It has been roughly 5 months since I made the leap to leave my full-time teaching job in order to be a stay-at-home Mom. While that time frame has by no means made me an expert, it has opened my eyes to some things I was very blind to before beginning this incredible journey.
Here are 4 (of many to come, I'm sure) things I've learned as a stay-at-home Mom:
1. Playing with your kids is vital.
2. Down time does exist.
It just looks very different than you might imagine.
First of all, you have to create it. For example, waking up an hour or so before my daughter gives me time to take care of me. I am able to shower, do my bible study, and eat a decent breakfast all before she becomes the center of my attention. It might not seem like much, but when the rest of the day revolves around her, it's nice to know I accomplished something to sustain my own mental health.
The second way down time looks different as a SAHM is that while you may get a chance to watch a TV show, have a snack, check social media, or read a magazine, you do it all with one eye and ear constantly monitoring your kid. So while you do get to participate in those things and enjoy them to a certain extent, your main focus is still your child.
Down time as a SAHM might not leave you as relaxed as it did when you weren't totally responsible for a little human being, but it can still be present during your day if you keep realistic expectations for it.
3. You have to just roll with it.
I cannot tell you how many times I have sat down and tried to 'plan' out our days. Talk about disappointment. Every. Single. Time.
My child is two, and since day one of her life, she has NEVER stuck to a set schedule. She is also incredibly strong-willed, so that doesn't help when I push activities on her. Toddlers also tend to not always have the attention span for say, 30 minutes of art every morning. We might get some art activities in throughout the day, but they are sporadic and often mixed with lunch time, in the middle of a tea party, or during a movie.
Obviously, I can count on meal times, nap time, and planned activities with friends or family. Those tend to be the bones of our day, and everything else just kind of happens around them. If this sounds chaotic, IT IS. But there is beauty in the chaos. As long as I make stimulating and beneficial activities available and not try to push them on her, she still gets the benefit of them, just on her own time.
I am by nature a control freak, so if you are thinking "being a SAHM sounds way too crazy for me," let me tell you: if I can give in to the lack of control, so can you. It is actually somewhat freeing to just go with the flow. (Can't believe I just said that!)
4. This is a 24/7 job.
With my teaching job, it was mega stressful, but this great thing happened at the end of every week: I got 2 days to be a normal person again! No students, no lesson plans, no super quick lunch, and essentially, no responsibility in the ways of my job. I got to walk away from it for a time and return a little refreshed.
As a SAHM, there is no 'weekend.' There is no 'day-off' or PTO. The constant juice and milk refills, the snacks, the diapers, the toys, the tantrums, and the responsibility never goes away. I take joy in the fact that I am the one my daughter depends on day-to-day versus putting that burden on someone else, but I would be lying if I didn't say that it is exhausting.
On the weekends and at nighttime, my husband is very good about giving me a reprieve from diaper changes and entertaining our daughter, but I still do my fair share of tending to her and it is certainly no 'time-off'.
Now, time away from your kid is possible, but just like down time, you have to create it. I've gotten involved in a weekly bible study that allows me 2 hours of time with other women in fellowship and my daughter gets 2 hours of interaction with other littles while being watched by a few caregivers. It's a win-win!
Also, I am fortunate enough to have family close by, and I know they would be happy to help with my daughter should I ever ask. However, seeing as I left my job to take on this role, I try not to use that avenue too much. But it doesn't hurt to have someone who can help you when your mental stability is at stake (because it will be at some point).
When I do feel overwhelmed by this constant task of raising her, I am reminded that these years are fleeting and every day she grows more independent from me. That makes me appreciate even the most taxing of days!
Now let me end this all by saying that I LOVE my life as a stay-at-home Mom. I haven't regretted this choice once. Seriously. I feel like I know my daughter so much better and that since I am so much more present in her life, she is really thriving. We have our hard days, for sure, but we have so many more moments that leave me feeling so LUCKY to be where I am.
If being a SAHM is on your horizon or maybe just a tiny thought in the back of your head, let me encourage you that there is no better decision you can make for your kid, but it is not easy and there will be days you feel like you are failing. But just look down at your kid's face and I promise it will all make sense again!