I am sharing this piece which I first posted on Spirit of Power early this week, because the response has been so overwhelmingly supportive, and because the topic has consumed my thoughts since the spark was lit in my little mind. I have joked that I seem to have triggered my midlife crisis (which it very well might be,) but I hope that I can channel the upheaval into something mildly more practical than buying a sports car. (ha)
Late this morning over a quick lunch break, I was diving down the rabbit hole of Instagram to let my mind wander from a project I was a bit stuck on for work. I stumbled on a simple post of an ADORABLE baby sitting in the sun in a chair, giggling at his mom off camera. SO CUTE! I clicked to read the caption of this cuteness.
Two minutes later I was broken, sobbing and groping for tissues in a haze of envy and guilt and sadness.
The cutie-patootie’s mom posted the smushy picture of him to celebrate her first day as a stay at home mom. It is a simple thing, upon first thought. It was the second wave of my mind’s wandering that kind of ripped me in two.
It was her first day of being with that smiling boy at home, completely on purpose. Not because she was on vacation and trying not to think about the email that must be piling up and the fires that will need putting out when she returns.
Not because the baby was sick, or because plans for his care fell through, or because she was working from home with him there as well due to a heavy snow storm. (The latter of which never truly works, resulting in guilt about sticking in a video and begging the kiddo to please be quiet for that conference call, followed by work guilt because productivity drops when you have one eye on the laptop and one eye on your offspring.)
It was her first day without division in her mind, her heart, and her time. No internal war to be everything to everyone. For the first time, she was all his. Concentrating on him, and his surroundings, and nothing else, is ok for her now.
Years ago, before Junior came along, I would daydream about that being my reality…
It wasn’t in the cards, and I adored the lovely Christ-centered daycare Junior attended during his first year of life. I am so proud of all he learns and of the way he has found his place in his little community at the academic center he attends now, truly I am.
In our neighborhood, there are many moms who stay home with their children, and I think it has accentuated some of the things I fear Junior misses as a “day care kid.”
He misses the flexibility of schedule to try new activities, or have a play date with neighbors, or even stay in pajamas all day “just because.” There’s no chance to abandon an activity to head outside for a bike ride or snowman building or kite-flying, regardless of perfect weather conditions.
Days are full of hurrying out the door late, off to day care as mom worries over email and deadlines and trying to cram it all in, while also figuring out when doctor appointments and dentist visits and haircuts might fit in to the picture. Of course, always keeping fingers crossed that Junior doesn’t get sick and bring the whole precarious mess to a screeching halt.
It’s a tough realization to find that I am resentful of my child for getting sick, when he does, because it throws off the tightrope walk that I am barely pulling off with him healthy.
Evenings are a blur of pick-ups and meal prep and rushing toward bedtime routine to (hopefully) get him in bed before “tired” turns to “overtired meltdown madness.” Usually I am thinking of the To Do list I need to get started on once he is asleep and praying that he will drift off quickly. Then in a few short hours the whole scene plays out again.
It feels like our family, and especially Junior and I, are running and running to get to some place or goal or SOMETHING, but never getting there.
Suddenly today, while inhaling my lunch and trying to distract myself from the reality of my truth, it smacked me square in the face.
Today is the first day of a really great new normal for that mom and her sweet smiling son.
Today for Junior is just another day where his mom bustled him off to “school” early because she was stressed about looming deadlines and semi-dreading what the impending snowstorm would mean for her ability to work tomorrow (while trying to squeeze in some “one eye on each” activity with him, if possible.)
You know what? That sucks.
My proudest accomplishments lie not within deadlines met and task lists checked off. They are measured in the way he pulls my ear down close to his mouth and whispers “I love you mommy,” and in the joy on his face as we build a new incarnation of a superhero hideout out of legos.
I do imagine what it would be like to focus just on him.
I don’t know what a next step would be – Instagram mom’s new SAHM path can’t be mine right now.
Parents who do stay at home with their children have challenges and feel conflicted too, I am sure. I don’t mean to discount the mountains each person must climb each day.
But I think that the search for a new normal has begun today…. in my heart, and I pray also in my actions.