There are some days and weeks when I honestly wonder if I’ve made the right choice by going back to work. I really enjoy my job and the people I work with, but I tend to question myself when the balancing gets tough. This is when I try to remind myself that I chose to go back to work, a luxury that I know not all moms enjoy. I also remind myself that maternity leave, during which time I was essentially a stay at home mom for a couple months, was no walk in the park. I was exhausted from "performing" for Lil’ O throughout the day; and, despite my best efforts, he had far less stimulation and socialization than he now enjoys at daycare. I was tired all the time and the return of daytime structure that going to work provides has been extremely refreshing for me. Still, sometimes I wonder…
So, to help shed light on what that alternate life might be like, I’ve turned to my good gal pal Ms. E, a stay at home mom (SAHM) with an adorable little guy born May of this year: Lil’ Sir. He’s Lil’ O’s best bud. All responses that follow are courtesy of Ms. E. (Thank you!)
Q: Please describe a typical weekday.
A: Lil' Sir is almost always up for the day between 6:00-6:30 a.m., regardless of whether he slept through the night (right now, he's generally up for a feeding once nightly). Since my husband Mr. B is up at 5:30 a.m. to get ready for work, he will get Lil' Sir, change his diaper, and bring him to me in bed before he leaves for work. Then Lil' Sir has breakfast while I play on my iPhone, and afterward we smile and coo at each other for a while until he gets bored and wants to go play. He kicks around on his activity mat while I pump and eat breakfast, and we watch the “Today” show until his first nap around 8:00 a.m. Lil' Sir usually takes four one-hour naps a day, and is up for two to three hours in between. He also nurses every two and a half to three hours during the day. In the late mornings, I do housework, take Lil' Sir out for a run with the stroller, shower, etc. I try to get out of the house for at least a couple hours every day, ideally more. Our activities include: errands, runs/walks, trips to the park, and a weekly playgroup at my church. We're home in the early afternoon for more housework, dinner prep, and hopefully a slightly longer nap (so that I can join in!). Throughout all of these possible activities, I am playing and interacting with Lil' Sir much of the time he is awake since he is uninterested in independent play for more than five to ten minutes at a time. In addition to his activity mat, we practice sitting up, play in his jumper, read books, dance and sing to music, and play with toys. Mr. B gets home around 5 p.m., and we will sometimes all go to the rec center together, so Mr. B can work out and Lil' Sir and I can sit by the pool and people-watch. Otherwise, I am getting dinner together while Mr. B and Lil' Sir hang out. We eat dinner and play together with Lil' Sir, and bath time is around 7:00-7:30 p.m. He is down for the night between 8:00-9:00 p.m. Then I might have a glass of wine, watch some TV with Mr. B, and get a few evening chores done before I'm in bed by 10:00 p.m.
Q: What’s your favorite part about being a SAHM?
A: There are lots of wonderful things about being a SAHM! I particularly enjoy our relaxing mornings together, when Lil' Sir is in a happy mood and we rarely have anywhere to be. I also love being "front and center" for everything he is learning, and being the point person to provide his window into the world. Because we are around each other so much, I feel like I'm able to closely observe him as a little person and get to know his personality. I'm looking forward to coming up with interesting ways to help him interact with the world around him as he gets older. Also, I get to witness almost 100 percent of his giggle fits and snuggle with him far more than anyone else. Since giggles and snuggles are the main payment for parenting, they’re very enjoyable for me.
Q: What’s your least favorite part of being a SAHM?
A: Getting the giggles and snuggles has a flip side – I also get almost all the dirty diapers and crying fits, which are not enjoyable in the least. I admit I've broken down in tears more than once during the day when Lil' Sir simply won't nap and I feel very isolated and lonely. All of my close friends with (or without) children also work, so I rarely get to see friends during the week aside from my church's playgroup (where most of the children are toddlers rather than infants, so I am partially isolated there as well). We've had to make a number of financial sacrifices to allow me to stay home, so there's not a lot of money for me to go out to lunch, take Lil' Sir to the zoo, etc. There are days when I am simply desperate to escape the house but can't think of anywhere to go where I wouldn't spend money, so I just stay home. The finances also limit the amount of "girls' nights out" and things that I can do to get a break from baby care. In the end, the good definitely outweighs the more challenging aspects – I hated my old job/career and can't imagine having to leave Lil' Sir at daycare so I could sit resentfully in an office that I despise.
Q: What’s your favorite thing to do around town with Lil’ Sir?
A: The best things are the things he enjoys, and he certainly makes it known if he is not enjoying an activity. We tried to go to the "parent-friendly" movie showing a few times, and he screamed so loudly for so long the last time we attempted it that I swore it off for good! My son most enjoys freedom of movement and other people – so we have the most fun kicking around on a quilt at the park, or hanging out at church playgroup where he can see and interact with new people.
Q: How do you balance taking care of Lil’ Sir and having time for your husband?
A: That's definitely still a work in progress! Mr. B has a challenging, exhausting job, so he usually just wants to sit and relax as much as possible during the weekdays. That's hard to do with an attention-hungry infant around! Neither of us has family in town, so any kind of regular babysitting is out. We do have neighbors who are close friends, and are lucky enough that they will babysit for free once or twice a month so we can go to the movies, meet friends for dinner, etc., and we do the same with their toddler daughter. I also make an effort to talk to Mr. B about his work and other non-baby related topics so we can stay connected outside of our mutual adoration for our son.
Q: What do you do to keep balanced?
A: Also a work in progress. There a few little things I try to do now, since I'm unable, as stated previously, to get out and away from the baby very often. I love to read, so I make an effort to keep a book near where I am nursing or rocking Lil' Sir to sleep, so I can read while he is otherwise occupied. I also take him running with me when I can, another hobby that I enjoy from my pre-baby days. I recently moved my own bedtime back by about 30 minutes so I could implement "Wine O'Clock" after Lil' Sir is in bed, giving me the opportunity to sit quietly with a glass of wine and wind down from the day. I am strongly introverted, so interacting with my son all day leaves me very tired and drained by nighttime.
I hope this gives you a little insight into the perspective of one relatively new SAHM!
|Lovely Ms. E with her Lil' Sir|
UPDATE: Ms. E is now blogging over at Life Tossed Together. Check her out!