Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Every Day is the Weekend: Why staying home with my kids is the easiest job I have ever had!

According to the title of this post, I'm sure I have already upset quite a few people... by reading it, working moms now feel justified in what they suspected all along: that we SAHMs (Stay-at-home-moms) don't work very hard, but complain a lot.  And I'm sure by reading this title, all my SAHM friends are tempted to feel hurt, or they feel like they work harder than I do at this staying-home job (and to be honest, you probably do).  Neither is my intention, I promise!

First, let me clarify - I am not talking about you.  I am talking about me. My experience.

And my experience is that what I do now for work is the easiest work I have ever done.

I was talking about this with a former SAHM the other day.  She was telling me that her full-time job is a lot less "work" than when she stayed home.  She says she sits, deals with customers, deals with money.  But the pressure to be perfect and achieve is great, from authority and coworkers.  And I could totally relate to this when I taught in a public school.  There was so much pressure to perform, sometimes in many ways that I felt was impossible.  The expectations are so great and allowance for error so little.  That is stressful!  And to me, stress is harder to take than actual, physical work.

I explained to her that I feel so relieved, many times by the work I do now... even though I am afraid of several things like making ends meet and still having a social life.  So when I say that staying home is the "easiest" job I have ever had, I mean that as I am just as busy as ever, the stress is GONE!  This isn't because I am so great.  In fact, it does not have a whole lot to do with me at all!  I don't have a boss.  I am not an employee.  I am a partner.  I don't have deadlines. I won't be written up for not following procedure.  There are no formal evaluations.  People aren't calling me to complain about what I have or haven't done.  When I worked at school, I was never 100% present where ever I was.  If I was at work, I was thinking about my kids and home.  When I was at home, I was either thinking about school or literally still working - grading or planning.  Now my work and home are in the same place, so I am too!  This is a great job to have - even with the $0 paycheck!

While I was still pregnant with Keegan, I had several fears of why I would not enjoy staying home with my kids:
-Would I be able to take care of 2 kids who cry, whine, and many times need things they cannot verbalize or understand how to wait patiently?
-Would I be miserable since I hate housework?
-Would I feel worthless since I wouldn't really contribute to our finances?
-Would I feel exhausted because there is never a break from your kids in this kind of work?
-Would I feel lonely, since I am so extroverted and social, spending all my time with kids 2 years and under?  Would I have time to get out and meet people or go places?
-Would we be able to pay our bills?

So far most of my fears were unfounded.  I am finding that taking care of a couple of little kids is about the equivalent of taking care of 20+ 10-year-olds.  Sure, my kids have less logic and independence, but I find that I am equally challenged staying home as I was when I taught 5th grade.  I also find that I don't mind housework if I do it throughout the day as I go, instead of HAVING to do it when I am already exhausted at the end of the day!  Laundry is so much worse when all you want to do is collapse on the couch!

 The money issues were, and still are, probably my biggest fear about this entire life-change.  I have always been the kind of person that breaks out in a sweat - and probably tears - when I have less than $100 in the bank.  Sadly, I think I trust God for so many things - even terrible, big things - but when it comes to money, I freak out!  And when Kyle and I were first married, I was the breadwinner while he went to school and worked part-time.  He even kept Emersyn one day a week at home.  So, we have basically done a complete flip in our financial roles in our family over the past 4 1/2 years.  I thought perhaps that I would resent Kyle or feel guilty around Kyle for spending money I didn't earn.  This is where that "what's yours is mine" thing about marriage is so important!

I am thankful to have a husband that lets me contribute in other ways since I do not "make money" anymore.  He makes the money, and I take care of our budget/shopping/planning.  And I enjoy it!  Each month, I make our budget (after discussing with Kyle, of course, what we need to accomplish that month), menu, grocery/household items list, and calendar events.  I organize it all together and try to make it as efficient and cost-effective as possible.  So I may not be "making money", but I'm trying to make our money last as long as possible each month and throughout the year.  And even if I didn't watch a 3rd child for a little extra money, our budget would still work.  We try to use cash only.  We also have paid off most of our debt, so we have little bills for things we aren't currently using.  We have emergency savings.  We also put money back each month for annual costs.  Months that I don't watch someone's kid(s) or clean houses, or whatever side gigs I have been doing every once in a while, will be a little tight, but thankfully God has provided for us not only in money, but also in wise counsel on how to manage the money He has given us!

I once heard a sermon series on family that spoke about the man being the coach while the wife is the quarterback.  I am finding that to be more and more true with staying home.  Kyle and I are equally important in making this home run, but our roles in how we run it are very different.  And perhaps it is "traditional" and "old-fashioned", but as I look at our culture - the busyness, the stress, the dysfunction, the anger, the hurt, the fear, the judgment, the jealousy, the competition, the "making appearances" - I think that for us, going back to basics, simplicity, and clear definitions is a great place for us to rest!

And I feel rested, truly.

First, let me give you my daily schedule, just so you can know what I am doing and talking about:

On T/W/Th, I watch another child besides my own kids, so I make sure that I wake up at 6:30 to get ready for the day.  I also try to start a load of laundry.

