A stay at home mom.
A little of both?
I am certainly not the first mom to write a blog post about this ever-present debate in the world of moms. To work or not to work. To work part time or work full time. Etc, etc. In fact, I’ve even blogged about it here on the Quad City Moms Blog before! No matter what I do, no matter what choices I make, life seems to lead me back to the same position.
As some of you know, I am a Spanish teacher “by trade”. I taught at the University of Iowa for 2 years (until I had my son), then had a year off with him, and then started teaching at Muscatine Community College. Four years, and two more babies later, I decided it was time to leave MCC this May. My choice to leave was met with many differing opinions from friends and family alike, but in the end I knew all that mattered were the opinions under my own roof, and I gave my notice that this Spring would be my last semester.
Throughout the summer, I began to feel like I was living in the twilight zone. For as long as I’ve been a mom, I’ve had summers off with my children, so this was nothing new. But, the end of summer was coming, and I began to wonder what I would do with myself. Granted, my oldest was starting preschool and I had recently cofounded a fellow moms blog with a good friend, but I still found myself wondering what do stay at home moms wear? Should I put on make up if I’m not going anywhere that day? How do these SAHMs divide their time between housework, playing with the kids, adult socializing, etc.? Should I set a timer? Make a schedule? And my biggest worry…does this mean I have to have a clean house and dinner on the table every night now?
Do not take these comments the wrong way, all of you stay at home moms. All of my wonderings and confusion about my new found stay-at-homeness only led me to confirm the statement I’d heard Oprah say three hundred times: Being a mother (in particular, a stay at home mom) is the hardest job on earth. I commend all of you lovely ladies who spend your days making your home a better place for your family, be that cleaning or cooking a nice meal or taking care of babies and toddlers or grocery shopping or fixing things or organizing things…you catch my drift. You are amazing. Truly you are. And I hate to admit it, but it was too hard for me.
The thought of waking up every morning with nothing and everything to do at the same time was overwhelming. I was used to getting up, racing to get myself and three kids ready, heading off to work for 4-5 hours, and then bringing the kids home to nap while I raced to get papers graded, laundry done, and some semblance of dinner ready by 6:00 (aka 7:30). Now, I had my whole day in front of me, and I had no idea where to begin. I literally laid out post it notes on my desk in my office at home and made plans for each day. And then I laughed at myself.
When the smell of crayons and Elmers glue began to fill up the aisles at Walmart, my heart was torn. If you know me, you know I have an unhealthy attachment to all things office supplies. I also love the sensation of back-to-school time. New clothes, new friends, new opportunities, new supplies (of course), and the arrival of my favorite season: Fall. As I pushed my cart full of kids and cereal boxes through the aisles, I again wondered when I would begin to fall into a routine and figure out how to be a stay at home mom.
In the second week of August, my son started preschool. It was an emotional roller coaster, for him and I alike. My kids have never been with someone who wasn’t a blood relative, and I was a wreck. During that week, I was happy to not have a job to go to, because all I wanted to do was cry and play with my two littles until it was time to pick up big brother (by the way he’s only at preschool for two hours a day…pathetic, I know).
At the end of his first week, I’m sitting around checking all of my social media outlets while my kids destroy my living room and I avoid making a plan for dinner (as I said, I never really figured out the stay at home mom secrets), and I get a Facebook message from a good friend of mine. Her son had started Kindergarten that week, and she overheard the principal at his school saying that they needed a new Spanish teacher ASAP. She told her my name and said she wasn’t sure if I was looking for a job (ha, I wasn’t sure either!) but she would pass along the information. I instantly fell into another round of confusion. Did I want the job? Did I want ANY job? Should I tough it out and keep trying to figure out the stay at home mom routine? Was this meant to be, or was it just a coincidence? How will I know??
After two days of discussing my options with family and friends, and some much-needed prayer and devotion on the matter, I accepted the job. I went to visit the school on a Thursday, and they asked me to start the following Monday. Yikes! It was a whirlwind, that’s for sure. But to be honest, apparently my husband and I don’t do things any other way. Heck, after you have three children (or more), your entire life is just a whirlwind anyway, so why not add to the chaos, right? Now my questions and confusions were taken to a new level entirely. Who will take my son to preschool every day? Who will watch the two little ones? Who will pick him up from school, and will they make it there on time? How will someone (other than me) get them all three to nap?
After that round of questions, another one: What in the heck am I doing? was the theme of this round. After all, keep in mind that for the last six years I have been teaching students between the ages of 16 and 65. Now, in a little more than 48 hours, I would be teaching over 350 new students, all between the ages of 5 and 14. Call me crazy, and you’d be right! But the job just seemed to fit, in the end…the people were so nice there, and the school is approximately three minutes from my house (as opposed to the 80 mile round trip commute I’ve been making for four years now). Plus, they were more than willing to work around my schedule as much as possible, and the job is only three days a week. I just had to do it, right?
I have now survived two weeks of my new life. Once again, I have returned to the classroom, although these desks are MUCH smaller, and teaching Kindergartners at their “nap time” (in a school without air conditioning, mind you) could never in a million years be compared to teaching retirees on Wednesday nights at a conference table. I have, once again, packed my bags with new school supplies (yay!) and began the process of learning hundreds of new names (this, my friends, is a skill). And , as it turns out, my own mom (and my mother in law, too) are perfectly capable of school transports, lunches, naps, and overall keeping my children alive until I arrive home! Who knew, right?
This whirlwind has taught me some things, my friends. Some things I already knew, and some I had yet to learn. I will share them with you today:
1.Everyone (and I mean everyone) will always have an opinion about the choices you make. If you decide to leave your job, your stay-at-home-mom friends will come out of the woodwork, praising you for having the courage to give up an income and giving you their tips on how to survive your days “at home” (I use this in quotes because let’s not assume that these SAHMs are actually at home all day…they are not!) When you later turn around and decide to re-join the work force, your working-mom friends will all be calling you with words of encouragement and telling you how nice it will be to have an adult conversation again (this is true, by the way). Of course that means the opposite is also true: many will criticize your choices as well. Take everyone’s opinion with a smile (this isn’t easy!) and try to remember that most people have your best intentions at heart.
2.Sometimes you really can’t decide which side of the fence you prefer. This is obviously referring to myself, but I’d like to hope that others share my sentiment. I have read many blog posts about the internal debate that mothers struggle with: should I work, or should I stay home?. Sometimes, the only thing we can do is take the plunge (either way) and attempt to make the best of the situation we choose.
3.There is beauty in any path that you choose (or end up on). I realize that not everyone has the ability to choose if they will stay home or not, and I am grateful that I do. No matter why, or when, you end up changing your routine, you will learn to find the good in it. I promise. This change is still too new for me to weigh the ups and downs, but I’m just thankful for the opportunity to do something new and broaden my horizons. Change is good, and it took me a long time to realize that.
No matter where you are or what your day looks like today, I wish you a good day. Being a mom is the hardest job on earth, and that is not dependent on how you became a mom, on how long you’ve been a mom, or on how you spend the hours of your day. Our number one job should be to show our children how to live a happy and productive life, and our second job should be to encourage our mommy friends on their journey, no matter where they’ve been or where they are going. Happy day everyone!