Before I became a SAHM, I worked part-time and thought it was probably the best of both worlds, if both worlds were to be had. I multi-tasked. I got lots of things done. AND, I got to spend part of my day doing grown-up things, changing the world, yada yada, and part of the day doing mom things, changing the world, yada yada.
But when we decided to have a second child and I looked at the costs of quality childcare and my paychecks, it was a no-brainer for me to stay home. Sure, we would have to forgo the yard guy and the cleaning lady, but I would be home to do the yard and the cleaning. I wouldn’t be able to drop a few hundred dollars every season on a new wardrobe, but I could just wear mom clothes – you know, jeans and tee shirts and comfy cardigans with a cute pair of shoes. And forget about the trendy hair cuts and nails, because who needs those when you’re cleaning toilets and sculpting play dough, right?
But the main reason I became a SAHM was because, for me, having “the best” of both worlds meant both worlds were rather mediocre. I received great reviews and my classes were thriving – but I knew that I could have been doing so much more for my students if I wasn’t also feeling the tug of hearth and home. My house was mostly clean and we ate many home-cooked meals, but I could be doing so much more if I wasn’t also feeling the weight of responsibilities at work.
I was convinced that things could be excellent instead of just acceptable if only I did one thing full-time. I chose motherhood. Sucker.*
Reality is that things are still fairly mediocre. The house is clean(ish), the laundry gets done (but not put away) and meals are usually at home (though they are often
gross kid-friendly things like pizza and spaghetti). My kids certainly see more of me – a LOT more of me since we ended up homeschooling – but I can’t say that being home with my kids almost all the time has made me a better mother. Sacrilege.**
The fact is, I was better at the Hallmark-greeting-card motherhood stuff when I didn’t
have to get to do it all the time. The thought process went something like, “I only get to see him three waking hours a day, so let’s make a memory!” Now I think, “Three more hours until bedtime?! You have got to be kidding me!!!”
So, in January, I decided maybe I should pursue some things for just me: exercise, creative writing, curriculum development. And those things were going well. I ran my first 5K in 10+ years, I got an offer for my first book, and people were requesting my curriculum creations. But, you know what wasn’t going well? The motherhood part of the equation. Not well at all.
Scooter started having more frequent temper tantrums. He lashed out at Cheech. He reverted in some key skills like sharing and falling asleep alone at night. But the final straw for this mama was when he started calling the stinkbugs at the park his best friends. Stinkbugs, y’all.
I’m sure it isn’t all due to me taking time for myself. I’m sure it has more to do with moving away from all of our friends and family, the trauma of a terrible school experience, so few activities in this neck of the woods, etc. But whatever the causes, the only thing I can really change is how I spend my own time.***
So, instead of working out/writing/developing curriculum, I’ve been doing anything and everything I can to get my son on solid ground and to make some friends other than Katie, the stinkbug. (They are all named Katie and he thinks he’s finding the same one every day. I’m not going to tell him otherwise.) I’ve been driving him all over kingdom come to camps and play dates. I’ve been making friends with moms who have children his age. We’ve put Cheech in a three-mornings-per-week daycare so that they both can have a break from each other. During that time, Scooter and I do stuff one-on-one.We have a lot of conversations about dinosaurs, animal habitats, and hypothetical situations involving tornadoes and flash floods.
And it’s helping I think. He’s doing better. And that has to be more important to me than that half I wanted to run or the book I wanted to publish. I think it would be to any parent. Do I wish it didn’t require so much of my time? Absolutely. It’s exhausting – especially those conversations about dinosaurs. Shoot me.
Someday, I can write a novel and run a half marathon and even go back to classroom teaching. But not today. And probably not tomorrow, either. But, I personally can’t be the mom my kids need AND write the next great American novel. But the blog will be here when I get back, right? I’ll just be hanging out with Scooter and the stinkbugs for awhile.
*I know, many will say, “Motherhood is your greatest work!” I hope not. Because I am just not very good at it, y’all. If this is my best, that’s just terribly sad.
**It’s just me I’m sure. All the other mommies in the Interwebz have got it all figured out and cherish every little moment with their precious snowflakes. I don’t deserve children. Yada yada.
***”Put him in school!” the people cry. The people don’t live here. The people don’t understand all the factors. Next year, people. Next year.