I humbly admit you have become my hero’s.
If there is anything I’ve learned over the past 5 months, it’s this — being at home makes you a special kind of strong.
Before Covid hit, I used to think it was a “fun job.” One that anyone could do. Then when the country shut down, I woke up in a house with 3 children 24/7. No outlet. No village. No errands to escape to or no office building to run to. No excuses not to be present.
The hardest part was not seeing what I had actually accomplished at the end of each day. In my mind, cooking multiple meals before noon, cleaning up messes, and doing laundry every waking moment seemed repetitious at best, not rewarding. If you have been in corporate America for 22 straight years like me, you can appreciate how this sudden shift of daytime activity felt like shock and awe, not a break.
Like I’ve said before, I was happy God slowed our world down, but if I’m being totally honest with myself, staying at home and being a mom from sun up to sun down didn’t feel like the “fun job” I thought it was. I love my children dearly, but not having an outlet like I was accustomed to, was overwhelming some days. Especially those first two months of homeschooling. They needed me every minute of the day and I wasn’t used to it. I was used to being able to have a conversation without five interruptions. I was used to peeing in peace. I was used to having a second to myself. After all, you get breaks at an office job. I quickly learned there were no breaks at home.
Another part of the awakening – I was clueless about the level of patience it takes to be a stay-at-home mom. Or the skill set for that matter. I had no idea how to “play dolls” for example. And the worst part, I was wound so tight, I didn’t even realize that I didn’t know.
Keep in mind, when you grow up in a hospital and the objective is to take that next step and document forward momentum, you are trained to define success by tangible things you accomplish each day. Then when you start working straight out of college at 21 and don’t have children until you are in your 30’s, the human brain already has a decade of a corporate mindset embedded, which entails once again, defining success by a paper trail of what is accomplished each day by 5 pm.
Then suddenly, at 43 years old, I had to train my mind to be content with a world that didn’t care about the bottom line or what was checked off the to-do list. And let me tell you, it took me every bit of those first two months at home to recondition my mind.
Therefore, March and April were really rough. But by mid-May, I finally felt like I could breathe again. I was getting in the groove of this stay-at-home mom roll. After two months of growing pains, I finally felt the joy. Then I spent the entire summer being present. We did a million walks, bike rides, movie nights, picnics, and scavenger hunts around the neighborhood. We made new friends and played with old ones. We visited every creek and river and watering hole around. We read books and painted rocks. We baked a lot. We stayed up too late and set off firecrackers well before July 4th. I took the kids on weekend adventures and visited my grandparents in the nursing home. We took neighbor’s dinner and planted a tiny garden. It was the first summer in the 10 years of being a mom, that I was here for every wake-up and every bedtime. And even though I was still working remotely, it’s probably the closest I will ever get to know what it feels to be “home all summer with the kids.”
And here is what the experience taught me – in the most simple terms, being a stay-at-home mom is hard. Very hard. And you have to be strong on every level. But beyond that, I learned the important work in life is done in quiet moments during bedtime prayers, in placing band-aids on scraped knees, and listening to arguments about who’s not sharing. The real work was being done in-between those multiple meals and endless loads of laundry. The work was being done just by being present. I started addressing issues at home that I had put off for years – things like the kid’s temper tantrums. I had those hard conversations. I forced myself to finally put a concerted effort towards correcting the behavioral issues that I had let slide, just because I was so busy. I got to know little things about my kids I didn’t know before. And I think they got to do the same with me.
Like the old saying, hindsight is always 20/20. So looking back over the past 5 months I now see what I accomplished can’t be checked off a “to-do” list. There is not necessarily “daily gratification.” No raises based on performance. No boss to tell you if you are doing it right or wrong. No manual you can refer to when you feel overwhelmed. It’s exhausting. Some days it’s thankless. And monotonous.
But I finally understand why people say it’s the hardest yet most rewarding job. Because it is. And that’s the cold hard truth.
So I raise this now stronger bicep to honor all the stay-at-home moms … I was wrong to think this assignment was just “fun.” So wrong.