I used to believe that transitions were occasional and temporary. For the past few years it has felt like one continuous transition, as if I am continually trying to process the latest piece of life. I’m beginning to realize that life is just one giant transition. And I’m beginning to think that maybe I’m not as smooth a transitioner as I would like to believe. Starting this summer I’ve definitely been transitioning through my role as a stay-at-home mom. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for over 14 years. It was something that I really wanted when I had our first kid and I’ve been at home for all 5. The first 3 kids were all 2 years apart and having 3 preschoolers and under at one time was tough. Then they started going off to school but there were always kiddos at home, and more than 1. This year, #4 headed off to Kindergarten! I couldn’t believe how quickly that moment that seemed forever off was finally here. I still have #5 at home, and will for a couple more years, but he also started part-time preschool, and is with his dad some of the time as well. Suddenly, in over 14 years, I have hours or days without any kids at home. And it’s not quite what I expected.
I think, aside from missing those little moments, most of us get to a place where you dream about all the kids being in school, wondering if you should go back to work or continue to stay at home. I think my wife and I are in agreement that there’s still so much work to do around the house, I don’t want to go out to work at this point. Between the kids having days off, being sick, running to the ortho or the dentist, cooking dinner at 2 in the afternoon so we can eat in between swim lessons, flag football, running practice and hockey, it’s still worth giving up a dual income for now.
Don’t get me wrong. I have tons to do. I still am on my feet most of the day and the day still flies by just as quickly. I still wonder where the time went or think I just dropped them off at school and now it’s time to pick them up again. I still can’t quite imagine squeezing work on top of everything, and admire those who can do it all.
Staying at home does require a special type of skill: Well, several, I guess. One is to not go crazy with the chaos and the redundancy to your day, and the tantrums and sweeping the same floor 5 times a day, and so on. Another skill is having to be self motivated, to still have a schedule when you don’t need one, to know that you should still get dressed everyday and make your bed just because you’ll feel better but not because it really matters. You have to be able to force yourself to clean regularly and know when to start dinner and clean up projects and do projects and make lists and go grocery shopping so you have food in the fridge. It’s always a challenge, but I’ve realized now that I have those free days it’s even harder to stay focused or motivated at times. You dream of these free moments and picture getting all these projects done that you’ve been putting off for years. Or catching up with friends. Or sitting down and reading a book. Perhaps I haven’t quite hit my stride with this free time but so far I’ve only managed to get the usual done: Make breakfasts, clean, cook dinner, get people where they need to be. I know it’s still work, but for some reason it doesn’t feel as impressive when I used to accomplish all that with toddlers under foot. It’s strange but you feel more accomplished with a trip to the grocery store lugging babies than on your own. Don’t get me wrong, it’s really fast and luxurious, but is it an accomplishment anymore? Or am I living the high life now?
Picturing myself reading a book or napping now during the day would just make me feel quite guilty. It’s like there’s a trade off to being the one staying at home. You have to earn your keep. Sure, there are chunks of my day that I’m definitely more than earning my keep, and it’s hard to have perspective when it’s quiet and naptime or during preschool, and know that when 3:30 hits I’m required to be in 5 places at once. When your job goes from 5:30am to 8:30pm, it’s not a continuous dash, but with sprints and rests, it’s hard to see the whole day objectively. And, again, it used to be like that only with 3-5 kids in tow. So how do you assure yourself that you are still working just as hard?
Part of the struggle is that now there is time for all the other things. But there are so many other things I get paralyzed with indecision and become overwhelmed by the tasks. I could reorganize the garage or finally sew that quilt or clean out that closet, or sweep under the couches or make myself write for an hour every day. I could squeeze in a run or a bible study or build my birth business back up. I sit there and know that perhaps I only have time for part of one thing and end up quitting before I start. I can’t accomplish it all so I won’t accomplish anything. I find myself checking facebook and email more and more to pass the time. Time that is so precious I could be doing so much with!
I’m hoping this is all just so new that I just haven’t found my stride. I’m sure it’s in part the next level notch of self motivation. With small kids you automatically meet their needs all day long. You have no choice but to do so. No matter how tired you may be you know that you need to launder the pee-soaked sheets before bed, nurse the baby, do the dishes in the sink before the next meal and plan for dinner. Now, I get large amounts of time where I’m free to do anything. Too much freedom. Do I take advantage and go for a run in the middle of the day? Is that heavenly or too luxurious and therefore guilt-ridden? So many possibilities. I know I need to break it all down and just begin somewhere.
Who knew that the light at the end of the tunnel would bring about so much transition and internal turmoil? Perhaps the guilt factor is a bit heavy and I feel I need to continue to be extremely productive in order to prove myself. I’m not sure to whom I’m trying to prove myself. I’m so blessed, however, to be in this position. I know it’s a good place to be and that it will all come together and work itself out. I never imagined this chapter in my life at the beginning of the end, and how much of a change it really is. It seemed like an eternity away and now it’s beginning. And like all things beginning to end, the next steps that are unknown can seem daunting. But for now, I have dinner in the crockpot and need to wake up #5 to go pick up #4 in 10 minutes, get back home to take #3 to running practice, run back home to finish up prepping dinner, pick #3 back up with #4 and #5 and take them all to swimming, run home and feed everyone before taking #2 to his 2 hour hockey practice. Maybe things aren’t totally different yet after all.