I’m a mom so naturally I beat myself up about all the things I’m NOT doing for my kids, my home, my husband, myself… not to mention all those friends I never see anymore! When I was home with one little guy (for the first six months of his life) I naively thought that you COULD do it all. I managed to make home cooked (relatively) healthy meals, I took care of my infant son, cleaned our tiny apartment and managed to only leave dishes in the sink most days. I started sewing slings, nursing covers and baby toys to sell on Etsy while I dreamt of a day I’d have “it all” as a full-time stay at home mom.
When my son was 5 months old I taught 3 weeks of a half-day summer school program and began to wonder if I’d make it when I went back to work. We had childcare lined up with a different person almost every day of the week (grandma, the new daycare, a friend and I think even daddy took a day or two off). It was chaos! My pump conveniently broke at this same time but I didn’t realize it at first so my supply dwindled and my stress mounted (two things that go hand in hand unfortunately!) and I cried as I gave him formula for daycare instead of the breast milk I’d planned on. The school year (I was a teacher) began with a bang, my partner being out on maternity leave and a new principal to boot, and I wondered if any mom’s who work outside the home felt they ever kept up with everything.
I continued to puree all his baby food, breastfeed at the crack of dawn (sometimes fully dressed for work) and every evening before bed. I continued to second guess my decision to give him formula during the day, struggled to keep up with mountains of school work, started ordering in A LOT and basically felt like a failure all around. In the back of my mind I always “knew” that being a stay-at-home mom was so much easier and definitely more my style. I missed the walks with baby and the time we’d just spend chilling on the floor together. I missed being with my snuggle bug all the time and wearing him (I felt like he was my favorite accessory and I was too “plain” and naked without him on my hip!).
Enter The House: Married, have a kid? well you should own a house, right? So with a big tax rebate as incentive we took the plunge into a little cape on a narrow but long lot in a town I really liked (and we could afford). Wonderful! I soooo looked forward to my summer hanging with my son and fixing up our little castle.
Boy was I an idiot.
Staying home with a newborn, nay a 3-6 month old (when they start getting super cute and smiling and laughing at you) is VERY different from staying home all summer with a 15-month old who is used to being with other kids all day. I thought I would go insane! He was always under my feet!!! Gone were the days of doing things while he watched complacently from his bouncy seat/walker/blanket on the floor. The child got into everything and I was beyond frustrated at my shattered vision of what the summer would bring and of what I thought my time with my son would be. I forgot kids grow up, oops.
Well, I made it through the summer with both of us alive and the house looking pretty good (he napped a solid 3 hours every afternoon, I dont’ know what I would have done if he weren’t such an amazing sleeper… well, I do NOW because I’ve experienced it but back THEN I couldn’t imagine). There were always projects that needed to be done around the house but as the school year approached they were all put on the back burner. Our lives became insane again and time rolled forward with me wishing, again, to be a stay-at-home-mom, cause even if it is crazy they still have flexibility, right?
That winter Punkin started talking and as he approached his 2nd birthday my husband and I couldn’t help exclaiming how fast he’d grown into a “big boy” and began thinking of adding to our family. After all, one more baby would fit PERFECTLY into our little home (but we’d definitely have to move after that). So we started practicing for the big event (dummest idea ever) and got our wish for a little sister for Punkin almost immediately. Oh, wait, double that, we got twin sisters for Punkin!
Okay, twin pregnancy for me was the complete opposite of my pregnancy with Dean. I WAS MISERABLE. I got pregnant in January and dragged myself through the rest of the school year. I then holed myself up (with Punkin) in my air-conditioned house for the entire hot summer and tried not to drag my belly on the floor while we played. All other things forgotten and I didn’t even have time to feel bad about it, I was too busy feeling MISERABLE. Summer vacation came and went and I actually spent the first 2 weeks of the school year (weeks 36 and 37 of the pregnancy) at work. Our girls were born at a healthy 38 weeks (and 6 9 and 6 11 lbs!). I knew staying at home with twin infants wasn’t going to be a walk in the park (either literally or figuratively) like being home with infant Punkin had been but I was still completely unprepared for the FOUR MONTHS of knocked-on-my-assedness that followed their birth. Around Christmas I started to feel like I might be in control of my body, my time, and maybe my household. I began repairing the damage that had been done over the past year of dysfunction… no easy task! Exhaustion and I had already become bonded to the point I literally just ignored it as an ever-present cloud over my head. I struggled to manage the simple things in my life, like eating/bathing/dressing myself and all the kids and spent many, many days in pajamas. I prepped myself for going back to work by pumping like a fiend (in all my “spare” time… no feeding on one side and pumping on the other when you have twins–all faucets are tapped) and pushing my return date back three times.
My return date to work, April 4th, gave me 11 weeks of school to push through before summer vacation began. In retrospect I think these hectic days were probably the calmest and most peaceful that I’d experienced since giving birth to Punkin 3 years earlier. I did my job, I pumped at work (I made sure that was restful, relaxing time, probably the only time I’ve finished a book in less than 2 months post kids), I came home, played with my kids, ignored the mess and had the satisfaction of knowing it was only 11 weeks to get through. I enjoyed my teaching time immensely without being bogged down with all the drama, data and politics that come with a full year of teaching. At this point we’d already decided that I’d be taking a year off for “child rearing” and so I didn’t even worry about the end-of-year-prep-for-next-year crap. It was a surreal and blissful time.
