Showing posts with label On Staying Home. Show all posts
Showing posts with label On Staying Home. Show all posts

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Little Encouragement

Our new Janey is so sweet and I adore her.  She is 8 weeks old today.  I have been thinking so much how grateful I am to spend every day, all of my hours with her.  I couldn't live otherwise, honestly.  Thinking of anyone else taking care of her makes me sick to my stomach.  Maybe I'm crazy, but that is how I feel, how I felt with each of my babies.  She knows me-Jeff told me the other day when he was holding her that when I walked in the room and she heard my voice, her eyes looked for me.  

And she has so many little intricacies.  I know how many burps she needs to get out after each feeding. And I know if she doesn't meet her quota she is not a happy camper.  I know she likes to be very warm.  And she takes a looong time to eat.  She goes through diapers like nobody's business.  I know when she is fussy she likes to be swaddled and placed in the sling and patted on the back gently while I dance around the kitchen with nice music on, or bounce on the exercise ball in a dark room.  It is sometimes hard work but I would do anything for her.

I've received so many emails from new moms over the years that felt torn between staying home with their babies and going back to work.  I know that some mothers don't have a choice, and my heart breaks for you, but some do and feel incredible pressure from friends, and family and sometimes husbands to go back to work and leave their baby with someone else.  It seems like they hear the message again and again that they will waste their degree, or slip off that stupid ladder, or regret it one day.  Or maybe there is a little fear to lose income and see friends buy that house or new clothes or take nice vacations, or just have a feeling of more security.  And then the reassurance that everyone does it and things will be OK, and it's just what happens nowadays.

I want to offer some encouragement, a different rarely heard message, from my heart.  

LISTEN to your heart.  If there is ever ever a time in your life to listen to your heart and tell your head to just shut up, now is the time. Let your heart lead and your head will find a way to follow. If there is ever a time to trust your gut, your mommy gut, be brave and trust it fully.  Your baby wants YOU, and needs YOU, and adores YOU.  NO ONE can do a better job than YOU.  Yes, the job can be done by others, but you do the best job ever because you know your baby better than anyone else.  

Babies are precious, sweet, innocent, intricate little miracles.  I just can't imagine anyone else taking the time to learn Janey-it's taken me 8 whole weeks and we are finally getting our groove on.  Would anyone else bounce her on the exercise ball when she's fussy or would she just learn to cry it out?  (My mom tried to bounce her once and joked that she thought I would find them both splayed on the floor.)  Would any one stand next to her changing table for ten somewhat boring minutes several times a day to let her bottom air out, just so her super-sensitive skin won't get rashy?  Would anyone else wear a sling for 6 hours a day just to get her to sleep?  I know there are high-maintenance babies and easy babies-I've had them both, but they all took sacrifice and endurance to care for every day and that takes love only a mother can give.

The bond between mother and baby deserves so much more respect than what society throws its way.

So "waste" that degree.  It's not more important than your baby, it's just a piece of paper, and you aren't wasting it really.  (You might still be paying for it..I was for about 10 years after I had my first.) Tell your husband you can't do it-your heart will break and you have to figure out something else, even if that means a drastic change for him and your budget and your plans.  What else is worth a drastic change?  I really believe that often that change and the pressure leads to better situations in the long run anyways. There will be nothing more important in your life ever, ever, ever than your babies.  Tell your friends, your relatives, your co-workers that you can't leave your baby and don't apologize for it, just say it quietly and with conviction. 

And then go and rock your baby.  You'll never ever regret it.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Lost and Found: On Becoming A Mother

I have read more than enough articles in parenting magazines that have dealt with the topic of women feeling like they've 'lost their identity' when they became mothers.  I know I've overheard mothers say: "I feel like I lost a part of myself after motherhood" or  "I just don't know who I am or remember who I used to be". 

I never gave much thought to this identity crisis...I never really cared to, to be honest.  I could never relate...I was hardly a person of my own when I became pregnant.  No, 25 isn't that young, but really, I had experienced little of life, was newly married and never really had some big fancy career.  Heck, I hadn't even figured out WHAT career I wanted to have when I started barfing my guts up.

