Let’s Carpe the Heck out of this Diem!

Soaking in some mommy-daughter time.

For every stay-at-home-mom who’s complaining on her blog about her lack of appreciation (ahem, like me), there’s another mom sitting in a cubicle, dreaming of spending time with her little ones. She glances over at their faces in the 5×7 frame, and counts the hours and minutes until she can ooze into her front door after a long day of work to a chorus of “Mommy! Mommy! We’re so glad you’re home!” She would give anything to be in my shoes, but she can’t. She’s the sole bread winner, or the insurance carrier, or the single parent.

For every hair I pull out of my head while my children are driving me crazy, there’s another mom thousands of miles away, with sand in her hair and her combat boots. It will be months, not hours or minutes, until she holds her child again. She would give anything to be in my shoes, but she can’t. Her tour isn’t over until February, and she’s making the most of mommy time she can through Skype calls and frequent Facebook posts.

Sometimes, life really is a bowl full of cherries.

And for every time minute of solitude I long for (just an empty house and a bathroom I can use alone for pete’s sake), there’s another woman out there who longs for a full house, for a full womb. Her arms are empty. She would give anything to be in my shoes, but she can’t. Her dreams of bringing a child into this world will never come true. Empty. Alone. These are things that she dreads, not that she embraces.

So in honor of my sisters out there, I’m carpeing the heck out of this diem. I’m picnicking on the front porch, picking wildflowers, giving wagon rides, spoiling with kisses, making each hug last a little longer. I not only smelled the roses, I cut them and put them in a vase. I not embraced that life is sometimes like a bowl of cherries, I cut them up and put them in muffins. The cleaning will wait. The stressing can wait. I will enjoy my children. I will caress their faces. I will dance in these shoes, for all those who can’t.

Smell here. Smell often.

She works hard for no money, so hard for no money…

Alright. Before I made the decision to stay home with my girls full time almost five months ago, my SAHM friends tried to warn me. They told me how hard it was to live on a frayed shoestring budget, never get a sick day, be with your kids from sunup to sundown and the kicker? Nobody really appreciates you for it. While I never thought for a second that this job would be easy, I had NO idea how hard it would be. No idea. I work so hard…for no money.

They appreciate me, right? Right?! I sure appreciate them.

But it’s not just about the money. I left a career I was good at. Really good at. But I was in the right place at the wrong time in my life. And time was slipping away at home. My babies are small, and seeing them for only a few hours (if that) every day just wasn’t enough for me. I craved their company. And while I don’t regret this decision to amputate half of our income in exchange for more face time with my children, there’s something I’ve come to realize. This isn’t my calling. I just don’t feel like I’m any good at what I do. I mean, I’m not the most terrible mother to have ever sleepwalked across this earth, but I’m no June Cleaver either.

Then again, I have no way of knowing whether or not I’m cut out to be an at-home mom. The usual metrics of the working world don’t apply. Paycheck? Nope. Bonus? Nope. Quarterly evaluation? Nope. Promotion? Nope. Verbal praise? Nope. Sure, my three year old has said, “You’re my best friend mommy. I want to be just like you when I grow up and stay home with my kids.” But that’s quickly negated with, “I hate you! I want you to go to work and never come home.” That sure made me feel like a pile of poo.

I never knew before how much I need Words of Affirmation (one of my love languages), until I stopped getting any. Sure, money is nice (and we could sure use some right now), but nothing quite fluffs my ego like an “atta girl.” (And if you’re a future employer, I don’t take payment in compliments. I’ll still negotiate for that higher salary.) At this current job, I have one daughter who’s unintelligible (but adorable), another daughter whose loves me one minute and hates me the next (also adorable) and a husband who wonders why the house looks like it’s been “ransacked” when he gets home every day. (Because we were robbed by a gang of diaper-wearing bandits, that’s why.)

I am not a lazy person. I work so hard to scrimp and save and educate and pacify and cook and clean and clean and cook and bathe and play and clean some more. And at the  end of the day, it’s so hard to determine if any impact has been made. It’s just me, faced with a dirty home after the family has gone to bed. Every night.

