A year ago I said goodbye to my students, coworkers, and classroom and embarked on my career as a
stay cray-at-home mom. It’s been an interesting year to say the least!
I’ve never been particularly attached to my career, at least not in the sense of having strong ambitions to advance. (There’s not a lot of room to advance in teaching if you don’t want to go into administration, and that’s never been appealing for me.) So I thought it would be pretty easy to transition to being a full-time mom. I had visions of perfectly executed Pinterest projects around my clean and organized home and traipsing off to Mommy & Me yoga classes every day.
Did you know that newborns are unable to do yoga? Did you know that I hate cleaning? Did you know that babies take up a disproportionately high amount of space compared to their body size and therefore my crafting/working/PERSONAL space was completely eliminated? Did you know that even after your baby starts sleeping through the night the initial sleep debt incurred by his existence will take months to pay off, particularly if your husband starts twitching at night, and so your brain will simply cease to function as it once did?
I either did not know or chose to ignore all of these things before I had a baby. My bad.
The first month was gloriously terrible, of course, but there was still enough newborn euphoria to get us through. (Science Guy vehemently disagrees, but I had postpartum hormones helping me.) After about 6 or 7 weeks, Fire Monkey miraculously started sleeping 5 consecutive hours at night, then 6, then 7. It was great! I nestled into my cloth-diapering, babywearing routine. I went to the grocery store a lot, proudly wearing my child through the aisles as if to say, “Look at me! I’m out and about! With my newborn! I should get a medal!” We also played a lot of Pokemon Go. I started making plans for a wildly successful shop on Teachers Pay Teachers, scheming for how to take my blog and Instagram account viral, and pinning all sorts of tot-schooling ideas on Pinterest. (Can we just agree that Pinterest is the land of unrealistic expectations?)
Then Science Guy got sick. And Fire Monkey started waking at night. Objectively, it wasn’t as bad as the newborn stage, but I suppose maybe once you get a taste of sleep, it feels worse having it ripped away from you again. I felt overwhelmingly exhausted and bored at the same time, because, as I mentioned, newborns can’t do yoga. Or appreciate library storytime. Or do much of anything besides eat, poop, and not sleep when you want them to.
This may come as a shock to my readers, but I’m really bad at being bored, even when I’m tired. Actually, being tired tends to short-circuit what little logic I have so that I pile on MORE things to do in an effort to escape being bored. Like a drowning centipede, I flailed wildly for about three months: applying to be an online tutor but never finishing the onboarding process; signing up for the premium membership on Teachers Pay Teachers that I *never* made any lessons for; booking more Sseko events than I had time and brainpower for; making plans to clean the house top to bottom and shockingly not following through; and of course, falling back on the compulsive job-searching I do whenever I can’t figure out what to do with my life. (Which is pretty much all the time.) Adding to my frenzy was our total uncertainty about where we’ll end up next for Science Guy’s job–still not resolved, by the way–and having to care for both Fire Monkey and Science Guy rather singlehandedly.
More than once Science Guy asked why I couldn’t just not work. (How long has he known me, though?) And I wondered the same thing, especially since I had always thought that I couldn’t wait to be a stay-at-home mom. A couple of things were at play here. 1) My idea of stay-at-home mom involved doing things suitable for much older babies, like baby yoga and crafts and learning Mandarin, that my child could not do during his first year of life. 2) As noted above, I am not good at being bored. Whether that’s from my achievement-oriented childhood or my short attention span or my restless imagination or some combination thereof, I always want to be doing something. 3) Even though I wasn’t particularly attached to my career, work is a large part of how we identify ourselves, and it was hard to adjust from being Teacher to being Mom. 4) Despite my best intentions, I lost touch with what makes me me when I became a mom: creating, learning, teaching. Blogging, designing, and helping other business owners with their content is my way of trying to reclaim some part of me that isn’t just diaper-changing dairy cow. And it turns out that part of me was really important.
The downside, of course, is that doing all those me-things took time and energy that I often didn’t have. When postpartum depression finally kicked me in the face around December, we realized that I needed to do something for me. Not manicures or massages but some sort of meaningful work. (Although a massage probably wouldn’t go amiss.) And in order to do that, we needed to make some changes. We hired a babysitter to come one afternoon a week, and that break helped a lot. I also started tapering down from breastfeeding, which freed a lot of time and energy and I wish I had done it sooner. (More on that in a later post.) While we were trying to figure out Science Guy’s health issues and what foods wouldn’t make him sick, he took over cooking, which took a lot off my plate. And, of course, we sleep-trained. All these changes helped me feel more like a person.
I still struggle with feeling bored or overwhelmed depending on the day, but things have gotten a lot better since Science Guy defended his dissertation and found a diet that works for him. I’ve spent the last two weeks either sick myself or taking care of a sick baby, so I was forced to slow my pace a little. Surprisingly, I felt pretty good about this. Once Science Guy finds a job, maybe this is the pace I want to keep for awhile: enough to keep my brain stimulated, cover my business expenses, and pay for child care and maybe the occasional housekeeper. I’d like to eventually grow my business to replace my teaching income, but I don’t have to do that now. Fire Monkey will only be little once, after all. It only took me a year to figure that out, right? And maybe soon we can actually go to baby yoga and do crafts. Or he’ll remain Mr. Independent and refuse to participate. We’ll see.
Staying home this year was the best choice for our family, but it was harder than I expected. Would I do it again? Probably. Is it for everyone? Probably not. Do I have a cute adage to end this post with? Nope.