Being a stay at home mom is easy! Until it’s not. You’ve got to find the reward in it, or else you will lose your mind.
So, people joke about how being a stay at home mom is so easy. They might placate us and say out loud “Oh I could never do that, it’s much too hard,” but if they don’t actually do it, they don’t believe what they’re saying.
Even my own sister says that straight to my face. I kind of agree with her. I wasn’t always stay at home mom when my kids were toddlers. And when I was, they at least went to daycare a few hours a week. I think that is the secret. When they are too little to go to school, you need a break.
You can’t always get a break, though. You might be sacrificing a second income and living paycheck to paycheck to ensure that one parent is around the kids most of the time. Maybe you don’t have family around. Or maybe you just don’t ever want to leave your children. I get that.
So here is a shortlist of coping mechanisms, and even positive things that help you not just cope with, but enjoy your chosen vocation.
Okay, I’m not actually kidding here. I mean, I’m not saying start tipping the bottle before you get out of bed or anything. I’m not even saying drink actual whiskey.
“Whiskey” is a symbol for whatever is your own just reward. Maybe it’s ice cream, or a pedicure, or some alone time, whatever.
If you get through a rough day of shuttling kids around, paying bills, picking up everyone else’s junk and putting it away, wiping butts, doing laundry, fitting in a workout, driving back and forth across town to activities, getting groceries, making dinner, cleaning up after dinner, arguing with all the children about brushing their teeth or wearing pajamas or sleeping in their own beds…girl, you need a fucking shot of whiskey.
If “a fucking shot of whiskey” means 20 minutes of putting up your feet and reading People Magazine, or an episode of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, or [insert guilty pleasure here], then accept that, revel in it, look forward to it. You deserve it. Even if you feel like you don’t because you blew up at the kids and yelled at them today, reward yourself. Everyone’s alive. You did your job.
Get over yourself.
So you have a Ph.D. in counseling or English literature or environmental law. Look, I’m not belittling that. My husband is a Ph.D. and he never lets me forget how hard and for how many years he worked.
Myself, I have a B.S. in pre-professional sciences. Which means I was going to go to medical school. Did I? No. I came to California to seek my fame and fortune and what I got was a husband and children and while I would enjoy walking the red carpet and thanking The Academy, I know in my bones that I am a thousandfold more blessed than that.
Still, there are days when I am wading through a Red Sea of all of my boys’ crap left on every visible surface in my house, they are arguing with me, fighting with each other, and being generally ungrateful, and I lose my ever-loving shit because how dare they? Don’t they know what I sacrificed for them? Don’t they see what an intelligent, worthy, contributing member of society I could have been, but I am putting all of that potential into their well-being?
The answer, which I do not want because those are fucking rhetorical questions, Inner Asshole, is no.
No, my children do not know what I have sacrificed to be their stay at home mother. No, they do not care that I could have contributed to the good of society, or at least made a hell of a lot more money trying to do so. Because they are children, and all they care about is what they are going to have for snack, and when can their friends come over for a playdate, and will I please play Cranium with them tonight?
And that is the whole point, actually. Because I sacrificed my career/validation/money/lifestyle, they don’t have to worry about any of that shit. I am less crazy because I am not rushing out to get to work on time, and all the other benefits of not juggling full time work with parenting.
(The house is probably in a shittier state though, because if I was working the very first thing I would do would be hire a person to clean my house. So I guess they are growing up exactly the same way I did, which was in a chaotic mess, so in this part of my life my children are certainly not better off than me. But that is a different story, in fact it is the subject of the book I am writing, so if you actually read this post please put a pin in me for later because you might enjoy that when it gets published.)
In other words, in the dark moments, selflessness is hard for me. But it is an essential part of motherhood, and something I work on every day. I am aided in my pursuit of selflessness by the reward of Whiskey (see above).
Stare at your children.
When they are sleeping, when they are watching TV, when they are acting out scenes with LEGO guys or Matchbox cars or dolls, when they are gripping their pencils so tightly as they trace a letter, when they are making their beds by themselves, when they are wrestling, when they are laughing…
Put your dishtowel or your phone down. Stop. Stare at them – their plump little cheeks. Their endless eyelashes. Their curls. Their little fingers and toes. Their legs that seem entirely too long for their little bodies. The curves of their lips. Their smooth skin. Just take a moment, breathe, and look at them.
I promise you that you will feel better. You will feel righter.
Volunteer at school.
So, this one isn’t for everyone, but it kind of is. I am the last person you would expect or even want in the classroom, because I don’t have much patience. But since I am officially a stay at home mom, I consider volunteering in school part of my job description.
Gotta keep tabs on my kids, their teachers, their classmates, etc. Plus, depending on your school, there is always a need for volunteers to fill in where salaries end. Library duty, computer lab, answering phones at the front desk, whatever.
This is something that I dread, but it makes me feel good to know that my kids know I’m there. Plus I get firsthand intel about what’s going on at school. I know which girl in Kyle’s class is The Reporter and will tell me exactly what went down on the play yard when there’s a confrontation. I can poke around in the lost and found bin during off hours when there’s no traffic rush for dropoff and pickup. Much of the staff knows me by name, and in an emergency they know I can be relied upon to be there for my kids.
I have a friend whose child is at my kids’ school who hesitates to volunteer in class because her native language is Farsi, and she worries that her accent and the language barrier make her unfit to help teach the kids. But she can volunteer in other ways, especially because she wants to. There is always something. She ended up working in the library when her child’s class went in. Her child saw her there, the library got some help, everybody wins.
Do what you love.
When your kids are little there is almost no time for yourself. But it’s not nonexistent. If you look back in my archives, you will see that this blog was started when I was newly pregnant with Kyle in 2004. I continued it after he was born, and throughout my pregnancy with Brady when Kyle was a toddler, and during those Days From Hell when I had a baby and a toddler, and suddenly here we are and the blog is almost 10 years old.
I am nearly tearing up when I think about it. It saved us all. This blog, because I knew people were reading, gave me a reason to record my thoughts and my fears and my failings and frustrations and triumphs and the moments when being a mother filled me with awe.
I could have done all that in my journal, but since nobody reads that but me I don’t have a compelling enough reason to write in it. For a while only my mom and a few coworkers read this blog. And I read it. Often, it’s still just for me.
Whatever people say about blogging, I have a soft spot in my heart for it, for this site in particular and everyone and everything it has brought into my life. The number one reason I started it was my children. The number one reason I continue it is me.
So, as people often ask, where did I find the time? Well, that’s hard to say. Here and there, mostly while a child napped, mostly at the expense of some other pressing task. And always because I loved it, and it made me feel better.
Right now it’s Friday night and I was on my way to go to bed early. I stopped here at the computer to shut down for the night and I popped in to my blog stats to see if anyone’s been reading.
You have. But most of you have been coming to one page since last August. This one: The Number One Danger of Being a Stay at Home Mom. And I finally looked at what keywords have brought you here and one phrase popped out at me and compelled me to write, delaying my early bedtime. “How to enjoy being a stay at home mom.”
And so here I am, telling you how I do it.
If anyone asked me if I enjoy being a stay at home mom, I don’t know that I would have said yes before tonight. But, inspired by Google Analytics, I really thought about the answer.
Anything worth doing is hard, right?
Being a stay at home mom has been, and continues to be, a struggle – financially, spiritually, emotionally, selfishly – but with the help of whiskey, selflessness, moments of staring at my babies’ cheeks, and blogging, I have indeed managed to enjoy it.
I encourage you to find the things that help get you to that place. They make up your toolkit. They are your coping mechanisms and your celebrations. They help you be the best stay at home mom you can be.
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