Thursday, May 24, 2012

Stay-at-home Mom . . .

Holy Moly, it's been almost a month.  Here are some things we've been up to, and what's been on my mind lately:

Hanging out with my baby . . . in a pirate bandanna.  Caleb loves all things Benjamin, so when Ben-Ben walks around wearing a pirate bandanna, Caleb just has to have one too.   
These two pictures were from a "fancy dinner" the kids really, really wanted to do for Ethan and I.  They helped prepare it (we kept it simple), and served us.  They made menus, or "foot menyoos" as Anna sounded it out herself.  hehe.  They filled the table with candles, even though it's summer, and we were still a ways off until it'd be dark.  Oh, and they wanted romantic music, so we put on some classical.  They chose our outfits too . . . in case you couldn't tell.  It turned out to be really fun, (the kids of course loved the whole thing), and I think we'll try to do this every month or so.  So thoughtful.  Love them! 
I babysat Hudson a couple days this past month when my mom was out of town.  The kids loved having him here, and Hud was especially drawn to Anna.  It was sweet.  It was easier than I thought having two little one and a half year olds!  (And it was fun having my sister come hang out to help and chat one morning for a bit.  Love sister time.) 
Children's museum with the mom's group I'm part of.  Caleb hasn't really been before ('cause I don't count the one time I took him in the stroller), and he loved it.  He was especially obsessed with the turtle area.  He's been doing so well lately, health wise, that I'm getting a little more relaxed with high germ areas, like church or the Children's museum.  He hasn't been sick in forever (scratch that - I started writing this a week ago), and the last few colds he got, he didn't require any additional medicine.  Yay!  It looks like he is finally starting to out grow a lot of his complications.  He still has an inhaler he uses every day, but the dose has been cut in half . . . and we sometimes forget to give it to him because his breathing is so normal.   Anyway, the children's museum is a favorite for all the kiddos now. Moving on . . .   

***Now, this is one of those "journal entries" that is mostly for me to look back on, so feel free to skip.  Seriously, I'm just writing out my feelings lately, so there's your warning.  Oh, and it's kind of rambling.***

So, the title of my post - I've been thinking about this a lot lately.  Like - Why am I staying home with my kids right now?  What factors did I consider to make this decision?  Is it still the right decision for me?  Personally, and religiously, I have no doubt that motherhood - womanhood really - is sacred, divine, and filled with so much meaningful purpose.  And there are just so many ways of achieving that, or connecting to it.  I was raised with the idea that it was a good, positive thing to stay home with your children, if it can work in your situation.  There are many women whom I greatly admire for many reasons - some of them had careers, and some of them stayed home.  So, I have positive associations with both choices, and certainly understand that it's a complex decision to make.  The statistics I found show that about 35% of mothers stay home with their kids, and 65% of mothers work.  Although I'm in the minority, I've never felt "judged" for staying home, and personally don't care to judge other people's decisions to do what is best for them (but the media would have you believe otherwise).  So, is this affecting my decision or questioning?   

After I graduated with my Bachelor's degree, Anna was two and Benjamin was a few months from being born.  We were soon to be headed down state for Ethan's graduate school.  All of my classmates were on the job hunt, and I felt a little out of place since I wasn't (although never regretting my degree - and I never will, even if I don't teach in a school a day in my life).  Working part time - which is all I felt I could consider with really little ones - wouldn't make much sense, monetarily, by the time we paid for childcare for two.   And at that moment, after juggling kid/pregnancy plus full time classes for my degree, I was really excited to just be "momma"  to my little babies.  And nothing else.  So we lived off of student loans for those few years.  Not everyone would make that same decision, but it was right for us.  (Prayer and promptings are always a big part of our decision making process, I should add.)  So, I've always thought that as a "compromise" for that decision, once all three kids are in school, I'd get at least a part time job, or start teaching piano lessons again, or do something, and have all of my income go to extra student loan payments, or extra house payments, or savings, or extra retirement "payments".  But when/if I work, we always want to live off of Ethan's income.  And we feel pretty comfortable doing that - mainly because we are both the type of people who don't "NEED!" a lot of things.  We're fine waiting for things we really want, or never getting them at all.  Our true happiness is not tied to material things.  (Although little things like home improvement projects for me, or running gear for Ethan do bring some fun happiness.  hehe.  And the one thing we would love to do more of is travel - travel to see family, travel to Europe or New Zealand or Africa, travel as a family to see the country, travel on another cruise, travel back to LA not as a missionary, etc.  And any major trip - driving or especially flying - is something we'd have to save for and plan for.)  What does the monetary stuff have to do with staying home?  It's a factor for me.  But since we had kids young, and I was never in the middle of a career/job - just school - it was a lot easier than it would be to step away from that and re-budget for one income.          

