Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Once upon a time...

Once upon a time I said I would never be a stay at home mom. I thought stay at home parents had an easy life that could not possibly be fulfilling or rewarding. I was so wrong in every respect. I am a stay at home mom. It is incredibly fulfilling and rewarding. It is also one of the hardest things I have ever done.

At this point in my life, I cannot imagine anything more fulfilling or rewarding than the monkeys' smiles and laughter. My heart bursts with joy every time they hold their arms out to me and smile with the anticipation of knowing that I am going to hold them. Each time they learn something new I know that our daily activities have played a significant role in their success. People are always commenting on what happy babies the monkeys are. What can be more rewarding than knowing that I have created the environment that makes them happy?

So how hard can it really be to be a SAHP? I don't think anyone who hasn't been one can truly understand the challenges SAHPs face. I certainly didn't have a clue until I started walking the proverbial mile in my own shoes. Sure working in the professional world is hard. I'm not saying it isn't. But for comparison purposes think about these: (1) at the end of a bad day at work you get to leave the environment and go somewhere fresh; (2) on the rare occasion that someone at work is screaming, it is short lived, it is generally only one person screaming and you can tell yourself what a jerk that person is or just walk away if you need to; and (3) if you fail at your job you can get assistance to improve your performance or, in a worst case scenario, you find a new job. SAHPs face all of these problems on a frequent basis, yet we do not necessarily have those resolutions available to us. We also have to face constant scrutiny from people who think our lives are no more difficult than a casual walk in the park.

A bad day for a SAHP doesn't end at 5:00. We can't walk out of the office and leave the problems behind. There is not a fresh environment for us to go home to. Some days the best we can do is drift off to sleep telling ourselves that at least tomorrow will be a new day. When children scream and cry there are times when we can't make it stop and we never get to walk away. Sure, a screaming baby can be left in a safe place for a few minutes while we take a breather, but, if the baby doesn't calm down during that time, the problem isn't solved and we still have to cope with it. If there is more than one child, there is often more than one screaming child at any given time. So can a SAHP fail? Of course we can. Obviously, we have some of the same correctional options as people in the workforce. The difference is that our failure directly impacts the life of a helpless child, sometimes with lasting effects. We always hope that if we are doing something wrong we will be able to fix it. We don't have a manual to tell us how to do our job though. What if we don't know we are doing something wrong until it is too late to fix it? There is not a greater failure in my mind than one that has a lasting impact on a child's life.

So what brings this on? Well today was an extremely hard day. It was the kind of day that makes me question whether I am cut out for being a SAHP and whether it is in everyone's best interests for me to be one. I haven't had a lot of those kind of days over the last 8+ months, but there have been a few. I've been feeling a great deal of pressure lately to try to be everything to everyone. The reality is that I can't. It just isn't possible. I know this, yet the transition from knowing it to accepting it isn't a quick one. So I'm stressed, not sleeping as much as I need to and just generally creating my own little vicious cycle of daily failure.

Last night I finished studying for the day and headed for bed about 1:30. I accidentally woke the girls up and they wouldn't go back to sleep without a 2 am feeding. I finally headed to bed at 3 am. At 6 am the girls were awake and calling for milk. No biggie, I get up, feed them and put them back down like I usually do. They don't always go to sleep, but they generally play quietly in the crib so I can get another hour or so of sleep. Not today. They fussed and cried until I got them back up. It was all downhill from there. The low point of the morning was hours of them screaming and a momma who couldn't refrain from crying her own tears of extreme fatigue and frustration. I am sure that any mom of multiples will tell you that the hardest part of having multiples is not being able to properly comfort more than one baby at a time. Sometimes we just have to let one cry while we take care of the other one. It is heartbreaking but it is reality. Today it was more reality than I had the strength to cope with. I know that their bad morning was the result of teething. We have been going through the teething phase for some time now and it is starting to wear all of us down. Thank God Isabella's teeth are getting ready to break through. I'm not sure I could survive many more days like today without medicinal help. I probably wouldn't have survived today without my mom's help. Thankfully she didn't have to work today and was able to provide some much needed relief.

What brings me to the conclusion that being a SAHP is the hardest thing I've ever done? Well it isn't just this rough patch. I've haven't met my own performance expectations in any way. I thought I would have a clean house, make excellent meals, do a killer job of sticking to our budget through bargain shopping and provide the monkeys with every possible developmental advantage. I couldn't have been more delusional. First of all, there are two more people in our house now. Two more people to take care of. Being at home during the day time doesn't necessarily provide tons of time to clean and cook. It means that instead of having people here a few hours out of the day to make messes and need meals, there are people here all of the time. That means more to clean and more meals to make. I barely even look at the grocery fliers. I save what money I can, when I can, but I know I could be doing so much more. While I know that I do everything I can for the girls, it never feels like enough. I always feel like I should be doing more physical activities, playing more learning oriented games and just plain hugging them more. Maybe if there was only one of them I would be accomplishing these things. Maybe not. I don't know. What I do know is that I never want to find out the answer to that. All of the stress and feelings of inadequacy could never outweigh the love I feel for our girls.

Do I really have a point in all of this? Yes. In spite of those days when I think it would be so much easier to go back to work full time, I will not do it unless it becomes financially necessary. Finding a way to master being a stay at home mom to our beautiful monkeys is a challenge that I am unbelievably grateful to face. Yes, in some respects it is a privilege. At the same time, it is the most difficult career choice that I ever could have made. I know at the end of the day that I am a great mom. I am not perfect and I never will be. There will be days when I say I really need a drink, even though I rarely have one. The most important thing, though, is that our daughters know that they are loved and that we are doing everything we are capable of doing for them. I know I excel at those two things without a doubt.


  1. Alyssa- thank you for sharing this difficult day and your thought process! my favorite was your line "i couldn't have been more delusional". I can't imagine how hard having twins can be, but they look like beautiful, healthy and happy babies and at the end of the day- that's all that matters! Looking forward to meeting them and you soon!

  2. Looking forward to meeting you too! Thanks for your comment. I can't believe you actually read this whole post. Jeff only did it because I made him :)