When I was teaching, I’ll be the first to admit that I was one of those women who scoffed at the soap boxes “stay-at-home” moms seemed to always be preaching from. How hard could it be to get to stay home all day? Looking at the clock every 5 minutes during third period, I remember longing to do the laundry- the dishes- anything other than sitting in my classroom, trying to brainstorm creatively appropriate come backs to the wall of teenage attitude that assaulted my desk. Stay at home moms had the life. No alarm clocks. No one to answer to. No allotted lunch hour. No clocking in and clocking out. No lesson plans. No grading papers. Ahhh. I couldn’t wait until my girl was born so that I could join that elite group of privileged women- at least for a little while. Needless to say, my girl was born. You know this because I post so many pictures of her every 5 minutes that I’m sure you’ve chronicled her growth just as closely as I have- whether you wanted to or not. She is, in fact,officially two months old today. That means I have been home with her for two months. Which means, I’ve been a stay at home mom for two months. Which means I owe every stay at mom I know and all those I do not a detailed, personalized apology and deliver it on my knees in contrition. Preferably with the chocolates I imaged they ate on the couch, when in actuality they probably haven’t had the pleasure of consuming since their children were born, but so undoubtedly deserve.
I do not have to set my alarm anymore. I have a tiny, 10 pound being who likes to think that she sets my alarm and decides when it goes off- several times during the night. It’s true that my lunch hour isn’t allotted- I seldom eat during the day anymore, save a granola bar or an apple that can be eaten one handed while bouncing a screaming infant. I don’t have to clock in or out- I’m on duty; all the time. I plan more lessons during the day than I ever did when I was teaching- sleep training, eating schedules, tummy time, responsive smiling. The scary part is, the grading is left up to her pediatrician and society as a whole to decide if I prepared her enough to become an affective member of the community.
There are days I feel like the worst mother on the planet. When I suddenly realize that I forgot to change her diaper- for three hours. When I am so tired of changing her outfit every half hour, I let her sit in her swing with her sleeve covered in the fourth puke of the day; because she finally fell asleep and the repercussions of waking her far outweigh the smell. When I wish for just an instant that for 10 minutes I could go to the store, to Starbucks, to Chicago, even my classroom without her.
There are days that I feel as if I have run a marathon, and my house looks as though we were raptured suddenly- tee shirts strewn on couches, milk cartons still on the counter. I almost want my husband to ask me what I had done all day as he peruses the scape of the first floor, because, truthfully, sometimes, I have no idea. The feedings, the crying, the changing, the blow out diapers all over the car seat, the first bath, the second bath due to excess bodily fluids and somehow getting a fruitless shower myself all run together and become impossible to separate. I find myself acting as though I’d won the Pulitzer as I exclaim to my husband that I put a load of laundry in the washer and am halfway done with folding the first load I began three days ago. Oh, and I took the liberty of ordering the pizza myself for dinner, you just have to go pick it up. Aren’t I the best wife ever?
I find myself marveling at the women I know that have stayed home to raise their children. Who still bake organic banana bread and have a clean bathroom. Who manage their family’s finances. Who sacrifice their time, their bodies, their passions, their desires and occasionally their sanity to raise the good people that this world is in desperate need of.
I was deeply mistaken at the depth and breadth of the meaning of stay-at-home Mom (or, Dad as there are plenty of those as well, so this apology reaches out to you as well). I didn’t know how hard it was. How wide it was. How all consuming it was. But, I also didn’t know how wonderful it was to know that your child will get a glimpse of God’s love first hand, from you. That you are the face they smile into first, the hand they hold. I didn’t know that your heart could break into so many pieces when you have to anticipate leaving them, for any amount of time. And that, after you collect yourself, brush your dirty hair and look into that chubby, blotchy face, you won’t forget about all you’ve given up to be with her but it will all feel so small in comparison that you will be surprised that it was ever a consideration before.