This time of year can be a bit awkward for us, can’t it? We see all of our teacher friends going back to school with big plans of changing the world while we go through the mundane routine of taking care of babies. It’s hard to know what to do with all of those mixed emotions, knowing that the working moms out there are envious and perhaps we are feeling a little envy ourselves. Then we see all of the pictures of big kids going to school from moms who have gone before us and we feel that sad reality strike home that our time at home is actually very short.
I remember well my first back-to-school season as a stay at home mom four years ago. I spent a lot of that time at home, probably in my pajamas and definitely in tears as I held my six-week-old firstborn. Up to that point, back-to-school was something I had always done as a student and then a teacher, but now I wasn’t sure what the months ahead would hold.
August 2009 was a far cry from what I’d grown accustomed to. This year I didn’t sit through in-service meetings, receive a new school t-shirt, or hear at least seven inspirational speeches about the greatness of teachers. Instead, I nursed a newborn, cleaned up spit-up, felt like a failure because cloth diapering was not working for me, and wished so much that I could just have a full night of sleep.
Perhaps it wasn’t such a far cry after all. True, the students and situations looked a lot different, but the principles are the same.
Having been a teacher, I can testify – it’s a challenging job! There is no way that all of the needs and demands that come with the paycheck even out. A teacher’s job is never, ever done: there’s always something more you could be doing, kids who need more of you than you can give, some strategy you haven’t mastered, discipline issues that have you stumped, and unmet expectations.
Being a stay-at-home mom is also an extremely challenging job. There are those who haven’t done it who don’t get it. They think that not getting up and going to a place of business every day is as much of a cake walk as the “time off” teachers get in the summer. I’m not saying there aren’t some great perks to staying home, but there are more difficulties than most realize as well.
The isolation that comes with living day in and day out with little people can be maddening sometimes. Sure, there are mom groups and play dates, but we aren’t staying home to hang out with other moms. We are making our full-time job child care and training. Sometimes that includes others, as it should, but there is a lot more time where it’s just you and your little one(s), which is equally necessary.
No, we don’t have a boss telling us that hanging out on social media or talking on our phones all day is not okay, but we have children who need us to have free hands so we can care for them, play with them, and teach them priorities who unknowingly expect the same thing.
There’s the reality of one income that sets in with more reality each year you stay home. We don’t talk about how painful this one is much, because we know it’s our choice to be in this financial situation, but there are stressful financial seasons for all of us. Sometimes we wear t-shirts, yoga pants, and pony tails, not because we are lazy and have chosen to let ourselves go, but because we’ve accepted that paying bills is more important than cute outfits and hair styles.
Oh, and having a clean house all of the time? That’s a myth.The truth is, you and your kids are living in your house all day, every day. No janitor comes around and cleans your classroom after you’re done for the day. You are the janitor as well as the mess maker, and your little students find mess making to be their point of expertise.
Now that we’ve pointed out a few of the challenges that come with this job, let’s end on a happy note, shall we?
The thing is, I am living out my dream right now. I have aspired to be a stay-at-home mom my whole life. It’s something I feel called to do, and if there’s one thing I learned in my teaching days, it’s that we will be miserable unless we are fulfilling our calling.
So, much like a teacher begins a school year with bright eyes and big plans, I believe this is a good time for us moms to do the same thing.We need a time to approach our calling with a fresh perspective, hopes, and dreams. Here are some truths to help get your focus back where it needs to be.
1. The greater the dream, the bigger the pain and sacrifice we must endure to make it happen. If staying home with your kids is your dream, and you have the support of your husband, it is usually possible. No, it will not be easy. You will have mom guilt, second guess yourself, and exchange carefree shopping days at the mall with bargain hunting at the grocery store, but it will all be worth it deep within your heart.
2. Be a part of a community. Honestly, it’s hard work to do this when your kids sabotage phone calls and some days you don’t have a vehicle to get places, but having quality friends is essential. I am passionate enough about this one, I wrote a book about it.
3. Don’t forget that you are a teacher. Adopt your favorite teacher quote and make it your mantra. Be in it for the outcome, not the income; make a difference in tomorrow by teaching our future; be the change you want to see in the world – you get the idea. Live each day on purpose. Train your students to be confident, independent, invaluable contributors to society.
4. Remember your mission. At the beginning of each school year, our superintendent revisited our district’s mission statement. So what’s your mission? You already know you’ve been given a gift to be home with your kids, so don’t waste it! Inspire. Create. Learn together. Enjoy today – you already know it goes by too quickly.