Say you have three children, each approximately three years apart. Assume that it takes about three years to have each child potty trained, who knows how long to have fully "wiping" trained. That is quite seriously a decade of poop. Other people's poop. Little people that you love dearly and would do anything for, but no matter what, the poop gets old. The shine wears off about the same time the poop is no longer muconium. That is just one component of being a stay at home mom. Many of the stay at home mom's I know, had jobs and careers and chose to stay home with their children. I only know one person who decided to stay home before children. I don't know anyone who dreamed of mopping and dusting, and putting dumped puzzles away 10 times a day. We all have chosen to stay home to have direct interaction with our children, to be there for the daily events of life. The other stuff, housework(...ackkk!) often becomes a nasty side effect or consequence of this decision. It is true that the modern working mother often tries to do it all, run the house, raise the kids, be successful at work. It is much easier when you are working full time and to be able to say to your husband, "Hey, we really need to do some laundry/clean the bathrooms/scrub the house this weekend." and get assistance. Not only is it easier to get assistance, but it is easier to say the words. You don't have the same guilt as when you are home. You don't think to yourself, "Well, I shouldn't have to ask for help. It is my job. I am home all day." As my super, awesome, enlightened husband tells me every time I get frustrated and bogged down in my own expectations, I am not staying home to be a maid. I am staying home to raise our children. This does not mean the majority of housework doesn't fall on me. It is just logistics. But that also doesn't mean that I am expected, by me or him, to keep the house spotless at all times. It means I get help and can ask for it. I never want to be that mom who forgets about the playing, going to the park, reading the books because I need to have the house dust free.
On and on about housework. I am sure if you read this, you think my house is a disgusting mess. It isn't, 95% of the time. I do clean. I do pick up. I do fold laundry. I just don't make it a priority in my life.
When I first quit working full time, I couldn't imagine what I would do with all that free time. That is so funny, now that I think about it. I had so much more free time when I was working. By free time, I mean self-time. I had lunch hours. I had commute time. I had an office door I could shut and hear nothing. It was all time that I took for granted while working, but when you are never alone, and I mean NEVER alone (When you run to the bathroom and lock the door, only to have to tell your 3 year old that you want to poop in peace, you understand what I mean) that is all time that you long for. I had time that didn't really belong to anyone else. I didn't have to feel bad that I was reading on my lunch hour because there wasn't anything else I was expected to be doing. Now going somewhere to read and eat alone is a special treat, a negotiated outing.
The Stay-At-Home Parent Survival Guide: Real-Life Advice From Moms, Dads by Christina Baglivi Tinglof speaks about the transition from career to staying home.
"A kitchen full of dirty breakfast dishes and the echos of Barney in the background have taken the place of a structured office environment. When they leave their careers, they often feel like they have left their identities behind too. It can be a blow to their self-image and self-esteem."
She goes on to say that when you start to feel lost is when you need to spring into action and take steps to regain the feeling of contentment and optimism as when you first began your stay at home journey. Some crucial steps she says are:
- Focus on the real reason you chose to stay home, to love and nurture your kids. To watch them become caring and responsible little people.
- Take care of yourself so you have the energy and enthusiasm to take care of others. This means finding alone time to pursue outside interests.
- Set realistic goals and boundaries. Prioritize, organize, and delegate.
- Set realistic goals for yourself during the day. Making a "to do" list to scratch off can also help give your self a sense of achievement.
- Accept help when offered.
- Network with other full time parents.
I think I am more content and happy now staying home than I ever thought I would be. I think I have really taken each of those suggestions to heart. I have my weekly cross off list. I have even started adding extra things, errands, things to mail, etc. to the dry erase board. I accept help more than I ever thought I would. I take my kids to play groups. I go to MOPS. I have talked with Justin about expectations and what can really be accomplished in a day. I have ventured out and gotten hobbies. I may only get to work on things once every 3 weeks for half an hour sometimes, but it is nice to have something to do when I get that half an hour. It also makes me feel better about my kids growing up. I am not left with the "what then?" thought. I am more than my children. I have my own identity and I love it that Ava can tell you what I like and don't like, because she can see that I have interests.
The thing I have left to work on is focusing on why I chose to stay home. I think I regularly have to direct myself back to the real reason. I am putting a plan in place to help make this easier....stay tuned for Magnificent Mommy Monday's!!!!!!!!