I know what you’re thinking; ‘Staying home to take care of your kids is anything BUT therapy!’ I hear you- there’s barely any time for yourself and you can’t even hear yourself think, let alone gather any thoughts together in a coherent sentence. You take care of OTHER people’s needs all day long, 24/7. How can this possibly be therapy?
The goal of therapy, in my completely uneducated and therapy-virgin opinion, is to learn more about YOURSELF so that you can recognize patterns and behaviors in yourself and your relationships. I have never learned more about myself than I have this past year, staying home with my kids. My patience, mental stability, friendships, and marriage have all been put to the test. It made me realize how easy it would be to break. It also opened my eyes as to why a lot of people stop at two kids, ha! Early motherhood is not for the weak.
I have always dreamed of being a stay at home mom (SAHM). Sleeping in, playing with your kids all day with plenty of time to get everything done around the house? What a dream, right? HA. My concept of what SAHMs do all day has drastically improved, thankfully. So let me just start by saying SAHMs are ROCKSTARS. Well, let’s be real, all moms are rockstars! This job is so, dang hard so yes, we all get a medal. But since it has officially been one whole year of being a SAHM, I wanted to take some time to document everything I am learning.
I have found that a lot of people who are not SAHMs (myself included!) underestimate how hard it really is. This is not to diminish how hard being a working mother is, either. There are no words to describe the exhaustion of working a full time job, only to come home to another full time job around the house with your children. But to me, that’s why being a SAHM sounded so appealing! I was a full-time teacher until Max was two. I absolutely hated dropping him off at daycare all day, missing out on his day, not knowing who his friends were, and barely getting any time with him after work before the madness of dinner, bath, and bedtime. I despised finally getting him down to sleep, only to realize I still needed to empty the dishwasher, clean up dinner, fold a load of laundry, and get his daycare bag ready for the next day before I could even sit down to rest. Life would be so much easier if I didn’t have to go to work every day. When the opportunity presented itself for me to stay home, quit teaching, and do photography part time, I was ecstatic! This was everything I had ever dreamed of! But WHEW, I had a few lessons coming my way.
Like I mentioned, I was an elementary school teacher before I became a SAHM. I thought of myself as more patient than the average person, fairly decent at time management, a hard worker, and pretty focused. Well, I have officially been humbled. Turns out, staying home all day, every day with a two year old and an infant (and a psycho dog) can really push you to your limits. Who knew? But it was through my worst days, when I gave in to the anxiety and rage that builds up inside of you when your toddler does everything in their power to derail the perfect day you had planned, that I really learned. I started to question WHY I was so mad, frustrated, anxious, irritated, etc. And here is what I have learned so far:
Staying home with your kids is HARD. There are no breaks where you can reset and recharge. You don’t get a lunch break. If you try to escape into a dark bathroom to be alone for a minute, screaming and crying will surely follow (you? your kids? who knows.) This is how things can spiral so quickly. If I could just have ONE FREAKIN’ MINUTE to breathe and calm down, I’d be okay. But you don’t get that minute, so the anxiety and frustration builds and builds until you eventually explode. At least this is how it is for me. But I’m learning.
I am learning how important working out and eating healthy is for my mental health. When I take care of myself, I can take better care of my kids. I am calmer, I am more patient, and I have more energy to match theirs. I have realized how detrimental my “one” glass of wine every night was for my sleep and nervous system regulation the next day. I am learning that Max is a VERY strong-willed child, and I need to be able to regulate my own emotions in order to help him regulate his. I need every ounce of energy I can possibly muster up to be the best mom possible for my kids.
