Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Stuck At Home Mom

I know you’ve felt this way.  

For various reasons, we take on the role of full-time unemployed parent.  Me, I always wanted to be a “Stay At Home Mom.”  In fact, when we got pregnant and it became apparent that I would have to work after Maya was born, I was aghast.  But I’m a MOTHER.  This is what I’ve always planned on doing.  Being separated from my parents for most of my childhood really locked it in for me as an absolute.  Plus, I just KNEW I was going to be an amazing mother.  I love kids.  I’m fun.  I’m creative.  I love glitter and dancing and play-dough.  I had big dreams for my mommyhood.

But no one tells you that being home means so much more than playing with children.  

No one tells you you might lose your mind.

First of all, you’ve got the housework.  The maintenance of housekeeping is paramount.  You start to let that slide and you’re on an episode of Hoarders before you can blink.  As we speak, my bathrooms are in dire need of cleaning, and I swear I JUST CLEANED THEM.  But one must have clean bathrooms.  If nothing else, one must have clean bathrooms.  And floors.  You can’t walk around on dirt and grime and who knows what else these small people smear, spill, spit or smudge on your floors.  Those must be cleaned every day - at least vacuumed.  If you don’t do that - Hoarders!  And that means cleaning under the couch and radiators and picking up all the toys in the kids rooms so that you CAN clean the floors.  So, you have to do that too - clean up toys.  And the toys must be organized into categories. Children do not play with instruments if they are mixed in with the train tracks.  This has been researched and tested (mostly by me) and proven to be true.  Therefore, organized toys - paramount.  

And then there’s the laundry.  With five people, I have to do one load a day to tread water.  That doesn’t include sheets and towels.  So, really, based on how often sheets get peed on around here, I do two loads a day to tread water.  When I want to “get ahead” and wash shower curtains, floor mats and blankets, then we’re talking another 1 - 3 loads a week.  The diapers are at least one extra load every other day.  And I’m sort of insane about kitchen linens being clean.  Those are washed constantly.  But washing laundry is easy.  It’s the folding and putting away that is a total nightmare.  I would venture to guess that five out of seven days of the week we have at least one or two loads piled on the living room furniture at any given time.  I spend nap times and evenings folding.  In my dreams I have to fight my way through laundry to get somewhere.  Laundry is my life.

But the people need to eat as well.  Damn their little hungry tummies.  These people want three meals and two snacks and gallons of water and milk and juice.  And that means preparation, feeding and cleanup.  That means negotiation, frustration, crying and more clean up.  That means me eating cold eggs, luke-warm coffee and barely sitting down during our sacred “Family Dinner.”  I’m in constant feeding motion.  “Oh, you want more water.  Sure thing.  I’m here to serve.”  I REFUSE to make multiple things or let them eat anything but what is served.  There is just NO WAY that is even possible.  Eggs - that’s what’s for breakfast today.  No, you cannot have homemade cinnamon rolls, and no amount of crying and wailing and “It’s not fair” is going to convince me otherwise.  Eggs.  Only eggs.

Before you think that I’m even close to being done, don’t forget that I haven’t even mentioned outside play, exercise, diaper changes and potty stops.  I haven’t even mentioned three people constantly requesting assistance or crying for being hit or pulling out all the tissues from the box.  I haven’t mentioned that I sometimes need to pee.  And somewhere, along the way, I need to teach them things like their ABCs and numbers and colors and reading and the structure of the universe (Maya is really into planets right now).  I need to come up with creative play time and art and crafts and music and games.  I need to read books and dance and sing and play Crocodile.  Need, nay want.  This is what I thought I’d be doing, but it ends up being an after-thought, a frustration, another thing I need to do.

Sometimes I’m enthusiastic about my job.  Sometimes the simultaneous strain of a relentless routine and chaotic disaster is just the music I dance to.  But sometimes I wake up angry.  Taking care of my house and kids is the LAST thing I want to do.  I want to be anywhere else but here.  I want to do anything else but laundry.  I am grumpy and snippy and bitter.  I put them in their car-seats, planning on heading to the gym or grocery store or park, and I just sit there.  Everyone is tied down, unable to move, and I can just sit for a minute.  Sure, they start yelling at me immediately and harsh my mellow, but I get a minute or two of quiet and calm to sit there and be frustrated.  I let their crying and demanding sour me even more.  I sit there and spoil.  I am skilled at savoring a bad mood.  I should put that on my resume.

Maya knows I wax and wane with enthusiasm.  She knows sometimes I’m grumpy.  She’ll tell me, “You’re not being very nice today” or “Mom, you need to take a deep breath.”  I hate when I feel this way.  I hate how it must make them feel.  I hate that it takes a couple days, sometimes weeks, to come out of it.  It’s hard to find peace in the present moment when there is just so much goddam screaming and crying.  It wears on your nerves.  It fries your brain.  You want to think a complete thought without someone crying.  You want to walk out the door without someone getting mysteriously injured and completely derailing the train of people headed to the car. You’d like one meal to not end in plates of food being dumped or thrown all over the dining room (just one would be nice).  

And the thing is, even if you decide to start working again or need to make some extra money, you’re ill-prepared for how hard it is to find well-paid work and reliable childcare that doesn’t cost you all the money you make.  Finding my true calling and lifetime career?  Sorry - I can’t hear you over the soundtrack to Dora the Explorer playing in my brain.  

I know, I know, I am ridiculously blessed.  Everyone is healthy and cute and charming and yadda, yadda, yadda.  I know all of that.  I know they’re hilarious and brilliant and I’m doing this awesome job.  I know.  I know this is precious time.  I know it’s super awesome and a total luxury to be home.  Yes, I freaking know that.  I do.  

But sometimes.  Sometimes I’m not the Stay at Home Mom I thought I’d be.  Sometimes I’m stuck.  I’m stuck in between crying and folding.  I’m stuck in between screaming and snot.  I’m stuck in between cleaning and caring.  The truth is, I’m stuck in my own funk.  I’m just stuck.  

I’m a Stuck at Home Mom.  


Susanna Shapiro said...

Wow - that is deep. You capture the complexity of the feelings in such a vivid way. I can only relate with the "stuckness" feeling. I'm a "stuck at work mom." Some weeks I'm OK with it but this week it really sucked and I missed J & Z a lot. They asked about you guys today. Hope we can see you this weekend (in between loads of laundry and folding - since I have a lot of that to catch up on this weekend).

Sarah Park said...

I can completely relate to this. And I'll also confess that I let my standards drop much more... I rarely clean bathrooms or vacuum the floor. I do just enough for my sanity, but this means it's still often gross.

It struck me recently that it's only been about a year (the twins are a few months shy of 5 now) that they've seemed more like real people than like adorable but deadly cylons. So, yeah.

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