By Sarah Surette
When my daughter was born, I waited about six weeks before going back to work. While I loved my job, I hated having to leave her with a sitter. I didn't want to miss even one second of my sweet baby's beautiful existence.
Less than a year and a half later, my son was born. After looking at the cost of childcare, formula and diapers, my husband and I decided that it would be best for our family if I stayed at home during the week to take care of the kids. I was lucky enough, in my work situation, to be able to cut down to one Saturday shift a week.
I was so happy! It had always been a goal of mine to be a stay-at-home mom.
I had so many plans and ideas. I was going to continue breastfeeding until my son was 1, and we were going to use cloth diapers. I was going to fill our children's days with learning, love and healthy food choices. Since I had already adjusted to one child, how hard could two be?
The week my husband went back to work was pure, unfiltered hell. I was in shock. When one child was happy, the other was in tears. When one child was clean, the other blew out their diaper. Cloth diapers became such a challenge to keep up with that I went back to disposable diapers. My milk supply diminished and I had to switch the baby over to formula at 8 months old. The baby's colic started up as soon as my daughter went to sleep at night. My husband and I were exhausted. I couldn't find the time to do anything but change diapers and feed the kids. We wouldn't leave the house for days at a time, because the idea of wrangling two kids under 2 was terrifying to me.
As the weeks went on, I began feeling very overwhelmed and disappointed. Why wasn't I any good at this? What was wrong with me? Every day was the same busy chaos, and it wasn't getting any easier. The house was a constant mess. The kids wore me down all day and I couldn't seem to get dinner done on time.
Then, one day, I had a realization. I was cutting myself down every day, all day, because I didn't know everything and couldn't do it all. How is someone supposed to grow and succeed in that kind of environment? I am brand new to this whole parenting thing and I'm just beginning. I am a stay-at-home mom. The first and most important part of that job is MOM! I needed to get my priorities straight. That role was the one thing that I already had down: I fed them, kept them safe and (moderately) clean, and loved them more than I could put into words.
After nine months of being a mom of two, I have mastered getting dinner on the table every night, and I am proud of that! Some days I feel like Superwoman because I accomplish so much, and other days I only get to the bare minimum. Some days I am not as patient as I should be; sometimes the television is on way too much, and sometimes the only thing I can get my 2-year-old to eat is cheese. The important thing is that I am trying. I strive to see the precious lives beginning in front of me and remember that this time in their lives is so fleeting.
There are plenty of things that I wish I'd known when I first became a stay-at-home mom. Here are just a few:
1. Don't expect to know it all right away, in the first few weeks, or ever. You will find your groove over time, but you will probably never have it all down all the time, and that is normal!
2. Don't compare yourself to any other parents. Get ideas and tips from them, but don't ever make the mistake of thinking that because they do things differently, you are any better or worse than they are.
3. Take one day at a time. If your creativity or patience falls short today, try again tomorrow. A bad day doesn't make you a bad parent.
Being a stay-at-home mom is not what I expected. It is both harder than I could have imagined and rewarding in ways that I didn't realize. Having been both a stay-at-home mom and a working mom, I can say that they are two different but equally difficult paths. I love the weeks with my kids, and I welcome my day away at work on Saturdays. This is the path that I chose, and I wouldn't change a thing.
Sarah Surette is a contributor for Women's iLab. She has been a cosmetologist since 2009 and is currently a stay-at-home mother of two. Sarah enjoys expanding her horizons and sharing her experiences through writing. Her passions include the English language, soap-making and exploring new places with her children.