The question I get asked most frequently since leaving my job is, “how do you like being a stay at home mom?”
That really is an interesting question. Being a stay at home mom is very different than I expected it to be. My mom stayed at home until I was in first grade. Unfortunately, I don’t have very many memories of that period in my life (I blame it on my brother whacking me in the head with a baseball bat…but I suppose there really could be any number of reasons why I don’t remember much). What I do remember was that my mom made it look so easy. The few memories I have of our house were that it was always neat and clean. I also remember my mom as calm and understanding.
My house, on the other hand, seems impossible to keep clean. I spend at least an hour, and most days longer than that, just trying to keep up on the maintenance on the house. That doesn’t count any vacuuming, dusting, or anything else. That’s just going room by room and picking up. Then there are days that dealing with the kids just doesn’t allow me to get to the cleaning, and the following day it looks like a toy bomb blew up in the house.
And much as I want to be as calm and understanding as the mother of my memory was, I’m so not. I lose my patience frequently with the kids. Brendan has a tendency to sing and hum to himself, which is like nails on a chalkboard to me. Cameron is constantly touching something that he’s not supposed to, or breaking something, or jumping off the furniture, or climbing up something or….you get the idea. Meanwhile Kaylee is getting into everything that she can get her pudgy little hands on, and try as we might we have not successfully hidden all of the writing utensils in the house. At least once a day she’ll have found yet another crayon, marker, pen, or sharpie and written on whatever seemed handy; the bed sheets, the wall, the table, or herself.
But despite having three kids that some days act as though they belong in a zoo, the benefits to staying home with them are huge. Brendan is so much less stressed about school. It doesn’t seem like he feels as overwhelmed by his homework any longer. For one thing he has his own desk now, and can do his homework in seclusion instead of trying to concentrate at the kitchen table as his brother is yelling at the top of his lungs (because he can) and his sister is screaming because mommy said no she couldn’t have another cookie. Plus, he now gets the opportunity to do his homework immediately after school while the information is still fresh in his mind. Versus waiting until we picked him up from the after school program and cramming his homework in while trying to serve dinner. (just as a side note, he was able to do his homework at the after school program he just chose not to…though with 150 kids running around a noisy gymnasium his concentration level probably wasn’t any better there than at home).
Cameron seems to be benefitting as well. Mind you, he’s still a stubborn mule most days, but after a couple of days where he was put into timeout at school his behavior has been much improved. Which is something we couldn’t say about him when he was attending daycare full time. There were quite a few incidents there that made us want to disown the boy. And we seriously wondered at one point if they were going to ask us to leave due to his naughty behavior. The problem is that Cameron craves attention, and the daycare certainly wasn’t giving him enough (I’m not blaming them–when you’ve got 15-17 kids in a classroom, there’s only so much attention to go around); and unfortunately with Brendan’s aspergers and his issues at school he got the lion’s share of our attention when I was working. On top of that Kaylee was still fairly little at that point in our lives, and she gobbled up what little attention we had left. Poor Cam was left to fend for himself attention-wise and I believe that was the catalyst for most of his bad behavior (how else do you explain his desire to strip off all his clothes and streak through the daycare).
Kaylee has shown the least benefit from me staying home. Oh I don’t mean that she’s not getting a benefit. I mean that because she was still so young when I quit my job that there really wasn’t anything that she was lacking, or needing at that point in her life. At least not that she knew of anyway. She adored daycare. She had a wonderful toddler teacher that she absolutely loved (we did too for that matter). She does seem to miss playing with other kids a bit. Unfortunately, all the kids in our neighborhood are older and in school. The one other baby on our block is a year younger than her and his parents work, so he’s in daycare all day. I’ve had a great many people suggest that I take other children in to my house and earn money watching other people’s children. At this point however, mine are enough of a hassle without adding in anyone else’s. Besides, every time I went to drop off or pick up the boys from school I’d have to load all those little buggers into the van, and that would mean I could only take in 2-3 kids anyway based on the seating capacity of my van. In my opinion, so not worth it.
So, how do I like being a stay at home mom? Well, it’s definately harder than I ever thought it would be. And I do miss the feeling of accomplishment I got from working. Plus if you caught me on a bad day, I’d probably try to sell you a kid or two. But overall, I love what I do and I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world.