“What do you do all day? Like, what’s your day like,” a friend of mine recently inquired.
Oh, staying home. It’s a mystery, isn’t it? When I worked full-time before I had kids, I can recall wondering why on earth it was so difficult for mothers who stayed home to make it to a committee meeting every once in awhile. I mean, can’t they just get a sitter? And why stay-at-home moms would say things like, I never get a break. Um, isn’t your whole life a break when you don’t have to work?
And of course, you live in Utopia.
With children who nap for hours on end. Affording you the opportunity for volunteering, and appointments, and reality TV watching.
You spend your days making baked goods from scratch and preparing seven course dinners for your family because you have all the time in the world. You are a homemaker, after all.
And your house, of course, is so clean you could eat off the floor. Again, with the superb home making skills and the excessive time on your hands.
All in all, staying home is basically the same as being a lady of leisure. A Real Housewife. Right? BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! WHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! BLOHAHAHAHAHAHA! HEEHEEHEEHEEHEE!
Sorry . . . let me catch my breath. OK. Now. I’m not saying parts of staying home aren’t absolutely fabulous. I’m not saying that there aren’t major bonuses to the never-having-to-go-to-an-office gig. Because there are many parts to this life that I completely rejoice in. But just like every other single thing in existence, except maybe Taye Diggs’ teeth or Cadbury Eggs, staying home has its imperfections. Its negatives. Its downfalls.
For me, every once in awhile, like—OK—three times a week at least, I have to do a little sanity check. I gotta go through my savers again. For the moments when I am trying to poop, my kid is trying to rip the toilet paper off in the tiniest of shreds, my other kid wants to show me how he can open his mouth and stick his tongue on his teeth and the last kid is yelling at me from the other room. On a day where we’ve been locked inside from the frozen tundra that is Nebraska winter for weeks on end and the baby is teething and the oldest is grumpy and the middle thinks no is an extremely hilarious suggestion. It is on those days, in those moments, where I summon my personal sanity savers for my life as a stay-at-home-momma. My “momtras” if you will, to bring me back to the center of it all.
1. Figure out what matters to you.
This is the biggie. The one I always start with. The one I forever end with. Because I am the mother staying home with my kids. Not the mom next door. Or the mom at drop-off. It’s me. I am the one who feels OK about toaster creations for breakfast. I am the one who can’t handle dishes in the sink but is OK with their LEGO marvels being left out in the open. I am the one who’s a nut about fruit with every meal but has very little success with veggies. I am the one who wants them to finish their milk. And above all, to mind their stinking manners. And I get to have all of these opinions because I get to manage it. All of it. The hubs and I get to decide what’s important to us for our kids. Just like all other parents get to do with their own humans. So at times, when I feel overwhelmed staying home, it almost always has to do with the comparison game. The whole feeling inadequate thing. She can make her own birthday cake. Her house doesn’t look like a daycare is happening there. She has her kids in all sorts of activities. The comparisons could go on and on and on and on. So I have to check myself before I completely and totally wreck myself. And say, I don’t do those things because they are not huge priorities to me for right now. Or because I feel happy just to be showering on the regular again. And that’s OK. And some other day, they might become priorities. Or possibilities. And that’s OK, too. But for now, I have to determine what does matter and not get caught up in what does not. For now.
2. Make your own goals.
I like to blog. People often question how I’ve stuck with the whole blogging-for-mere-personal-satisfaction thing for so many years. And the reality is, it matters to me. Isn’t that really why we do most things? When I’ve worked, my boss or my company gave me goals, tasks, and objectives. For me—for my personality—in order to feel like a functional human rather than always a mom machine, I’ve got to make my own goals. Goals for my own things that matter. There is no one putting the hammer down on the home front. There is no one giving me a performance review, or asking me where I am on certain projects. So, whether it’s cleaning out the closets, posting a blog post every day, or revamping a room, I make my own project list. I make my own timelines. And my own goals. And they are honestly things that most other people who are gainfully employed and earning a paycheck, likely find nonsensical. But no one is here to give me an atta girl or a bonus so I get to figure my goals. And ways to incent myself. And in reaching those goals, I feel productive as a woman, rather than only as a mom. I have goals with the kiddos, too, but these things, these are just for me, or for my marriage, or friendships.
