Gone are the days of staying home all day long, playing in the snow, dancing in the living room, making cookies, giving long, lazy baths….
I was a stay at home mom with my oldest son for the first three years of his life. For the first few months, it was just me and him. After that, I ran a daycare out of my home for a couple of years. Every day was spent at home. Every day was full of fun activities for preschoolers and toddlers.
Now I find myself staying home again, this time to raise my “last batch” of children. (My sister informs me that most families don’t have “batches” of children!) But I kind of do. There is eight years between my oldest “batch” and my youngest “batch”. I think there might be a few families out there like ours. I can think of one, off the top of my head. And I know a few from the past. My husband’s family, one could say, had “batches” of children in it – there were seven years between the oldest three and the youngest four. So it’s not a new phenomenon.
But it does make life for those moms a bit unique, particularly stay at home moms.
I have six kids. The oldest three are teenagers and involved in sports. That means there are basketball games on any given Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday or Saturday. There are basketball meetings, banquets, fundraisers, sometimes meals after games (at 9:00 at night – not an easy time for little munchkins) and family fun events. (And that’s all just for basketball!) There are band concerts, fall and spring concerts, parent-teacher conferences, college financial aide meetings and campus visits. There is preschool every Wednesday for the three-year-old. There is religious education on Wednesday nights and Sunday religious education after church. There’s doctor and dentist appointments for six kids. And somewhere in there, occasionally, groceries must be bought. 🙂
It’s a rigorous schedule. And most often, the three little ones (and sometimes the older ones as well) have to come along for the ride. I have spent many doctor’s appointments with four of my kids in the room, just for one child. The twins often have to sit through late night games and school concerts. They have to travel to far-away places to sit in a crowded gym with a bunch of screaming strangers only to travel home again. That is a lot of containment for a one-year-old body. Crabby, tired babies make for crabby, tired moms and dads.
Life as a stay at home mom revolves and changes. One could even say there are “stages” to being a stay at home mom. When you stay home with little ones, with no older ones, you can go days without adult, outside world contact. The days can become long, tedious and monotonous. I remember waiting for my husband to come home and then overwhelming him with chatter, just because I finally had someone to visit with. Or I’d immediately hand off the baby so that I could have some much needed “me” time. Those days were tough. But boy I’d love those days back!
My youngest was eight when we were expecting my now three-year-old. My husband was filled with mixed emotions. His biggest expression, the one thing he shared with others when they asked him how he was doing, was “I was so close! I could see the light!” What he was referring to, of course, was that sacred time when your children become old enough to no longer need your constant attention. We were just starting to get our freedom back. We didn’t need babysitters. We could come and go when we pleased. Our kids all put themselves to bed. You could say they were inter-dependent; they weren’t completely independent, but they didn’t depend on us for everything either. (And, they were still a lot of fun!) It was the sweet spot.
And so entered the second stage, having a mix of older kids and younger kids. Now, I believe there are a lot of moms in this stage. You don’t necessarily have to raise your children in “batches” to have some old enough to be involved in activities and to still have babies at home with you. In this stage, you spend a lot of your day traveling. And anyone who has had young kids knows that your travels don’t begin when you get in the car. A good portion of your travel time is spent in preparation for that travel and again, unpacking, when you return from your travels. With little kids, you don’t just hop in a car and go. It doesn’t work that way. Traveling eats up a good majority of your day.
It is exhausting, to be in stage two. You don’t have those nice afternoons of laying around on the floor, counting fingers and toes, or building snowmen. Not that those are easy activities either – no activity with a little one can really be coined as “easy”. But they are more laid back activities. When you are in stage two, you have less laid back activities, less down time to enjoy just hanging out with your kids. And let’s face it – that’s why we all signed up for this job, right? To hang out with our kids more?
No, in stage two, you feel more like a chauffer. You spend a lot of time on the road, a lot of time managing and entertaining your little guys. A lot of time trying to balance nap schedules, meal time, dance classes, music lessons, and basketball. Because you still have big guys that need attention as well. In stage two, it’s helpful to drink a lot of coffee.
And, finally, after all that chaos, your youngest finally enters school. For stay at home moms who don’t return to work at this point, you have just hit the sweet spot! Congrats! You have long periods of time at home, uninterrupted. You can finally finish that scrapbook you started when your oldest was born. Or take up a new hobby. You can start your own business. You can volunteer. You can clean your house. (That’s most likely what I will be doing!)
Stage three doesn’t come without it’s own challenges and complications. You might face boredom in stage three. You might actually have a hard time being less busy. You might feel lonely, or isolated. Or maybe you will be so busy getting caught up on all the things you couldn’t do before that you are even more exhausted than you were when you had infants! I don’t know. I haven’t gotten there yet. A lot of stay at home moms never will, because they return to work first. But for those that get the opportunity, I’d like to think it is pure heaven. 🙂
Let me know what you think. If you are a stay at home mom, what stage are you in? What are the challenges of that stage? What are the wonderful parts of that stage? Which stage do you think is the sweet spot? Leave me a comment – I appreciate the feedback!