Rules for the Accidental Stay-at-Home Mom

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Some girls grow up dreaming about being a stay-at-home mom. They relished the idea of snuggling their babies all day, baking delicious chocolate chip cookies, and volunteering at school holiday parties.

Not me.

While I will take baby snuggles whenever I can get them, I honestly always imagined myself in the classroom as the teacher instead of the parent volunteer. And baking just isn’t my thing… the two dozen burned Valentine cookies that ended up in my trash can are testament enough of that.

So when I became a stay-at-home mom, it was…well, a learning experience. Everything I had always believed about myself and my career path suddenly shifted. I was terribly insecure about myself as a mom (I mean, who isn’t?), and unsure of how to navigate a life I had never imagined for myself. It took some time and, while I still struggle here and there, these 4 rules have helped me navigate SAHM mom territory:

1.) Stop Explaining Yourself

Five years into my SAHM mom life, I still have a hard time with this. Maybe it’s because I grew up with two working parents. Maybe it’s because I get antsy about falling into an ill-fitting stereotype. Either way, I find myself explaining our family’s choices more than I care to admit.

On one hand, I know it’s nobody’s business. On the other, well, I’m an insatiably curious and ambitious person with a passion for teaching and making a difference in the lives of others and even though I am intensely grateful for the opportunity to stay home with my kids, I am just as intensely dissatisfied with “wasting” years changing diapers, doing laundry, cleaning up puke, and waiting out temper tantrums because, frankly, I’m jealous of my husband’s career successes and his ability to have adult conversations while I’m stuck trying to decipher what gibberish word my youngest is screaming about while dinner is burning and the oldest is busy reminding me about the swimming class that started two hours ago.

Whew… Did I just black out?

Listen, explanations that lend themselves to horribly constructed run-on sentences just aren’t beneficial for anyone. It might feel good in the moment but you know what’s even better? Feeling at peace with your family decisions even when you aren’t totally content with your professional achievements. Frustration is inevitable but give yourself a break. You are your own harshest critic.

2.) Make a Long-Term Plan

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When you stumble into this lifestyle, it’s easy to fall into a wheel of negativity. There is the pain that comes with isolation, the guilt of feeling discontented, and confusion in the struggle to maintain an identity. Dealing with such heavy emotions is no easy task, especially when our cultural messaging makes confronting them almost taboo. After all, what could possibly be better than staying home with your babies? Well, depending on your personality, a lot of things — and that’s perfectly fine.

Whatever the reasons behind your SAHM status, if the situation feels less-than-ideal, do yourself a favor and make a long-term plan. Is returning to work possible once your kids are in school? How many years will that take? Check out ways in which you can further your education in the meantime so that you’re prepared when the time comes. Keep an eye out for work-from-home opportunities. And, most of all, communicate with your partner so that you are both on the same page.

Taking these steps will help you maintain a sense of accomplishment outside childrearing, while also serving as a reminder that this is only temporary.

3.) Allow Yourself to Tune Out

Buh-Bye, mom shamers! Ignore their judgmental stares and snuggle into a good book or—gasp!—laze away on Facebook while your kiddos entertain themselves on the playground. It goes without saying that you’ll keep an eye on them but, let’s be real, kids are pretty adept at playtime. They really really don’t need your help. And because your job literally never ends, it’s important to allow yourself a mental break here and there. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.

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I mean, look up at least once in a while…

4.) Don’t Let Your Interests Die

I know, I know. Easier said than done, right? Especially if you have a difficult baby or are in the throes of toddlerhood (somebody save me…). Maybe the only pastimes you can recall include watching Dora the Explorer on repeat and emptying diaper pails but, believe it or not, you existed for many years prior to becoming a mother. Get back to that girl. Self-care is crucial for all moms, and that includes being selfish enough with your time to pursue the hobbies you once loved.

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Get out in nature (check out the Osprey if your kiddo is still tiny!), read a good book during nap time instead of worrying about the dishes, or sign up for a fun dance class. Hell, start a blog so you can indulge in topics outside of Dr. Seuss and Paw Patrol. But find something you enjoy doing and learn how to put yourself first every once in a while. After all, part of being a SAHM is modeling the kind of behavior you want your kids to emulate, right? Take the opportunity to show them that self-care is not selfish. It is a lesson that will have far-reaching impact.

When you’re an accidental stay-at-home mom, digesting the guilt of yearning for a career while trying to enjoy the fleeting precious moments of childhood, life can feel unsettled. The journey isn’t an easy one but it can certainly be made easier. What are your thoughts? Is there anything you would add to this list?

