Awhile ago, on a Tuesday afternoon, I texted my husband thanking him for being at work because “I AM LIVING MY DREAM!”
I pushed the stroller inside the mall, making a return at Kohl’s and thought, “This is living!”
But then that same day, later in the evening, I cried tears into the dishwasher after receiving a text from an old colleague about my time in the classroom. I missed the dynamic version of myself only teaching brings out. Dishes and bottles and diapers were my life now. And my daughter doesn’t understand that a Duty Free Lunch is part of my contract.
And if that range of emotions – from being the euphoric patron at Kohl’s to the sobbing dishwasher at home – doesn’t describe how my transition to staying home full time has gone, nothing will.
Like many things in life, it has been beautiful and it has been hard.
Both gratitude and complaint seem to take up space in my heart, both happiness and frustration, freedom and guilt – both contentment and boredom seem to fight for my attention.
Beautiful in the fact that I spend my Monday mid mornings with her on my lap, offering her two book choices before her nap. I get to watch her discover the shadow of her hand on the wall, looking back and forth between her waving hand and the dark image in front of her moving at the same time. She’s like, “Are you seeing this, Mom?!” The excitement and purity on her face is amazing. Beautiful.
Beautiful when we have the freedom to run errands and pop by a friends’ or get out of the house for an afternoon coffee.
Beautiful in knowing that I am with her, loving her, teaching her, cuddling her for basically every minute of her day.
Beautiful in the bond we are developing.
Beautiful dancing under our ceiling fan that enamors her each time she sees it. We spin and sing and dance under it and it feels like joy.
Beautiful to have the flexibility for appointments and travel.
There are so many beautiful things.
But wow, I have learned many, many lessons along the way.
Being a Stay at Home mom has brought with it the obvious challenges – the monotony, the isolation, the loneliness. The always having eyes or hands or feet on me. The not having a real reason to put on real clothes. Missing people. Missing myself.
As challenging as it has been for me, I am also very aware what a privilege and blessing it is that we are able to do this in our family. So again, there is usually this tension among my feelings.
My hard and negative moments at home with Mila are also paired with a deep guilt.
When the frustration comes, when I have HAD it, I think, “How dare I feel this way?” I think of my blessings and our health and this gift of being with my daughter. I think of the fact that I longed and prayed for this life – it was all I ever wanted, and how so many I know don’t have this blessing.
And while this perspective is centering – reminding myself of my blessings – it is complex to feel such lows and then to also feel shame and guilt for them.
All of that to say, I am learning every single day. This past week was really one of my hardest weeks at home. Emotional regulation was tough for me as my daughter was clingy and fussy and not napping well.
I found myself struggling to regulate when things got hard, and often end up firing desperate texts to my husband saying, “I can’t do this. It’s too hard.” When things don’t go according to schedule, I found myself going from 0-100, exasperated and without patience.
These lows come and knock me right down, head in my hands at the kitchen table when she is still not napping. Yet, just a few hours later when she’s smothering me with kisses or making the cutest face when she tries a new food, I wonder how I got so lucky.
One moment I am full of exasperation, exhaustion, desperation to just sit and enjoy a cup of coffee and then she wakes early from a nap. The next, joy fills me to the brim when she sees a school bus out the window and it’s the highlight of her day. How could I be missing this?
I am missing parts of my life and pieces of myself while I also love being Mila’s person. I am her world. Her life revolves around mine, and mine around hers.
When I stand up to go grab something, she prepares her little body to be picked up by lifting up her stubby arms and looking delighted. To her, it isn’t a question of “Am I coming with you?” but rather, “Oh great, on to another spot! Where are we going, Mom?”
When I drink water, she drinks water. I take a bite, then she takes a bite. I look out the window, she looks out the window.
We are a unit and our lives are intertwined in a way I have never experienced before. It is both exhausting and marvelous.
This tension, I am learning, is something I will likely always have as I learn about myself as a Mom, but I am figuring out how to live there better. Like my therapist once said, instead of a roller coaster, maybe we could try out a ferris wheel. There are still ups and downs, but not as high and low and not as fast.
Staying home full time is teaching me a thousand lessons. Too many to document all in this post, but above all, it is teaching me to rely on the Lord in a new way. Motherhood is teaching me selflessness and sacrificial love in a way I wasn’t totally prepared for. Being Mila’s person, and any other babies’ we are hopefully blessed with, is an honor. I have not done it perfectly, not even close, but I am learning each day how to do it better.
…And learning that going to the bathroom alone is totally overrated.