Being a single-income family in a culture driven by dual-income wish lists is going to be tricky. As my maternity leave benefits come to an end, I’m realizing that in choosing to have a parent at home, we are going to live differently than many other families. Our lives won’t be better or worse than those around us – just different.
I want my daughters to learn the value in enough. I want them to understand gratitude. And what better way to illustrate these concepts than to sacrifice material possessions in exchange for deeper relationships and the constant presence of a loving parent? Their bellies will always be full; they will always be clothed in (relatively) clean, well-fitting clothes; they will always have toys to play with, books to read, and opportunities to learn, grow and engage in the world around them. Will they eat in restaurants every week? No. Will they receive every toy they ask for? Of course not. Will we travel as much as other families? Probably not. Will they suffer because they lack these things? Not even a little bit.
God-willing, my children will never be without enough. And I hope they never want for anything – not because they already have everything they could wish for, but because they have learned to be content with what they do have. Don’t get me wrong, though. I want to be able to give them nice things. I want them to have goals and aspirations. But I don’t want their happiness to hinge on material possessions. I want to teach them, by example, that true happiness comes from being content where you are, as you are.
So why am I concerned with raising children on one income? It isn’t because we don’t have enough, because in fact, we are wealthier than much of the world’s population could ever imagine. It is because of the impact our instant gratification society will have on these girls. I don’t want them to see their friends with a constant array of brand new clothes and toys and feel sad. I want them to recognize that we have enough and be grateful.
I hope my presence has an impact on these beautiful girls. I hope they understand that having Mama home with them every day is worth the sacrifice.
Tonight while browsing through some different blogs, I came across a post, written almost exactly three years ago, which had a profound impact on me as I began to read through it.
It was written by a young mom of “two under two” and was called “Breast vs. Bottle”.
Okay…wait, wait, wait. Before you roll your eyes and say, “Oh brother, here we go again with the whole “Booby Wars” debacle!”, let me tell you why this particular post got to me.
The first thing that struck me about this post was that the young woman writing it was obviously over-stressed, sleep-deprived, scared, and sad. (I dare you to show me a young mother out there who can’t relate to that!) Like all of us, she was struggling. Like most robust, healthy, four month old males, her baby was hungry a lot of the time. The gist of the post was that she desperately wanted to exclusively nurse her son, after having “failed” to do so with her firstborn, but was having supply problems. She nursed, he cried for hours. She felt like a failure. She supplemented, he slept like a log. She felt like a failure. She obsessively kept track of how many ounces of formula he required, and she despaired as that number grew higher and higher.
As I read, I could feel my eyes well up with tears of sympathy and sorrow until they eventually spilled over and rolled down my cheeks. “If you only knew!”, I whispered. I wanted to hug her. I wanted to talk to her, and tell her what a great job she was doing. I wanted to help her understand that no mother, anywhere, was more perfect for her son than she was. That she was a gift from God to that boy and that having a body which for unknown, and uncontrollable reasons, was not producing enough breast milk to satisfy a ravenous four month old, did not turn that truth into a lie. I wanted to tell her to spend her time rocking, snuggling, giggling, singing, smiling, SLEEPING, and enjoying. For I have learned that crying only blurs our sight, blinding us to the joy that is always there if only we would have eyes clear enough to see it.
I wanted to tell her that in exactly three years her sweet baby boy will the picture of perfect health.
I wanted to tell her that he will be one of the smartest children his age that she has ever met.
I wanted to tell her that when he smiles, which will be all the time, that people will be struck by the pure joy in his eyes.
That strangers will stop her in the supermarket to tell her how beautiful he is.
That he will do a mean Tasmanian Devil impersonation.
That he will love peanut butter sandwiches and cucumber slices for breakfast.
That he will struggle to hold heavy doors open for ladies, just like his daddy taught him.
That he will cover his ears and run away whenever she starts to sing.
That he will tell her approximately 250 times a day that he loves her “to the moon and back!”
And above all I wanted to tell her that when she tucks him into bed every night and asks him what he would like to say to Jesus, that he will sweetly and innocently thank God for his “precious Mommy.”
And that three years from now, she won’t be wasting time counting ounces because she will be far too busy counting blessings.
First, let me say that I’m sure there’s nothing wrong. I’ve been having some slight, intermittent pain in my left breast, and I asked my family doctor about it. She couldn’t feel anything amiss, but, since it was unilateral, said she would refer me for a mammogram if I wanted. I wasn’t sure, but she said she would go if were her, so I said yes.
I showed up at the clinic this morning, and after getting registered, washing my deodorant off and putting on that sweet double-layered hospital gown, I met the nicest tech who made the whole process totally easy and comfortable. Verging on delightful, really. She took a brief history, asked me if I was nervous (I wasn’t), and helped me contort myself into a few positions I’m sure would have been impossible to maintain if it wasn’t for the yoga. The pranayama probably helped, too.
