I want to share a little bit more about the difficulties I went through in the transition from working to staying at home with my children (see part one of this story HERE).
Before becoming a stay at home mom, I had visions of how thin and fit I would be because I would have so much time on my hands that I would just spend the day doing exercise videos in my living room. HA! HAHAHAHA! It did not occur to me that the baby would think I was pretending to be a jungle gym every time I got down on the floor to do sit-ups and leg lifts. When people said to prepare for sleepless nights, I had no idea that those sleepless nights would go on endlessly for YEARS! I thought I would have a beautiful, organized house with lovely homemade dinners, but I found myself barely able to keep my head above water.
I will never forget the day when my husband sat me down and gave me what I later called my first “performance evaluation”. My first-born was around 15 months old and I had recently gone through my first miscarriage. At the time, neither one of us realized that I had been suffering from postpartum depression that was barely manageable for the first year after my son was born and then went spiraling downward from the hormones related to the miscarriage. So one night, my husband read me the riot act over how I wasn’t managing the house to an acceptable level. Although he was trying to have a reasonable conversation about it, to me it felt like he was my boss and I was getting a very bad performance review.
This is one of the harder things about being a stay at home mom, the boss is you, and your husband, and to some extent your children. Those are the people you answer to. Only, there isn’t alot of verbal praise in this job, or bonus checks, or awards. And chances are, if you’re like me and the dozens of other women I’ve watched go through this transition, in the beginning your husband likely has some unrealistic expectations of what a stay at home mom should be able to accomplish in a day. So, you have to look for the feedback that you are doing a good job. It comes in the smiles and kisses and the first time your just-turned-five-years-old son writes you a birthday message on his magna-doodle and puts curly cues on the m’s in your name, special just for you.
It’s the pride you feel when your child potty-trains, or when you see your child treat another child with kindness. When you teach a child to handle a chore on his own, not to relieve you of it but to make him a needed part of the family team. When your child begins to change bad behavior that you’ve been working with him on, you have to recognize that success and celebrate it not only as his accomplishment, but also as your own.
But the best way I’ve found to get the positive feedback we all need to have “job satisfaction”, is to leave your husband home alone with the baby through one full eat-awake-sleep cycle (and it doesn’t hurt to suggest he accomplish a simple task while your gone too, like folding a load of laundry), or leave the bigger kids with him for a minimum of four hours including a meal time. If your husband is anything like mine, when you get home he will be singing your praises and wondering how you do it and that load of laundry will not only not be folded, but will have been strewn across the house so the kids could use the basket as a monkey cage.
Seriously though, I think many of us tend to beat ourselves up in our minds and when you no longer have a paycheck, a performance evaluation, a bonus, to reaffirm that you are doing a good job, you can end up in a rough place. It is easy for your husband and for you to see all the things that you aren’t doing well enough. You know the saying, “no one realizes what I do until I stop doing it.” A lot of a stay at home mom’s daily work includes mundane things that don’t really stand out unless they go undone. But if they did go undone, you’d quickly realize just how important they are (tying a shoe, wiping a nose, changing a diaper, reading a book, explaining where rain comes from, washing the dishes). Sure, some of these things could be done by anyone, but many of them are so much better when done by you because of the care and love that is expressed between mother and child when you do it, and because of the teaching opportunities that arise as you go along.
I admit to being jealous of my husband when he’s gotten promotions and awards at work. There is an emptiness and a feeling of being left out, small, tucked away behind the scenes of the real world out there. It makes me realize that I’ll never experience those particular forms of reaffirming validation of my hard work. My promotions come in the form of moving from diapers to potty-trained, play dates to preschool, wiping butts to no longer being needed for that task. And I know those milestones would take place eventually whether I worked hard or not, but I have to find praise for my efforts in them to recognize the work and effort I put in to helping those things happen as best as they could.
Finding other moms (in real life, not on Pinterest) who are in the same boat to support you will help you have a more realistic view of how you are doing. More importantly, at least for us, is adopting the motto of “good enough”. You have to adjust your expectations for how clean the house will be, how fancy the dinners will be, how much “me time” there will be, and a whole lot of other things to be satisfied and make room for the more important work of meeting the all-consuming needs of those little crumb crushers.