At least at work there's a time clock

I am having trouble accepting my new identity as a stay-at-home mom. This is very surprising to me, because I didn't even like my job before, and even though I knew it wouldn't be an easy "job," I was fairly certain I'd feel more at ease with the way I was living my life once I started staying home. Perhaps I just hyped it up too much, or maybe the learning curve is just a little steeper than I thought it would be. Even though I know better, I can't shake the feeling that I'm not doing enough every day.

I don't want to be one of those women who complains about how hard it is to stay at home all day, but then sits around watching soap operas and spending their husband's earnings. (By the way, I don't even know if those women exist, it's just a fear of mine that I will become something similar, or at least viewed as such by others). I feel like if I'm going to be at home, things should be clean and organized and under control.

Apparently my (almost) two-year-old didn't get that memo.

I started out this morning to do a few simple chores; I learned my lesson last week about big lists, so I made it much shorter today. All I wanted to do was put away the laundry. Unfortunately, because putting the laundry away involves going downstairs to the laundry room and then upstairs to the bedrooms, it became more of a production than I expected. I grabbed my basket of laundry and the new baby, then tried to wrangle the toddler up the stairs (he loves going upstairs, but of course today he just wanted to run away from me). After enlisting every appendage I had to hike up the stairwell, I spent the next 20 minutes trying to get the little one to stop crying and the big one to stop running down the hallway to the top of the stairs (every time he does it I can just see him tumbling down them, it scares me so badly). I finally decided that the only solution to stopping the baby from crying was to put him in his sling carrier...but this meant *another* trip down the stairs and back up.

My 10-minute chore ended up taking about an hour, and I still didn't fully finish it. After that, I got a little depressed about attempting chores, and now it's 4:45 and I'm not really sure what we did with the rest of our day. I know there was a lot of sitting down to breastfeed...and we did manage to make it to the grocery store.

I am just starting to wonder how other stay-at-home moms I know manage to have any hair left on their heads. Here's to hoping that time and experience will make a big difference.


The Definition of Accomplishment

For much of the day today, I felt more like a hunk of granite than a human being-huge, inert, and seemingly useless. Nothing I had done by 4:00 today seemed productive or even interesting. Despite my despair at having done nothing worth mentioning all day, I found myself struggling to invent things for myself to do. I have felt utterly paralyzed all day long-tied down by my indecision and (dare I say it!) lack of creativity.

This feeling of being paralyzed has been haunting me a lot lately. I think a big part of the problem is having a lot more time on my hands now that I'm staying at home with my children. Another part of the problem is that although the children do occupy a good portion of this newfound "free time," I am still passing many hours feeling like I haven't done anything at all. There is very little that is tangible about breastfeeding a newborn every two hours, especially when the grass hasn't been mowed in two weeks and the sink is still full of dirty dishes. Sure, I can pat myself on the back at his two-month appointment for having helped him grow so well. However, in the meantime, I'm stuck watching the clock, and wondering how I could have accomplished so little even though my typical morning starts at 6 am.

By the time evening rolled around, I had spent all morning doing things I wasn't interested in doing and all afternoon lamenting the loss of my morning. I knew it was time to crush the cycle of doubt and self-pity that was making me so miserable, but I wasn't sure how to do it. The answer came in a form much simpler than I had imagined. As often happens, I was saved by the simplicity of youthful imagination.

My older son, James, was in just as terrible of a mood as I was for much of the day today. He acted out, cried when he didn't get his way, and was generally the opposite of the sweet little boy that I know and love. I imagine at least part of this was my fault, since children have an uncanny ability to sense things like tension and frustration. Therefore, as I sat on my couch this evening attempting to free myself from my stubborn, self-inflicted troubles, I began to feel terrible about James and the way his day had panned out. My new mission became to change the course of the day for both of us, to cheer us both up. The answer to my problem became obvious in this moment.

The way to solve my problem was as simple as just doing something. As easy as that sounds, it took me all day to figure it out. After I got my younger son settled down from his umpteenth diaper change of the day, however, I made a break for it-literally. I ran out my front door screaming animatedly (which of course was an excellent way to get the attention of a two-year-old). Suddenly I went from a lump on the couch to a happy lunatic being chased by a toddler through the front yard! I was a hastily hidden villain being stalked by my son, the hero! I was a puppy, earnestly barking at my beloved master James! Yes, there were moments when I felt ridiculous as I yelled and barked and crawled across my front lawn, but feeling ridiculous never felt quite so good before. My son's honest, wholehearted laughter was enough to overcome any anxities. I'm not sure what possessed me to take charge of my day in this manner, but I know that it worked, and I won't soon forget how well it worked.

I learned something extremely valuable about myself and my new position in life today. I've been treating every day like a job where I needed concrete accomplishments to feel successful. What I should be doing is enjoying the fact that I don't have to have concrete evidence of accomplishment to consider my time wisely spent. All I need is an honest giggle or a heartfelt hug to know that I've done my "job" for the day. And although the laundry and the dishes still need done on a consistent basis, I will try to remind myself that even if the only thing I do in any given day is feed my children and make them smile, I have done something productive. Some day, my children will think back on their childhood fondly, and as they wax nostalgic about their crazy (but fun!) mother, they'll hopefully find the energy and strength they need to accomplish whatever they need to do-even if it's just to get their lazy butt off the couch and stop feeling sorry for themselves.