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.
Everything happens for a reason…it’s a cliché I often loathe. Rarely, if ever, spoken in times of happiness it’s meant to offer comfort. More often it incites anger when one’s nerves are still raw. Given time to heal, time to breath and let life fill one’s soul again, there is truth to be found in those words.
When unsavory things happen in our lives it is easy to brush them aside and move along forgetting to take note of what the event has to teach us. Dwelling on the event is hard, letting the emotions in to feel is painful. If we want life to go on, we must see the lessons it has placed before us. Brushing off hard events as bad luck or simple mistakes is far easier, yet I feel as though the events often carry lessons we were ignoring. Little snippets of knowledge placed into events so that some good comes from the pain.
I was certain of the path my life was set upon a few months ago. Precise plans and goals laid before me, a concise timeline to the road my life was to take. I had plans mapped out and still I felt restless, as I always have. Then life was placed in my womb, only to be taken away a short time later. The bitterness and anger ensued. As is often the case I questioned all I had planned and wondered if there was a better path to be set upon. Over the course of a few weeks, my plans were altered beyond my control and then thrown back on course.
Perhaps the seeds of life planted into my womb were never meant to grow into a child, but an idea. Perhaps that tiny growing soul was sacrificed to teach a lesson that I have long sought after but never found. While I mourn the loss of the precious baby that never got to experience life and all the wonders it entails, I am grateful for the awakening it provided. Once I stopped searching for what I was meant to do, life presented its answers on its own.
While I have been ever-present in my children’s lives, leaving behind work and school so that I could care for them full-time, I feel like I may have missed the mark in some ways. I’ve performed all the motherly tasks, loved them without condition, but I have spent many hours wondering what I would do when I was ‘done’. What would I return to when they were in school? Would a career, or a new educational path be waiting on me? I’ve rethought my career choices many times and I dare say that I have often sacrificed these valuable years with my young children by planning a future that always felt so uncertain. My reason for uncertainty was, and always has been, that I am doing what I was meant to do. There is no reason to constantly reconsider my choices.
At one point in all this soul-searching and life questioning I decided to checkout. It was all more than I wanted to handle when I was already emotionally lost and reeling from the departure of a soul I’d never get to meet. Sleepless nights spent staring at a dark wall, tears burning hot on my cheeks before I’d even knew they fell – they took their toll. Mind and body weary, I decided to just let it go and not think about careers or college paths. Then the magic happened.
I sat down to play with my boys, fully immersed in their world of super heroes, race tracks, and stroller races around the kitchen island. I soaked up their crayoned projects and I joined in their silly dances and dress up masquerades. I laughed with true happiness as we rolled around on pillow forts and fed baby dolls with wild hair. I cried tears of true joy as my toddler curled up upon my lap to nap. I watched, truly watched him, as he slept. The long eyelashes void of earthly cares. The innocence that surrounded his play and slumber slowly seeping into my own veins and reviving me from the life I had been physically present in, but emotionally absent. Seeing myself finally at peace and at ease in the life I had unknowingly been fighting brought back the calm we all needed.
I’ve often felt judged for my decision to stay at home with my children. I have always felt a need to explain myself, to justify my reasons for staying home and not returning to work. Perhaps it’s because we live in a society where women are so often taught that they can do whatever men can do. Perhaps it’s because we live in a world where monetary gains take center stage in the worlds of success and apparent happiness. We pay entertainers, athletes, and brokers large sums of money while many child care workers and teachers barely make enough to scrape by. It’s a message that even when unspoken is quite clear in today’s modern world.
Whatever the reason, I have spelled out my financial reasons to stay home more often than I can count. Rarely have I spoken to or justified the emotional needs that I am meeting or the bonds I am fostering. Rarely have a referenced the moral obligations I feel I am meeting or the motherly bonds that I am enriching. While I spend my days feeding my children’s bodies, nourishing them for life outside my home, I am also fostering their hearts. I am teaching them right from wrong, compassion, empathy, love, and how to apologize. I am not opposed to women, or men, who work to support their children. I support them, I admire them. I am also finally giving myself permission to validate my life and recognize that it is okay and acceptable to be content (and happy) in this simple way of life.
I don’t need to explain or justify my life as ‘just’ a mother. I don’t need an answer for, “What will you do when they start school?”. My life as their mother does not end when they depart my home for a few hours each day. My life as their mother and their support will not end when they move from my home. I don’t need to serve some greater goal to feel like my life has meant something. My children, and my husband, are my greater goal. The work I do in my home truly makes me happy, it is that missing puzzle piece that has left me so restless all these years. Upon recognizing that I am doing what I want to do and that I am happy, truly happy, my restless soul has found peace.
I am not lazy. I am not without goals. I do not need to be rich. I do not need a larger home, a nicer car. I do not need society to accept my lifestyle. I am in no need of ‘saving’ nor have I been brainwashed into believing that ‘a woman’s place is at home’. My husband would support my desires to do whatever I chose. A woman’s, or a man’s, place is wherever they find happiness. The pursuit of happiness is grand in that it can mean many things. I have found happiness in life’s simpler pleasures and its everyday tasks. For me, that is enough.
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.
There are days when I have no energy left for wit. When all I have left in me is just dead to the bone tired and I can’t function anymore. I have cleaned up the same messes twenty times, I have been yelled at, had food thrown at me, and inevitably tripped over the very toy I swear I put up twenty minutes ago.
There are nights when bedtime is the only salvation I feel is near. When taking just ten minutes to hide in the shower is the only alone time or the only thing I will do for me all day long.
Many days I don’t leave my pajamas. I can go a full week without wearing shoes. My mailbox is the farthest I will get from home for days.