Okay, so my point:  I'm feeling kind of burnt out staying at home with the kids lately.  I've been feeling exhausted before the day even begins.  It's been emotionally draining and physically draining lately (Caleb weighs 30 + pounds right now and still needs help with a lot, so yeah, my job is physical :).  I'm with little kids all day.  All day.  So much noise.  Yes, they are my own and I love them, but they need SO MUCH.  And, yes, Anna is gone part part time for kindergarten, but those days are even harder because she's my most helpful sweetie, and playmate/positive influence on Benjamin.  And, yes, although we're part of some play/mom groups, and I have friends and family in the area, I've been craving more adult interaction lately.  I feel like I'm alone with the kids soooo much.  I think, wouldn't it be nice to go to a job with grown-ups for part of the day?  Like that nice, QUIET job I had at the library back in the day?!  Ahhh . . .   I feel like the last time I was in the stay-at-home mom "zone" was during our time downstate . . . until I got preggers with Caleb.  When I'm pregnant, nothing feels right; then we had the move up here into my parent's house (which was a blessing and stressful all at the same time - love them so much though!), complications and bed rest, Caleb's birth and NICU stay, health issues with Caleb, some health issues with me, Ethan gone during most of that time for clinicals, moving in to a new house and settling in/projects/painting, lots of sickness - or at least some extra stress when Caleb did get sick, plus some extended family issues that added some stress during that time.  So, looking at all of that, I can see why the last few years have seemed a bit off, and haven't always brought out my best qualities, including motherly ones.  Although, as the blog shows :), there have been plenty of good memories and experiences along the way.  

So, back then - in the "zone" - I still had hard days, or feelings of just needing a break from the kids when Ethan got home from classes.  But, I mostly felt on top of things.  Crafts with the kids, cooking, field trips, baking, play groups, patience, etc.  (Note:  I do not think you have to do all or any of those things to be a good mom, except patience;  those things just brought me happiness at the time.  I'm very open to all different types of mothering styles.  :)  Now, I still do all of those things, perhaps not as often, and for sure with less patience.  I think this was my goal last new year's - patience . . . but not much has changed.  So good grief, I'm ready to try harder, and make more specific goals and changes, like:  *Less caffeine (I'd been on a role since I've been feeling so exhausted lately, and it just doesn't work for me, so I've already cut way back), *limit computer use during the day (I don't use it much during the day, but I want to save it for after kid's bedtime), *pray and read my scriptures in the morning (start the day off right, and "centered"), *uplifting/calm music on during the day, *one-on-one time with the kids regularly (I LOVE this because it brings out their best personality traits . . .probably because I can focus on JUST them), *go to bed by 11pm, and wake up between 7-7:30 (this makes the BIGGEST difference to me . . . I'm just always wanting a little more grown up/alone time, so I stay up later than I should some nights), *exercise regularly (I have been for the last couple months, feels good), *do a craft/project/bake/game/school with Anna and Benjamin during Caleb's nap time (instead of sending them outside to play, or putting a movie on for them :), *simplify life (we keep things really simple, but I mean even more so for a while), *keep it all in perspective.  Okay, that is a start.  Some of the things I've already implemented, some I still need to do/work on.  Oh, and one thing we've been doing, that I hope doesn't need to happen regularly for much longer, but that makes all the difference, and I appreciate oh so much:  When Ethan gets home from work at 5:30/6:00, and before the kids bed time around 7:30 or so, I usually leave.  I grocery shop, or run errands, or work out, or go read somewhere, or help out the sister missionaries, or go to "mom's night out".  I get out of the house, alone, and I do something not kid related.  Not everyday, but many days.  Sometimes I wait til we have dinner together, and sometimes I leave right away.  Sometimes I'm gone til they're in bed, and sometimes it's just a quick moment to myself.  I need it right now.  And I'm very grateful that Ethan encourages it right now, and that he tells me he'd rather be with the kids during that small window - after being gone all day - than do anything else.  So that's been working for us right now, but I hope the feeling of "I need to get the heck out of here for a little while" becomes less and less.  Probably as the kids get older and older.  :)             

So I think, mostly, I need an attitude adjustment.  I need to remember that my worries and struggles are small, especially compared to what some mothers in this world have to face and worry about.  I need to look for the happy moments during the day, and not focus on the times I come up short (except with enough time to reflect and improve).  Happy moments like:  reading stories to my kids, singing songs with them, laughing at funny jokes and general silliness, picking flowers in the yard and putting them in a vase for dinner, hugs and snuggles, bandaids on boo-boos (a happy moment because I always feel like a good mom when I'm cleaning up a wound and comforting my babies, hehe), a beautiful walk in the cemetery, making snacks and meals and occasionally baking yummy treats, cheering on Caleb when he learns something new, girly stuff with Anna, Superhero stuff with Benjamin, piling on the couch with all three kiddos and watching a movie.  The list could go on and on and on when I take the time to stop and think about it.  When I focus on those things, I'm simply grateful.  Grateful I am home with my babies.  Grateful for the three little bambinos Heavenly Father sent to our home.  Grateful to be a momma.  

I was recently talking with my sister Beth, and telling her that I didn't feel like I had the natural qualities of a good mom.  She said she didn't think she did either.  Which made me feel a lot better for some reason.  Staying home with my kids feels a bit like a sacrifice lately, in the sense that I think it's been a hard thing *for me* lately.  But I'm still doing it.  I'm trying, and recognizing my weaknesses, and hopefully improving.  And even though I've felt burnt out lately, when I take the time to stop and think and consider everything  - I'd still choose to stay home with my kids right now.  And so that's what I will do.