Today, an online friend sent me a private message. In summary, it said something like:
With two little ones, how are you a stat-at-home-mom and seem happy all the time? Because, I'm not. I feel like I'm failing, even if my child is happy.
I sent her a very lengthy, thousand-thoughts-a-minute response. Unsure if it was really coherent, I asked another SAHM friend (or two or three) if it sounded okay.
After a little revision, I decided I would share my downright truthful response. You just never know who might be feeling the same and want to read something like it. So, with a sleeping 6.5 month old in my arms, here goes (thank you, iPhone for making this possible):
Oh golly, I am not happy all the time! (I actually told her post-babbling that I felt my self-esteem boost when she said that I do, because lately, especially the last week or so, I feel like I complain too much.)
I'll be totally honest: I love bring a stat-at-home-mom it. Like crazy.
Compared to the alternative of having someone else see my kids more than I do, raising and teaching them, seeing their milestones before me, etc. But goodness knows there are days I want to lock myself in my room and cry. I confessed a few weeks ago something I thought was so terrible my husband would be ashamed to know me, I told him "I yelled at our baby to stop crying because I didn't know what to do for him!" I felt so wretched after I did it that I cried in the bathroom for a bit before calming him down.
Spencer (28 months old) is mischievous. He's fast, smart, talk, stubborn, and strong. He doesn't like to clean up toys yet, so my house always seems to look like an explosion happened, unless he's feeling helpful, or I clean up at night. He knows how to take advantage of nursing times to do the most of his mischief, and my brain doesn't w always function 100% so that I am proactive. I've tried redirection, time outs, stern voice, stern look, and slapping his wrists. He doesn't bend from his will easily. I found if I flick his forehead, it's most effective. Some days though, it's enough to make me wish he could spend all day in his high chair.
Collin (6.5 months old) last week, refused to nap unless he was attached to my boob. He wasn't even eating! he just wanted to be attached to my chest. It was wretched. It was one of those weeks where those breakfast shake powder drinks were my nutritional sanity, because most days it seemed like I didn't get "real food" until two or three in the afternoon and supper until Jake was home. The boys were on opposite nap schedules half the week and generally, taking turns being unhappy or needy all day long.
I very rarely have any quiet mommy tome unless they nap at the same time. And, they stay up late, because Jake works from seven or eight to at least eight to eleven six days a week.
But yeah, somehow, I stay pretty positive. There are so many beautiful and happy moments that keep me smiling. I photograph them with my phone as much as possible and in down time I find myself looking at them and sharing then with others.
I try to play with the boys frequently. It can be really hard. I am an adult of course, and even as a child I wasn't crazy playful, I don't believe, so playing toys and make believe and horsing around doesn't always come easily.
Spencer loves to read books and draw and make music, so we do a lot of that. He likes to sing, so if I'm dealing with Collin, I am usually singing with him or repeating something they think is funny fifty seven million times.
I tickle torture them and we sing and dance a lot. I hate dancing but they think its funny. Last night, Jake came home to me running from one side of the room toward Collin with a fake evil laugh to get him to squeal and laugh, back to the other side for Spencer to give me a hug, tell me he loves me, and then have him tell me to get Collin again. Twenty minutes. It was, oddly, a great workout. Haha.
But the boys both do a lot of independent play too. Collin plays on the floor and watches Spencer. Spencer spends half the day driving vehicles in different locations in the house.
We play in the basement as a group once or twice a day. It's the toy den where most toys are located. Spencer plays alone down there, too, but he loves it even more if Collin and I are down there, too.
And, to be completely honest, my "bad mom" side throws on some movie a few times a day (we don't have tv channels). I say that with quotation marks, because I don't believe any more that it makes me a terrible mother.
Partially, TV is just for background noise that I know isn't going to teach spencer naughty words or phrases. They don't sit and watch it all day, but it's usually on. It catches their attention a few minutes here and there and drowns out other noises like car door slamming, traffic, the washer and dryer. That way, it's noise other than crying if someone is unhappy.
I felt guilty about it for a while, but then SJ started interacting with it if I was busy (answering questions the characters pose) , he repeats phrases and sings along with the songs. I use Elmo, blues Clues, to help learn because they really do teach (that's how he learned some of his colors), and he also likes Dinosaur Train, Thomas the Train (I HATE Thomas. I often use him to have a few quiet moments in the bathroom or kitchen and to not be in the room), Cars 1&2, Toy Story 1&3, Monsters Inc, the Lion King, and the Veggie Takes Solly Song Countdown. I know tv isn't great for you, but it's better than some things. And, I feel Ike the things I let play help, as I said, with learning: colors, shapes, numbers, letters, words, and memory exercises. And lets be honest, it's winter and in South Dakota, it's freezing. This morning, the sun shine crazy bright and the temperature was -13 degrees. Can't really play in that cold. And if the option is available, I always have subtitles on. Spencer LOVES pointing out letters
Being a SAHM was really hard once SJ started moving and knowing what he wanted but couldn't communicate and get it. So frustrating.
I started introducing new games or activities then. Playdough. Floam. Bubbles in the bathtub. I would blow them while he was taking a bath because if he was wet he could catch them. Glow sticks and light up toys in the dark. Sidewalk chalk paint. Balloons. Giant bubbles outside in the summer, I liked to save new stuff for days I just did NOT feel like playing. Around this time, I was pregnant with Collin, and over the summer (which was SO WRETCHED HOT (100 or more degrees a lot of the time)) I was in my third trimester. My dad gave SJ an inflatable pool for the yard. But, the summer was hard, and I was so miserable I didn't feel like doing much, and felt like the worst mom ever quite often, because of it.
