Stay At Home Mom Thoughts...
My kids are 11 and 6 (both "and a half", you know because that half year is super important to them), and I've been a stay at home mom for 99% of that time. I went back to work 12 weeks after my oldest was born and quit my job six months later. I've spent a lot of time over the past 11 years thinking about what I do, how to not screw it up, and most importantly how to maintain my sanity until both kids are adults and not living in my home anymore.
I'm not the person that when asked "What do you want to be when you grow up?" as a child, responded with "I want to be a mom." I actually wanted to be a fashion designer for as long as I can remember. I also remember saying many times, that I didn't want to have kids. I have no idea when that switch flipped, but I grew up and knew I wanted to have kids.
I feel like I need to share a little backstory here, so we'll start with that. My son (we'll call him J) came to be relatively easily. I say relatively because while I got pregnant with him within a couple months, it was our second time trying to have a baby. I had a miscarriage at 15 weeks a few months before I got pregnant with J, and had a shitty group of doctors who did very little to explain to my 24 year old self what the hell was happening. I got pregnant quickly after and the minute I held that baby in my arms, I knew that I was meant to be a mom. He was a dream baby and I remember thinking "This is so easy and amazing, I want to have five kids." When he was 18 months old, we decided we were ready for another baby. I thought it would be easy, but I couldn't have been more wrong. I spent the next three years desperately wanting another baby, but struggling with long bouts of not being able to get pregnant, followed by miscarriage after miscarriage. I'd long since changed doctors, had every test in the book done (all normal), and had no answers. I had declared that we'd see another specialist if I didn't get pregnant in the next month. The universe must have known that I was at my breaking point, and I ended up pregnant with my daughter (we'll just call her R). Two funny things about that... 1. I had said I wanted to be done having kids by the time I was 30, and she was born five days after my 30th birthday. 2. I also said I'd never do to my kids what my parents did to me, and have their birthday be close to Christmas. Her birthday is five days before Christmas (my son's is only three weeks after, so I ruined that plan times two). We wanted to have one more baby, but after a couple more miscarriages, I felt myself slipping back into that dark place I'd been in between J and R. When I felt that happening, we decided that we'd take permanent action and have definite knowledge about the size of our family. Long story still a bit long, I went through a lot to have those little rascals, and to say I am thankful for them would be a giant understatement.
These two make happy and crazy all at the same time...
After putting myself through college, and working my way up in the business world, it was a pretty big switch to then stay home with the kids. I have never felt comfortable answering the question of "What do you do?" with "I stay home with the kids." Am I happy that's what I do? Absolutely, but I guess I just don't like being defined by that. As much as I love the kids, and love being a mom, I am not "just a mom." Quite a few years ago I had someone act surprised when they learned that I had gone to college and had a Business degree. That was a bit of a turning point for me, and sent me on a journey of finding ways to be both a mom and not lose myself in the process. Bottom line, I learned to find things to do for me. This blog, working as a health coach, crafting, reading, refinishing furniture, sewing, making jewelry, that is my stuff. Yes, I might make stuff for the kids, but it isn't because I feel like they need me to do it. All of it is ultimately for me and because I like to do it. Remember how I said I needed to find ways to keep my sanity? This is cheaper than therapy...although, I haven't completely ruled that out. :)
My kids are changing, growing, and turning into different little versions of themselves on a regular basis. The babies that I used to snuggle on my chest, are now made up almost entirely of long legs and don't fit on my lap anymore. They are both full of personality and attitude, and I spend my time bouncing between loving the heck out of them and wanting to ship them off to live with their Nana. I kid, I kid. I want to keep them around, but there are days you guys. There are days. I love them to death, but seriously, they are always around! As a stay at home mom, you really don't get many breaks from the kids. In the last year, I've taken R with me to every hair appointment, dentist appointment, to physical therapy, to workouts, on shopping trips. You name it, she's been there. Such is the life when your kid only has half day (and who are they kidding with the term half day...depending on the day she was out either at 10:25 or 11:00) kindergarten. I'd take her to school, either run workout really quick, or run teach dance class (yes I do that too!), and then go pick her up. I laugh when people say "What do you do all day when your kids are at school?" I tell myself often not to wish away time, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't ridiculously excited to have both kids in school all day next year.
My biggest struggle as a stay at home mom has been finding time for myself. That may sound selfish to some, but I fully believe that to be a good mom, wife, friend, whatever, that you have to have some time for yourself. The few little bits of free time I do have, are often spent with me having little panic attacks thinking I've forgotten a kid somewhere. For me personally, I start feeling a little crazy if I don't have any time to breathe and just be me for a bit. I take barre classes (if you haven't done this kind of workout, you are missing out), and that is absolutely my happy place. I can always tell when my husband senses that I'm about to lose my shit, because he says things like "Do you want to go to barre today?" So, between barre and all of my crazy craft and sewing projects, I have time for me. I'll say it again, staying home with my kids is an incredible opportunity and I am so thankful to do it. That being said, I realized a few years ago that if I didn't learn to take "me time" that I wasn't going to look back at the opportunity with fondness and appreciation, but with bitterness and resentment. My point is this, don't lose yourself. You can be a mom, and still be you. They aren't one in the same. One other little tidbit of advice I have, came from a friend of mine before I had kids. She was older, in fact I'd grown up being friends with her daughter, and it was the best marriage advice I've ever received. She said something along the lines of "Don't focus everything on your kids. You have to take time as just you and your husband too. Otherwise, your kids grow up and move out, and you realize there is someone you have to live with now that you haven't gotten to know over the last 18-20 years." She was speaking from experience, and I was hearing lots of stories about how she'd spent every minute focusing on her kids and when they moved out, she realized she didn't know her husband anymore. I made a mental note and I've thought about it many, many times over the years. We go out with no kids, we take trips with no kids, and we still genuinely love spending time together after almost 20 years. I'll forever be thankful for that advice I was given.
My daughter and I were at Target today and I was constantly having to ask her to keep up with me and quit lagging behind. I finally asked her what she was doing and she said "Screaming inside of my head." I laughed, and assumed I'd exhausted her patience and needed to leave. It turns out her mosquito bites were super itchy and she was struggling to not scratch her arm off, but what she said has stuck with me all day. I feel like she described my thoughts about being a stay at home mom perfectly. Would I trade being able to stay home for anything? Not a chance, but have there been a million different times where I feel like I'm "screaming inside of my head"? You bet your ass there have been. It is just a big fat learning process on how to find balance, and I'm hopeful that I can master that before the kids turn into adults.