marriages will have challenges. Disagreements are an important part of evolving and can be used to strengthen your relationship instead of harming it. When you reach a point where an argument could it occur, it’s important to step back and ask yourself why the situation is really affecting you in a negative way. It’s important to carefully plan out and evaluate what it is you want your spouse (or yourself) to change in order to make your life together better. Once you’ve thought about it, bring it up calmly. Arguing in the heat of the moment rarely accomplishes much other than hurt feelings and slammed doors. Emotions can mask the true reasons why we feel hurt or angry. Taking a few minutes to step back and reevaluate can do wonders for a conversation. When we approach something with honesty, love, and a willingness to work together, we can do much more than we ever could through anger.
Love language is not all, “I love yous,” “Sweeties,” or, “You’re amazings.” Love language is facing problems with maturity and learning to calmly work through them as a team.
For me, the scariest part of transitioning to cloth diapers was learning to successfully use them while we were out. Almost three years later, I can’t believe I ever felt like cloth diapering was difficult, even for the diaper bag. As a cloth diaper veteran, it all seems like second nature now. I often get emails, messages, and comments from parents who are new to cloth and feeling a bit overwhelmed when it’s time to take their cloth diapers on an extended outing or even a quick trip to the store. Let’s be honest, EVERYTHING is new when you’re a first time mom or dad. You over pack the diaper bag, or you forget key components altogether. It happens. Here are a few tips to make taking your cloth wipes with you while you’re out easy and stress free.
- Designate a certain amount of wipes for diaper bag use. Luckily, cloth wipes are pretty cheap whether you make or buy them. Make sure you buy enough wipes that you can leave a stash in the diaper bag . Obviously you’ll need to restock when the diaper bag stash is all dirty, but you won’t have to worry about leaving yourself with no clean wipes at home if you’ve purchased or made enough to have extras.
- Get a small wet bag to keep clean wipes in. It’s always easier to grab your wipe pouch when you need it than rifle through a diaper bag for clean wipes. A pouch keeps them together and easily accessible. It also allows wipes to be moistened before a trip.
- If you’re out and about daily, wet your wipes before you leave home. If you’re going to be out a few days in a row, go ahead and wet your diaper bag wipes before you leave the house. This way they’re completely ready to grab and go when baby needs a change.
- If you’re not out daily, store diaper bag wipes dry and take a travel size spray bottle. If cloth wipes are wet and left to sit more than a few days, they get stinky. If you and baby aren’t making daily trips out, it’s easier to store your diaper bag wipes dry and fill a travel sized spray bottle with wipe solution so you squirt the solution as needed. These spray bottles are easily obtainable at most dollar and big box stores.
- Keep a small stash of cloth wipes in your car. Cloth wipes can be made very cheaply which means you can afford to have extras. There will inevitably be a time when you forget to restock the diaper bag wipe box. If you’ve left a small stack of wipes in your car and you can get to some water, you can get your baby’s bottom (or sticky ice cream fingers!) cleaned up quickly and easily.
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Life. Stuff. Me. Mostly me.
It’s all those little things that get in the way of what I want. And what do I want? Most of the time I don’t really know. I’ve always been filled with too many thoughts that all race at once. Good ideas, good intentions that normally don’t come to fruition. Granted, some do. Some things I stick with and see through. Others fall by the wayside of being mother, wife, friend-titles I take seriously. A few fall to the wayside of laziness and for those I have no excuse.
Yesterday was one of those days where everything builds up and then you break. The anger, the frustration, the I-don’t-give-a-damns all tumble out of you in a sobbing mess. Much contributed to my dam breaking; to do lists that were too long but somehow got accomplished, except the things I wanted to do for me… Those things I want to do just for me are the ones that always get cut. There’s no blame, it’s just part of being an adult.
I poured myself into a sunken pile on my bed and I sobbed. As I reached to my bedside table for a tissue, my hand skimmed too low and hit a row of books nestled inside the table. I pulled one out, unsure what it was, where it even came from. I began to read and the book resonated within me. Words leapt from the pages and they touched my heart and warmed my soul which had grown as cold as my uncovered feet. I lay in my bed among soft pillows and I read. I could hear chaos ensuing in my kitchen. Children who weren’t listening to their father anymore than they had listened to me, but in my bed, with my door closed I stayed. I could hear dinner ending and bath time ensuing, but this book had a message I needed to hear.
I read through pages that turned into chapters, said a prayer of blessing for the person who had sent this book my way. It wasn’t needed when it arrived many months ago, but now, in my crumbled mess, it was vital for my sanity. By the time my boys were ready for goodnight kisses, the book had calmed me. I marked my place and sat it aside. I walked to my youngest son’s bedroom where I could hear him asking for mommy kisses. I nestled that little head in my hands and I covered him in kisses as he giggled, wrapping his little arms around my neck. I thought that this, this is what I live for. Not that part of the list that never gets accomplished. Not these things others expect me to do or all these avenues I feel I’m being pushed down. This is my happy, this is my purpose.
