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.