October 31, 2013

becoming a stay-at-home mom...

It look me a long time to find a rhythm within my days. I'm not sure exactly when I turned a corner, but I'd have to say it's probably only been within the past six months.

What's odd about the whole thing is that I always knew I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. I knew how important it was to me, and it was always my plan. Even when I was only nineteen, I remember someone making the comment, "Oh, you're such a stay-at-home mom." And I didn't mind it. My mom had always stayed home with my sisters and I, and it had a huge influence on my own desire. From my earliest memories, I had so many dreams of what it would be like when I had my own home filled with kids. In my mind, it was going to be so calm, fulfilling, appreciated, and—perhaps most notably—quite easy.

Being a mom has always been my greatest desire. It's what I hoped for, expected, wanted. It's what I'm meant for. But that doesn't mean that it came easily to me—especially the whole transition from working full-time to staying at home full-time. And I think that surprised me a lot. It threw off my balance for at least the first year of my daughter's life, and I wish I had known more about reality of this lifelong dream of mine.

Just because you're meant for something, just because you choose something, just because you know it's where you belong…that doesn't mean it will be easy or come quite naturally.

For the past two years, I've struggled a lot when it comes to unrealistic expectations. I remember when my daughter was only a few months old, I was already telling myself, "Okay, you don't have a newborn any more. There's no excuse. You need to pull yourself together and get everything done."

These terrible "pep talks" were almost constant. And so it went, over and over.

"Your daughter is almost one! There's no excuse. Why aren't you getting more done each day? You haven't even left the house today. The entire day is gone and what did you even do?"

"Some people have two kids by now—why are you so stressed? You must be doing something wrong. You're behind on so many things, you know. And why did you buy yourself that shirt today? You didn't make that money, you know."

It's embarrassing to realize how disparaging I am towards myself. I'm always so forgiving when it comes to other people, but myself? I expect too much. I can't seem to do enough. I have trouble letting myself have time away, or splurge on something as small as a fancy cup of coffee, or spend an hour lost within the pages of a book. Idle time induces guilt. Spending money when I make only a small portion of our income stresses me out.

And yet I would never dream of saying these things about anyone else. I wouldn't even think these things about other women going through these ages and stages of motherhood. So, why am I so hard on myself? I can spill words of encouragement to others for days, but none of them are reserved for my own heart.

I'm grateful to have felt a genuine shift during this past year. It's slow, but steady. I think that it's mostly because our routine has become familiar, comforting, easy. My daughter is getting older and requires less from me in some ways, and I'm much (much, much) more confident when it comes to toddler parenting, as opposed to newborn parenting. I'm more forgiving of myself these days, but not as much as I'd like to be. I just wish this peace had come earlier, without my having to prove myself…to myself.

I think that it's difficult for many women who have worked full-time jobs for a decade, and then choose to stay at home with their child or children. So much of your identity (and sometimes worth) becomes wrapped up in what you do for a living. And even though I hadn't found a career that I could put my heart and soul into before having my daughter, I still battled a lot with the idea that I was only providing something worthy to our family if it was an actual paycheck. I know in my heart that it's completely ridiculous and untrue to think that—and I know that I do a million little things throughout my days to hold our family together and to run the household. But I still ended up throwing myself into this daily battle in order to prove that my staying home was "worth it". That I was pulling my weight. That the sacrifices we were making in order for me to do this weren't in vain.

I should note that my husband never intentionally made me feel any of these things, either. If anything, he has always been the one encouraging me to give myself more grace, to take an hour (or day) away if I need it. But it's just not that easy for me. We'd always known the ideal for us would be for me to stay home once we had children, but I don't think either of us ever thought about the reality of living in an expensive part of the country on one income. So even though I've been able to live my own, personal dream, there has been so much unexpected pressure.

"Your daughter is two years old. How have you not accomplished more? Why aren't you picking up more projects that earn income? Think of all those other women who are somehow managing to do it all. You should be more like them."

It's getting easier to roll my eyes at these words, but they still creep in every now and again. I am enough, and I'm doing enough, and my husband loves me whether or not I have dinner on the table the minute he walks in the door. My daughter loves me whether or not we leave the house for some grand adventure every day. I should be proud of what I do, even if sometimes it feels like it's not enough (especially by today's standards).

I never expected to struggle so hard to feel comfortable doing what I've always felt called to do. It's a little ridiculous, really—and all a part of the story, I suppose. I just want to be sure I don't waste any more days second-guessing my worth.

— Further reading: Room Sharing with a Toddler

17 comments :

  1. Thanks for posting this. You took the words right out of my heart. These are all the same fears I have. I know myself and the guilt I put on myself over every little thing. We are expecting our first in February and I am terrified that I will spend my days beating myself up over every little thing I consider a failure. It's good to read experiences from other people and realize that it's just going to be a journey and I need to try not to worry about so much.

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  2. I'm not a stay-at-home mom, but I am a stay-at-home writer, and this entire post spoke to me like a whisper out of my own heart.

    "Just because you're meant for something, just because you choose something, just because you know it's where you belong…that doesn't mean it will be easy or come quite naturally."

    So true.

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  3. Great read here. Funny thing is I have always wanted to be a stay at home mom!! That's awesome that you are living your dream. When it comes down to it... I'm afriad to not have my own penchant or 401k. Or not be able to travel bcause of limited income. Or buy myself a new car. I really really admire you for doing what's best for your family! Keep telling yourself that your job is harder and more rewarding than many working moms.

