Everything in balance, right?
I spent a decade as a Stay At Home Mom (SAHM). I did it for ideological reasons, believing it was the best choice for my family for that time. NOT because it is my nature. I hate going the park.* I don’t like pushing swings. I detest housework, and the satisfaction I get from a gleaming, dust-free house is in no way increased by doing it myself.
As many of my readers know (“many” might mean three of you), I have transitioned over the last couple of years from SAHM to part-time WAHM mom to full time WAH and out-of-the-home mom. And I love it. I find the balancing act a constant challenge. I never have enough time. There are a lot of things I still haven’t gotten right, and I am always backed up on laundry.
At the same time, I love what I do. I am finding tremendous satisfaction and fulfillment from my work, and I believe my children benefit a great deal from my happiness. When I had 5 kids ages under the age of 6 (!), being home was the right move. Now I am enjoying the transition to this new phase of a house of “big kids”. ( I hope I feel as happy about phasing into a house full of teenagers. But that is for another time.)
Yet there are of course times that I miss doing with my youngest two what I did with my older guys. It is inevitable. I have heard it said many times that the fate of a working mom is to feel guilty while at work over everything she isn’t doing with her family, and to feel guilty while with her family about all of the work she isn’t getting done at the office. I am trying to avoid this cliche.
Last Monday was President’s Day, which is “Family Fun Day” at the State Theater in New Brunswick, NJ. My husband had arranged for three tickets to “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”. It was a puppet show of actually three Eric Carle stories put on by the very talented Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. It was beautiful, a “shush free” performance, and very, very slow. It is just the kind of thing that would have driven me completely nuts back in my SAHM days. Crowded manuevering, packing food ahead, and trying to navigate the bathroom. It all used to make me grumble and groan.
Now? This was time off. This was time to savor my little guys while they are still somewhat little. The soon-t0-be three year old sat on my lap oohing, aahing and exclaiming “airplane” when the little cloud turned into one. My five year old, who can read and write and is starting to shed the little girl inside, nestled into my arm. It was an hour of bliss. It was worth the parking, the potty visits, the wrestling with jackets, and arranging it so everyone could see.
I am not sure that I will ever find that perfect balance. If I will ever get each plate spinning in the air at the right speed at the right time. If I can ever know what to trade off for what.
But I do know that a little dab of SAHM goes a long, long way right now.
*Added note: I couldn’t find a single picture, with an extensive google search, of a woman at the playground or park with her kids, bored out of her mind. The moms in the photos were all ecstatically happy. Every single one. So, either it is just me, or we clearly don’t want to get caught.