Natalie Rose York
From the time I gave
birth to my first child, I dreamed of being a
stay-at-home mom. It wasn't until after the birth of my second
an unexpected loss of my job that the dream became a reality.
I had been
dreaming of the day for four years, so I was thrilled beyond
my dream came true. And I stayed thrilled for a few months. Then
I sat down and cried out, ³This job sucks.² I think
happened after cleaning up the third Kool-Aid spill of the day,
vacuuming up crumbs for the second time and folding my fifth
laundry. Not to mention breaking up fights, stepping on toys
to potty train an incorrigible two-year-old on four hours sleep.
kicked myself for these feelings. I thought I must be a horrible
because I didn't enjoy being with my children 24 hours a day.
I never truly realized
until that day what a thankless job being a
stay-at-home parent is. I guess I thought I would be June Cleaver
cookies for Wally and Beav instead of Debra Barone from Everybody
Raymond. In fact, I expected there to be a series of ³Hallmark² moments.
Picture the scene -- gingham curtains blowing in the breeze,
the smell of
a book or doing a puzzle. Of course, I would be dressed to the
my snazzy jogging outfit and my hair would be perfectly coifed.
laugh. My expectations were largely out of sync with my reality.
I expected my house to be spotless.
I expected my children to be a joy to be around.
I expected to have plenty of time to bathe, exercise, read and
I expected to always be well-rested.
The reality was, I found
the quote by Phyllis Diller to be oh so true -- "Cleaning
your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling
the walk before it stops snowing." The housework was
never done and
constantly being undone.
The reality was my children got on my nerves.
The reality was that if I wasn't doing dishes, folding laundry
fishing a roll of toilet paper out of the toilet, I was too exhausted
do anything else.
The reality was that my children never seemed to sleep, therefore
couldn't afford to sleep either.
Where did these unrealistic expectations come
from? Was I the only one
who had been deceived? I talked to some other stay-at-home parents
found out I wasn't. Here are some of their responses:
- "I always thought
that if I was a stay-at-home mum, I would have time to
be an 'almost perfect' mother. Instead, I find I just feel guilty
not having everything the way I want."
- "I thought I'd
have beautiful, lilting days with my daughter, full of
enriching, educational play and singing."
- "I really, really
missed adult interaction, and having someone to talk
to who could actually talk back in sentences that included verbs."
- "Daily, in the
trenches, it's a rat race."
- "My youngest is
now almost two. He is always pulling things down. I
can't leave him for a minute. So much for having a whole day
housework! I'm lucky if I can squeeze in time for the bare necessities.
get lonely, I get bored, I get frustrated. I can't even leave
with someone else for two hours because he cries the whole time."
- "Being a stay-at-home
mom is harder than working."
- "In the beginning,
it really wasn't that bad. The job doesn't get
harder until the kiddies start getting older. Then you can forget
keeping a spotless house, I don't care who you are! (Unless,
you can afford maid service five days a week!)"
Erma Bombeck likens motherhood (parenthood)
to stringing beads on a
string. We go about our days, stringing one wooden knob after
assuming we are accomplishing so much. At the end of the day
down and discover there is no knot and we have to start all over!
So how do we reconcile our great expectations
with harsh reality? Here are some things that helped me immensely:
1. Lower Your Expectations
The perfectionist in me
hated this step. If I do something, I want to do
it right. But I bit my tongue and relaxed my standards. I set
goals for myself daily. And I reconciled myself to ³failure.² I
sure I tried to see the cup as half full rather than half empty.
list became my friend rather than an enemy.
2. Get Organized
Then I came up with a plan. I am not domestically
inclined. I dream of
having a maid to do the housework for me not because I can't
do it, but
because I don't want or know how to do it. So having a plan helped
greatly. I set a realistic number of chores to do a day. I have
call my daily dozen -- 12 things that I have to do every day
things running relatively smooth. They aren't always big things,
3. Go With the Flow
I had to become willing to bend a little, become
flexible. I started
viewing my children as children rather than little adults. I
realize that kids make messes. If a day got out of hand, I also
willing to let that to-do list go. There is always tomorrow.
laundry isn't going anywhere. Trust me. It isn't going to clean
It will be waiting for me -- every day.
4. Get Support
Talking to other stay-at-home parents will help
you realize that you are
not alone. I live in a semi-rural community, so play dates are
come by. My husband works long hours so I can stay at home. I
feeling like I couldn't carry on a conversation with another
without using the words potty or di-di. That is where the Internet
in for me. I found endless forums, bulletin boards and groups
who felt just like me. The sky's the limit here. I was even able
a group of artistic stay-at-home parents who love to read and
much as I do. Their support has been invaluable to me. Sometimes
are the only adults I converse with in a day or even a week.
online and start searching.
If you don't have access to the Internet, check
out your local library,
church or YMCA for programs of interest where you can get some
interaction. There are even ones with childcare. I'd almost be
go to something that didn't interest me if it had childcare.
there I could pin a live adult down for some conversation and
to say potty more than once.
5. Seize the Day
I also had to realize
that this is just a stage, a phase. My kids won't
be young forever and ³Hallmark² moments are ripe for
the picking. My
children are still young, only three and five. So much of their
are an unwritten book. I need to grab those golden moments when
I can. I
gave myself permission to put down the dishcloth and read Love
Forever for the tenth time today. I rediscovered the art of coloring.
go on nature walks and collect pine cones, leaving the laundry
rediscovered my childhood. It is really true. Life is fleeting.
while you can.
6. Take Care of Yourself
Last but not least, put yourself on the top
of that to-do list or at
least not at the bottom. Do something for you every day. Some
days I wake
up early and read for half an hour. Or I drink a cup of tea and
nothing more than contemplate the color of the liquid. Or I watch
early news. Or I pray. Whatever works for you. That time is also
for a shower that never seems to happen once the family is up
active. If your children are young enough, there are nap times.
fold the laundry while they are napping; pop in an exercise tape,
book, sleep -- whatever makes you feel good. If that doesn't
for after the family is in bed. Run that hot bubble bath, light
candles and put in your favorite music. It is important to take
yourself. You are what keeps the family running. If you aren't
at full capacity, everyone else will suffer.
I'll admit that there
are still days when I wonder if I am cut out for
this job. There are days when survival is my only goal. There
when hearing ³Mommy² repeated over and over makes my
skin crawl. There
are days when I dream of taking a shower. But now I try to embrace
days. I tell myself that tomorrow is a new day. Today it is okay
never make it out of my pajamas. Today it is okay if I get nothing
Today it is okay if all I do is lie on the couch and watch Sesame
with my kids. Because today I am home with my kids and that in
Natalie is a stay-at-home mom to two, a freelance writer and
reader. She has been published at www.justformom.com,
She is the Stay-at-Home Articles Editor here at Busy Parents