  • C

 

 

 

 

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The Day It Dawned On Me That I’m Not So Young Anymore

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My early 20s don’t seem like they were that long ago. While the days of body shots, cartilage piercings, and other regrettable life choices bear no resemblance to my current life, I still remember them with a kind of clarity that (copious amounts of alcohol notwithstanding) seems to undermine the decade that has since passed.

Perhaps it’s because my “under-tall” stature tends to convince people I am barely within legal drinking age, or maybe it’s because my children have generously allowed me the kind of beauty sleep necessary to keep my skin soft and supple — just kidding, that’s not true at all. Either way, I’ve always considered my husband and I fairly cool. Like, maybe we have more responsibilities and life experience under our belts, but we definitely aren’t old fuddy-duddies, right?

Wrong.

Last week, we took advantage of some rare free time to head out for a fun-filled day sans whiney children. It was blissful, entailing a six-hour round trip drive to reach our destination. We turned off the Princess Tea Party CD that had played on loop for the last three months and listened, gratefully, to whatever the hell we wanted. We snacked on junk food without having to share. I took a nap. Turns out, road trips without children are surprisingly relaxing.

On the way back, we stopped for dinner at a burger joint. My husband ordered some food while I secured a quiet booth and checked my phone to see if there were any messages from the sitter. (And by “sitter,” I mean our good friends who we conned into thinking it would be fun to watch our kids for a day. Suckers.)

Just as we began chowing down, relishing in the knowledge that we would be able to finish our entire meal without any meltdowns, potty accidents, or other inevitable shenanigans, a group of young guys sat down in the booth next to us. They were tan, muscular, and judging from their barely there tank tops, wanted to make sure everyone knew it. They could have easily passed for some serious surfers grabbing a bite after a long day on the waves, except despite the fact that we live in California, we are nowhere near coastline or any sort of water.

As they lounged in their seats, incessantly running their fingers through their thick sun-kissed hair, my husband nodded over at them and whispered, “Do you think they are college-age or what?” Trying to look inconspicuous, I feigned interest in the menu posted above their heads for a better look at the surfer boys. “Definitely,” I agreed. “College kids, for sure.”

At about that time, a gaggle of girls bopped in who happened to know the boys. They giggled and high-fived and jumped around in their impossibly small Daisy Dukes. Tan and tiny, their barely there tank tops ensured everyone knew it. (I must’ve missed the loose, faintly see-through tank top memo.)

Then somebody made a joke, and they all laughed obnoxiously loud. Like, there’s-no-way-it-was-that-funny-but-they-had-to-be-the-center-of-attention-anyway kind of loud. My husband and I looked at one another and rolled our eyes.

“Well, that’s annoying,” he grumbled. With my fingers pressed deeply between my eyes, I responded with, “My sinuses are killing me, and it’s way too loud in here. We need to get home anyway. It’s getting late.”

It was still light outside.

And that’s when the obvious slapped me right across the face. My life looks nothing like that anymore. I don’t look like that anymore. I don’t talk like that. Did I ever resemble this seemingly farcical representation of young adulthood? Moments before, my husband and I had felt victorious over our early-bird dinner while these young guns were probably eating their first meal of the day and wouldn’t go to sleep again until we were waking up. What had previously felt like my not-so-distant past suddenly propelled itself light-years away from my current reality.

I looked down uneasily at myself: conservative cardigan and sensible shoes. (We had walked around quite a bit that day, after all!) I glanced over at my husband: smart polo and khaki shorts (not of the cargo variety). We looked old, comparatively at least.

I mean, we had good reason to be dressed the way we were. We had just come from a Vatican exhibit at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library so, duh, we had to at least look like the feeble, tired parents we are.

Oh, I hadn’t mentioned that yet? Yes. We spent our one day alone oohing and aahing over papal artifacts at a presidential library. And we liked it! But that’s not even the best part. Ready for this? We found and reported a grammatical typo in the museum and felt awesome about it.

So, there — whatever. I guess it shouldn’t really have taken some spry young chickens to make me acknowledge my inevitable decline into muumuu dresses and Tom Collins cocktails. But, for now, I’ll happily enjoy my yoga pants and nightly glass of pinot grigio like the rockin’ 30-going-on-80-year-old that I am. Life has brought me to this exact point, and it’s not going to slow down anytime soon. I am just going to get older, grayer, and crankier. But I’m totally fine with that, and you should be too, because I’m comfortable in my cardigans and wouldn’t be caught dead in a see-through tank top.

Besides, at least I know how to hashtag so I’m not totally hopeless, right?

#FuddyDuddyForLife

  • C

(Originally published on Scary Mommy – 8 September 2016)

**C also writes for POMP USA, a start up company promoting businesses owned by service members, veterans, and their spouses.

Please visit www.pompusa.org for more information**