Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Ups and Downs of a Stay At Home Mom

Lately I've been "reflecting" a lot on being a stay-at-home mom. I didn't really plan on it (until just recently when I decided to actually jot some things down) but it just sort of happened. I've had a couple of "pinch myself" moments recently and I've had some moments of not feeling worthy of the job and being disappointed in myself. I guess you could say that lately I've had some ups and downs/highs and lows... it's probably the pregnancy hormones (at least that's what I'll blame it on).

One of my "pinch myself" moments came on the ride home from school after picking Garrison up a couple of weeks ago. It just hit me that it was the middle of the day and I was on my way home from picking up my little man from preschool, and then I would have the rest of the day at home with him. It doesn't sound that special, but for me it was like I was reminded that I was living my dream and doing what I had always wanted to do (at least since getting married and thinking about a family). It was something I had prayed for and felt was my true calling, so we decided to make it happen. How I love Terrell Selph for his dedication to making it work! Sometimes you get so caught up in your routine that you start taking things for granted and forget just how blessed you are. And that is exactly what happened with me... until that ride home. It was like the Lord planted this huge gratefulness in my heart and mind and reminded me again of His goodness and faithfulness.

Another time came as we prepared for our trip to Gatlinburg. Again, it just sort of hit me one day how easy and stress-free it was for me to get ready for the trip not having to worry about a full-time job. If I had a full-time job it would change everything about trips during the school year. I felt so grateful that I could pack and be ready to go when Terrell got home on Thursday and not have to worry about something work-related hanging over me.... which is what always happens when a teacher takes a day off.

I've also had some lows recently. For one thing, this age is quite challenging and my patience is tested often throughout the day. (And whenever I lose my patience I feel so guilty and horrible afterwards.) The little man wants to do everything himself and if you do something for him that he wanted to do himself, just prepare for a meltdown. I'll try to go through a quick list of "Garrsin do it!" tasks: getting his diaper out of the drawer and opening it up (every. single. diaper change.), getting his own breakfast out of the pantry or freezer, opening up his own cereal bar, crackers, cheese, etc., "opening" his socks and pulling them apart, rinsing off his toothbrush, unloading the silverware and sippy cup lids from the dishwasher, closing his bedroom door, turning on his night light... and I'll stop there. So, throughout the day everything takes twice as long because he wants to do it himself and if for some reason I go ahead and do it because he's not listening or isn't fast enough or I just forget, etc. it still takes twice as long because he has a meltdown over it and lets me know how devastated he is that I did it. The patience a 2 year old requires is HUGE, especially when it's required round the clock.

On top of having issues with my patience, I've had some major allergies this spring. Yuck. It's been no fun and really makes me feel less than 100% which in turn means I have less patience with Garrison. Just about every morning I wake up before my alarm goes off (typically sometime between 4:00-6:00 am) and I can't breathe or start sneezing or start having to constantly wipe/blow my nose because it's running so much. Eww. So it's sort of a double blow when I'm not feeling my best and the little man has a meltdown to start the day off. One morning I took his cereal bar out of the wrapper, which caused him to have a huge meltdown, so I put it back in the wrapper and when he took it out it broke in two. Well that broke his heart and I ended up eating almost all of my breakfast while he sobbed and couldn't be consoled. Finally he got over it and ate breakfast. Gracious!

Something else I've struggled with lately is the fact that I'm pretty much spent by the time Terrell gets home, so it can be really tempting to hand everything over to him as soon as he walks in the door. Well, not everything. I'm usually cooking when he comes in and I've never expected him to take over and finish supper, but I sometimes do expect him to walk in and ask what I need and grant my every request. Ha! It's sad but true. There are lots of days when I'm not in the best mood when he gets home so I can get snappy with him and Garrison. It's also tempting to think, "well he hasn't seen Garrison all day and I clearly need a break, so he should take over from this point forward". I have to remind myself a lot that Terrell has been working hard all day and that when he comes home he might actually need a minute to wind down and that we are both 24 hour parents. Just because I'm with Garrison during the day doesn't mean that Terrell should have all the responsibility in the evenings while I prop up my feet. I'm actually loving our evening routine with Garrison (and other chores). Terrell always helps clean up the kitchen (a huge blessing!) and Garrison usually plays nearby while we finish up. Then either Terrell and Garrison will have some guy time or we'll all play together before bathtime. Then one of us takes bath/pajama duty and the other takes bedtime duty. I am really liking our system. I know it will all change once baby #2 gets here but for now it works great.

