I started staying home with my kids when my oldest step-child was in 5th grade, my middle child was 1.5 years old and my youngest wasn’t even born yet. I had an idealized image of what that would look like… I thought it’d be a LOT of arts and crafts, puzzles, laughing, giggling, etc. And for awhile… it was! Then the baby was born.
I had a 21 month old and a baby at home and I was miserable. My daughter was THAT toddler… she hit me, she screamed at me, she threw fits at Target (I’ve written several blog posts about our Target misadventures)… and the baby cried. A LOT. Way more than I was prepared for…. The toddler cried about lack of attention and the baby just didn’t stop crying. The 3 month colic phase felt like years…. I felt like I was drowning. I never got out of my pajamas and I never did anything for myself. I was weighed down by so much mom guilt that I stopped enjoying the little things… I was anxious about my kids’ development, eating habits, temper tantrums, sleeping, EVERYTHING.
I’ll never forget the day that my husband looked at me and said, “Would you want to go back to work?” It was tough to consider: I felt like a failure. I am a MOM… I should be able to do this. My mother stayed home with me, I see other moms staying home with their toddlers & babies and they look so happy (and fit! Holy crap are they fit!). When my husband shined the light on my depression, I realized I wasn’t the best mom I could be by staying home. Staying home with toddlers and babies is the actual hardest job in the entire world. If I were writing a resume, skills include: patience, cooking, cleaning, cleaning again, negotiating, staying calm, not crying despite wanting to OVER AND OVER, vulnerability, and about 100 other attributes. I wasn’t vulnerable enough to admit that I needed help… and I quit. And I’m so happy I did.
Fast forward 2 years: I was so happy at work, I was a better mom than I had ever been, and we were a HAPPY FAMILY. We had arguments, a messy house, and my oldest became a teenager which was a huge wakeup call… but we were HAPPY. Then my mom became sick… like really sick. I realized that the mom guilt I felt when I was with my mom instead of my kids, or when I had to go to work because I had bailed on my team 5 times that month already to sit with my mom was overwhelming. I was torn between spending time with my mother who was dying, my family, and the incredible team I worked with. I chose to resign from my full time position so I could balance spending time with my mom and my family… and it was the best decision I’ve ever made because I was at her bedside when she passed… and I was with my family from then on to tell them about their grandmother and hold them when they cried.
So… what’s life like now with a teenager, a 5 year old and a 3 year old? Ladies… it’s a complete 180 from the picture I painted of life with a toddler and baby. Life is absolutely not perfect… I cry once a week because one of my kids will have a meltdown at Target or they don’t stop fighting EVER. I want to scream sometimes because I feel like no one in my house listens to me unless I turn into the Hulk… and then they tell me to calm down (which, as you know, is SUPER helpful to tell someone). But all that is so small compared to the constant joy. My kids can dress themselves (with a little help), they can make their beds (even if they argue with me about whether or not they need to), they can go to places like the Children’s Museum and, if I make sure to bribe them with a kids’ meal on the way home, they actually listen to me! They play with each other for HOURS… with minimal fighting! They can sit and watch a movie when I need a break… I now get breaks by the way! I can shower and have 10 minutes alone, knowing that they are entertained by whatever I put on TV.
Most of all… we’re happy. The whole frickin’ family. So hang in there, mama of babies and toddlers… it gets easier. And try not to punch the person that says, “Enjoy this time, it goes so fast!” when your toddler starts throwing eggs on the floor at the grocery store. Like, you’re hilarious, Karen, but stop talking to me right now before I punch you.
Here’s an actual photo of me getting space from the kids on a Sunday morning… #momlife