So, why not just polish up my resume, slip back into some heels and re-enter the workforce? It’s not that easy. First and foremost, I would miss my girls. I. Love. These. Girls. When we end our day on a sour note (bedtime battles are going to be the death of me), I know I have all day–all day–tomorrow to make it better. When the weather is glorious, we head to the park because we can. When we get the itch to check out some new books from the library, we head into town because we can. That quality time I was craving? I’m swimming in it now. And it’s awesome.

But I also don’t want us to be swimming in debt before the year is through. What if I have to go back into the workforce, and nobody will have me? What if quality childcare isn’t available? These are the questions that haunt me. Those, and “What’s that smell?” Something always smells around here…

No, I’m not ready to make any major life decisions. I’m just venting. Perhaps whining a little. But I’m giving myself permission to do so. After all, not everybody has a job they’re highly qualified for. That cashier who rang you up today? She was a little slow, but she got the job done. That fast-food worker who handed you your french fries? He could have been friendlier, but you got what you ordered. I’m doing the best I can with what I have. And that’s pretty much all any employer can hope for.

Unwanted: The Cruelest Joke of Choosing to Stay Home

I’m not sure who was more excited about the Summer Reading Program Pajama Party at our local library, me or my three year old. (Ok, probably me.) After all, this was the stuff of working mom fantasies, spending quality time with your child in a fun, educational environment, watching them soak up knowledge and life experience for the first time, instead of hearing about it secondhand. I was pumped, I mean pumped! about going, and had built it up in her crazily-creative little mind as the best day ever!

She wore boots with her Jessie the Cowgirl jammies (that’s my girl), perfect for photo ops for momma’s blog (because I totally wanted to write a feel-good post about the merits of being present and accounted for at moments like this). She was a bit intimidated by all of the “big kids” (who weren’t actually taller, only older), and clung to my hand while we waited our turn for the activities. I was soaking up the moments, relishing in being there, actually there while she experienced this type of event for the first time.

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She left a mark…on my heart.

As we were working on decorating her teeny pillow case, the kind volunteer lady leaned down and asked my daughter, “Would you like to draw your mommy on your pillow?” By now, Anna had come out of her shell a little, and confidently replied, “Sure.” In an effort to avoid a possible tantrum over picture placement (I’m learning her trigger points) I asked, “Where should mommy be?” My heart will never completely heal from what she said next.

In a calm, clear voice, she stared straight ahead and said, “Mommy should be at work. I want a babysitter.” Perhaps this doesn’t strike you as hurtful, but it was her tone, her tone! Methodical and straight forward, not whiney or attention-seeking.

At the exact moment I wanted to experience the most, and gave up so much to share…she didn’t even want me there. 

I was crushed. And embarrassed. I tried to hide the pain (and tears) by stammering, “Babysitters are way more fun, right?” I gave up a career, a job I loved, financial security, adult conversation, and sushi (I gave up sushi!), to stay home full time with my daughters and be present and accounted for during these precious moments.

Immediately, I began questioning myself. Did I make the right decision? Is this going to ruin her? Should I go back to work? Can I enroll her in part-time care? Can I get her back into her former sitter? (Who was amazing, by the way. I really can’t blame her for missing her Nelle.)

Thankful to see a familiar face in the crowd of parents, I confided in an at-home mom mentor from my church, and her reply did wonders for my insecurities. “Oh, she just misses her friends. It will get better.” It will? It will?! This is normal? Hallelujah! I still have my doubts, but unless this continues to be an issue, I’ll just stay the course.

After all, when my daughter screamed and kicked the glass door as I walked down the sidewalk away from the sitter’s each morning (I still remember the sound of my heels click-clacking away from her), did I change my mind then?  No. I just kept doing my job. And that’s what I’ll do now.

Is it better to be wanted, and not present, or to be present, and unwanted? I guess I’ll find out.

read to be read at yeahwrite.me