Sunday, January 29, 2012

Mom's Day Off

So due to last minute / unforeseen events, my husband had to work most of this weekend. This is quite possibly the worst thing to happen to a stay-at-home-mommy (and also maybe a working mommy, but I can only speak for the SAHMs). While we SAHMs don't get a real "weekend" away from "work", we do get that giddy feeling Friday afternoon knowing that the hubs will be home for the next 2 whole days! Help with kids! Grown-up conversations all day long! An uninterrupted Saturday morning shower that can last longer than 6 minutes! So, when this does happen with his work on occasion, you can imagine my resulting mood.

Therefore, I decided that today, I am taking the day off. That's right! Mommy is calling in. What, you ask, does this mean? (Read your part below.)

You: Tell us, SAHM! Tell us what it was like! How did you do it! Did you still have to get up at 6 a.m.?
Me: Well, yes.
You: Oh. Well did you still drink one cup of coffee over a three hour period that you kept reheating in the microwave?
Me: Um, yes.
You: Well... did you still have to referee fights between your kids over menial reasons such as who gets to use the one clean blue plate?
Me: (Sigh.) Yep.
You: Um... well, what exactly DID you do on your day off then?
Me: I let my son watch TWO videos! That's right ladies! It was a glorious 90 minutes. I am a rebel.

Monday, January 9, 2012

From psychotic control-freak to easy-going mommy (sort of)

I remember a conversation with a fellow stay at home mommy friend years ago, when my first born was still a baby. She commented on working vs. staying at home: "Don't you just love staying home? I cannot imagine ever going back to work." I don't recall what words actually came out of my mouth, but in my head, I said: "No. I don't love it. It kind of sucks sometimes. It is lonely and boring and I miss feeling important at work, having a reason to get dressed, justifying shopping for expensive clothes, and being around grown-ups all day."

On that day and for many days that followed, I was very disappointed in myself and just flat-out depressed. Why didn't I love this? What was wrong with me? Was I a horrible mother? Did I make the wrong choice? This struggle to find the missing piece that might bring me true bliss as a SAHM continued for a long time...

Last evening, my husband and I were doing the typical Friday night 2 beer chat, and I told him that I was happy. I am not sure when or how I found it -- Was it when my second child was born so that I never had time to be bored anymore with two kids? Was it because over the past few years I have made some close girlfriends who have filled the void left by not having colleagues? Or did I just get used to it all?

Although I do believe my friends have played an immense role in my transformation, and yes, my daughter has added some craziness and busyness to my life, I have come to realize that the greatest change is finding peace. I used to make myself crazy over my son's naps, and if he woke up earlier than I wanted him to I allowed my entire world to crash down around me. He was going to be so cranky! How was I going to entertain him for that extra hour? Aaaah!! I am having a play date and my house is not immaculate! This is clearly horrible because all of the other mommies must have pristine homes with no dirt or dust anywhere! And I must have home-made muffins and healthy fresh fruit to offer for snack! Aaaaah!!

Not hard to reflect on why I was often unhappy that first year. Now, although I do still "sweat the small stuff" from time to time, things around here (my attitude included) look a lot different. If my kids don't nap well, well that sucks for all of us. Might be a long one. But we will get through it and tomorrow is another day. That's what movies are for. If I am up half the night with my daughter who is teething, yep, I will be tired tomorrow. Extra coffee will be had. And hosting play dates? Goldfish and graham crackers are just fine for snack if that is all I have to offer. And seriously, me baking = not a pretty sight.

Do I still freak out from time to time? Yes and probably always will. But I am finding more and more that I also accept a lot too. Poop through clothes while out in public? Not really a big deal anymore. Kids misbehaving at a restaurant? Yeah, they are kids.

My mother-in-law once advised me to take time to sit down and play with my kids. "The cleaning and laundry can get done later" she told me. I remember being baffled by this. When? By whom? But now I get it. It really will all get done, and if it doesn't, oh well. Until we are literally OUT of clothes and dishes, the laundry and dishes can wait if need be. And quite often, after the kids are in bed, I sit down on the couch with my husband to a beer or glass of wine and we look at the mess. We don't pick it all up. We just look at it and then turn on the TV, snuggle up, and enjoy the hour or minutes until we fall asleep on the couch.

I know it is hard to hear "just let it go" or "don't worry about it." I often felt (and still feel) annoyed when given this advice -- as if it is as easy as putting on our shoes. So to help me "let it go", I ask myself 2 questions when I am about to freak out about something: #1 -- can I do anything about it? and #2 -- is this really a huge deal in the whole scheme of my life? This often helps with such scenarios as mentioned above -- if my kids wake up too early from naps, have meltdowns in public, poop through their clothes, or poop anywhere other than the potty, etc. #1 -- I cannot change these situations. I cannot put the poop back in. I cannot force them to nap. #2 -- in an hour, or even a few minutes, this will be over and in the past and we will be moving on to the next fun scenario. So why spend my energy being angry or frustrated about it?

As I stated before, I am certainly not where I want to be -- I fly off the handle at my kids more often than I would like. I still waste time in anger when I cannot control my life. (When I told my husband that my blog post was all about how calm I am now and how well I deal with life's stresses, he looked at me wide-eyed and said, "Okaaaaay....").

But I am also not where I was. I am not the frazzled / lonely / depressed / overwhelmed mom of 3 years ago who wondered how in the hell my friend was "so happy" being home with her kids. And I hope you join me on my journey. Or maybe you are already there and I can meet you at the end.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Sometimes you just have to turn the car around.

I read an article a while back entitled "Sometimes You Just Have to Turn the Car Around." Most of us moms and dads are guilty of giving far too many warnings of what we are "going to do" if our children's behavior does not improve and not enough actual consequences.

"5 more minutes" followed by "5 more minutes" followed by "Ok really. 5 more minutes."

Or "I am not going to tell you again" when both my child and I know that yes, in fact, I will tell him again. And then again probably.

One of the most challenging parts of following through with consequences is when the punishment is a punishment for Mom too. This morning, although Mommy had to suffer as well, she "just had to turn the car around."

The kids and I had driven 45 minutes to a play date. Some would say that is a bit far, but for this mommy, getting out of the house for an activity is the objective and the amount of gas used or miles added to the car become irrelevant. Upon arrival, my 3-year old spotted an extensive train set and parked himself there, foregoing any opportunity for snack or play with any other toy. Knowing him quite well, I anticipated drama if another child -- heaven forbid -- tried to share the train set. And drama was had. After several warnings of "you need to share or we are going home" combined with meltdowns, tears, and fits of anger when approached with this "sharing" concept, I realized what I had to do. And I did not want to do it. For one, I was quite enjoying my time chatting with the other moms, having some semblance of adult conversation. And also, my 1-year old daughter was playing nicely and not crawling up my leg, pulling on my hair, sticking her fingers in my eyes, or trying to fall down stairs. But, my "warnings" to my son were serving no actual warning, and the behavior was not improving. So when he was told that we were going home, the real fun started. A knock-down, drag-out wrestling match ended in me carrying him to the car in my socks (in January), strapping him in to his car seat and letting him scream to holy hell while I retrieved his sister and our belongings. Obviously she needed to cry as she was ripped from her fun bucket of toys as well. Almost immediately upon pulling out of the play date host's driveway, he became remorseful as the true impact of what was happening hit him. "I am a big boy! I am done crying! I will share!" He cried out over and over... as I drove home. It was not fun but I am proud of myself for turning the car around.

Tonight when we tell this story to my husband, you can bet it will start with, "Guess what YOUR son did today?"