That's exactly when my white flag of surrender went up to this thing called motherhood.  You could say I was surrounded by enemies on all sides and didn't know what hit me.  An innocent (obviously not that innocent) bystander in life and one moment I looked up and had an army of soldiers (otherwise known as hormones) holding me at gunpoint.  Surrender or else...or else die of puking?  Yes.  That's what I did. Threw up (in more ways than one) that white flag.  My life changed so quickly and really my body felt like it was under attack.  I could hardly lift my head, let alone arrange a defense.  And so there goes my fight to keep life as I knew it...Sarah as I knew her.  I was gone before I knew what hit me....before I really became me.

And that was a blessing in disguise I think.  Oh, maybe some drawbacks to it, but none I ever knew about.  When they put that little guy in my arms I had already surrendered.  Another battle...this one more heated, had me raising that white flag again, with every muscle in my body aching from the aftermath of the battle.   I had already, in way, been forced to be open to whatever this new life brought me.

When I thought back to those years before becoming "mother", when I was just ME, I try to imagine what could be missing now, 15 years later.  I try to relate when other women say they struggle with feeling they lost a part of themselves.  I look back and think, what part of myself did I lose?  Who was I before that? 

When I turn around and look, I see along the years, that indeed, I did "lose" myself.  If I look back on the journey, along the way I can see parts of myself have dropped off.  Mostly I didn't notice, sometimes I fought against it, sometimes I threw those parts off with joy.  Parts that I needed to lose, parts that I can't imagine wanting to hang on to.  Each child has forced me to let something go that was part of who I was at that time.

I see a rockslide of losses, and they read like a Paris Hilton biography.  I wasn't a spoiled rich brat by any means...I was just ME.  Like I said...I took care of ME.  That's only one person...and I had my best interest in mind.  I was in charge of myself, and myself only.  I had not a care in the world...because really a job, bills, and any other responsibility is nothing compared to being responsible for another human being's life.

Maybe there is some nostaligia there...some innocence lost along the way.  But I shudder to think at the alternative.  To NOT lose, to NOT surrender, parts of myself.  To still be the same person I not replace those aspects of myself with something bigger, to not gain something so much greater.  To put up a fight to remain who I was 16 years much energy wasted, how could have I anything left over to be a good mother?

My children and I...we each gave each other gifts in the end....I gave away pieces of me to be their mother, and in return recieved a gift from those who made me mom...a new identity, a better self.  They continue to do that and will, I imagine, forever.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Life's Plain, Common Work

The best things in life are nearest:
Breath in your nostrils,
light in your eyes,
flowers at your feet,
duties at your hand,
the path of right just before you.
Then do not grasp at the stars,
but do life's plain, common work
as it comes,
certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life.
~Robert Louis Stevenson

Isn't it so hard to remember this these days?  I think it is.  I love that we women all have so many choices in our life's path, but have you ever either questioned yourself, or been questioned by others for choosing the ordinary? 

In the past 15 years I've heard, "I just don't feel fulfilled at home."  Or, "Don't you go crazy all day home with the kids?"  or "I was so bored and lonely, I couldn't wait to go back to the office."  Or, "Don't you feel trapped?"  Or, "I could never be home with my kids all day, I'd go bonkers!"

I try to always answer those questions honestly and kindly, of course.  I know that everyone has their own experiences that lead them to make different decisions, but here is what I think.

Yes, being at home with the kids IS sometimes boring.  Some days I feel trapped for sure...I can't just up and leave on a whim anytime I want and usually I have to plan intricately when I do, around everyone else's schedule.  There is no calling in sick on this job, I've found. and no scheduled breaks, at least that I can count on.  I'm lucky if I get any vacation days at all. 

It IS sometimes lonely.  I can go all day without hearing from anyone over the age of 2, or 6, or 15, and just because I am never alone, doesn't mean I don't sometimes feel lonely. 

It doesn't always feel "fulfilling" to me. I guess the truth is, I never think, "Am I feeling fulfilled?"  Do I feel like I'm using all my talents and gifts?  Sort of.  I've warped them into what I need them to be.  But I think I've acquired lots more talents and gifts along this motherhood road by pure necessity.  I think I've discovered what I've needed to do to feel like I've accomplished something everyday, and to get out and socialize (or not!), and to get a little bit of freedom once in awhile to not go bonkers.

I wish I could say, "I couldn't think of anything else I'd rather do!"  when it comes to being a typical housewife.  When cuddling a sweet little infant, that statement would be true.  When admiring a clean sparkly house, (even knowing it will last for minutes) I definitely feel that.  When everyone is getting along great, and it's been a great, easy day, of course.  But other times, when I look at some of my duties for the week...meal fixing, floor scrubbing, bottom wiping, schedule finagling, clothes washing... I'd be able to dream up a bunch of "others" in a heart beat on some days. 

