I have found that staying home with two children leads me into being a hot mess more often than not, so when I saw that April of Stories of Our Boys was doing a hot mess blog hop, I couldn’t help but think I may have found my people. I am all about keepin’ it real.
Many people seem to be under the impression that being a stay at home parent is not actually real work, that I get to be lazy more often than not, and that not much is required of me. I have to see the humor here, otherwise I might roll my eyes so far back into my head that I will not be able to move them back into place. And, I kind of need my eyeballs.
While I may not answer to a boss or punch in with a time-clock, I certainly do not feel like a woman of leisure who gets to binge-watch Netflix and pig out whilst lounging around in my pajamas. If you came knocking on my door you would find a hot mess standing there to greet you and you might wonder what exactly it is I do with my time since my hygiene is obviously in need of attention. I am in scrub pants, a plain shirt, my hair pulled pack, and I am not sure if I brushed my teeth. Let’s just say that I am glad God isn’t concerned with outward appearance (although, one look at the hot mess that is me and He might rethink all of that).
I stopped answering to an alarm clock a few years ago when bringing home my first newborn baby ensured that I would be receiving wake-up calls at timely intervals for the foreseeable future. Now I have two little alarm clocks ensuring that I receive wake-up calls at varying intervals.
Usually I have a baby in my arms as I make a morning cup of coffee and prepare a bottle at the same time. So far, I have not accidentally put coffee in the bottle or formula in my mug, although I have come close. I have, however, opened the refrigerator many times to microwave my cup of coffee. Yes, I have placed my mug in the refrigerator and later wondered why the microwave never beeped and where did my mug go, anyway? Lately, though, one task my husband has been doing for me just before he walks out the door to go to work is to leave a prepared bottle sitting on the table. It is one of those sweet things he does to let me know I am on his mind and that he cares about how my day goes.
There was a time when I enjoyed intelligent and philosophical discussions and had goals that didn’t have anything to do with developmental milestones and potty training. Now my conversations consist of bodily functions, body parts, spelling, and pointing out shapes and colors. The red ball is round like a circle! The baby had a giant poop! Would you like to sit on the potty? Don’t stick that in your nose! Yes, he is a baby boy and has a different body part than you, do you remember what it’s called?
Trust me, adults don’t appreciate this kind of talk when you forget to whom you are speaking and have difficulty pulling your IQ back out of your purse.
I have a preschooler who loves to help me with household chores, which is actually pretty sweet and adorable. But, my freshly folded clothes end up in a pile the floor and the dirty clothes end up tossed on top of the clean ones all too often. While I am making the bed, my daughter is pulling off pillows and covers to hide under while she giggles and shouts, “I help mommy!” Sure, I may have just vacuumed 15 times, but her crackers are squashed all over the floor in a trail again and the puppy found yet another roll of toilet paper to shred while I was busy with something else. And, my 10 month-old son is now an active explorer who has a personality that craves interaction, which means I am often following him around and hunched over like some creature from a Disney movie. Balancing housework, two children, and three animals is a juggling act to put it mildly.
No matter how much cleaning, laundry, and vacuuming I try to accomplish, my husband is often left to wonder if we got robbed while he was at work. Not only do I look frazzled and wild with distress by late afternoon, but our home looks completely ransacked despite my best efforts. My husband, being the great guy he is, will often offer to do the grocery shopping with the kids so I can get whatever needs to be done in peace (hands off, ladies, okay? I don’t want to have to get ugly).
Sometimes, though it is getting rarer all the time, I am actually able to have dinner prepared and ready in a timely manner so we can sit around the table for a proper meal like a family.
When we leave the house for any reason, a circus act ensues to be sure everyone has been fed, changed, cleaned up, and packed to load up into the van. Usually, I get so busy making sure the animals are in their place and taken care of, the children are clean, and I have the bags that I forget I, too, need to be ‘pottied’, watered, fed, and cleaned up. It isn’t until I have left the house that I realize my bladder is screaming, my stomach is growling, my breath is kicking, and there is a stench wafting in the van to let me know that someone just muddied up their clean diaper. If my son is giggling happily in his car-seat with his feet in the air, it usually means it was him.
I don’t know where those put-together moms come from, but I have to fight the temptation to give them the stink-eye when I am out and about with the kids. I am sure they fight the temptation to look at me and snicker as I limp along in a bow-legged dance to lug both children and the bags while desperately trying to blow hair out of my face so I can see where I am going.
Most of the time I really don’t have anyone to talk to during the week and I get tempted to start swinging from the chandelier and sing, “They are coming to take me away, ha-ha!” You know, just to shake things up a bit.
So, not only do I NOT get to lounge around and binge-watch junk television, I am also lonely and desperate for a meaningful conversation with someone who doesn’t speak in jargon and childish riddles. This means I can often follow my husband around the house and cling to him when he is home. Or, I laugh wickedly as I leave him with the kids so I can escape to go workout. Other times, I accost strangers or cashiers with smiles and small talk out of desperation to relate to an adult human being.
Staying at home with young children is very trying, exhausting, and lonely business. I, personally, do not find it to be leisurely or glamorous. I do, however, treasure these days in spite of every inconvenience, frustration, mess, and headache because I know they will pass soon enough.
We are involved with an early education program through the school district, which has been a life-saver and I would recommend that every stay at home parent check with their school district about any such available programs. We have visits with an educator who is now like part of our family and there are playgroups or other activities to join.
I am also able to make time for other endeavors involving ministry, projects, and even writing and interacting in the ‘blogosphere’. My home office is half playroom, so I can get the kids busy with an activity while I make time to work on mine.
And, when I get to leave the house without any of these people, I wait until I turn the corner before I turn up the radio and start dancing like a lunatic behind the wheel. If you see some woman flying down the road in a minivan and she is break-dancing in the driver’s seat while singing, “I’m free!!!!!” out the window…well, it just might be me.
Or, it is some other mom who has escaped the asylum temporarily.
Just smile and wave at her as she drives down the road and remember to pray for her sanity.