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  4. Thank you for posting this! My daughter is 11 weeks old and I hate that I feel guilty for staying home with her. It's a struggle that I wasn't expecting, thanks for reminding me that its ok to not be perfect

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  5. I really know how this feels! I was at home full time for the first year of our daughter's life; now I'm at home half the time and at uni the other half, but once I graduate this summer it will be back to full-time mummying, this time with a toddler and a newborn. Remembering how lost I felt sometimes in that year scares me sometimes about the future, but I found a lot of it was in my attitude towards things and not actually what I did or what we did that made the difference between a day feeling worthwhile or like I'd failed. Letting yourself have some time out has definitely been key for me- once I was in a few hours of lectures a week and she was loving nursery and a change of scene we both got on with being at home a lot better. The older Phoebe is the easier it seems to be, in terms of her comprehension meaning less battles and frustration over unnecessary things. Anyway, long rambling comment- thanks for posting this though! It really helps when people are honest and don't give the impression that they have everything together all of the time, because I don't think anyone does, yet we all still feel this pressure.

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  6. Being a stay-at-home mom is the hardest job I've found! It may not have a salary attached to it, but it pays to see your children grow up the way you raised them.

    You're a fantastic mother and that's all that matters. Even the best of moms need to splurge every now and then and need to have some time to do what they want.

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  7. This is great. I am not a stay at home mom...I don't really ever plan to be, unless something dramatically changes in my desire once I have kids...but I still feel like I resonate with some aspects of this. I appreciate your honesty and I'm sure many others do as well.

    I hear a lot of fear-based motivation in your thoughts..."You've gotta finish your to-do list otherwise you're worthless!" I TOTALLY relate to this. I am glad you are trying to give yourself more grace and appreciate the time you have with Eisley. I bet you are doing such a great job and she is lucky to have such a thoughtful mama. Hang in there, girl!

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    1. once or if I have kids.*** We'll see what happens. ;)

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  8. I've been a stay-at-home mom for almost 4 years now, and I still struggle with this. I have a friend who started a resale shop while being a stay-at-home mom and I just can't figure out how she did it. I mean, I barely keep up with the laundry and get dinner on the table. But thanks for writing this. I know a lot of women feel this way, at least the ones I talk to, but thanks also for the reminder to give ourselves grace. You seem like you are doing an excellent job with your girl.

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  9. I don't know anything about being a stay at home mom, but I am frighteningly familiar with those debilitating pep talks. From my meager perspective, it seems like you are doing an excellent job.
    xx Abby | a geek tragedy

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  10. Thank you for sharing your feelings with us Keri. Even as a childless woman, I feel a lot of these same feelings but on a smaller scale... Never feeling like I am doing enough, not doing the right thing, confused with my career, not saving enough, unsure of how we are going to make kids work financially,etc. but ultimately I know I need to focus on the positive and on the things I can do to make my situation better.

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  11. Thank you so much for writing this. My daughter just turned three months old and I'm staying home to be with her. I'm struggling with exactly this - feeling like we're out of the newborn stage, and so I should be able to do so much more. I'm sure that no one is judging me, but I'm judging myself - hardcore. I know that I'm being too hard on myself, but reading your post made it completely obvious. I'm doing the best that I can for my family and that is enough!

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  12. Thanks for putting this into words. I too have struggled immensely with the transition from working full-time for someone else to owning my own business. I've been punishing myself for not being as productive as I should, not cooking a gourmet meal at home and not being able to get ahead of the game, instead of just keep my head above water.

    I love this: Just because you're meant for something, just because you choose something, just because you know it's where you belong…that doesn't mean it will be easy or come quite naturally.

    So encouraging to hear those words, even if it's about an entirely different thing! Loves to you. I'm sure you are kicking life's booty and don't even know it. :)

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  13. This is so honest, and I'm so thankful you shared this. I have KNOWN for years I'm made to be a wife and a mom, and as a new wife and step-mom, there are some things that come naturally and some things that are harder than I ever imagined they would be!

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  14. I love your perspective, Kerri. I don't have kids myself, but many friends with small kids... and I want to share something that might be encouraging to you: mothers who stay home with their kids have a lot of the same feelings that you have about not "doing/accomplishing enough", the ones that chose (or had) to go back to work, struggle with guilt leaving their child in someone else's care and not spending enough time with them. I think, it's important to remember this.
    Hugs. I think you're doing a terrific job! :)

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  15. I've been reading your blog for years, and my oldest son Milo is a few months younger than Eisley. Since he's been born, I've been both a working mom, and then a stay-at-home mom for almost a year when our second (surprise) baby was born. Being a first grade teacher and having kids at home is very hard, but I can confidently say that being home was harder, AND MY OLDER SON WAS STILL IN DAYCARE MOST OF THE TIME. I would beat myself up all the time about how unaccomplished I was. And of course I beat myself up these days, too.

    All that to say, I relate to your words and always wait anxiously for you to post, because your honesty is comforting to me, and I'm sure so many others who haven't even chimed in. I've gotten a lot of inspiration from the things you share about your life; thank you for sharing with us. You're doing a really good job.

    Ashlie

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  16. So glad you posted this! I'm all of four weeks into being a first-time Mom, and already asking myself why the dishes are piled up on the counter. But it's because of this tiny baby in my arms- and babies don't keep.

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