I think if you asked the average person what a typical stay at home mom looks like, the first image would be the perky soccer mom, driving the well-behaved kids to their various activities, with the cute little baby in the back seat sleeping soundly as she skillfully gets through her day. Or the woman gardening in her yard while her kids play in the background, all while the cookies are baking in the oven and dinner is simmering on the stove. The picture if that of serenity, relaxation, organization. I’m not that person 🙂 I may try to do some of those things, but there is a lot of racing and chaos in between (and sometimes during) each activity :).
There are days where I enjoy staying home, and I’m very thankful for my husband that I have that option. But there are days where I really …just don’t. It truly is one of my struggles. I’ve worked in the past, and this is by far harder for me, physically, but mostly psychologically. It can get very lonely, even with little bodies running around. Gone are the days where you lived in little communities. Where you REALLY knew your neighbors, where you know your local vendors so well that conversations with the local butcher or the mailman are the norm. Where you had family and friends around the corner. Where there were lots of other moms just like you a skip, hop and a jump away. Now it’s the occasional playdates a half hour away, and swimming and karate with a room full of people you’ve never met before.
My day is busy, but mostly with things I don’t really enjoy. Dishes, laundry, cleaning up spills (you cannot imagine how often I have to do this!), scrubbing crayon or marker off the walls/floors, etc. It’s a little mundane and mind numbing, and it takes up a good part of each day. There are fun parts, no doubt, and those are what make it worth it, but they are scattered throughout the laundry list of things that need to get done each day.
I love my kids but there are days where you want to hide in the closet to avoid the incessant chatter and unreasonable requests of toddlers and infants. Perhaps it gets easier as they get older, perhaps not. I’m sure it gets replaced with other annoyances :). But I know they love being with me and I love that I get to spend time with them because there will come a day when I won’t be their first choice, and their friends will probably take up much of their spare time.
I guess some people might ask why I don’t go back to work. For my family and my current situation, I truly feel this is the best option for us, but it doesn’t come without sacrifice, and I knew that going in. I also feel like while quality of time is most important, quantity matters too. I hope that maybe if I’m in their face enough now, in good time, when they do want to spend more time with their friends, I’ll still (hopefully) have the largest influence. I hope, and I try and that’s all I can really do.
I just didn’t realize how hard it would be for me! It was a huge adjustment, and something I still struggle with from time to time. I also grew up in a household where, for the most part, my mother worked. And she did the absolute best she could under the circumstances, but I can honestly say, we (my siblings and I) were all happier, closer, and got into less trouble overall when she was at home. Of course at the time, we didn’t always like being accountable to my mother when she was home for what we did and who we were with, but even older kids need a little bit of supervision I think.
When we were older, I remember my mother taking 6 months off for health reasons, and I appreciated her presence, and the house was more relaxed with her there. When she was working, once I was a bit older, instead of a nanny, I took over looking after my siblings, and it was a bit daunting having to do some of the things for myself and my siblings that I wouldn’t have to worry about if my mother was home. I think helping her goes without say, and it was the circumstance of the time, and we all had to do our part, but it was hard at times. My siblings didn’t want to listen to me, and I didn’t always want to deal with them, particularly with homework and afterschool activities. Somehow, something always fell through the cracks.
Anyway, at work, you get praise and a salary and you socialize. You have projects and deadlines and there is an excitement and a pride in finishing something or doing something well. Even if you have a bad day, you can go out for lunch or take a coffee break, away from all the chaos. Even the car ride is quiet time alone. When you go home, except for certain situations, you’re done with the office. I’m on call, all the time. 3PM, 3 AM, rain or shine 🙂 weeks, weekends, etc. Over worked, and many times underappreciated. It’s not like a project with a tangible end, it’s an ongoing process, each step a minute increment towards the ultimate goal of raising a useful, civil human being. But sometimes it’s so hard to envision that end result, when the highlight of the day is, “He didn’t throw his food on the floor today!” or “He managed to aim IN the toilet and not get the wall.” 🙂
Part of the hardship is how also others perceive you. I know I shouldn’t care what others think, but it’s hard feeling like you don’t have support, in this or in anything you choose to do. I’m blessed to have my husband and family’s support, but overall, I don’t always feel like society is on my side. People say, sometimes quite bluntly, how you’re wasting your education, or your work related skills, or act like being home is a walk in the park – that’s it not a big deal, that it’s an easy, lazy way out (of course all I do is lounge all day drinking my favorite beverage as I bask in the sun). Ultimately, there is an overwhelming feeling of “you’re wasting away your life” and people just don’t respect you (even more so if you wear hijab, because then people assume you are an uneducated foreigner on top of that). Rarely do I encounter someone who really is like “good for you, that’s great that you stay home with your kids”. Sometimes, no matter how sincere your original intentions were, and how much you believed in your reasons, you start to doubt yourself, and it makes it that much harder to get through your day.
At the end of the day, I guess the biggest thing to realize, and accept, is it’s not supposed to be easy. I’m not perfect, and neither are my kids. There will be fun light days, and some really rough days, and I’m sure most people have that sort of up and down in their own jobs. And I think part of the problem is we’re raised in a culture that teaches us that we need to love everything we are doing, and that if we don’t, we should find another path and give up on it. But sometimes, especially when you’re trying to do something for the good of someone else, you WON’T always love it, because it’s not about you or your convenience, and the benefits and praise we seek won’t be immediate, but will manifest itself down the road. I think that’s the hardest part to keep in mind. Gratification isn’t always immediate and it’s not always tangible. I just pray to find the strength and patience to keep at it, because sometimes the grass is greener on the other side. I think, it would be nicer, and easier to have someone else take care of my kids, but then I remember all the hardship that my own mother encountered when she worked, and we were young. It’s a different hardship, but a hardship never the less. I guess at the end of the day, that’s why Paradise lies at the feet of the mother. The path towards great rewards are always paved with hardship, and I’m sure every mother, no matter what path they choose, lays awake nights trying to do it all the best way she knows how.