I tucked my son in and traveled to his brother’s room. More kisses, more hugs, more of my head resting on his chest a bit longer than usual as I said goodnight. I soaked up that little heartbeat, cherished that kiss and hug.
Later in the evening, when it was too late and I was too tired, I sank into the couch with still wet hair and I browsed through my Facebook feed. Not looking for or really at anything. But a video pulled me and I clicked it. Again, it was what I needed in that moment. To hear that we’re our own worst enemy. That we fight ourselves, deny our potential and our purpose far too often. He was there…the book, the hugs, the video. All pieces to the puzzle I’ve tried to put together while begging Him to answer.
For a moment all was clear and I knew my path, my purpose, my light. However, doubt doesn’t fade immediately. The seeds, once planted, weed their way through our being. They’re intertwined with all that we want and those hopes and dreams can come to feel like a burden instead of wings to freedom. The book though…it reminds me. Be thankful for who you are NOW. Be happy where you are NOW. The rest will come, but only when we lay our doubts to rest and learn to be thankful, not critical. It will all come when we learn to be content and joyful.
I lay in bed this morning, ticking down that to do list. As if I had learned nothing at all yesterday. I could feel my head starting to ache, but as I reached for my glasses, I saw the book they were resting on and I stopped.
Be present…be here…now. And be thankful.
Present. Thankful. Now. 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….
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.
Ahhh, birthdays. They bring forth so many emotions for parents. For one, we are thrilled that our children are growing and thriving just as they should. We are celebrating all that they (and we as parents) have accomplished in the last year. Sometimes we are just glad to have made it through a challenge and come out on the other side. For those of us still so close to the magical years of babyhood and toddlerhood, we are in awe of how quickly time travels through these all too short years. Part of us longs for a small bubbly baby or a bounding toddler once more. Part of us celebrates no more sleepless nights, bi-hourly feedings, or spit-up stained shirts. Overall, no matter how old they get, a birthday will likely be a reminder of a ‘labor day’ for many mothers. It is a day of great remembrance and joy.
My youngest child just celebrated his second birthday. My oldest will turn four at the end of the year. And me, I’m that mom. I am fighting against a force that I know I cannot win – Father Time. He will move swiftly through my life at times when I just need a few more minutes, weeks, or hours. And he will crawl at times when I want him to just speed up already. Such a ornery man Father Time. I spend a few weeks preparing for their birthdays. We make decorations, plan menus, and then we bake whatever celebration treat they want. It has become a tradition for me to me make them a birthday outfit to fit their chosen birthday theme. Through all this labor to prepare for their birthday parties, I am laboring in my mind on how I will not cry as they blow out yet another candle. I will not stifle their new freedoms and their growing maturity. I will celebrate in happiness and glee right along with them.
This is the first year I have prepared for a birthday and actually managed not to cry. No one warned me that I would strongly fight tears as I prepared the birthday banner or sang happy birthday to my child for the very first time. There was no warning about the lump the size of a golf ball forming in my throat and making my eyes water like a faucet…
I spend the weeks leading up to a birthday perusing through photos or rereading journal entries I made during my pregnancy. I will reread their birth stories at least once and dig around for videos of them in their infancy. During the actual day of the birthday I will often glance at the clock and oddly I can remember what stage of labor I was in at that time X years ago. Like how the nurse brought me a popsicle at 11:08AM back in December of 2010. I don’t know why I remember these things, but I do. They are likely tied my ‘new’ mom status and perhaps will fade with the years. I will remind my children of the exact time they were born and they will give me a blank stare and go back to what they were doing. But I, I will feel all those feelings of holding your baby for the first time all over again. I will steal a hug that lasts too long and a kiss on the forehead just as I gave at birth. After all, a birthday for them is also a celebration of triumph for me. A day we brought forth a child and added more light and energy to our family. A day we beat our infertility and losses. A day we won – in a big way.
Our children’s birthdays offer so much for celebration. Each year we gain more experience as their parents and get to bare witness to their personalities in bloom. We get a chance to look at how far they have come and imagine just how far they are going to go. While they are digging through presents and enjoying a day where it’s okay to have more than one piece of cake or another bowl of ice cream – we get to dig through memories and devour all those warm, fuzzy feelings of parental love and accomplishment. We get one day where people are happy to hear about what our child did at this age or that and we can share all the photos we want without that all too familiar sigh of, “Oh man, she’s in one of those moods. Get ready to be photo bombed.”
I am blessed with a large family who loves to celebrate my children almost daily. We delight in spoiling them on special days and sometimes just because. Birthdays for us all are quite special. I pray that we get many more to celebrate, winding through the memories of each one past until they all become a jumble of happiness and triumph. I may not always have those ‘new’ mom memories of just what I was doing on the day of their actual birth, but I hope I always carry those deep feelings of love and true happiness in my heart.
Happy Birthday sweet babies. You can grow to be 100 and in my eyes and heart, you will forever be those little bundles wrapped in a warm sheet and handed to me for the very first time.