Easy peas-y, Lemon Squeezy (or Melon Squeezy. Ha!). The whole thing took about five minutes. No pain, and discomfort so minimal I felt it was blog-worthy. Having heard a couple of stories about how much they hurt, I think it’s my duty to be the dissenting opinion. Be your own health care advocate! If you’re under forty and you think you need one, get a mammogram! They’re not that bad! Spread the word!
Please join us in welcoming Kate to Mama Might!
This morning I woke up cranky…angry… disgruntled… just plain p*ssed. The source: my 2 year old. I loathe her. Call it lack of sleep, pregnancy hormones, stress of balancing work and home life, nah! Just plain loathe everything that is two years old. The incessant self-centering, nothing is ever enough or right or wrong, or just fine. The battles – the tantrums – the strong will tug of war over everything little thing. Now, while you gather yourself and pick your jaw up off the ground, let me explain. Perhaps you have never had a two year old; perhaps you have never had MY two year old but nonetheless, let me enlighten you. We are potty training: a necessary evil of life and overall, isn’t going as poorly as I sometimes make it out to seem. That being said, it is still a battle I wish I didn’t have to fight. And when I say “we” I mostly mean “me” – having a 50 hour-work-week- husband and a 17 year old babysitter as your “potty training pitch hitters” is enough to make anyone want to pull her hair out. The “problem” with our two year old isn’t that she’s dreadful, isn’t that she’s “the middle child” isn’t that she doesn’t do everything I ask her to do, it’s that she’s just like me.
Yesterday, while assisting the doctor I work for with a patient, he and I shared the happenings of our time off. He shared luxurious and exciting stories about his trip to England and Ireland; I spent my days potty training. (NB: He and his wife raised 5 children. I know he can relate to the frustrations of potty training and toddlers). I shared my woes, experience, comparison to her sister, tactics, trials etc. And then he says: “it’s because she’s just like her mother.” (*slight pause for mind blowing experience *) YEP! She’s stubborn. She’s driven, self-sufficient, independent, and just like me. (* insert good dose of humility here *). I certainly can’t punch the guy that signs my paycheck in the teeth for enlightening me (although the consideration did cross my mind); I can’t pawn my 2yo off on anyone knowing what they’d be up against; I can’t give up and allow her to pee in her pants through her wedding day…
And then there was bedtime.
With Baby #3 just around the corner, hubby and I have recently started putting the girls to bed at the same time. The girls have been sleeping in the same room for well over a year but with staggered bedtimes at 7:30 and 8:00pm. It worked very well. Sometimes I ask myself why we stopped. Sweet 2yo would curl up in one of our laps in the glider, grab a paci and her lovie, read two books, prayers and was sound asleep 20 minutes later. GLORIOUS! 4yo went to bed with some struggle after teeth, potty, a couple of books, prayers, typical procrastination, back scratching, but by 9pm, Mommy was usually relaxing on the sofa. Yea right – by 9pm, Mommy was folding laundry, cleaning up supper dishes, or packing lunches for the next day. So, the new routine (sans paci mind you) with coinciding bedtimes has been sitting on the floor reading 1 or 2 books together, then in bed for communal prayers, followed by mommy or daddy sitting on the floor to “police staying in bed” for 15-20 minutes. Last night was daddy’s turn. At 9:15pm 2yo was still awake, asking for mommy. I hear hubby call my name from the foot of the stairs to our bedroom. He states “every time I get up to leave the room, (not-so-sweet) 2yo who is sound asleep sits straight up asking for you or for ‘daddy to sit on the floor awhile.” Ok, whatever. He gave it a good shot. I assume the position and take my turn on the floor of the girl’s room. Both nicely in bed and sleeping, 15 minutes later I head to bed myself. Everything is fine. Well, until midnight (everything exciting happens after midnight, right ladies!). Thump, thump, thump resounds from the baby monitor; fat toddler feet carry 2yo to the base of our stairs. I meet her at the bottom and quietly state “its nigh-night time baby. Let’s rock 5 minutes.” So we do. And she’s asleep. And I lay her down. And she’s awake. “Nigh-night baby. Mommy will sit with you a few minutes. Lay down.” So I do. I assume the position on the floor (difficult for a 32 weeks pregnant self to get down let alone up). 