I am learning that my expectations have caused a lot of frustration. Why am I expecting it to only take ten minutes to get to the park? Why is it so important to me to get there so quickly? I know I am with a toddler, so why not stop with him and appreciate all of the joy he finds in the crack in the sidewalk, the bees in the flowers, the big truck on the street, etc. I have become so accustomed to rushing everywhere that I am having to re-train myself to slow down and enjoy the journey. It took us 25 minutes to get in the car today, but my son got to show me four worms he found and I got two hugs and a high five from him. We are late to our doctor appointment, but I can call and let them know; it’s not the end of the world. The kids took a late nap today, but they feel so much happier after. Bedtime is a little later tonight, but we got to talk all about our day at dinner, sneak in a little dessert, and watch a favorite show together. Slowing down and enjoying life through a child’s eyes is magical and I am so thankful my kids are teaching me this.
I am learning to stop comparing. “Comparison is the thief of joy”, and I have experienced this over and over again. I am finally becoming more aware of when I become frustrated or irritated as a result of comparison and have to remind myself to stop. The book says they’re supposed to sleep through the night at four months; so and so’s kid is always patient with their sibling; I saw a three year old listening so well using this parenting technique on Instagram; this family gets to eat dinner together every night..the list goes on and on. But what if I turn it around and focus on what is so amazing about OUR kids and OUR family. I GET to stay home with my kids all day and help them learn, discover, adventure, and grow. My kids need extra snuggles at night sometimes and I GET to give that to them. I HAVE this opportunity to spend all this time with Max so that I can learn what parenting techniques work for him. Max is sensitive and young and needs reassurance that he’s still important when I’m helping Harlee and I GET to help him with that. My husband gets home late because he is working his butt off at work so that we CAN live this life. When I switch my mindset to more positive thoughts, my whole attitude and demeanor changes. Comparing my life to everyone else’s “highlight” reel is simply unfair. Everyone has their struggles, you just may not see them.
I am learning that it is okay to need help. I have never been one to ask for help, or even feel like I need help, to be honest. But this year has changed that in the best way. I have spent so many nights desperately praying to God for more patience, for guidance on how to best parent my children, to help me be more present with my husband, and to help me be a better friend. I have had (many) days where I felt like I was failing at all of these things, and the only thing that brought me comfort was knowing that I can only do so much and it’s okay to leave the rest in God’s hands. And through these prayers have come opportunities. My parents suggested I join a Bible Study group once a week. It’s a one hour break from the kiddos and a chance to connect and have fellowship with other Christian moms. On my first day there, I cried. I NEVER cry, you guys. I had just been struggling for so long and I was at such a low point, I was so thankful to have found this group of moms who were all going through the same things I was. Then, my best friend invited me to join her MOPS group. Another chance to connect with other Christian moms and another opportunity to learn about myself as a mother and as a child of God. Through these opportunities, I have learned how important it is to have a village. Without my friends and family, I would be broken. Surrounding myself with people who I can vent to, who encourage me, who have walked in my shoes, who motivate me, and who listen without judgment has been so good for my soul.
I am learning how to be a better wife to my husband. As many of you probably know, parenting takes almost every ounce of patience and energy and most of the time, I have nothing left to give at the end of the day. I have been known to shut down in silence when I am feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, or overstimulated. My communication skills are lacking, to say the least. It’s still a work in progress, but I’m working on myself and making sure I have energy to spare for my husband when he gets home at night. I am learning how to effectively communicate my feelings BEFORE the explosion happens. Like I said, work in progress. But, I think we are both doing better at having those important, difficult conversations while also being respectful and considerate. Some of our worst fights resulted from feeling under-appreciated, overworked, and resentful of each other. It is so easy to focus on everything you are doing and forget how hard your other half is working, and it’s true that both of you will probably feel like you are doing “more.” But it’s so important to respect each other’s roles without feeling resentful. Mitch goes to work all day to provide for our family. I stay home with the kids all day to provide for our family. We are equally important and we are both working as hard as we can to give our kids the best life possible. We are settling into our roles nicely, and as we settle, our love for each other gets a little more solid each day.
Long story short, SAHM life is the most challenging job I’ve ever had, but also the most rewarding and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I am learning. I don’t think I will ever stop learning, and that’s okay with me.
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