At 7am, I nurse Keegan - this is about a 30 minute time each feeding.  While I nurse him, I also read Facebook, blog, read some spiritual and money-saving blogs, catch up on emails, and look online for shopping deals for gifts/events.

At 730, I get Emersyn dressed, make sure she has had breakfast (Kyle helps with her breakfast a lot), we brush our teeth, and then I clean the living room floor and rug.  If I didn't get a chance to start laundry before, I start it now.  If I did start a load, then I move that load to the dryer and start a second one.

Around 8, the other child I watch arrives, I rock Keegan to sleep, lay him in his crib upstairs, and play with the 2 girls downstairs.  I also try to get any previously done laundry folded.

At 9, I read to the girls and put the younger one down for nap.  Then Emersyn and I work on cutting with scissors, writing letters, or read more books.  Again, I take the clean laundry out to fold and move the second load to the dryer.

Around 10, everyone is awake again.  I change diapers.  I make Emersyn a snack. We play.

At 1030, I nurse Keegan.

At 11, the other little girl gets a bottle.  I do the dishes.  Emersyn gets to watch a movie.  After I finish the dishes, I start making lunch.  I progress the laundry process.

At noon, I get Emersyn started on lunch.  I rock Keegan to sleep and lay him down upstairs.  Then I eat while also feeding the other little girl.  Most of the time Kyle comes home for lunch too.

A little before 1, I read to the two girls and put them both down for nap.  I finish any laundry I started.  I clean other areas of the house.

The little girl and Keegan wake up around 2.  I change diapers and play with them.

At 230, I nurse Keegan.

At 3, the little girl gets a bottle.  Emersyn usually wakes up sometime around now.

Then I prep for supper.  The little girl leaves around 4.  I clean up a little and make supper.

Kyle comes home a little after 5, and we eat dinner.

Now, before when I worked at school, after dinner would be the time that Kyle and I would tag team playing with Emersyn while also cleaning dishes, doing laundry, packing lunches for the next day, and cleaning the house.  We also are very busy people involved in church and community groups where we are away from the house several nights a week, so either our house or these groups were neglected.  There was no way to do it all.

Now we can!  Usually after dinner now, we either go somewhere or we all do some activity until it is bedtime.  Then, if we are home, Kyle and I get about an hour or so kid-free each night to talk and watch our current TV/movie series.

I'm not saying I don't work very hard anymore.  Because I do!  I am constantly moving!  I am either playing in the floor, bending to empty the dryer, rocking a baby, climbing the stairs back and forth to put kids down for sleep or to change diapers or to take laundry to put it away.  I am trying to keep the toddler busy with activities so she won't beg me to watch TV all day, while also making sure I give the baby attention and cuddles.  And 3 days a week, I also try to give the 3rd child attention.  And since she crawls and toddles, I try to keep her from going upstairs or downstairs while I tend to 2 other kids at the same time.

And since I know I am working hard, I will not be ashamed of swimming, playing at the park, or watching a movie in the middle of the day!  I have nothing to prove or hide from the rest of the world.

I feel like teaching prepared me for staying home in many ways!  I know how to keep multiple kids at different levels busy and safe without much thought or stress, but maybe only because I had a decade of practice with 20+ kids who all read and wrote at different ability levels.

I have heard many SAHMs complain about never getting a weekend off, because our jobs are 24/7.  And when I worked at school, I will be honest and say that I thought these women sounded so bitter, negative, and whiny.  I worried I would become the same way because I would feel overworked and under-appreciated... perhaps teaching prepared me for this as well!  Teaching is a thankless job, and I didn't do it for the thanks in the first place.  So, thankfully I was prepared for the worst in staying home.  But again, my husband thanks me often.  And if I loved my students without thanks, believe me, I love my own kids so much more!!!

When I worked at school, the weekend wasn't a vacation like many SAHMs imply.  It was the time I caught up on housework and spent time with my kids.  Weekends were very busy and full.  I say "were" because now I feel like I can get a lot of that stuff done during the weekdays so that when my husband is home on the weekends, we actually get weekends!  For example, last weekend we had friends over Friday night, went swimming at the river Saturday morning, watched TV during the kids' naptime, went to a birthday party and hung out with old friends Saturday night, church Sunday morning, lunch and naps Sunday afternoon, and went out the river with the college students Sunday evening!  I did one load of laundry and swept floors once the whole weekend!  This weekend, Kyle was able to help a friend lay some flooring most of the day Saturday, family came to visit on Sunday, and we spent Labor Day at my grandma's house... and when we came home last night, I wasn't dreading the next morning.  And I didn't stay up late having to catch up on laundry before the work week!  In fact, Kyle and I stayed up late watching "Hook" after we put the kids to bed!

So, in my experience, every day staying home with my kids is like what a weekend day was like when I worked at school - actually, even better because I didn't have papers to grade in the car or lesson plans to type in before I went to bed!  Every day is a weekend, a weekend on a tight budget, but a weekend nonetheless!

I loved teaching, and I love staying home.  Each job was perfect for the season of life we were in at the time, and I am thankful for God's timing and provision in all things, phases, and types of work.

Praise God from Whom ALL blessings flow :)

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