I have been a stay at home mom for five and a half years now, and I must tell you, it is not a natural fit for me. By nature I am extremely extroverted, approval oriented, and enjoy a high level of intellectual stimulation and novelty. Routine bores me. Doing things the same way everyone else does them bores me. Cleaning rice and yogurt and juice and jam off the floor a hundred times a day and answering the same question ten times in a row really, really bores me. Reading "What Do People Do All Day" all day can make me despair for my sanity, never mind putting someone in time out for the same thing ten times in a row.
A lot of days, I feel guilty that I don't enjoy my job. I live in a town with a lot of retirees, so you don't know how many times a week someone says to me, "These days go by so fast -- enjoy every moment of them". And some days I feel like answering back -- "Can you make them go by any faster?"
Some days, when I have dealt with a 5 yr old screaming, a 3 yr old dumping all the toys on the floor again, and a 3 month old nursing every 30 min., I don't have it in me to enjoy the day. I really want to smile and savour the one sweet moment where my 3 yr old helps me wash the dishes, and the two boys stop arguing and play together happily for 20 minutes. But I find that I am too emotionally drained and busy trying to keep our house functioning to feel anything at all.
Now don't get me wrong -- this is not my constant state. There are days when I love being a parent. When I see my boys running around in the costumes I made and collected for them and my baby wakes up happy and smiling at me, and my 3 yr old tell me I'm the most beautiful mommy in the whole world . . . I treasure those moments.
I guess I just wish people would be a little more honest about how difficult it is to raise small kids. I wish someone would say that it is hard, draining work and sometimes your only goal is to get everyone, yourself included, through the day. You know what, I really appreciate it when older women say to me, "I remember what it was like to be in your place. You are doing a great job. Make sure you take care of yourself." or "Been there, done that. You'll get through it."
I know that I spend a lot of time beating myself up for not "feeling" the way I'm supposed to feel as a parent. I feel guilty that I'm not enjoying every moment of this crazy time. I feel guilty that some days my children push all my buttons and leave me exhausted and drained by the end of the day, and I dream about going back to work, or having grandparents to send them to for the afternoon.
I recently decided that this is silly. Some days, my children are difficult to deal with, and I am not a very clever or sane mama by the end of the day. Some days, parenting is hard work. And some days, I just need to tell myself, "This is hard work. Its okay to not feel blissed out all the time. My children will get older and this or that stage will pass. I still love them, even though I don't feel it right this second. " And I need to remind myself that these feelings mean that it is time to take care of myself for a little while, even if it means the kids watch an extra video or eat pancakes for supper again. Because this will mean the next day, I will have it in me to enjoy my kids again. For a little while, anyway.