Anyway, now that SJ is talking and more self sufficient, it's a bit less frustrating, but he also has his tantrums and he is LOUD. I try to just sing and play with Collin and ignore him mostly. It doesn't always work. Sometimes, I cry too.
But it's totally okay to not interact with my children constantly. Really. I'm with them 98% or so of their awake time and have been since they were born. So, even spending half if every hour with then directly interacting seems like a lot.
I had guilt about not giving my undivided attention constantly fir quite a while. However, kids need to be okay entertaining themselves. It encourages independence and creativity. It happens at daycare. Why can't it happen at home?
Being a SAHM means house chores. Feeding kids. Cleaning kids. Cleaning up after kids. And more. Trying to remember that MOM IS IMPORTANT too and it's okay to go to the bathroom before you engage in a playtime activity, etc. and it's all day every day, usually. I know that moms who work outside the home have these issues too. In no way am I downsizing whatever plight is there. I just know, from experience working outside the home, your messes are usually a bit fewer, less dishes, etc. to do because you're not in the house constantly. And, some of us even take on a way to work at home producing income. That takes time away for your kids, too, but that's still okay.
Sometimes the boys are so crabby playing by themselves and I want to lose it . Sometimes, I lay on the floor near them and play a few games on my phone,check Facebook, whatever, and they're fine because I'm near.
I used to feel bad about having my phone on me most of the day, but you know what? I don't anymore. It's not that I'm engaged in activities that are taking up air of time when I have it on me. I save that for naps. But, I am sending texts, taking pictures if the boys, sharing them, updating my Facebook occasionally, interacting on Facebook . Stuff like that. I think it's okay, because I am otherwise shut in this house 14 or so hours a day with a toddler and an infant with no adults to have conversation with. So you bet your bottom I am sending and receiving texts that take, on average, a few seconds to read and reply to. If it weren't for my phone, I would be shut off from the outside world, largely.
I think it's all about letting go of "mommy guilt." I was always worried I was doing this wrong or that wrong. Not enough attention. Too much. Too much tv. Too many snacks. Letting Spencer carry a dippy cup around instead of constantly taking him in and out if a high chair. Not enough reading books. Not enough messy time. Breast feeding. Formula feeding. My house is too messy. The beds aren't made.
There are so many things that make a mom feel guilty and that she's not doing a good job. Or that she's failing. I think at some point, nearly every mom feels a failure. It can last mere minutes, or a really long time. But chances are, if you care enough about being a failure, you're probably not actually failing. You are likely doing a much better job than you think. Look at your child and see how much they love you! When I feel bad about my mothering, I like to look at Spencer especially. He's the older one, so it's easier to see the fruits of my labors. He is so sweet. Full of hugs and kisses. He is so smart. He is funny. He is WONDERFUL. He loves me and shows it through hugs, kisses, words, and face it, his desire to be near me or "bugging" me or "helping" me ALL THE TIME.
So... I'm babbling and I don't know if any if this helped or not. But yeah, overall, I'm crazy happy being a sahm with two crazy kids.
I complain to my husband, usually more than once a day I think and I was worried he thought I didn't want to do it anymore, so, I clarified to him that everyone dislikes something about what they do, I think. Coworkers. Activities, what have you.
Sometimes, I dislike what my kids are doing (screaming, pooping like crazy, not letting me eat, whatever), and because they are my kids I felt bad saying it, but those who work outside the home get to complain to someone, usually and they aren't wretched or evil employees.
It's kind of the same as complaining about something at home. I shouldn't feel bad about it because in general I love it. He understood and now I don't feel bad. He knows that if I don't get to vent from time time I'm going to go crazy, because a two year old and six month old dont really provide an outlet for conversation like that.
I'm here whenever if any mom need to blow up or anything. I don't mind. We're in this "business" together.
Oh- and also. With Jake working so much and having our only vehicle, by Sunday I feel like I might lose my mind most weeks. I'm lucky that, against my will sometimes, he kicks me out for a few hours. I usually do nothing more than run errands alone, but it's nice to not have to be at home with the kids and be in my own little world without the interruption of diapers or "more juice!"
And it makes me feel good coming home and having them all happy to have me back.
And one Sunday a month I have the day off from housework because I felt like Jake got time off from what he does, but because I live my job that I really didn't, and that helps recharge, too. Not everyone may feel that way or need that, and props if you're one who doesn't. In the interest of self-preservation, I had to be completely honest with myself and my husband, and admit that I do. I was scared to ask, but as usual, it was my mommy guilt telling me I shouldn't feel that way, and he did not object at all. I think that if daddy really understands what SAHMommy goes through, he is a lot more willing to help than mommy thinks, in general. Heck, sometimes, on my "day off," help out anyway just because I don't feel like a maid on those says. Haha. And while I was so worried about toy messes and junk, I finally had it pounded into my head enough by a few non-judge mental people that love me dearly- it's messy because I have kids and because I spend time with them instead of just cleaning up after them. (Well, at least that explains the toys, not our problem of adult clutter.. Haha.)
AND one day EVERY WEEK for a few hours, I have another friend who brings her three year old son over in the morning. The kids play and we have coffee and talk. It's the highlight if our week. Every week. We've missed once since August, it's that important to us. If you don't have someone who can have a standing play date, maybe Skype or something?
Jake ALWAYS does baths now. It's his one on one time with the boys and my break in the week. I usually do dishes without SJ begging at my legs, or watch a tv on DVD episode and actually get to watch it. I rarely go near them during bath time. Haha.
Lastly, I found things that I can do for ME, a few minutes here and there, to get a break. I sew a few minutes worth of projects or paint my nails. I have an ongoing notebook/journal letter for a friend I pen my thoughts in. I take a photo. They don't take a lot of time, but they se to give enough of a break that I can keep rolling with the tantrums and changing the diapers and cleaning up the toys and LOVING my job.