But if I say, "I couldn't think of anything else I SHOULD be doing!", right now, with the family size I have, and the ages of my children I'd be speaking the truth.  "The path of right before you...certain that daily duties...are the sweetest things in life."

I don't think our lives as moms are supposed to be easy and fun and exciting and "fulfilling" every day.  If so, I'm doing something wrong!  I don't think I have something special or different, some incredible talents or gifts, some Barney-esque personality that has turned me into 'mom'.  I think every one of us moms have talents that lend themselves to making great mothers.  We just have to tap into them...they exist somewhere inside of us.  We have to trust that this long road, this "plain and common work" will be more rewarding to us than any other job on far, 15 years into it, I can tell you that I already find this to be SO true.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Guest Post: Making Your Home A Little Piece of Heaven

I came across this little essay on Lyndsay's blog. She "interviewed" fellow blogger, Stephanie, on what motherhood means to her.
I just love this: I love that Stephanie is confident and has a knowledgable "plan" on how she wants to mother her children.
I love that she is going against the grain of the times with the rejection of the hustle and bustle.
I love that she is riding her bike in the picture above with a baby in the Bjorn! (You don't know how bad I've wanted to do that but was afraid we'd go to jail or something.)
After purusing her blog, I learned that she is a master swaddler (could we share this title?) and can't resist making banana bread with too-ripe bananas vs. just throwing them out.
Smart girl!
Truly an inspiration:

I have wanted to be a stay-at-home mom for as long as I can remember. I even majored in "Home and Family" for crying in the night! And let me tell you something, this life is better than I ever imagined it could be.
I take my title of "stay-at-home mom" quite literally. I try to stay at home with my kids as much as possible.
I am the lucky mother of 3 adorably perfect children. (I can say that because I am their mother.) Mabel, my oldest, is only 6, so my experience as a mother is somewhat limited. But as my children have grown, I have begun to realize that it is my job as a stay-at-home mom to create an environment that allows them to thrive. For me and my family, that means a slow-paced, home-centered existence.
My goal is to create a life for my kids that is peaceful and calm.
There is a lot of noise out there in the world. I want my home to be a refuge, a haven, and a place where that near deafening sound can be ignored for another day. As a stay-at-home mother, the home is my only domain, it is my favorite place to be, and I want it to be my children's, too.
Some things we do (and you can do, too!) to make life at home more peaceful:
On the days that errands simply can't be ignored, get them done quickly and early in the day. This allows for an afternoon of relaxation spent at home, not fighting traffic and the hustle and bustle of shops.
Limit outside activities.
I think we all know how important family time is. Call me crazy, but I really believe that quantity is more important than quality. My kids are not currently enrolled in any extra-curricular activities. But they are still young, so I know this won't last forever. When they are older, and show an interest in things, I will try to limit their involvement a bit so that it doesn't interfere with family time.
Eat dinner together as a family every night.
It doesn't always have to be a spectacular meal, but this is a good habit to start. A couple years ago, I read an article in Time Magazine called The Magic of the Family Meal. In it, I learned a few things, like the fact that young children pick up vocabulary and a sense of how conversation is structured during family dinners. They hear how a problem is solved, learn to listen to other people's concerns, and respect their tastes. They learn to share. Family dinners give kids a sense of belonging to their family. This is where a family builds its identity and culture. Legends are passed down, jokes rendered, eventually the wider world examined through the lens of a family's values. Not to mention that families who eat dinner together tend to eat much healthier.
Make a conscious effort to slow down.
Getting the kids ready to leave the house is always something of a process, and I can likely be found hurrying my children along. But I'm rarely in an actual rush, so I remind myself that it's ok to slow down. It's ok if it takes Oliver 5 minutes to put on his shoes. A trip to the grocery store, or Nana's house, or wherever can wait 5 minutes.
Become a firm believer in doing nothing.
I think kids need their own space and time to do what they want to do. At our house, "doing nothing" includes, but is not limited to: playing, coloring, reading, writing stories, building forts, having "quiet time" (code word for naps), or running around the backyard. Doing nothing is unstructured time where my kids get to choose want they do, and I don't bug them. I am lucky that my two oldest are the best of friends. They are more than capable of keeping themselves entertained, which is a great skill for all kids to learn, even babies like my Stella.
Keep things clean.
In order to maintain a peaceful home, I really believe you have to have a clean home. Some days I feel like I spend my life cleaning. Other days I feel like my house is a major disaster area and there's no hope. But for the most part, I try to stick to a cleaning schedule (Mondays I do bathrooms, Tuesdays I dust, etc.). This keeps my neat-freak tendencies in check, and it means that I always have a relatively clean house. One of my favorite cleaning activities is to putter. This can be done any day, for any amount of time. While my kids are busy "doing nothing", I am busy "puttering", which means walking from room to room picking up, throwing away, and putting things back where they belong. Most of the time I count this as my exercise for the day, and I get the added benefit of having an organized home.
Speak softly, turn off the tv, and listen to pretty music.
I was raised by wonderful parents who never yelled. Not once. Their example has inspired me, and I try not to raise my voice at my children. Again, there is enough of that out in the world. I believe that being a mother is a great privilege and blessing. It is my duty to be the best I can be. Somehow, I don't think raising my voice at these tender little people is fulfilling that sacred calling of motherhood. When my children watch tv, I try to limit it to one or two 1/2 hour shows a day. It's just more noise. And I love to have music playing in our home. It is usually something mellow, but every once in a while something with a good beat comes on and we let loose. Editing the noise you allow into your home from the outside world is so important.
If perchance you, my dear reader, are a high-energy person, or you are a true supermom and juggle work and home life, don't fret. It is possible to create a peaceful environment even if you like running errands in the afternoon, or listening to rock music, or you have a 9-5. The trick is to find a routine that works for you and your kids and to stick to it. Kids crave stability and attention.
If you are giving them the routine and the constant, unconditional love that they need, things are going to be pretty all right most of the time.This much I know, babies don't keep and children grow too quickly, so try to enjoy being home with them now. They will only be content to stay at home for so long, so I, for one, am drinking it up and soaking it in.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Why I Stay Home