Then there's the issue of money. Premier has been a huge blessing to us and I do love the fact that I can stay at home and do Premier, but when you choose to live off of one full-time income, sacrifices have to be made. Sometimes I can get worked up about the money because I never want to be a burden to my family because I'm not working full-time... but so far, I have no regrets about our "sacrifices". We do have a strict budget with groceries and we are careful when selecting out to eat places (pizza and mexican are our first choices because they're the cheapest), and we can't be free spenders, BUT we have never had to live on a rice and beans diet or had to freeze ourselves out of the house during the winter or had to miss out on a vacation. What we have had to do is be smart with our money... which means things like no Pottery Barn Easter basket and liner for Garrison this year, no ordering the most expensive meal on the menu, trying to stock up on really good sale items, and trying to eat more at home on the weekends. I am married to a very "money-minded" man and that has been a big part of how we've been able to live comfortably with me staying home. It's just something that sort of hangs over you when you've made the decision to stay home. Which don't get me wrong, I believe both of us think is worth it.

Probably one of my favorite things about staying home is the fact that we don't have to wake up and be somewhere every morning. Garrison gets to sleep as late as he wants and we have breakfast together and then get our day started. I don't have to leave him at 6:30 in the morning for Terrell to get him ready and take to a sitter, or even worse, thankfully I've never had to worry about getting him to a sitter at that hour! I love how our mornings are typically low-key because we're not rushing out of the house... except on Tuesdays and Thursdays. =)

I am so, so grateful that I'm able to take care of Garrison when he's sick and it never interferes with a job. I can only imagine the stress it would cause if the little man woke up sick one day and I had to call the school and get a sub or even go out to the school to make sure I had enough lined up for my students that day. And I don't have to deal with the guilt I know would come if I had to ask someone else to take care of him. Doctor appointments have been so easy for us too. My biggest concern with an appointment is that it doesn't interfere with naptime. How great is that!? Sometimes I have to remind myself of how wonderful that simple fact is. (My appointments on the other hand can be a huge pain since we don't have "childcare" for Garrison established. But we've made due pretty well and now that he has school, it's been a big help.)

I love taking care of almost all of our errands during the week. It's so nice to be able to get groceries, take care of dry-cleaning, make any necessary trips to CVS or Target, etc. during the week. I love getting it over with and not having it hang over us on the weekend and possibly interrupt our plans. There are times when we do a little shopping on the weekend but I take care of 95% of all that stuff during the week. I know if I was still teaching, everything would have to be done on the weekends.

One of the first things that came to mind when thinking about how much I love being home, but I decided to save til last is how blessed and grateful I feel that I've been able to witness every milestone and have quality time with my little man every single day. Some days are really low-key and it almost feels easy to be home with him, but lots of days are far from easy and actually kick my behind. There are days I'm left feeling like I've blown it because I've lost my patience or I'm not spending good quality time with him because I'm just tired, or I've had enough, or I just need a little break to be lazy and relax. But, no matter how crazy things can get around here or how easy or hard my days might be, nothing can replace the time I have with him. This age, this point in his life, this toddler stage and childhood will never be or come around again. I could cry about it if I really let myself dwell on that fact. One day he's going to be bigger and older and more independent and I know I will miss this point in his life and smile at pictures and remember reading him books in bed and kissing his boo-boos and holding him when he's tired or hurt. And that makes being home with him day after day through all the ups and downs, SO worth it. It is my hope and prayer and probably greatest desire that I'm able to be home with all of my babies, at least until the last one starts school, and I pray that I will use my time with them to train them up in the way they should go, to serve my family faithfully, and to be a good steward of all the Lord has blessed me with. There are lots of ups and downs for this stay at home mom, but the ups outweigh them all and make everything worth it.

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