Summer break and I’m officially a SAHM for at least the next 26 months. Yay! Oh wait, look at the house, my children aren’t giving me more than 15 minutes break each day, when am I supposed to find time to feed them all? Have you ever tried grocery shopping with two 9-month olds and a 3-year old? What happened to my “free” time to sneak to do errands after work and before I picked them up from daycare?
Oh God, what did I get myself into.
I kept telling myself, all summer, that I’d give myself until September to get everything in order with the house (that had STILL not recovered from the now 1.5 years of virtual neglect) and then I’d start my “real” life. I was going to get certified to have a home daycare (obviously the house had to be in some sort of order for that) and that was my “window”.
I never realized how insane being home with three small kids could be. Not just 3 small kids but under 1 year-old twins…
Honestly I don’t know if I can really explain what I did all summer but I know it involved approximately 12 diaper changes a day (cloth, we’d never have afforded all those disposables!), breastfeeding the twins 6x/day, feeding all three kids 3x/day (Christian was working an hour away and was gone for about 11-12 hours every day so it was all on me). I know I got them dressed most days and that we tried to get outside and DO things. I shopped at 3 different grocery stores (no joke with 2 infants and a preschooler) almost every week to save money. I did the laundry for 5 people (including the cloth diapers) and I attempted to have 3 kids nap at the same time. I also took care of all the mail, paid all the bills, and pretended to have a budget well in hand.
Honestly, looking at that list I’m not sure when I had time to pee let alone do the massive cleaning/organizing overhaul that also went on that summer. It’s no wonder that I wished for “simpler” times when the house was in order and we could just be in a predictable normal routine.
Did I mention my sex life miraculously weathered all this crap? I think the stress of being a SAHM was still tempered with the life I planned to create and the lack of school/work stress just made us feel like we had the world in our hands… and so my husband knocked me up again.
My LMP was literally my twin daughters first birthday. I had JUST decided I was feeling in control when this miracle of life cracked me over the head. When I told my husband (I dreaded telling him!) I promised, nothing would change. It wouldn’t be like the twin pregnancy, I’d keep doing what I needed to do.
I almost did it too!
I had a couple of weeks in the beginning when I started to have post-traumatic flashbacks to the misery of the twins’ pregnancy but I quickly (thankfully!) realized I’d become lactose intolerant. Once I started using Lactaid when I couldn’t resist dairy I felt a thousand times better and managed to ignore the pregnancy and get on with the thousand other things I needed to do. I managed it so well, in fact, that more than once I brushed up against my own nipples and thought “ooh, feels like I might be pregnant,” until I realized that I actually was pregnant already 🙂
The pregnancy just sailed along smoothly until the third trimester. I am planning a homebirth and all my prenatal appointments were in my living room, a complete Godsend as we planned them during naptime. I couldn’t imagine what I would have done to get to the OBs office once a month (then twice and then four times) with the children… but that’s not the only reason I chose a homebirth (and totally the topic of a different blog entry!). When the third trimester hit I started to slow down at around the same time the girls started to speed up. They are currently 20 months old, I’m 36 weeks pregnant and my garden is looking fabulous–I’ve spent untold hours squatting, crawling and bending in there. I’m constantly amazed at how different pregnancies can be and how much you can actually do while very pregnant.
I’ve never worked so hard in my life and had so little time to myself. I envy my friends who have a drive to work. Seriously, I envy rush hour traffic time! I never have a moment to myself that I’m not “on duty” and I have to arrange my days around my children’s schedules. I can only do dishes in 10 minute increments (if I’m lucky) while the twins are distracted (if I put a gate up they just stand there and scream at me across it). I cannot fold laundry while they are awake unless I plan on re-folding it at least ten times (I’ve discovered that sorting can be done with them around–tossing each person’s clothing into a different basket to be folded later–though I do still have to re-sort many things when the girls decide to “help”). I can’t work in the garden unless the girls are asleep and Punkin is outside with me (he doesn’t sleep at naptime so I can’t leave him in the house alone or he’ll get into trouble) or in more than 5-10 minute bursts while they are distracted outside. every 5-10 minutes there will be some kind of drama I have to deal with, often eating of sand, dirt or rocks… I over or under cook dinner on a regular basis because I can’t focus on cooking while the kids are roaming and needing me to rescue them, a stolen toy, a stuck toy or just to open a closed door (Dean loves closing them in or out).
On the other hand I have flexibility. I can stay home all day or go out every day for a week. I decide if we head to the library, a park or a friend’s house. I decide when and where we shop and what we eat every day. I decide if we even get dressed each day! I don’t have any delusions that I’m actually fully in control of my days but I have the flexibility to work with what each day brings. Going to the grocery store can turn into staying home on the couch when someone wakes up with a fever, very different from my days of scrambling to find secondary child care or writing sub plans (usually driving 25 minutes each way to work just to prep the classroom and my partners at work).
So, being a Stay-At-Home-Mom is super easy, right? It’s the dream? Well, not exactly. Working away from my kids was really hard but being with them each day is really hard too. Having done both I’d never say that one is harder or easier than the other. Nor would I say that one is better than the other. Being a stay at home mom to just one kid might have felt easier than being the mom of almost four but I don’t think it ever is the “dream” of perfection that we always thing it will be. The grass is always greener, right?
I’ve never worked harder than I do now but I’ve never felt better about it, so maybe I am living the dream after all!