I can hear a chorus of grumbles out there as this statement is absorbed by your brain causing a confused look on your face while a “you can’t be serious?” shout comes out of your mouth. Maybe you spit out your coffee, I don’t blame you. I might have done that a while back if I had read this statement during a different period of my life. But hear me out ladies because I think that we are short-changing ourselves as wives and mothers in this crazy world.
Why is it that everyone assumes that if you are a stay-at-home mom, you must be going crazy? I’m sure many of you ladies out there certainly feel like you are going crazy sometimes (I do too!), but I think that there is this general stereotype that SAHMs are always sleep-deprived, caffeine-addicted, weirdos that drive their kids to activities all around town (perpetually late BTW) with messy buns and spit up on their clothing. They apparently only drink coffee and wine, wear yoga pants, and they haven’t showered in days. Their life is just one shit show after another, and wrangling loud toddlers and crying babies through the grocery store is their most difficult life mission. From my informal perusal of the Internet it seems like half of us are insanely busy and miserable and the other half are insanely busy and just “lovin’ the mom life.” The miserable among us complain that nothing ever gets done in their homes, their husbands don’t help, the children are driving us crazy, and that they would kill to get an hour of alone time. Those who are not miserable are bragging about all the enrichment activities their kids do, how the TV never gets turned on, books are read, sticker charts completed, and their children are well-behaved angels. There is some debate as to whether or not this gets accomplished with the help of prescription drugs, but I will leave that up you ladies to make your own conclusion about that.
I think that if either of those last preceding scenarios even describes you a little bit, you need to take a step back and examine the life you are leading and decide if what you are doing is making you a happy and fulfilled human being. Because if you are living on either one of these extreme ends of the spectrum, I think that your runaway train of a life is going to eventually run off the rails.
What if I told you that it is possible to be a happy, well-adjusted, and totally not crazy (at least not completely and unhappily crazy) stay-at-home mother? How do I know this? I know this because this is my life. I’m a SAHM, I have lots of free time, my house is mostly presentable most of the time, I get 8-10 hours of sleep a day, and I don’t drink coffee as a crack substitute. (Disclaimer: I do drink hot tea in the morning for my caffeine fix). I do drink wine, because I enjoy it occasionally, not because I’m so stressed out and need a release. I haul my twins across town to activities, to the store, and to do educational things. I also go to yoga classes and sit on the board of my local mothers of twins club. I swim laps at the Y, and occasionally go on dates with my husband. I will admit that I have done my fair share of Netflix binge-watching, but I’ve been trying to cut back on that habit. I do wear yoga pants pretty much every day, but I never said that I was a complete stereotype breaker!
Questions like “How do manage all those chores?” and “How can you just stay in your house all the time?” and “Don’t you ever wish for adult conversation,” are frequently shot in my direction by well-meaning people who can’t seem to believe that I’m a thriving, semi-well-adjusted human being that is actually not too stressed out. I manage my chores by keeping a schedule, I don’t stay in my house all the time, and I make it a priority to get adult conversation through my twin’s club board seat and yoga classes.
I do admit that it was not always like this for me as a mom. First-time motherhood to twins is kind of like a roller coaster ride that makes you want to throw up. I spent those first months just trying to get my babies on a schedule and remember to eat so that I wouldn’t pass out from starvation. It wasn’t until after the crazy newborn stage of my children’s life (around the time they were 6 months old) that I was able to start to set up my daily life to balance chores and the enjoyment of my babies. I did have some strange ideas in my head that had me convinced that I had to clean ALL THE TIME because that was my JOB because I was home and not drawing a paycheck anymore. But eventually I learned to accept that it was OK to not have my home spotless. I began to accept that there was a finite amount of chores and mothering I could do in a day, and that in the long run I would be better off doing more mothering than cleaning. I learned very quickly that I needed to get out of my house without the kids semi-regularly or else I would truly go insane. I started by working out at the gym at 9:00 at night. Or I would go to my mothers of twins group. Then I took up yoga. Eventually, I started to write. I’ve learned to adapt my schedule to prioritize my sleep and my hobbies so that when I am with my children, I am actually with my children and not wishing I was somewhere else or doing something else.
