300 and counting. About five times a day. That’s approximately how many times I have already questioned my sanity in deciding to stay home this next school year with my kids. I hate these doubts, but taking a risk naturally brings some doubt to mind. Am I doing the right thing? What if this is a mistake?
Any time you try to make significant change in your life, risk is involved. We try a new diet plan in hopes of finally shedding those pounds and living a healthier life, but we risk losing too much, or alienating friends due to jealousy. We pursue a nascent relationship in hopes of finding loving companionship, but we risk getting hurt. We move to a different city in hopes of better opportunities or closer proximity to family, but we risk taking the same problems along with us and being no happier than before. In all of our big changes, what we really risk is failure and disappointment. We doubt our ability to change.
The disappointment, for me, isn’t that I’m unhappy with my choices or my kids. It’s that I’m maybe not as good a mom as I want to be, and staying home long-term simply highlights the everyday failures in my mind. I lack confidence in my abilities as a mom sometimes, and this summer has brought a barrage of self-doubt.
The school year ended two months ago, and my husband has been home with me the majority of that time.
Can I be transparent for a second?
Summer has been action-packed and fun and nearly nonstop, and I’m exhausted–even with Mr. COD here with me.
I’ve spent long segments of time with the kids before, but they were (obviously) younger then, and things were so much easier! I mean, if I’d stayed home when our first son was a baby, wow! What a beautifully relaxing year that would have been! Not everything was easy with his babyhood, but he was fairly predictable in habits of eating and sleeping, and since there was only one of him, life was much simpler. For example, I began doing the P90X workout program when he was eight weeks old (and actually completed the entire thing). The kid just ate and slept, ate and slept. I could get so much done in between feeding times, I could watch as much Lost on Netflix as I wanted, and it was terrific.
With child #2, life got much more complex, exhausting, and busy. He has been higher-maintenance in some ways and besides, he’s not an only child! Our energy and attention have been divided since he came along. There certainly has been no extreme exercise done around here since his arrival (unless I count the hours of lugging two children around. Some days, it seems that’s all I do. My biceps are super-toned these days.)
Anyway, back to the present. I love our boys to pieces. They are adorable, funny, smart, and suck every bit of time and energy I have. Daily. There is very little respite from the duties of a parent. It’s mostly a joy, but at times, you just need to take a breath. Y’all who are parents know this.
frustrating fun changes that have occurred since I “stopped working”.
Change #1: Older kid has decided to forego daily naps. He used to sleep for 2-3 hours every afternoon. He would go to sleep with little fuss and wake up refreshed and delightful. Now, he refuses to go to bed at naptime and finds clever ways to get out of it. Then, by 4 PM, his sweet disposition fades as he morphs into a crazy, irrational beast. The only way we can cajole him into taking a nap now is if Dad lies down with him, which won’t be feasible once he’s back at work.
Change #2: Older kid now sleeps in a toddler bed rather than a crib. This makes all the naptime shenanigans that much easier to accomplish (since he can get right out of bed anytime he darn well pleases).
Change #3: Younger kid has become extra, super-duper clingy with me. Total mama’s boy. Like, ridiculously so. Can’t even go brush my teeth, change out of my pajamas, or rinse out a coffee mug without him grasping my legs and screaming as if I’m a lifeboat in the middle of a deluge.
Change #4: Older kid has also decided to become jealous and clingy with me because baby bro is getting too much attention.
All of these adjustments, plus the chaos of summer visits to everyone we know, have brought on loads of self-doubt. I’ve been so much more frustrated than I ever imagined. I’ve yelled (yes, yelled) at my kids so much more than I ever would like to admit. I’ve had more trouble getting anything done than I ever thought possible. Even with Mr. COD’s active presence, it’s been a really hard summer in many ways. I face his impending return to work in a few weeks with apprehension, for sure. There have been many “What have I gotten myself into?” moments. I know I can do this, and I’m excited about the opportunity, but it’s not going to be easy by any stretch of the imagination.
Lesson to take away: Don’t wait for some magical event or change in circumstances to make you happy. Retirement can be a great goal. But you need to be able to be happy now while working too. Find aspects of your job that bring you joy.
If you’re anticipating another life milestone… graduation, marriage, a new career, moving to a different house/town/state/country, those can all be awesome changes. Work toward those goals and make them happen! Be excited! But enjoy the journey, rather than focusing so much on “then” that you miss out on the “now”.
With kid-raising, too, it’s okay to look forward to new milestones your kids will reach. But don’t rush to those days. You’ll miss something about today, one day down the line. Yes, I know the “someday you’ll miss this” line is so cliche and annoying for most parents of littles to hear, but I want to keep it in mind for myself anyway in these coming months. I won’t love every second of being a SAHM, but I can focus on being present and loving the sweet moments in the midst of the stormy ones.
I loved the idea of being a SAHM or a WAHM. I still do. However, I occasionally find myself daydreaming of my 85-minute plan period, when my classroom was blissfully quiet and I could work on whatever I needed to, uninterrupted. Some self-doubt kicks in as I wonder if I’ll experience 20 minutes uninterrupted over the course of the coming year!
It’ll all be worth it. I do believe that, and am still incredibly grateful. I know I dreamed of this and I’ll never regret this decision, I know I’m “lucky” (although I don’t like that word or concept in general). And come August 10th, the day I normally would have been back to faculty meetings and classroom prep and lamenting the end of summer, perhaps I’ll linger over my coffee just a bit, savoring the privilege of staying home. (Or I’ll take a few hurried gulps before the craziness of momming takes over.) Bring it on!