Tuesday, July 2, 2013

On Being A Stay-At-Home-Mom

Those of you who know me through this blog know that I am a stay-at-home mom. Those of you who know me in real life know that I am a very driven person.

I will be the first to admit that those two things haven't always been the best combination for me.

When I was still working as a high school music teacher, I desperately wanted to stay at home with Addison. Her schedule was extremely crazy, and I had to miss a lot of extra work for her heart surgery. I just wanted to be able to put her therapy and health first and not worry about work on top of everything else that I was juggling.

A few months before Carter was born, I taught my last day and ignorantly thought that life would be PERFECT now that I was a stay-at-home mom! Nothing else to worry about. Now I would keep house like a pro and mother like a rockstar! This would be easy!

Of course there was always that persistent driven voice (the same voice that prompted me to finish my undergrad at 21 and my masters degree at 23) that screamed "I NEED A GOAL. I NEED A BIGGER CAUSE TO WORK TOWARD THAN THIS DAILY DRIVEL OF LAUNDRY AND DISHES." At first I entertained my driven side with writing projects. Oh my how I love to get my teeth in a good writing project and make that my goal and passion. I love to delve in deep and not come up for air until I have paved a new path of serious improvement in whatever I'm working on.

But as soon as I would take a break from a project or finish something- a spirit of discontent would come back. WHAT AM I ACCOMPLISHING? Who am I? What am I besides a human mop/diaper wipe? What is the point of just DOING THIS ALL AGAIN when the kids will undo it in ten seconds?

I published my last ebook in April, shortly after finding out that I was pregnant. Extreme exhaustion from first trimester/chasing around two toddlers wasn't too far behind- forcing me into a writing break as my daily goal became: survive until bedtime. I still have a big project that I am working on (totally for a different post), and I was frustrated because I needed to MAKE PROGRESS and LIGHT UP THE WORLD one achievement at a time (well, my world anyway.)

This break has been good for me. It's caused me to step back and truly evaluate what this stay-at-home business is all about. I don't have a neat answer or a scientific definition, but I'm starting to see some fuzzy shapes in the distance come slightly into focus as I work to make my days mean something to my driven side that DEMANDS so much more than what toddler care offers.

The #creatingtoddleradventure project that I've been focusing on has truly helped put this into perspective for me.

I have realized that no, I am not clocking in billable hours and working toward my next degree of greatness.

I am creating an existence. I am telling a story. I am taking a day- a simple day- and painting it full of color, expression, and music. I am choosing what an hour means and how we will spend it.

I am not doing laundry, dishes, and baking. I am crafting this unique existence where tiny lives grow and learn from day to day. I am providing an environment of love and warmth- of happiness and and understanding. My housework efforts aren't drivel. They set the stage for magic to happen. Some days that stage will be chaotic. Some days neat.  I own both kinds of days with pride, knowing that this is the phase we are in right now and that the magic will happen either way.

I am not a human rag. I am the teacher of how not to spill drinks and how to treat the things we have with respect. I am not a line cook for two ungrateful people who like to throw food. I create daily masterpieces that we can all gather around as a family and unite over the day. Some days these masterpieces are Pinterest worthy. Some days these masterpieces look suspiciously a lot like Chinese takeout. I own both kinds of days with pride, knowing that this is our reality.

I am the stability, support, and at times hated-one of the little people who don't know of a life outside of the four walls of our house. I am the protector against the evil and heartache that exists outside of those walls. I am the molder of hearts and minds of little people who haven't been poisoned with preconceived notions yet.

Nowhere in my job description is a clause to compare myself to other moms who are doing it all SO much better than I am. Women who seem to be Martha Stewart's of housekeeping, gardening, cooking, and models for the Parents magazine with all of their parenting strategies. I am happy for them and their awesome successes (I learn from them when I can!).  But in the same breath I am happy for me and my awesome successes too. Those two versions of success will look dramatically different, but I know that that doesn't even matter. That is life.

I take my job very seriously, but until the last few months, I struggled with whether it was enough. 

When I would finish a day with the house looking exactly the same as it started (even though I worked like a dog to clean it all day); when I'm frustrated with disobedience; when I'm feeling lonely and cut off from society at large; when I would finish washing dishes just to have MORE DISHES CRAWL UP INTO THE SINK AND DEMAND TO BE WASHED; when I would look around me at the world moving on while I was stuck in toddler purgatory; when I felt like even my best efforts weren't good enough with this parenting gig...

I would wonder if this was enough.

I was pondering this a few weeks back as I rested on the couch after a particularly long day. I rubbed my growing belly and thought to myself- "I am growing a new life- a person- another child." That is why I am exhausted and getting even less done than usual. Is that a failure to achieve? Growing a new life sounds like a pretty big achievement to me.

I thought about all the deliberate adventure that we have been seeking out together. I thought about the communication advances in Carter and how he is really starting to talk to me (some full sentences!). I thought about Addison's long hugs after she wakes up from her nap and how her body just melts into mine when she clings to me like that. I thought about the excitement and wonder on their faces when I take them someplace new. I thought about their unique personalities stealing my heart just a little bit more every day.

I thought about this existence that I am creating. It's a delicate structure that is constantly changing from day to day. When I look back on the same existence a year ago, it's unrecognizable to me, but I didn't even notice the change was occurring because each and every day only made slight adjustments to the normal until I woke up one day and the normal included a big girl and big boy that make the tiny babies of their past seem like a joke.

I thought about how they are changing me, teaching me, showing me the person I want to be so that I can model what I want THEM to be like.

I thought about the memories we are building. The time well spent with each other. Filling full the moments that can never be gotten back- full of laughter and love.

I am a driven person. I know that someday I will get back into more writing projects and perhaps even back to some music teaching. Someday I will finish the projects that I have in progress. Someday my life will revolve around more work than vomit (don't ask.)

But right now? I hold in my hands a unique gift. The wrapping isn't sparkly and awesome looking. It's newspaper...full of coupons that I haven't yet cut out and will probably forget to take to the store anyway.

When I unwrap this gift, I discover a box full of sand. Sand quickly disappearing. Vanishing between my fingers no matter how desperately I try to hold onto it.

Time. I'm not always sure what to do with this time. I'm not always sure I'm cut out for this job. I'm not always certain I WILL survive to bedtime. But this time with my children is the biggest gift I could even ask for, and I am thankful.

As I consider the precious opportunity at my fingertips, I realize with certainty that it definitely is enough. This job of being a stay-at-home mom defies my driven side that insists that I go get another degree or perhaps win a musical competition of some sorts.

But I am OK that my life has been pared down to the basics. Past big achievements and down to the care and nurture of little ones who can't care and nurture themselves. Because this time has been teaching me what life is truly all about- what a day is really worth- and how I can best utilize the simple moments.

And those simple moments? Enough.

p.s. This post is not meant to spark a discussion about working vs staying at home. This post is merely a chance for me to talk about some of my issues with contentment in the path that I am walking right now.
Like peanut butter on the fingers of a curious toddler, this post is begging to be shared.

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