I will be the first to tell you I used to have the worst opinion of "stay-at-home moms." I thought they were lazy, dominated by their husbands, meek, and unconfident door mats. I know. This is horribly biased and unfounded as I have had absolutely no experience as a "stay-at-home mom" whatsoever. So, first, I want to apologize to everyone I know (and those I don't) who have had or currently are in this role. Just like I had unfounded opinions of parenting before I became one, I too had unfounded opinions of this vocation.
Since having my son about 2.5 years ago, I've been able to work 34hrs a week (3 days in the office, the rest from home), so I've gotten a glimpse of what it takes to "stay home" with a kiddo. And, honestly, I'm not very good at it. I don't cook. I rarely clean, and when I do, whatever gets cleaned is commonly known in our house as "Melody clean" vs "Randy clean." I wash all laundry in cold, all colors together, in one load if it'll all fit. I dry everything. I barely rinse dishes before loading the dishwasher, after they've piled for days of course. You get the picture. Turns out, I'm NOT domestic. Who knew?! ;-) I could barely keep up with day-to-day tasks, like dishes and laundry, for even myself much less myself, my husband, and a child. I'm just not geared this way. It takes ALL my effort to even REMEMBER to do laundry, much less dig myself off the couch to actually DO it. Praise the Lord for sending me a husband who loves to cook. At least I don't have to worry about that! (oh, and he does his own laundry...see how easy I've had it? and I had NO idea! gah!)
Well, God having the sense of humor that he does, blessed us with twins coming in October. And on the way home from discovering the news, Randy and I just knew I would have to stay home because it made no financial sense whatsoever for me to keep working. (Three kids in daycare costing >$500 a WEEK, are you SERIOUS?!) And let me tell ya, this was a very scary thought for me. I have no doubt that God geared me for being a mom; I knew that from the time Noah was 2 months old. (I'll share my experience of months 0-2 at some point.) Being a mom is something I feel I'm really good at, and after having him I felt like it was what I was made for. So, the thought of being a mom to TWO more is really exciting to me! I've been planning our second child experience for over a year now. Granted, God altered my plan a bit (he tends to do that). But I have no doubt this mommy experience will be a great one. It's the domestication that has me a bit worried. Although, I'm getting more and more comfortable with it. And I WILL own it one day. :-) In my own way. And part of "my own way" is going to include two things:
(1) getting rid of that negatively connotated title "stay-at-home mom"
(2) not comparing myself to others.
The former can be pretty easily accomplished as I'm really not the stay-at-home type; I'm pretty mobile. Hence my stroller focus here. I attended a life-changing retreat at our church this year that really impacted my viewpoint on the matter, and I'm proud to say I'll be our "family manager." :-) Thank you, Kathy Peel! The latter, however, will be a toughy. I so admire this mom (and sweet friend) and this mom for all that they're able to do and am constantly finding myself comparing my life to theirs. This kind of jealousy has plagued me all my life, but I'm learning to deal with it in a healthy way. The rest of my insecurities (e.g. how to clean, how to make baby food, how to keep up with everything, etc...) I'll hopefully remedy by seeking wise counsel from seasoned mamas.
So, I asked some of my friends for their one best piece of advice and compiled this list. Thanks to all the mamas who contributed!
Use "Mistakes" as Learning Opportunities• (M)y biggest struggle is feeling like a failure as a mother. So, I'd tell the new mommies that no matter what their hormones tell them, they are a great mother. Nobody is perfect, we just have to learn from our “mistakes" and move forward.
Manage Time Wisely• Just because you are a stay-at-home mom does not mean you have huge amounts of time. Guard your time with your family as you get one shot to raise those little babies. The other stuff will always be there to do. Do not feel guilty about being a stay-at-home mom. Lots of people will see that you are that and start trying to recruit you to volunteer for this or that. You do not have to do it all. "No," is a valid answer. If you do choose to volunteer for something, what 2 things do you do now that you are willing to give up to volunteer for that 1 new thing?
• (D)on't over book yourself with play dates, etc. also, I have a house schedule so I feel like if I get my 1-2 things done each day. I feel like my house is somewhat getting cleaned through the week, but don't have to do all @ once….Also, I do one load of laundry every day.
