Perhaps it's the looming knowledge that next week I'm really...on...my...own. While I have been what I would call a "stay-at-home-mom" (or SAHM as many hip, trendy mothers now refer to themselves) for two months now that school has let out, I don't think I would be completely genuine if I didn't fully realize how good I have had it this summer as opposed to other full time moms. Being a teacher married to a teacher has always meant that Nick and I's summers were all ours. Pre-Noah, summer was the time for us to travel, complete home renovations, or find a friends pool to waste away an afternoon in the sun. Just the other day, as I finally dropped onto the couch after putting Noah down for his afternoon nap, I asked Nick, "what exactly did we DO during the summers before Noah?" We both chuckled and agreed that we were either extremely bored or found other ways to keep us busy. Which, to some degree, was true. We had three childless summers in our marriage, one of which we married and honeymooned in, one I finished student teaching for 8 weeks at a summer school, and the other...well, we had plenty to do around the house as well as visited places like Mexico, California, Spain. We were THAT couple...the couple that saved their pennies to really enjoy their vacation time knowing full well that once children came, the opportunity to travel would be limited (not absent).
Honeymoon in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico~ July 2007
San Francisco, CA~ July 2008
Barcelona, Spain~ August 2009
Even last summer, with a small newborn in tow, we ventured to San Antonio, Texas and Orlando, Florida to visit family. Traveling has always been something we enjoy...but we have always been realistic knowing that once children arrive the places we go will depend solely on our growing family. Let's face it, an on-a-whim trip to the Meditterranean for a few weeks is not realistically in the cards for us right now considering our extra baggage which I like to refer to as a "toddler".
But back to the point of this post is that this new role for me, being home full time with a toddler, is still a bit scary and unknown to me. I have had plenty of days this summer that Nick has gone into work, golfed, or hung out with friends and it was just Noah and I for the majority of the day. But truthfully, I have not yet been home a full week alone with my boy since maternity leave. It's a huge help to have another adult in the house in order to do things you take for granted like shower daily or go anywhere kid-free. And while a large, large part of me is so grateful, at peace, and excited to be able to be around Noah more than I would if I was working...another small part of me fears the boredom, monotony, and challenges that staying home alone all day with a child can bring. Along with that sentence, let me also pour on a side order of "guilt gravy" for even thinking that way...
The book I'm reading right now, "The Stay-At-Home-Mom's Survival Guide" by Melissa Stanton is resonating with me for sure. The author's point of view as a stay-home-mom (and former editor of People and LIFE magazine) with three children is realistic and candid. Basically she's the type of mom I would want to be friends with...real, humorous, lovable, and sarcastic. In her book she provides suggestions for stay at home moms to balance the demands of the day and still find time for themselves and their marriage. She realizes the choice she made to give up her career for a while to be home with her kids and doesn't ALWAYS love that choice but knows it was the right choice for her. What??? Blasphemy!!! Well...quite honestly, that's me right now too. While I am very, very happy I'm not setting up a classroom or worrying about Open House night or sending Noah to daycare, I do worry about what I am becoming. Am I really now just a...mom? Why does that rub me the wrong way?
In all honestly, I have been struggling with the decision to stay-at-home or work full time for about two years now...ever since I was pregnant with Noah. And I know I am not the only woman to struggle with such a personal choice. I think what frustrates me even more than having to "struggle" or feel "guilt" about this decision are the condescending points of view from multiple sides of the aisle...working moms, present day stay-at-home-moms, stay-at-home-moms from the 60s and 70s, and part-time moms. Every woman has an opinion on what is BEST for children...and no one is really coming to the same conclusion. Studies show that daycare does provide cognitive benefits and socialization however studies also show that a child flourishes the most in their first three of life with their mother.
So what is a mother to do? Well, this mother at least is going to do what she feels is best for her family for NOW. I have so many circumstances that make my choice easy to make like a supportive husband who would be ok with me working or staying home (quite honestly, though, he is very happy I'm staying home this year with Noah) as long as I'm happy, a beautiful child who is funny, smart, and adorable, and the financial comfort to live on one income for a bit. I realize these blessings and know that not all women have these circumstances in their favor. Another thing I need to remember is that I am not deciding to stay home FOREVER...but FOR NOW. That's hard for me and my Type A personality to digest sometimes when I tend to plan things well in advance (so please don't ask me what I will do next year...that just makes me more anxious because I don't know for now...).
So next week I start my journey of being a full time stay-at-home parent to one lovable, active, and intelligent little toddler keeping in mind that while every minute of every day may not be spent with rainbows and giggles, the experience of this year being with just Noah for half the year and raising two small children after the New Year will be a special time for me that I will always recall, never regret, and most likely want back when I'm sending Noah off to college. :-)
Realistic worries? Sure.
Reasons to be thankful every day for this time in my life? Absolutely...and here are two of them: