Not so different this time

Today I'm having the usual problem: There's so much to do I have no idea what to do first. I know! I'll organize the stray dog hairs by short, medium and long! That's good use of naptime! Nah, how about I just tootle around the internet for an hour or so?

(Not to be confused with yesterday's problem where I stared at the license plate of the car in front of me that read "3fnkids" for 5 minutes, marvelling over the audacity of "3 EFF-N kids" on a license plate before the light bulb went on that Perhaps they mean "3 FUN kids"?)

I think I need to relearn how to be a stay-at-home mom. Or, learn in the first place, since I never really found a groove the first time around.

When I was working part-time, before E was born, I felt like I had a good balance. Z had time in "school" with her peers, but she also had days at home with me. I had time "outside", in the "real world", and I enjoyed feeling untethered (though I was always checking my phone and my watch) and reasonably capable (unlike in motherhood!). The decision to work came not out of financial necessity but out of personal preference. I was itching to get out of the house, alone. I felt I needed a substantial weekly break from mothering. I was ready to use my brain in different ways, talk to adults about things other than our kids, feel competent.

It wasn't perfect
; teaching private Pilates sessions to clients who were counting on me was particularly challenging when Z or I were sick, which, since she was in daycare, was all the freaking time. Last minute canceling wasn't so cool and there was no working-from-home option.

I assumed when E was born, I would just stay home for the 'first couple of years'. Until she was in preschool at least. I thought it might be different this time. Surely I could figure out how to be really happy at home full time.

Newsflash: it's actually harder to be at home with two kids (in a new town, with no friends and a freeking COLD ASS climate) than it was with one kid (in a town where I had a few friends and could often be outside for parts of the day without freezing my behind off).

I got into a head space when I was working part time where, subconsciously, being out of the house was my "real life" and the rest of my time was somehow less than. I was often looking forward toward that "me time". As much as I loved Z, it sometimes felt like my real life existed when I was without my child.

I'm trying to adjust that way of thinking because it's not currently tenable. There are so few minutes of the day where I am not with my children, not in this house, that I MUST find a way to be my whole self, have my "real life", with them, rather than without them. And also? That's a sad way to think. Even when I go back to work, even when the girls are older, that is not how I want to be. They are a part of my real life, they may not be all of it, there may be other important parts, but they are not an obstacle to be pushed aside.

It doesn't help that many of the things I love, all the things I crave for sanity and peace of mind, are difficult to do with two little ones in tow: read (hahaha), write (HAHAHA), exercise (well, we do have our dance parties on a regular basis and I will start walking with the stroller again as soon as I know CPS won't be called to save E from my obviously negligent frost-bitten care).

The fact is, I don't feel ready to work yet. I don't want to put E in daycare. I don't want to be away from her all day. I just need.... a little space. I want a break from the pressures of being a stay at home mother.

When I went to back to work substantially, Z was about 16 months old. I think I wanted to escape my own internal pressure to be a perfect mother. And the only way I could find to escape that was to leave the house. Working outside the home, I could turn down the volume of (if not totally turn off) the constant voice in my head that I wasn't doing it right, that I didn't know what I was doing. I was scared to be The Mom, to be the one in charge, who's supposed to know what she's doing, all the time.

Here I am again, with all this internal pressure to be perfect. I know it's completely ridiculous, unhealthy, unhelpful. I find myself frustrated and distraught when Z and E aren't happy and content every second, because here I am at home with them, GIVING IT MY EVERYTHING, why are they not PERFECT? IT'S ALL MY FAULT.

The fact that I don't have to struggle to balance work and family means that I shouldn't be struggling, right?

This, this teetering pile of laundry, this cluttered, dog-hair-covered house, these sticky, whiny children IS my current job. This is IT.

My job. My real life. My time.


miyoko said...

you KNOW i KNOW where you're at. i am the mom that has clean, nicely dressed kids, who just ate a nice snack of apple and cheese. But I myself am wearing pajamas and haven't had a shower that lasted more than 4 minutes (let alone a shower with the bathroom door CLOSED because i'm watching both kids and having long conversations with them so I know they're not getting into trouble) in as long as I can remember, and I am also living on my kid's leftovers- a diet of apple, cheese, leftover chicken nuggets, and half eaten cheese sandwiches. Yeah it ain't always pretty. Sometimes i get the balance right, and sometimes i'm so far off i need a full reboot.

I almost started crying when i was on the phone with customer service with my bank...the rep said to me "I can hear children in the background." I said "yeah my older one doesn't want me on the phone so she's screaming at me" she replied with "Oh she just wants to have FUN!" She was right, she does just want to have FUN.

She then said "Enjoy every minute, my oldest just turned 34 and I feel like i gave birth yesterday".

oh yeah. so it really does go by THAT fast.... i know this because the past 3.5 years has gone by in a blink.

That was the face slap i needed. I must enjoy every minute. Even if it's fueled by chicken nuggets, and done in my pajamas. All we all want to do is just have FUN.