After 18 years at home, the reasons why I'm so grateful I made the decision to forgo work while the children are little and very dependent are not the reasons that I would have ever thought.  The first reasons that would come to mind are those big milestones-first smile, first steps, first words-those type of "I never want to forget it" things.

That sounds all nice and warm and fuzzy, but to tell the truth, I can't remember any of those...I'm sure it's marked in baby books somewhere. I DO know the last two took their first steps to Grandma and Dad respectively. Traitors.

The times when I have been so thankful that I made the decision to stay home and thought, "Oh God, what if I wasn't here? What if the daycare, the nanny, the sitter was here instead?" ...those are the times that have cemented any doubt in my mind that home is the best place to be.

This last week or so has been a time when I think, "Thank God it's me." Patrick has been SO difficult. He's such a sweet, happy fellow, but this week....I'll tell you...I don't know if it's teeth, or the kids being gone at school, or just a new little stage, but he wants ME almost every minute. He's 30 pounds and it's not easy lugging this kid around. If he happens to be settled and busy it just means he's up to no good. He'll find a pen or a pencil laying around-my walls his canvas...or he stands on his tippy toes and fishes one out of the drawer and just writes everywhere before I even get a chance to stop him. He's hurt me, physically, 10 times this week. Slammed a door shut on my ankle, given me serious love bites, head butted me (the kind that make your teeth click!), all on accident of course. He's smooshed my lipstick, dumped bags of cereal when given a second. Crinkled my new magazine, ran his stroller into my ankles. When we went on walks, they were as far from enjoyable as you could get. Down every one's driveway, in the street constantly, in and out of the stroller every minute, mad as heck when he didn't get his way and we headed home. Tons of whining. Tons.

Do you get the picture? Tested every ounce of my patience. Very unlikeable, but I love him.

That's not to say a break, a fresh set of hands, is not welcome once in awhile. But if I left him all day with someone, they would seriously dislike this usually sweet good-natured boy. No doubt in my mind.

It's the little things like this...the things that come up once in awhile, the bouts of colic, the annoying stages, the private bathroom dilemmas, the runny noses, just a bad days (or weeks)...those are REALLY the reasons I stay home. I want ME and his father-the two people who love him more than anyone else in the world- to be the one that takes care of all those things. The hard things-the "no fun" stuff.

Love is, above all else, the gift of oneself.
Jean Anouilh