When Staying at Home Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be
As I am writing this, it's a perfect Saturday afternoon.
It really couldn't be more picturesque, really. The wind is softly blowing, the sun is shining gloriously without being too hot, and the promise of fall and adventure is in the air.
Except for me, the only “adventure” I have going on in my day is a couple loads of laundry to look forward to.
You see, I'm a stay-at-home mom whose husband works a lot of weekends. And while it feels like most of the world is off having fun on this gorgeous fall weekend, I am stuck at home with four young kids and nowhere to go. And can I confess? I'm pretty lonely.
The truth is, sometimes it feels like staying at home isn't all it's cracked up to be.
There are days like today and moments like right now when I confess these thoughts to you, the anonymous reader I will most likely never meet but whose comments I will read (so please don't judge me too harshly); when I try to tell myself to snap out of it; when I remind myself that this life is the life I have chosen—that I love being able to stay home with my kids—that I am lucky for the opportunity.
And a lot of days, that's enough to get me through. But every now and then, on a day like today, I feel utterly, miserably alone and defeated when I wonder, Is it supposed to be like this?
Is that what “staying at home” looks like for other moms? Is it normal for a grown woman to be 100% OK with being alone with young kids day in and day out, doing all of the housework and the shopping and the bill-paying and the cooking and the remembering of which kid needs what doctor's appointment when, all while keeping a smile on her face?
I read the most perfect post the other day from one of my favorite bloggers, Dwija of House Unseen. Life Unscripted, in which she described what it's like for her to be at home with young kids vs. what it's like now that she has older children at home, too. She said,
“It's hard to decide which one of the many biggest differences to note here, but I guess the most important one to me is that I don't feel like it's me fighting a losing battle against a tiny army anymore. I don't feel alone. The loneliness, the mental game of all small kids, is the hardest thing for me.“
When I read those words, I wanted to cry because that—that loneliness and mental exhaustion that she described—that is exactly what it feels like to me. I believe that every mother is skilled with different talents as a parent, and alongside that, different struggles. And my struggle is definitely in the mental exhaustion, staying home with young children.
It seems like it should be easy, doesn't it? I mean, they are kids! They are cute and cuddly! But it is exhausting; it's repetitive and monotonous, and at times, completely ludicrous. (Have you ever talked to a 2-year-old? I mean, really. Yesterday I spent 10 minutes trying to talk my son into putting on pants!)
It seems like I should enjoy being home 24/7, doesn't it? I mean, it's my house! I'm comfy here! I can wear my pajamas! But there's something that makes you feel totally inadequate and, frankly, pathetic in being home all the time. You start to just not care what's going out there in the world, and the fact that you don't care makes you feel even worse.
It seems like an easy solution would be to kick my lazy buns into gear and get out of the house then, doesn't it? Adventure! Fresh air! Go to the park! But it's not that easy. It's like fighting a losing battle to get young kids, especially if they are in plentiful amounts and newly born like mine, out of the house. Someone is always going to throw a fit or poop their pants or lose a shoe, and you will end up exhausted and cranky before you even leave, which kind of defeats the purpose.
And although I don't want this to be a thoroughly depressing post (and on that note, I will urge any of you who feel depressed/lose interest in your activities/have trouble sleeping all the time to seek help), I do want to be honest in this space with you on a very real struggle for me as a stay-at-home mom. Because the truth is, it can feel like my husband doesn't get it sometimes, and he probably can't understand because I don't think anyone who hasn't stayed home with kids can get it. It's just impossible to explain unless you've lived it day in and day out.
But I know you get me, right?
On a day like today, when it kind of feels like it's just me and my kids alone in the world on this beautiful fall day, I know there are more of you out there with me.
More of us moms, the ones who get up day in and day out, plaster a smile on our faces, and brainstorm another fun way to keep the kids engaged, even when we're exhausted.
The ones who soldier on even when we wonder if it ever gets easier, if being home with us is even good for our kids, because deep down, we couldn't imagine doing anything else.
The ones who sometimes draw a blank when our husbands ask, “How was your day?” even though it seems like just seconds ago, a million different thoughts were racing through your head about the 10,000 things that went wrong that day.
The ones who, tonight, will kiss our children in bed, say a prayer of thanks for another day, and brush away a tear as we watch them sleep.
And get up and do it all over again.
What's the biggest struggle in staying at home for you?