The reason I was able to make this transition was that I learned to let go. It was a long process that took a lot of conversations with friends, my husband, and my mother. But I realized that I honestly don’t remember how much cleaning my mom actually did. I remember the stuff she did with me. I don’t remember her doing laundry, I remember all the happy times we had together eating lunch around the kitchen table. The thing is, my kids aren’t going to remember all the cleaning I do. They are going to remember reading books, and playing with blocks, and hanging out in the back yard “helping” me with my garden. They are going to remember if I was happy or sad or stressed or resentful. I want them to remember a happy mother who could laugh and have fun. I want them to remember me as my true self, not some hollowed out shell of a person who only lives for her kids.
I think one of the reasons that I can’t really relate to all the hoopla around the SAHM stereotype is that I almost can’t stress out about anything anymore. At least not anything too important. I have had a little bit of stress lately about finding Easter shoes for the girls (toddler shoes are a pain BTW), but that is relatively minor in general scheme of things. The reality is that I’ve learned to focus on the things that I can do and not to dwell on the things I can’t do. I can do a reasonable amount of chores in a day, and I can decide when to do them. If all my laundry doesn’t get done in a day, it’s no big deal. If my floors are a little dusty, who really cares? Not me. And certainly no one that actually cares about me. Most of the time I strive to have four of the seven rooms in my house relatively neat and tidy. Notice I didn’t say perfect. I know that there will always be toys around and maybe a little bit of dust, but as long as my house is neat enough to not stress me out, I’m happy.
I don’t worry about my kids’ birthday parties having Pinterest-worthy decorations. In fact, I didn’t even decorate my house at all for their 1st or 2nd birthdays. I let my kids play with their toys together at one end of the dining room, while I fold laundry or clean up breakfast. You will see me driving my kids around town in an SUV and going to various kid activities, but we don’t do too many. We may be lucky to do one a week. Instead I involve them in what I do. We play outside a lot, and I get them to “help” me pull weeds in my flower beds. They play with the dog and dig in the dirt while I read a book, or do some yoga practice on the patio. We visit their great-grandma, we sometimes read books for hours, and we have three meals a day together. We have a pretty simple and happy life.
I achieve this because I strive for IMPERFECTION in everything I do. Keeping things “good enough” in my house affords me more time with my children, my husband, and for my own interests and activities. Sure, I could spend 12 hours a day trying to clean my house. I could follow my twin tornadoes and endlessly pick up after them. But instead, I focus on creating a happy home. Happiness and cleanliness are not always the same thing (but I do believe that cleanliness can certainly lead to less stress, but that’s another post!). I manage to shower everyday and eat relatively healthy. Prioritizing self-care enables me to care for my children and my husband better. It’s a win-win situation.
So seriously ladies, all this craziness has to stop. You can be happy a happy and sane SAHM. You don’t have to stress about the cleanliness of your house or worry about whether or not your child’s nursery decorations are perfect. You are allowed to find joy in simple things, and you don’t have to buy into this idea that your contributions to your family aren’t important just because you don’t bring home a paycheck. If your bathroom is still dirty and your kitchen floor is still a little crumby at the end of the day, don’t worry. You can always get to that tomorrow. Read a book to your kids instead of obsessing over cleaning. You are allowed to not schedule your kid for every activity. They can learn a lot by playing in the backyard or park. You can involve your kids in cooking in the kitchen or they can “help” you fold laundry. By all means drink your wine to wind down at the end of the day, but don’t let stress consume you and the way you parent. You are not screwing up your kid or depriving them of advantages. A crazy, stressed out mother does NOT equal good mother.
I truly believe that taking care of yourself is the same thing as taking care of your kids. If you don’t take care of yourself, how can you take care of your kids? If you are stressing out about how clean your house is, you are missing your children growing up. If you are scheduling them for every activity under the sun, when will you get a chance to just enjoy your kids and daydream about the clouds with them? And most importantly, if you are spending ALL your time with your kids, when will there be any time for yourself? Do you really want to wait until your kids are 18 to figure out that you have neglected yourself for all these years? Trust me, you don’t.
So please. Take a step back from all the craziness. You can find balance in your SAHM life. I did and it has made all the difference in my life. You can to. Please do it for your children. But more importantly, do it for yourself. You deserve it.
Disclaimer: While I was writing this 5 baskets of laundry sat on my bedroom floor waiting to be folded…….