I don’t know what it’s like to eat out without someone having a meltdown or running around the table. We can’t go anywhere that doesn’t have chicken and fries. If we forget the sippy cups, it’s sure to be a long evening.
There are times when I just give up and literally sob in a corner. When I feel like I have given up everything that made me who I am for two people who demand every bit of me.
Motherhood is exhausting. It is heartbreaking. It is work….long, hard work that does not end.
But there are days when I laugh uncontrollably. When I don’t notice the dishes piling up or the self-filling laundry bins.
There are weeks when we go on adventures in the backyard. We go to faraway lands and become pirates and sea creatures.
There are nights of wonder when they clear their plates of a new food. There are evenings out where no one cries or rebels.
There are, “I love you Mommy”s and “You’re the best mommy”s. There are “I made this for you”s.
There is a little hand tugging on your shirt and saying it’s okay. A hug, a kiss, a good night snuggle you wish you could make last a little while longer.
Some nights I forget that it’s bed time and just enjoy the chaos. The giggles, the screams of delight. The, “You can’t catch me”s.
Motherhood is all-consuming. There is love with no bounds and laughter with no bottom.
Motherhood is me.
A few days ago I had a conversation with someone who I haven’t seen in almost ten years. The customary questions were asked – how was I, what was I up to. The take away from the conversation was a little awkward. They were surprised by the direction my life had gone.
My grandmother would’ve probably told you my desire was to engross myself in having a family early on. I spent my days at her house while my mother was at work. She watched me play with dolls, ‘cook’ meals, and help clean. Those were things I genuinely enjoyed doing as a child. I also loved books, balls, playing outside. But my dolls – the ‘real’ ones not any small Barbies – those were what I enjoyed.
I went through many answers to the proverbial “What do you want to be when you grow up?”. Answers ranged from mom, psychologist, OB/GYN, daycare teacher, writer, music video director… And being the romantic that I am, I often dreamed of marriage. I had my wedding ring designed (on paper) by the time I was thirteen. I had lists of baby names by age eleven. But one thing remained constant, I continued to write. I continued to engross myself in music and stories. And I loved the idea of love.
By some standards, I married early. I knew real love when I found it and I knew that we were meant to be together. I have often thought myself an old soul. I’ve sought out the company of people older than myself more often than not. And I have nearly my whole life felt as though I was born into the wrong era.
When I was younger, I was often made to feel shame when I would say I wanted something simple with my life. Did I not have dreams? Did I not want more? Did I not know there was no money in simply ‘being a wife and a mother’. I knew. I didn’t care. I did also dream of writing songs, books, maybe even movies. Those are dreams that will also win you eye rolls when spoken aloud. Do I live in the clouds? Do I not realize that I could do more?
For a while, I tried to live out the dreams that others said I would be good at. I considered becoming a daycare teacher and I only had a few credit hours left to complete that degree. But I didn’t enjoy it. I made good grades and I loved children, but I wanted my own. Not to care for someone else’s. I explored other career and college paths, pushing writing further and further away. I always came back to it. On sleepless nights or days full of tears, the keyboard or pen and paper were my old familiar friends. I am not happy if I have been away from writing for a few days. It has become a part of who I am.
My encounter ended with, “Well are you happy?” And I could answer yes without question. Yes, I am tired some days and no one likes to deal with toddler tantrums and poop. But, to watch my children grow, to share with them nature’s wonders, kitchen magic, and life’s simple joys – that is more than happiness, that is bliss. To fall into the arms of the man I proclaimed was my one and only almost a decade ago. To feel as in love with him now as I did then – that’s success. That is love, that is happiness, that is life.
I don’t have a fancy job, car, or huge home. I have a job full of hard work and steeped in much reward – mother. I drive a mini-van that is full of giggles when my children’s favorite songs come on the radio. I have dodged cheerios and chicken nuggets while driving said minivan. Our home is perfect for us. It holds memories of painting, bringing home our children, late nights with friends. Meals prepared with love and experimentation. A fresh spring or fall breeze wafting through the windows…
Not everyone’s success is measured by the degrees they hold or the money they obtain. Some of us just wanted a secure family to love and to nurture. Yes, my husband works. And yes, we need money to live. I understand that. But it isn’t all there is to life.
At the end of the day what matters is the impact we’ve made on each other and what memories we leave behind. Money will be gone. But life’s lessons, love, support, memories…those will remain. And in those, I am rich.
I knew when I signed up to be a stay at home mom there would be very few breaks. Tonight I needed a break, just a few hours to not be the one who handles diaper changes, bath time, dinner, bedtime. Of course there was no break and I had their laundry, toys, and several other things to add to that list. I love my kids, however, after days on end with little to break up the day-to-day monotony, I just want to be left alone to do all those mundane tasks without having two little ones undo them ten times.
I don’t have a sitter, my husband is at work, so I just did what I always do and went through the tasks. Their rooms and laundry alone took an hour to put back together and by the time they went to bed the rooms were already trashed again. Both of them refused to eat dinner and basically whined and screamed at me for an hour no matter what I did. So I skipped bath time and put them to bed half an hour early. For my sanity. They won’t be any more dirty in the morning and hopefully less crabby.
I often posts about the fun things I do with my kids. I love those times and really cherish those moments because there are days like today where things aren’t so fun. That’s how life goes. You get the fun stuff, the normal stuff, and the not so fun stuff. I say you might as well share it all because none of us are perfect.
If anyone wants to come clean up the dinner they threw in the floor, along with the sippy cup full of water my oldest poured in the floor and then splashed in, feel free. This mom is taking a break.