Be Social• Find a support system. Play dates are not just about the kids, but about the moms as well. Going from working full time, to being a stay at home mom is a hard transition. Give yourself time to adjust. Also, memberships to the zoo, aquarium, museums, etc. often end up paying for themselves three-fold.
• In church the other day the question was asked if we were task or people oriented. (Do you get your energy from being alone or from being around people?). Before kids I would have instantly said people, but I find myself to be a little of both now. Make time for yourself, be around your friends and you will be more energized
• If you can find one (or start one when they are a smidge older), begin a mommy’s Bible study. You will have time with other moms who can relate and even mentor you. In time, you can be a mentor to someone else. That encouragement and Biblical care is something that will mean so much to you….Study women of the Bible or whatever topic in the Bible interests all of you. Take turns and you will be blessed. Each person is going to bring out something you may not have considered before or even challenge your thoughts on a topic, which is important for spiritual growth.
• My book club is a lifesaver for several reasons. It's actually a more serious book club in that we actually discuss the books we read (and beyond just whether we liked it or not). As a fellow English major, you'll understand why I value those discussions. Beyond the intellectual stimulation, we do support each other as mothers and I also value my "girl" nights once a month at our meetings! So, join or start a book club!
Develop Close Connections• If you can find or already have a mentor, that is a huge blessing. Cannot recommend that enough. Peers are great commiserators, but mentors have already summated that mountain you’re a climbing and came out the other side. They can be your best cheerleaders and advocates, and are great at helping you gain perspective when you are overwhelmed.
• Find at least one mom friend that you can be completely honest with. Not once did I feel judged by (mine) when I would tell her something I was feeling or had done….It won't be easy to find…, but she's worth the hunt, promise! The phrase "kindred spirit" comes to mind, just like they used the term in the Anne of Green Gables books. Every mommy needs her (best friend)!
Get Out and Play• Outside!!! Make sure you get them outside as much as possible! Even if it's for 10 minutes! And when everything falls apart and kids are screaming and you can't do anything right lay on the floor and let them climb all over you!! It works every single time! It changes everyone's mood and allows you time to find joy in that moment as hard as being a stay at home mom is (or being a mom in general) you forget how fun it is when things are always so crazy and you haven't had a break or a full night's sleep in a year (or more)... So take time to just be joyful and look at things through the kids eyes!! It's a fun and completely different perspective!!
Discipline with Purpose• If you become cross with the children - whether simply from exhaustion and frustration or they were putting themselves in danger or you've already told them 1,983,427 times not to ... or they will get hurt or break something, apologize, explain what happened from your side (give them a chance to explain, also) or why it is important that they do or not do whatever, be honest with them at all times, and remind them that you love them from the bottom of your heart and that God loves them WAY more than you can, and you love them bunches and bunches, we are just not perfect like God is. You can start when they are very young to remind them of this and they will grow up knowing it. Even when they get older and don't like the answer you give them, they will know that you are truthful with them and that you love them very much, too much to allow them to do something that would hurt them. They will respect you for it, even if they roll their eyes and grouse to their friends. The earlier you start the foundation for trust and respect, the better your results will be when they are teenagers, or at least when they look back as young adults.
Do Things Just for Me• (M)ake "me" time a priority every day. I would go nuts otherwise, but that is also due to my personality. I have to be alone at least a little bit during the day. So, naptime is not negotiable. Quiet time or naps happen every day for us. And I try to use that time to do things I want to do, although sometimes I want to get household stuff done so I go ahead and do that! Going along with that...I think having a creative outlet for me was crucial. Something I could work on that was outside the kids. Actually, for me, my main creative outlets also tie into my boys, which is perfect...photography and writing on my blog…
• Make sure to schedule in some "Mommy" time so you don't totally lose yourself! It's important to enjoy time with friends.... Sneak away for a nice bubble bath.... Whatever you need to recharge your Mommy battery!!!
Be Flexible• I remember feeling so worried about that big transition and had all these goals of schedules, cleaning/laundry charts, play dates...just having it all "figured out". Now, I'm not opposed to any of those things, and still love the routine of all those things, but I'm starting to realize that it's also ok to just go with the flow every once in a while. We can't be superwoman every day.
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I look forward to the day I can write the follow-up post and see where my journey has taken me! What advice would you add to this list?