Hillary said...

Those feelings are why I'm grateful I do HAVE to work. I don't think I'd be a very good stay-at-home mom. When I work, I feel like I'm better with the kiddos, like I appreciate it more. The fact that working is a financial necessity for us, means I don't have to feel (too) guilty about it.

Anonymous said...

For the record, I think when you get to the point where you have three kids, you no longer say "I have three kids," you say, "I have three EFFING KIDS" so you're probably right about the licence plate. I hope you are, at least, because that's HILARIOUS.

I am not as far along in my mom journey as you yet, but I can get an inkling of understanding of where you're at. I've felt the same feeling of I want my life and then feeling guilty because my family is my life too. I've considered joining a mom's group, MOPS or Mom's club or something national and organized and that you know doesn't just sit around and compare children all day while you feel inadequate, but goes and does things together as a support. I think that could help the need for adult time, but also include the kids. I also think that you're not allowed to go to club if your kid is sick, so that helps with the plague situation.

Sometimes I wish all of the blogging moms I read and I could hang out and share stories and wisdom together. I don't want to go hang out with a bunch of strangers that are probably all mormon and in the same ward and talking about people I don't know so I get unincluded, I want to talk to my friends from the internets that feel the same way I do about things, and have said supportive things to me, and just GET IT.

Oh and ohmygod I'm waiting for the warmth to go walking again too, it's like torture being stuck inside with my thoughts and my baby

Eleanor Q. said...

Is getting a babysitter an option? Perhaps a few hours of time when you can do "you" things would give you the little space that you need but also still let you be home with the girls like you want. I think your feelings are very real for a lot of SAHMs and finding a balance that works for everyone seems like a never ending search. The cold doesn't help either, how I long for the days when we can just hang out outside.

Good Enough Mom said...

I was in the same boat for a LONG time, although I never went back to work after my first son was born. I was home for about 4 years total before I started working again...and I was only able to start working again when I found a nanny I could trust (motherhood has shown me that I am, among other things, actually quite paranoid...).

Anyhow, I know what you are saying...I have struggled with the same exact issues. But, would you consider turning the issue on its head? Maybe you need to work in order to feel better about parenting. This was my situation, anyhow. I like my life and my kids so much more with a little part-time work. And I have work that's like yours--patient appointments that must be kept--which is why a part-time nanny (who HELPS WITH THE LAUNDRY) was a good choice. I started working (very part-time, since building a psychology practice is slow-going) when my youngest was just over a year old.

With that said--I gotta tell you, too, it does get easier as they grow up. I know there's the whole "enjoy it!!" pressure, but sometimes that is simply not possible. I plan to enjoy my kids in hindsight! (wink)

Grateful Twin Mom said...

There's not a "real" life outside of the home without your kids when you do have kids at home. Your real life role is "mother" whether you have time for yourself or not. You will always be their mother, even when they grow up, which will happen way sooner than you think (My twins don't really want to spend that much time with me now, and they're only 7).

Being who you were before you had kids is part of who you are too. It, too, is part of your "real" life. It's about balance. You can be both. I always get annoyed when moms see me coming from work to pick up my kids from school, when I'm dressed in "real world" clothes, and they say, it's nice that you have a job, but motherhood is the hardest job I've ever had." As if I'm not a mother because I work outside the home.

We all are raising our children, and even if they're in day care, with a nanny, or at home with mom everyday; it's the family that molds who they're going to be, and a happy mommy is one how takes care of her needs too.

Swistle said...

I know what you mean. And I think effin' kids is what I would have read it as, too, but I wouldn't have realized there was another translation.

Sarah said...

I always feel lame for struggling and scrambling for balance because, like you said, I'm JUST at home! I don't have to do the juggling act of job and home life, this is IT. And it still feels frantic and confusing and tedious and monotonous and so hard!

Astarte said...

Staying home with two *is* harder than one. I don't know who these people are who say that after the first one, the rest aren't any more trouble, but I think they're *NUTS*.

I had hardly any friends for years when I started staying home after Patrick was born. I lost my work friends, my world shrank to the size of my house, and I felt like I shrank along with it. I think when the kids are little, there's no way you can really be your 'authentic self' with them, unless your authentic self is thrilled by princesses, play doh and cheerios, wash, rinse and repeat every day for three to four years. I think it's more about making a new identity, because we can't be who we were, and finding happiness in that. If necessity is the mother of invention, then motherhood is the necessity of invention.

Does the book store near you run book clubs, or are there any community groups you could get involved in? Have you joined a gym/pool yet? Is there a MOPS group anywhere? This is a terrible time of year to move to the DC area, or really the entire northeast, since everyone is inside all the time. In the summer, when it's time to join a pool, you'll start meeting more people, I promise. I also promise that it's never like this here, weatherwise - I haven't been cold like this since I left New England almost thirteen years ago.

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