*This column originally published in The News-Enterprise's Wednesday's Woman on March 23, 2011.
I am a stay-at-home mom. It still seems strange to say that. I honestly haven’t had too much time to reflect on it, what with the two children constantly hanging off of me. But the transition cannot be called a smooth one. I look at other moms who stay home, and most of them seem to have everything under control. I've felt like a failure on more than one occasion. Heck, just my 6-month-old daughter refusing to take a morning nap can bring me to my knees on the right – or wrong – day.
I knew having two children would be an adjustment. I did not count on having a daughter who for the first four months of her life would scream almost every night for seemingly no reason. She wasn't colicky, it wasn’t quite that severe. It was just enough to create added stress for everyone involved. I didn't count on having a little one who still doesn't sleep through the night. They say all children are different, and I've come to see that in my own. This little girl is completely unpredictable, yet requires predictability and a schedule to be human. She apparently isn't aware of that yet. I also thrive on predictability, order and scheduling. We are slowly learning. I'm learning not to be so rigid about naptimes and feeding times and she's learning everybody's day goes better when she gives in and takes that morning nap. I hope.
I'm fairly certain I don’t have anything under control. I am extremely hard on myself. And then I cut myself some breaks. And then I'm hard on myself for cutting myself some breaks. I use TV as a babysitter probably more than I should for my 2-and-a-half-year-old son when I'm trying to clean, trying to fight with a screaming baby, trying to carve out some minutes for myself to check my email, or, like now, trying to write a little so as to keep that muscle from atrophying.
My son has admittedly been pushed to the side some. More times than I care to remember I've said, "Just a minute, Sebastian. Let me take care of Adele first." More times than I care to remember I've lost my temper over silly things just because my mental state was hanging by a thread, be it from lack of sleep or just plain old I've-only-spoken-with-children-all-day-and-I-really-want-to-get-out-of-the-house-alone-itis. He is an extremely forgiving little man.
One of the joys I get from being at home with my children is derived from that forgiveness. It's from being able to truly learn who my son is. I mean, I knew him before I was with him all the time, but there was so much I seemed to be missing. It took me staying home to see. He's such a clever little man, always quick to bring out a laugh, always quick to give hugs, be they ever-so-forceful. He's incredibly smart, memorizing lyrics to songs after just listening to them a few times, then forcing you to play them repeatedly until he has the whole thing down. (This is of course why I've had to listen to Katy Perry's "Firework" – or as he calls it "The Boom-Boom one" – over and over. But it's also why I've had to listen to Mumford and Sons' "The Cave," which never seems to go out of style, so I guess there’s a little give and take.)
And so we have good days and bad. The bad days bring me close to, if not engulfed in tears, make me feel like I've done everything wrong and my children will hate me and spend thousands of dollars on therapy to fix whatever I've screwed up. I focus on the fact that my house is never clean (how do people do that?), and that my laundry may be folded but is hardly ever actually put up.
But the good days are full of sunshine, happiness and maybe a good belly laugh or two, and make me realize motherhood will probably always come with intense feelings of inadequacy, but that doesn’t mean that I am inadequate. These days are oh-so-good.
And oh-so-worth all the bad.