For my first post back after my hiatus, I thought it was most relevant to talk about what I learned during my little time away from blogger land.
First of all, we have all learned that no matter how much you plan or have strategies for running your home, trying to have children or raising your children, nothing works out as you “planned.”
But we sometimes need to learn lessons on how to handle those unplanned shifts with grace, or at least just not completely losing our marbles.
When Lo (my partner of 12+ years) and I decided to have children, it seemed pretty clear that we may have roles that were somewhat defined. I had “the job” and she was great at the “home stuff.” How archaic and “Leave it to Beaver,” right?
After our second child, it made more financial sense to have Lo be a stay-at-home mom for a time. Day care is not for the faint of wallet in CT, and we both thought it would be great to have one of us able to share the time with the boys when they were young.
It wasn’t like I was making mint at my job, but with Lo’s budgeting, we could survive this way for a period of time.
Then, something happened.
Something life changing.
I lost my job.
At first, it was a welcome relief. We both thought it would be a good time for me to move on. I was really unhappy where I was and it would give me the push to get into the right place. Lo quickly found a job with nutty hours but with health benefits. We joked how it would be great for me to see how life was as a stay-at-home mom and how I’d get to have time with our boys!
Let me explain 2 things here as background:
- Lo had spoiled me. She wanted me to focus on work. That meant I could be gone for 10-14 hours per day and she would worry about cooking, grocery shopping, cleaning, bills, laundry, and pretty much maintaining every part of our world. I would come home from work, have a hot dinner, play with the kids, give them a bath, watch a little tv/read a story, put them to bed and then have a little down time before crashing.
- I am not domestic. At all. I am not a great cook (unless it’s Mexican food) and am pretty disorganized at all things home. Lo is a great cook (who also enjoys it), minimizes mess in the kitchen, has a higher level of house cleanliness, and just has the ability to know when to be ahead of the game on packing snacks for school, getting laundry started, knowing when a bathroom is almost out of toilet paper, knowing when we are almost out of milk or bread, etc.
So, here I am, October 2011, deciding to embrace my newfound work freedom and jump into the stay-at-home mom thing to spend quality time with my 2 amazing little boys who were 4.5 and almost 2 at the time.
I thought I was ready. I thought it would be for just a month or two. It lasted 10 months.
It was scary. And I felt totally out of my comfort zone.
There were tough patches, I will totally admit it. When you lose your job, no matter how happy you are about it, you are frustrated and you take a blow to your psyche.
I look at how during the 10 months, I sometimes found myself frustrated that I wasn’t finding a job and felt that my “esteemed career and status as a lawyer” was somehow diminished because I was “just” a stay-at-home mom.
Boy, did I learn that being a stay-at-home mom is much harder than being a corporate attorney. And if I didn’t before, it made me really, really appreciate how amazing Lo is with everything she has done the past 6 years!
During this time (and still now), Lo worked weekends and long night hours, so we did have some time during weekdays to see each other but I was “single mom” on weekends and during the dreaded “dinner/bath time/bedtime” hours.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved getting to spend some time with my boys. We had a lot of fun.
I also had the entire summer to take them to the condo pool and witness Andrew go from relying on his swimmies to being able to swim the entire length of the pool sans swimmies within days! We were able to spend a few weekends (without poor Lo) at the beach near my parents’ house.
I tried to pick up as many contract jobs as I could during my time of unemployment, so I could have some non-Mickey Mouse Clubhouse brain stimulation. But that wasn’t alleviating any stress either.
Here are some things I learned as a stay-at-home mom. Maybe most of you already know most of these, but they were all fairly new to me:
- You will never be on top of anything, let alone everything. You have to learn to not be too hard on yourself.
- With 2 small boys, you need to vacuum 2-3 times per day, not just every other day (like I thought) and mop (Swiffer!) at least 1x per day.
- Everything in the house can get sticky within 60 seconds of handing a child a popsicle, apple juice or even goldfish (don’t ask how goldfish end up sticky).
- Even a 5-year-old sometimes still needs a lid on his cup of juice.
- You can never have enough band aids in the house (and character band aids must heal boo-boos faster).
- Lysol wipes are the BOMB!
- I am totally fine with putting on the TV when it’s too cold to play outside.
- I will never be the crafty Pinterest mom and our kitchen table/craft area never looked like mommy n’ me craft pictures you find online.
- I hate the grocery store.
- Legos are a savior to entertain a 5-year-old boy but no matter how hard you try to keep them in nice bins, they end up everywhere.
- When you hear a crash in the next room, wait for the “uh oh” or scream of pain before you go running.
- It is easier to differentiate between a cry of pain and a cry of “he just took my toy” than I used to think.
- Books about poop and farting are much more interesting to little boys than ones about feelings and families.
- When a child under 5 cries “I’m not tired,” he/she is SUPER TIRED.
- When all else fails, go visit the local firehouse and let them see the trucks (ours is very open to little kid visitors anytime).
- Sometimes, you just pick your battles and your son goes to school with PJ bottoms and moon boots on in 95 degree weather.
- No matter how well you are keeping the house clean, you really need to lift the couch and check under there every few days.
- Great friends and family are priceless and we are blessed to have both.
- When the condo rules don’t allow for it to be outside, a Little Tikes bouncy house fits perfectly in a one car garage and is a great lifesaver when the kids need to work off some energy.
- Kids never outgrow Cheerios and you always need to have some in the house.
- Kids will eat burnt pancakes if they are shaped like Mickey.
- Those pancake cookie cutter/stencil things are a total pain in the #$&^!
- Always keep tons of newspaper, glue sticks, construction paper and crayons around the house. You never know when a newspaper pirate hat will save the day!
- With boys, anything and everything can be used as a weapon.
- Minivans rock.
- Our local library (Danbury) rocks.
- When you are at home, people think you have lots of time and ask you to do stuff.
- When you stop at Dunkin’ Donuts for munchkins one day after school, your kids will then expect it every day. Choose your routines and rule-breaking wisely.
- Sticker charts for good behavior are definitely worthwhile.
- I am not above bribing (in the form of “positive reinforcement”) my children.
- Being a “single parent” at bath time with 2 boys is a lesson in patience.
- Don’t let too much time go by without adult conversation. It is not good for your sanity.
- Trader Joes’ sweet corn, turkey corn dogs, macaroni and cheese, and fish nuggets are life savers.
- You don’t need to spend money to entertain your kids. Short walks around the neighborhood looking at plants and bugs can be more exciting than spending $100 at the mall.
- Being there for the first lost tooth is priceless.
- As much as I complain about condo living, having a community with great neighbors and lots of kids is so wonderful at times.
- You will never have wipes within reach when you really need one.
- “No-spill” sippy cups are a farce.
- You will never find a binky (pacifier) when you need one, however, when your child gives up the binky, you fill find binkys EVERYWHERE.
- Having your children randomly walk up to you at 2 pm while you are still cleaning the kitchen from lunch, give you a hug and say “Wuv you Mommy” then walk away makes everything better.
- No matter how small or lame a playground is to an adult, it’s a wonderland to a 2-year-old.
- If going to the post office or the bank with a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old, put lollipops in your pocket in case they don’t have any there.
- You may hear things coming out of your mouth that sound just like your own mother.
- Always have plenty of ice pops or popsicles in the freezer.
- Sometimes, you run the dryer (after 7 pm, of course) a few times because you don’t get to fold the close anywhere near the time the dryer is done.
And probably the most important lesson I learned is:
When you focus on your kids and what you can do for them in the time you have with them, all the money, job, world stresses are not as important.
I think the boys came through those 10 months fairly unscathed.
They are slowly adjusting to me having a job again and Momma still working weekends and “nigh night time.” I am slowly adjusting to me having a job again as well!
I am very happy to be in a job that provides much more personal satisfaction than my prior position and as an added bonus, I am 2.5 miles from home! After working many, many years with 30, 45, 60 minute commutes each way, this is wonderful.
I’m happy to be back blogging again and hope to bring something to the table with these other fabulous women!