I Love Being a Stay-at-Home Mom, but I Don't Always Love Raising Little Kids

I won't miss feeling so frustrated that I snap at a 5-year-old who cannot -- and should not -- help her curiosity about this fascinating world around her.
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I was driving with my family yesterday, on our way home from our second holiday-themed activity for the day. I'm in the passenger seat, my husband is driving, and my two daughters are, of course, in the back.

My oldest is asking the same question over and over again for the entire duration of the drive home. My 1-year-old is crying herself to sleep after missing her nap that morning. I'm sinking into the heated seat, imagining how it would look if I did the things my young kids did.

What would people say if I wanted mustard on everything?

My oldest, like me and many others, gets into a new food and then wants to eat it constantly, before discovering and switching to something else. Her current flavor is tangy, yellow mustard; yellow mustard on cheese, on hot dogs, on her dad's homemade meatloaf -- she actually asked if she could just eat her mustard with her spoon at dinner the other night, and seemed surprised when I responded "no."

How would it make other adults around me feel if, in "conversation," I repeatedly asked, "Where's Nana? Where's Nana? Where's Nana? Where's Nana?" or "Where's the sun?" (Answer: "Behind a cloud.")

"Where's the sun?"

"Still behind a cloud."

"Where's the sun?"

"We can't see it, but it's making the daylight happen."

"Where's the sun?"

"We can't see it."

"Where's the sun?"

"Would you stop asking the same question, please. I answered you four times already."


"Where's the sun?"

Yet I remember doing many of these same things that make my skin crawl.

I remember riding in my parents' brown-striped van -- the one with the rad velour curtains -- kicking the back of my dad's seat, and him asking me to stop. I must have done this on nearly every car ride. I don't remember doing it intentionally to make him angry, even though it obviously did. I know my children will outgrow these phases, too.

I know there will come a time when I'm driving with the ghost of kicking feet and constant questioning, and memories thick with emotion.

And I do love being a stay-at-home mom, even if I also frequently wish that most of my meals weren't learning experiences in the realm of table manner etiquette.


I love the way my daughter looks out the car window, wondering about the sky. I love how curious she is right now about the sun and the moon.

"Where's the moon?"

"We can't see it yet."

"Where's the moon?"

"We'll have to look for it later through your bedroom window."

"Where's the moon?"

(Silence from me, no longer answering.)

"Where's the moon?"

I'm not sure I'll miss all of it.

I won't miss feeling so frustrated that I snap at a 5-year-old who cannot -- and should not -- help her curiosity about this fascinating world around her.

Sometimes I wonder how people stay at home all day with small children without losing their temper, at least slightly, at least once a day. Do these people exist? Or is this unicorn-parent only a reality in our imaginations, of how we should perform as mothers, if the world was perfectly flat and not round instead?

Give me a few more years and I'll have different frustrations. I'll have little girls' hurt feelings from classmates to handle, or new questions with answers that aren't so obvious. I want these years to come, because I want my kids to grow and live, but, as much as I sometimes wish a long day would more quickly taper into watching Bad Santa and having a glass of wine, I don't want this time to move along as quickly as it has so far.

Just a few weeks ago, it was ketchup on everything instead of mustard. My twin sister, who was visiting and went along to the holiday concert with us, said as we were walking back to the car, "Hey, Jenn. Remember when you were obsessed with mustard?"

I'm far from a perfect mom; I'm far from a perfect person -- hell, I used to squeeze mustard into black olives and call them hors d'oeuvres. Yet each day with my kids, I wake up half nervous for what the day will bring -- will it be the kind of day that I spend simply trying to keep my shit together until my husband gets home? -- and equally excited to hear what new word the baby will put on repeat, or to get a hug from my daughter when she gets off the bus and tells me her favorite part from a morning at school.

And when there is no one kicking my seat in the car, and no broken-record question-of-the-moment, I will miss it -- I know I will.

So, right now, rather than pretend that every day has to be one that I celebrate and "appreciate," I'll try to at least pause and soak up these tiny-lady voices, these soft hands that grab at my shirt in a way that makes my bra basically constantly exposed, and I'll try to remember that I loved being a stay-at-home mom, even if I didn't always love raising little kids.

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