I get the question a lot: “What will you do about work?” A lot. Mostly from people who know my personality. From people who know that I returned to work around the 15-month mark with our first two boys. People who, I think, may have listened to my venting regarding all things stay-at-home moms.

I never have a good answer. An answer to the question about work. The truth is, I just don’t know. Because I really liked having an outside-of-the-home career. But I also really feel compelled and drawn to being home during these stages. The only thing I know for certain, right now, is that working a full-time-at-the-office-9-to-5-gig is not something I have my sights on for the present day. Because there are a lot of pros to having a flexible schedule with children. I have had the opportunity, since having children, to work part-time outside of the house. I have had the opportunity to stay at home full-time. I’ve even attempted some work from home gigs that didn’t pay enough for childcare . . . those were a bust. We learned that in this house, childcare is a must for my children if I am going to be a productive worker. The reality is, when it comes to work and children, for me, there’s no perfect arrangement. 

But staying home full-time is a huge challenge to me. But staying home has been a lesson in patience, self-motivation, introspection, and learning to give up any illusions of control. For me, it is definitely still work. But as I said to a friend recently, in my eyes, it is 80 percent beautiful/20 percent not. But the biggest drawback? Some days, that 20 percent is all you remember.

You remember, when you lay your head down for the night, that you walked away from your child who was running after you, up the hill, screaming because you wouldn’t carry him. The plasma car. And the baby. All at once.

You remember you attempted to fold the mountain of laundry 13 times before you finally gave up.

You remember you counted down the last 36 minutes before nap time instead of being thankful to have that time with them.

You remember the 87 moments when you let out a deep sigh of frustration because two, or four, or six little hands needed your help right away. Or wanted the prime real estate spot, upon your hip.

You remember sitting down during nap time and thinking “Am I making this harder than it needs to be?”

You remember you didn’t eat lunch because the baby threw his all over the floor and wanted out of the high chair ASAP. 

You remember finally getting up the nerve to use the bathroom, only to end up with a plunger-licking baby crying in your lap.
You remember texting your husband and telling him “This is the worst day we’ve had in a long time.”

You remember thinking when you woke up this morning that you were going to get it right today. And then you wonder if you ever will. That’s the 20 percent. The 20 percent that has your body tired by the time your husband walks in from work. The 20 percent that has you texting your girlfriends jokes about day drinking. The 20 percent that has you up-to-date on social media happenings. The 20 percent that makes you certain your house will never be clean, even though you feel like that’s supposed to be your job. And the 20 percent that makes you feel lonely, even though you are surrounded by people, all the time. There’s 20 percent that makes you feel like you totally are the worst mother ever in existence. (OK, maybe that’s only 2 percent. But it’s there.) And there’s the 20 percent that makes you feel like the weekends are really just another weekday.

So why stay home? If it’s so exhausting? 

And three kids under five, well . . . let’s just say it’s redefining exhaustion a bit for me these days. 

But as moms, it’s all a bit exhausting, right? So I stay home, right now, because of the 80 percent. The 80 percent of the time that, in your end-of-the-day-memory feels like 20 percent of the time. The moments of your day that can’t even put into words because there are too many to count. The times where it’s all clicking. Where you’re laughing. And dancing. And being silly. And eating snacks. And counting your little piggies. Or driving around playing I Spy. Where you’re playing Little People and the baby is smiling and the middlest is laughing and your heart is beating louder to remind you that they make your heart feel full. The times where you decide spontaneously that cookies are in order and you wreck the kitchen with flour and you don’t care because those cookies were so worth it.

The moments where you can run errands that you need to in an empty-ish store, and your children are somewhat OK with being schlepped along. The 80 percent includes getting to wear pajamas all day when no one has school. And getting random masterpieces of art bestowed upon you with millions of XOXOs on them, all day long. It includes getting to sit at the breakfast table with them every morning and drink your coffee while they chat. It’s getting to be at home when the kids get home from school, and talk about their days. In the 80 percent is getting to take family vacations without planning around two schedules.

It includes the times where you can decide that fresh air is in order on the unseasonably beautiful day and head out for a walk. Or a park outing. Or just swinging in the back.

The 80 percent of moments that you are happy to not have to worry about who will stay home on a sick day. Or how the baby will get to the doctor. Or how dinner will happen. The times where you don’t know how you’d do it any other way.

The hard stuff . . . man . . . it really is harder than any other gig I’ve had. And gosh, if ever there were a day where the two percentages felt reversed, today was that day. Because I just can’t emotionally separate myself from it. I just can’t power down. And it’s days like today where every time someone tells me you are so lucky or cherish every minute, I sort of feel like I’m failing. Because they are saying that they really want to stay home and I’m over here, focused on the 20 percent. And I wonder if they know about the 20 percent. Or if they would just live in a constant state of contentment with being home and couldn’t imagine any alternate scenario. But then I write about it, and I am almost certain that for me, currently, I couldn’t imagine any alternate scenario. And I noodle on that for a bit.

Tonight, I will go to bed not with the images from the worst day (behaviorally) we have had in a long time flashing in my mind but rather the thought of this: moments that I am never short on experiencing when at home with these boys. Moments that are in the 80 percent. The really good stuff. The really lovely paycheck. The times that I don’t know if I could live without right now. And tomorrow, I will wake up focused on the 80 percent.

This. All of this. Is staying home. Just like working full-time or part-time or from home . . . staying home has its pros and cons. Its 80 percent and it’s 20 percent. And I don’t know that any of us have found that perfect answer.

So will I go back to work? Maybe some day. But for now, I will focus on the 80 percent that’s beautiful. And maybe if I start getting it right every day, if everyone is always happy . . . if the house is always clean . . . if they tell me they don’t want me here . . . if I find a part-time gig and excellent childcare, I’ll feel the ready to move on. To a new set of challenges.

But for now, this is me—and the beautiful 80 percent. Staying home.

This article originally appeared on Baby on the Brehm

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Ashli Brehm

Ashli Brehm = Thirtysomething. Nebraska gal. Life blogger. Husker fan. Creative writer. Phi Mu sister. Breast cancer survivor. Boymom. Premie carrier. Happy wife. Gilmore Girls fanatic. Amos Lee listener. Coffee & La Croix drinker. Sarcasm user. Jesus follower. Slipper wearer. Funlover. Candle smeller. Yoga doer. Pinterest failer. Anne Lamott reader. Tribe member. Goodness believer. Life enthusiast. Follow me at http://babyonthebrehm.com/