I wish that someone had told me what it was like to be a mom. I’m not talking the whole, “You’ll be lucky to get 3 hours of sleep a night with a newborn” type of advice. I mean the real stuff. The “You’ll put so much pressure on yourself that you will forever doubt your parenting abilities and probably cry yourself to sleep at least a dozen times” type of stuff.
Here is my list of things that I have learned in the (almost) 2 years since Mikey’s birth.
1. I am not, and will not ever be June Cleaver.
There are people out there who are essentially June Cleaver. They stay at home all day. The house is pristine at all times. They cook three square meals a day (from scratch!) and pack their kid’s lunches. They always look AMAZING, and their family is always happy and smiling at the end of the day. I am not this person. I have learned that she is, at least in my world, fictional. The pressures I have put on myself to be the “perfect stay-at-home-mom” have caused me to crack. We’re talking full Humpty-Dumpty cracking. I try to keep the house clean, the laundry done, and cook homemade meals, all while juggling a very active (almost) two year old boy and being pregnant at the same time, paying bills, getting groceries, babysitting, and running to doctor appointments. Most days, I am wearing the same shirt that I have had on for two days. My hair goes un-brushed. I regularly forget to brush my teeth, especially if Mikey is refusing to sleep well at night or take a nap. I wear make-up MAYBE once a week, if I remember. The whole “happy, smiling family at the end of the day” thing is a hoax. I really, really wish it were true. Some days, it is! Most days, however, it is me fighting my son to get him to eat supper/pick up toys/go to bed.
2. I do not have an endless supply of patience.
I used to think that I had an abundant supply of patience. Then I became a mom. I try to start each day new and fresh, forgetting all the unpleasant things that happened the day before. I start with patience. Usually by noon or so (right around naptime for my son), my patience is wearing thin. I usually have told my son at least a dozen times to not eat the dog food, don’t play in the toilet, be nice to the dog, don’t throw your toys, don’t climb/jump off the furniture. I have by this point in the day done time-outs, taken toys/tv away, and more than likely given a spanking or two. Yes, I do spank my child, and no, I do not think that it traumatizes him. I always explain why I am doing what I am doing, so that maybe one day, he will understand that I just want him safe and healthy. By the time that my husband gets home from work, providing that he’s not late due to volunteer fire department training or something else, my patience is completely gone. I love my son and my husband so much, and I feel so guilty for being grouchy with them.
3. I will always fall short of someone’s expectations.
Oh, how I wish this were not true! Alas! It is. I have learned over the last couple years that I will always fall short of someone’s expectations. My in-laws, my parents, my friends, co-workers, my husband, myself (did I just admit that??), my church. Everyone expects so much from me, and I know that I will never be perfect. I strive to be the best that I can be. I make mistakes. I say stupid stuff that I probably shouldn’t. I am probably harder on myself than anyone else. I cringe when Mikey is in a bad mood and acts out in public and I have to get on to him. I know other people are probably thinking, “She needs to control that kid.” I know before becoming a mom (and even after) I have had similar thoughts when I see a meltdown happening in Wal-Mart or at Chili’s. I try to not judge other parents on how they raise their children. We all do it differently. I get a lot of comments because I (semi)co-sleep with Mikey. I tend to let minor things go. I am a stay at home mom, and I work hard to try to raise my son and do my duties as a wife and mother. I get mad at myself when I have a “lazy day” and don’t do much more than pick up the toys from the living room and make sure Mikey doesn’t die or hurt himself during the course of the day. I hate myself for getting TV dinners to cook or getting fast food when I don’t feel like cooking. I have literally cried myself to sleep at night because I am so hard on myself for not being “perfect” that day. I am trying to learn to let it go.
4. MY JOB IS IMPORTANT!!!
For so long, I have felt unappreciated and unimportant because I am just a stay at home mom. I have felt that no matter how hard I worked at home, I was less than others who have an outside job. Granted, I do work outside the home occasionally at the water office (like today), but nine times out of ten, I am at home. Cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, keeping up with my son. The same things, all day, everyday. It’s tedious. It is not, however, unimportant. Because I stay at home with my son, I am able to teach him how to be a good man. I can teach him how to be independent, to love unconditionally, to be kind and courteous. These are things that you cannot find being taught in daycares or in schools. I am teaching him, through example, how to work hard, have manners, and what to look for in a future spouse. I can teach him that it is ok to laugh and be silly, to dance around like a lunatic in the living room. I teach him to explore, create, play. He gets messy and makes huge messes around the house. I teach him to pick up after himself. It is all a work in progress. I believe that God has given me the most important job of all: to be a mother. It is undoubtedly the most challenging, emotional, exhausting job I have ever had.
5. It is important for me to take a step back and find time for myself sometimes.
Oh, how I wish that I had realized this during those first few months (Okay, year) of Mikey’s life!! Being a mom takes a lot out of you. Physically, emotionally, mentally. During the first year of my son’s life, I felt so guilty if I wanted to take even 20 minutes for myself. I felt selfish. I have learned, however, that it is so important to take that time for yourself. Maybe not every day, but at least 2-3 times a week. Take 30 minutes to read a book, play a game, soak in a bubble bath, take a nap! In order to give your best to your family, you have to learn to recharge yourself first. I am not the Energizer bunny. I can’t keep going and going and going. I WILL have a meltdown. Trust me when I say this, it’s not pretty once that happens. I do still feel slightly guilty for looking forward to a day of work at the office, because it is like a “day off” from being Mommy. I know that sounds absolutely horrible of me, but by the time I get off work, I am so refreshed and ready to spend that extra time with my son and husband. My patience is restored. I appreciate their company more. Little things that Mikey does that would normally aggravate me to death are once again cute and endearing.
I really hope that someday, somehow, I will finally get the hang of this parenting thing. For now, I just have to take it one day at a time, and pray that I’m learning something from all of this that I can (hopefully) pass on to my kids.