Being a mother is learning about strengths you didn’t know you had, and dealing with fears you didn’t know existed. ~Linda Wooten
Have you ever made a decision about a major life altering event that you had doubts about? Not necessarily that it was the wrong decision, but along the lines that you were not in the right place for this to be happening? This has happened a few times in my life. Some were major bloopers that I should have put more thought in to (thanks California). Or moving out of your parent’s home because of an argument with your mother. Some may not be so major, like choosing to not have my “low tire pressure” checked until I had a bulge that popped at work! Or traveling to work in a snow storm – white knuckle driving – only to find out they closed for the day (before cell phones were a commonplace item)!
Sometimes, you make what you think are great choices in life and still have those moments when you almost wish you hadn’t made that choice. Staying at home was a choice I made for the benefit of our family. It was a sacrificial choice. I had logically built up the case that this is where I needed to be. I knew from my faith that this is where I was meant to be. I would tell myself this over and over.
Unfortunately, it was not working. Staying at home allowed for my kids to stay with me. Staying at home allowed for my husband to work and not worry about who was going to take a kid to the appointment. Staying at home allowed for us to keep a house maintained (for the most part) and a home-made dinner at least 3-4 nights a week. There were many benefits. But still gnawing at the back of my skull was this little desire. This desire was to be doing what I love, my passion: Teaching.
This desire turned in to resentment. I couldn’t get past it. The logical side of me kept telling myself I was crazy to resent this. I chose this. I did. My husband supported my decision, but ultimately, I needed to choose to work or stay at home. I chose to stay at home. The logical side of me would say that I need to be here, my family needs me to be home. The logical side reminded me that this was my purpose right now and it was temporary, I should enjoy this time with my kids. Soon they would be in school and I could go back to teaching, but for now, this was where I needed to be. But every time one of those logical thoughts came to mind, the resentment came right behind it.
I started asking my husband to take more time off work. I asked him to work from home if he could. I started putting my insecurity about being at home with little kids on him. I forced him to carry my burden. The worst part is that I didn’t even realize I was doing it. So when he’d say he couldn’t take time off or work from home, I would get upset with him. I couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t want to help me. Of course he wanted to help me, but he also had to work. He has meetings, deadlines, etc. that he has to be at work for. I was making it harder on him. My insecurity was putting a wedge in our relationship.
After a while, and a couple of fights, I realized I was doing this to him. I was putting him in a lose-lose position. He takes time off for me, then he has a massive amount of work when he gets back. He doesn’t take off time, then I give him a hard time about not caring about my needs.
It goes back to my resentment. I resented that he could go to work and get to talk to adults, while I was stuck home with little mini-me’s discussing things like Paw Patrol, pooping on the potty, not eating lunch because it’s icky, and so on. I resented when he came home to discuss his day with me (his way to vent). I missed that part of my life.
Even though I had made the choice to stay at home, I realized that I never had accepted what that meant. I did it for the logical side of my brain that said I need to be home with my babies. I was happy to see them grow and mature. I was grateful that I could be the one to foster their early education. I never accepted the darker emotional side of that choice: the guilt, the loneliness, feeling like a constant failure, and the frustrations.
The Guilt: I had a lot of guilt leaving my school. I taught at a small private school, so I knew the students, even if I never had them in class. This meant that students who were looking forward to having me, and me them, would never get to have that experience. They would never get to see my crazy antics in class. They would never get to see my excitement over the most mundane things – I get quite giddy when talking about anything math related! I would never get to see their “light-bulb” moments. I would never see their struggle and surmounting that struggle. I would never get to see the pride on their face when they realized they understood something the previously struggled to understand. I had to deal with the fact that I was losing this part of my life, even if it was temporary. It took me a long time to accept this truth.
The Loneliness: I think this is the one I was logically ready for in my mind. I knew that I would not get that adult human interaction that I once had. I knew that I would have to work hard to maintain any kind of personal relationship with anyone. Because let’s face it, having 2 little kids with all sorts of schedules and appointments means life becomes about them. But then it really hit me about 6 months in. I was truly lonely. I love my husband, but I needed more interaction than just him. Thankfully, about the same time, I started going to a local bible study my mother-in-law signed me up for early in the summer. I still struggled to open up, but it has helped getting out of the house and having real conversations with other women. It’s also not something I can easily flake on because there is accountability: they have day care and the women genuinely care if I’m not there and didn’t give a reason.
The Failures: This one is hard for me. I’m a perfectionist. I like things being a certain way. I have in my mind how I want to raise my kids, then I get out of bed and it all goes to hell. I want to talk gently with my children, have structured play time where we explore our world, teach my daughter to read letters and numbers, and many other items. That usually ends within the first 30 minutes of the kids being up. Part of it is that I’m tired, still waking up, but it’s mostly that I pick what’s easy. It’s easier for me to have the kids watch a little TV while I make their breakfast than to keep the TV off and interact with them while trying to make it. I could pack them in the car at 8 am and take them to a park to play and explore, but instead I open the back door and let them play on our back porch. I could research different structured play activities for them (mainly my older one) and have her do these while my son takes his morning nap, but I’m already tired and need a break myself, so I give her a coloring book and let her have at it!
Because I am not living up to my expectations of what I should be as a mother, I see myself as a failure. I see posts from my friends on social media doing all these fun things with their kids and think, “I can’t even measure up to these moms.” Though I love social media, I have had to really work at not comparing myself to anyone on there.
I have come to accept that this is our life. I may not have the perfect structured day, but the kids are dressed, fed and generally happy. They enjoy doing things with me, but they also enjoy doing things on their own. I do my best to have things we do out of the house, but most days we just stay in and enjoy doing stuff together.
The Frustrations: Kids are frustrating. Raising a little human that says, “Mommy” over and over again gets very frustrating. They have minds of their own and like to exercise that little mind. They are very oblivious to anything around them. They are honestly selfish. I like saying “honestly selfish” because they are very vocal about their selfishness. We as adults have learned social cues and ways to hide our selfishness, but they aren’t there yet. It’s frustrating when I’m trying to make lunch and my son just screams and cries because I’m in the kitchen and he’s blocked from going in. It’s frustrating when my daughter takes the bin of toys I just cleaned up and dumps them out all over the floor to find the one toy she wanted.
When I get frustrated, I usually start yelling. I hate that about myself, but it’s so involuntary. I’m still learning how to not yell, but there are times my nerve just got punched. Then I get frustrated with myself for yelling at the kids. Sometimes a louder, more stern tone is required because they’re getting into something that could hurt them. But there are other times I yell just because one of them frustrated me. It’s an area that I work on daily. Some days are better than others.
I’ve come to a better awareness of these things about myself, which has helped many aspects of my life. My husband and I talk more. He’s aware that I need (not want) that interaction daily, so he sets aside time for us to just talk. I’ve made strides to get connected to friends and families so I can have a human connection outside of my little ones. I get outside, even if it’s just our backyard, daily. This helps tremendously. I forgive myself when I don’t meet my expectations. I also ask for forgiveness from my children when I’ve let my frustrations out on them – this one is big for me.
This is a process. It won’t happen overnight and I doubt I’ll ever be truly good at it. I will be always changing, learning and growing. Recognizing these emotions when they arise is key. Then by acknowledging why I feel this way and accepting my circumstances in the midst of these emotions allows me to deal with my thoughts in a calm way. I will continue loving my kids as I know best. I will let them play, get in to messes, watch TV, fight with each other, and all other sorts of kid things. I will let them grow knowing their mommy loves them so much and wants to be the best she can be for them.