Friday, March 30, 2012

The Way Life Looks

I’m a stay-at-home-mom. I know that title elicits all sorts of responses from all sorts of people. Some people think it’s great. And I guess some people feel sorry for me. You can tell in the way they say, “Oh” when they ask what I do. But I don’t feel sorry for me. I feel blessed. Grateful. Filled up from all the moments spent with a baby girl in my lap, no makeup on. Reading a book, or nursing, or just sitting and watching her play with her nesting cups.

When new people ask what I do, I tell them I stay home with Abi Kate. And sometimes, I feel the need to throw in that I was once a teacher. That I went to college. That I have a Bachelors. That I graduated Magna Cum Laude. That I was a Kindergarten teacher who loved her little friends every day (or almost every day!). That there’s depth to me as there is to them. (Actually, I don’t really throw in all those details. Just that I used to teach Kindergarten.)

A lot of times, I stop after saying I stay home. There’s no other title I’d rather have than “Momma”. It’s ok if people feel sorry for me. Like I lost my career or that I’m now shackled to a little person at home. Or that my life isn’t as “free” as it used to be. It’s ok, because I know things about my life that they do not.

I know women who work and have kids. They make this flawless seam from work to home, and they make it look beautifully easy. They’re successful in their careers and successful mommas, and they know it was the right choice for their family. I want to tie a Superwoman cape around them because they’ve earned it. But I know myself well, knew that I wouldn’t be able to move smoothly from one thing to the next without drowning in my own sense of overwhelming commitments. And truth be told, if I was able to be home, I wanted to be. So I left the classroom, and while I miss the girls I taught with every day, and I occasionally miss the fun activities and teaching moments, on the whole I thoroughly enjoy my days with my girl.

I get kind of tickled when I hear what people think stay-at-home moms do all day. I mean there’s all sorts of articles and opinions and ideas floating around about being at home. Sometimes, I read these things and I get that, “Wow, Katie… You kinda suck” feeling. Of course, I know people write about what they’re good at, about the things they got together in their lives, not usually about the chaos or crappy parts. So, in an effort to be transparent, here’s the reality in our house….

Abi Kate wakes up around 8:30. So do I. It’s nice. As a self-diagnosed crappy sleeper, I like sleeping even though I’m not very good at it. If you texted me at 7:30 and I didn’t respond til 8:15, I was probably just asleep. J Some days, I wake up before she does and get a few things done. Some days I don’t.

She eats breakfast and I stay in my jammies and clean the kitchen usually or do a load of laundry. And I feed Layla who is most definitely barking non-stop by this time, because you know, it’s been a whole hour since her last meal or something.  When Abi is done eating, that’s normally when I eat and drink a cup of coffee while she plays. Or sometimes, she brings books to me one after the other while I sneak in bites of food in between stories.

And during her naptimes, I usually clean or take a shower or get sucked into my laptop or read or get her lunch ready. Very few days are the same. Even though I “stay home”, we usually don’t stay home every day. I run errands with her and see her reflection in the mirror as she flips through books in the backseat, claps her hands to the music, talks to me, giggles at herself, or just stares out the window. And it’s funny, but those simple little moments are the ones where I know, overwhelmingly in my heart, that this is right where I belong. Wherever she is-- that’s where I need to be.

She plays with my friend’s kids usually once a week, sometimes twice a week. She loves them all, and I love watching her. Sometimes we go for a walk on the greenway, and now that it’s so pretty sometimes she just runs around outside in the backyard while I scamper around to make sure all the dog poop has been picked up. (Told you it was transparent). She gets visits from my family frequently. Every Friday, we go to Books and Babies. She loves it. She’s inquisitive and social, loves the puppets and loves to be held by the teacher. I love the moments with her. Something that she and I go and do together every week. It’s nothing big and important and it’s over in about 45 minutes, it’s just that it’s mine- something I share with just her regularly.

Some days I do purposeful learning activities with her, and some days we don’t. Sometimes I stay in my jammies until noon. And some days, I feel like I should award myself with the Superwoman cape because I did all the “right” things that day. My house looks gorgeous, my dinner is totally plant based and delicious, my baby learned another word that I taught her, I have makeup on and my hair looks good. But in honesty, I don’t have those Superwoman days all the time. And I’m learning to be ok with that.

There’s 175,000 things that can be done around my house always. There’s always some activity to get to, friends or family to visit. And I’ve read all about the need, as mothers, to be productive and get things accomplished. Some days I get a lot accomplished and some days I don’t. And I’m learning to be ok with that, too. Because great as the lives of some women sound through the computer screen, as scheduled and perfect as their days are-- that isn’t my life. And that isn’t what defines successful mothering. I’m learning to let things go, because enjoying my days with her is far more important than whether I woke up before she did that day or not. I am not going to be a slave to my schedule.

This week she learned the word “bubble”, and she shouts it every time I blow bubbles. She started saying “cack! cack!” everytime she sees a duck. She knows which of her books have a picture of a dog in them, and she brings the same one to me and turns the pages saying, “Hey Nora! Hey Nora!” until she finds the page with the dog. (She doesn’t call for Layla anymore….If you know both of our dogs, you’ll understand this). And then she waves and waves and barks at the dog in the picture until I think that surely she’s tired of that book, only to find that she has a renewed interest in it 5 minutes later. She started running--running in the sense that she’s going as fast as her chubby little legs can carry her-- into the living room when she’s upset about something. She started making the kissing sound when she kisses me. And she has a renewed love for dancing (and bless the child, she is SUCH a white girl. She leads with her head.) I have read Snuggle Puppy so many times that I no longer need the book. I can recite the entire thing for you right now. And guess what? I love it.  I haven’t felt less productive or less valuable to society. I haven’t felt sad that I’m not as pretty as I once was with fresh makeup and organized hair (well maybe a little sad. But not a lot!). And it’s ok that I still have three loads of laundry that are unwashed. Being home with her is enough. The memories and moments with her are enough. And while I’ve never felt sorry for myself for being at home because it is what I chose, I’ve just extra-enjoyed it this week.  

And maybe here soon, I won’t feel the need to explain what I used to do when people ask. Maybe I’ll just say, “I play with my baby all day.” Because this was the right choice, without a doubt, for our family. And I am more certain of that, more certain of these moments, more certain of this job than I have ever been in any other. 

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