3. Chunk your day.
I was talking with a friend recently about how I “chunk” my day. Not to be confused with chuck. I don’t throw it away. But I chunk it. Right, wrong, or otherwise, I break my days up into manageable chunks. Meals, dropoffs, naps, and play/wakefulness. This practice helps me refocus if there is a huge tantrum, or a moment that makes me wanna pull my hair out. I think of my day in logistics and naps. This helps me be productive. And it helps me make it through the challenging moments.
4. Ask for help.
I don’t have the opportunity for a lot of help. And that’s not a complaint. It’s a reality. No one else chose for me to stay home with our children. I chose that. But the idea of getting a sitter in the middle of the day or for an hour after school, well, that’s basically impossible. But sometimes, you have to, have to, have to, ask for help. There is a fellow mom who is currently doing me a solid by splitting carpooling with me. And since we’ve started—it has honestly changed my day, completely. I no longer have to wake my two youngest for naps, and I feel so much less anxious about the whole logistical parts of the day. I am always so afraid to ask for help because I feel like if another mom can handle things, then I should. But there’s no sense in stressing yourself out, or being miserable, if there is, indeed, a solution to your woes. Ask for help. I’m still a work in progress on this but I think all women are.
5. Know that you get to do this. Not have to.
I’m not always good about this one but when I regroup, and refresh, I am reminded that there are some women who have told me on many occasions that they believe that staying home is a huge luxury. And that they would absolutely love to stay home but it just doesn’t feel feasible for their situation. I get this. It’s been a struggle for us, at times, to be on one income. And it’s been a challenge for my sanity (thus having steps to regain said sanity) and my personality, at times, to be home full-time. But overall, most of the time, I can remind myself that I am fortunate to have this opportunity to spend time differently with my children than I might be able to if I were doing a 9-5 gig. And if I should ever want to explore working outside the home again, it doesn’t mean I’m choosing work over my kids. It means I’m choosing something for me. Just like I do when I stay home with them every day.
6. The grass may be greener . . . but you are in your own yard.
There are days that can be hard at home with kids. Especially when it is winter and it has been winter for 7,200 years, or so it seems. On those days, you may dream of sitting at a desk, with your favorite box of crackers in your drawer, your favorite hummus in the fridge, your favorite colleague on the conference line #2, and your favorite candle lit, while you plug away on spreadsheets. And that’s OK. I think it is perfectly OK to want to be somewhere else every once in awhile. If you worked outside the home, you most definitely know that there are days that you did not want to be at the office – why should staying home be any different? We are not going to love our work situation every single day and that doesn’t change simply because our main gig is staying home. I have friends who stay home, friends who work flexible schedules, and friends who work full-time and we each have our days where we want to be in someone else’s heels or someone else’s yoga pants. But in the moment, in the present day, the grass may look greener but remember, you are in your own yard. You are where you are. And unless you decide to make a change, I think you need to water your own grass for a bit, give it a chance to appear fresh and new to you. If you make changes, pray on it, mull it over, whatever — and decide you still don’t love your arrangement, then maybe staying home isn’t for you and guess what? Yep… that’s OK!
7. Enjoy the kids.
Sometimes I get so caught up in the hard moments that I don’t really enjoy the craziness or appreciate the fantastic-ness of three little boys under 6. Sometimes I’m busy harping on them about jacking around at the breakfast table, or leaving their shoes God knows where, or dilly dallying when we are supposed to be loading into the car for school. Just like any j-o-b, you can get swept up in the monotony. And in going through the motions. And in the bigger picture. That we forget to enjoy the little moments. All of those little moments that happen, all day long. Some weeks, I’m really vigilant about capturing all of this in my memory. And others, meh. But as I say often, I think when I look back on it all, on these days that are our days, it’s those little moments that I’ll be most thankful for. And that I’ll love having saved my sanity for.
So those are some of my sanity savers. My Momtras. And when I worked part-time, I had a few others, and some overlap as well. Because stay-home, working, or otherwise, it seems that all women, at one time or another, lose their heads over certain things. And actually losing our heads would make it very difficult to function as mothers. Let’s keep our heads on together? Tell us, whether you work, stay home, or otherwise, do you have days where you need sanity savers? If so, what are your go-to fixes for days when you are facing a funk?
A version of this post originally appeared on www.babyonthebrehm.blogspot.com