Before I became a stay-at-home mom, I always read about how stay-at-home moms often struggle to feel that what they do day to day is valid. I had read about the mommy wars. But I thought I was strong and wouldn't struggle. I doubted that other people were judging and commenting as much as many stay-at-home moms implied that they were.
Then I got my initiation comment: "So what do you do all day?"
I froze. The wheels in my mind started spinning, but I couldn't think of an answer. "Mostly I just take care of Liam," I mumbled.
"Yeah, those moms who work must be supermoms!" she said.
It was okay; I knew I wasn't supermom. I shrugged it off, telling myself that what I do is important, that being a working mom is hard but being a stay-at-home mom is challenging, too. I told myself I didn't need to be affirmed; I was strong.
But I wasn't. It popped into my head for weeks and at all points during the day:
What DO I do all day?
Why wasn't the house cleaner when my husband came home? Why did going on a walk feel like such a success? Why was it a circus act of singing and toys to get a shower? Why was dinner never on the table at a reasonable time? After all, this homemaking thing was my job, and I wasn't even doing it.
I'm sure these doubts have come through in many posts. New motherhood for any mother is a tremendous time of change and doubt. There are so many decisions, so many internal battles, so much advice and so many comments.
I don't have an answer. I wonder what I am doing many days. More specifically, I wonder what I am doing wrong. When I pictured being a stay-at-home mom, I thought an organized house, dinner on the table, a clean kitchen, a smiling baby, and days filled with more than enough time.
Instead I am up multiple times most nights. Naps are just starting to fall into place, but they are still rarely longer than 45 minutes. My husband has to take care of the baby so I can finish dinner almost every night. I rely on my mom's help so much. I was okay with this when I had a two-month-old, but I thought that by four months we would have it.
What do I do all day?
It's amazing how much our expectations--and the expectations of others--can make us doubt. They can lead to confusion, disappointment, even depression and anger. I expected I could get more done. I expected it would be fairly easy--that it would be a challenge I could meet. But it's not. And when something gets in the way of my expectations (a day of fussing, a missed nap, an unexpected errand), I feel cheated and bitter.
So I'm learning to hold my expectations for each day loosely. Some days like today, we wake up and play. Naps go smoothly (though they are short), and I have time to clean a little, to fix myself up. I have energy to interact with my baby and what feels like endless creativity and patience to deal with any fussiness. Then other days are like yesterday. The fussy times were long. The clock we forgot to change made me hopeful that my husband would be home in half an hour, and when I realized it was an hour and a half instead, I felt like I was dying a little inside.
I'm learning to accept this steep leaning curve. I don't plan to get a lot done. I plan to do major things: to get dressed, to make the bed, to tidy up after our messes, to eat (healthily), to love my husband, and to play with and love my boy. Then the other stuff? If it gets done, it gets done. Otherwise it is okay. IT IS OKAY.
What do I do all day?
I don't have a romanticized answer. It's hard to feel that it matters--to feel like I am doing it right and in the best way possible. But I will also tell you that it doesn't feel like drudgery. Yes, there are moments when I wonder whether I actually have to change one.more.diaper, but when I don't let expectations (mine of those of others) get in the way, I truly love this time with my son. It is already flying by.
I don't always know what I get done in a day. Honestly it's not always that much. But I know that my work is good and important, and even on the hard days, I really do love it. And that's the answer. What do I do all day? I work, I rest, I pray, I plan, I mess up, I love. I cling to the words in Deuteronomy (Moses' blessing on Asher):
"... and as your days, so shall your strength be." (Deuteronomy 33:25b)
I am not supermom, but I am given incredible strength and grace beyond anything I could have imagined or expected.
This post was fairly healing to me!