10 minutes later, sleeping 2yo, mommy awkwardly pulls herself to a standing position and quietly attempts to leave the room. 2yo sits straight with glaring eyes (like something from the Exorcism) declares “Mommy you sit.” Well, mommy has sat, and Mommy has rocked and Mommy must be up in 5 hours to go to work tomorrow. “No baby. Mommy has sat and rocked. It’s time for nigh-night. Stay in your bed. Mommy’s going to bed too. Nigh-night” and I attempt to leave. She whimpers. I return, reiterate the above, leave but this time make it as far as the living room where she follows me to the hallway. I guide her by the hand back to bed, tell her night, cover her up, tell her to stay in bed, make it to the hallway myself before blood curdling screams initiate. Quick thoughts begin racing through my head– what would Super Nanny do? 4yo will be awake any second. Am I willing to deal with two children at midnight? Let her cry a minute my gut insists. So I do, and yes 4yo is awake, but THANKFULLY stays in bed, simply covers her ears, and goes along for the ride. I return, put 2yo back to bed, tell her nigh-night, kiss her forehead, pry white-knuckled- fingers from my body, and walk away. I sit in living room, waiting. Piercing cries now reach the ears of hubby the floor above; I hear creaks from the spring of our mattress as he rolls over to turn off the baby monitor. She continues; I wait. 2yo gets out of bed but does not cross the threshold of her room now yelling “I potty mommy, I potty.” My immediate thought – SHIT. Of course you have to go. Why wouldn’t you? What do I do now? Not allow her to go just to keep her in bed thus discouraging the whole potty training fiasco and little headway I have made!?! Yet, I let her go and start the whole bedtime ordeal over from the beginning? AHHHHHH! Ok, 2yo. I’ll call your bluff. “Let’s go,” I moan. She sits and sits and sits and sniffles and sniffles and sniffles and nothing. “Go potty baby.” She dribbles a pee most likely knowing ‘mommy will flip her lid if I don’t produce at least one drop of urine.’” Bum wiped, clean diaper on, back to bed. Repeat all above except now insert “I want Daddy” in midst of her wailing, agonizing screams. Of course you want daddy! He will provide a refreshing element to the whole drama. “No honey. Daddy gone nigh-night too. Its nigh-night time. Stay in bed” and I return to my chair in the living room to find hubby sitting on the sofa cock-eyed. He says, “What’s going on? 4yo must be awake. This can’t be fair to her.” OH NO YOU DIDN’T. I close my eyes and breathe focusing myself on the task at hand rather than dismembering my husband limb from limb. I calmly tell him to return to bed. He insists no, also knowing mommy would likely flip her lid if he did return (there really is no right answer here). 12 more times I patiently get up, place her in bed, tell her to stay and walk away, channeling that same energy that prevented me from dismembering my husband to not clubbing my child. At 12:55am, hubby says “I’ll give you 5 more minutes of ‘your way’ before I step in.” I firmly offer him to sleep on the floor of the girl’s room – choice words exempted – boldly insisting that this fit was like any other 2yo tantrums and I was not about to let her win. I have far too much invested at this point. I bark one strong “good night” and return to my seat. Then, as quickly as it began, it stopped. I hold my breath. Is this it? Is it over? Is she asleep or at least settled? Did I win? I exhale. At 1:20am I return to bed in complete and utter fear. I move the video camera baby monitor right next to my head on the night stand next to me, rolling with adrenaline, unable to sleep, staring at the 2yo. Is she really asleep? Yes-but whimpers occasionally with her breaths, my heart silently breaks. At 2am I return to her bedroom. She is asleep, head down at the foot of her bed with covers thrown about. I lift her to her pillow, gentle brush the side of her face and place the sign of the cross on her forehead. She’s beautiful. My eyes well up. I hate myself.
At 6:30am the alarm goes off. Hubby hits it and rolls over. We are both awake but don’t dare discuss the previous evening’s happenings. I am mad, tired, emotional, p*ssed. At 6:45am 2yo clambers out of bed, walks the hall and climbs the stairs to our room as she does every morning. She proceeds to her father’s side of the bed, he picks her up and places her between us. She squirms to me cheek to cheek. I gush. “Good morning baby” I whisper. She smiles at me, looks me in the eye, I see no grudge. “I want ma cock-ca-lat milk (chocolate) and watch ma show now.” I breathe a sigh of relief. She doesn’t hate me.
Kate is a 40 hour-week medical assistant to an orthopedic surgeon, a 20 hour-week youth minister to a rowdy group of middle schoolers and 24/7 mom of 2 girls (ages 2 and 4) with a baby boy on the way. She was born and raised in Nova Scotia on salt cod, mussels, turnip and potatoes but now eats spiral hams, biscuits and white gravy (when forced) compliments of her Southern mother-in-law. She is married to a wonderful, calm husband of 6 years who has graciously stuck around long enough to avoid deportation, mostly out of fear that she’ll “leave the kids and run.” When not wiping bums, wrapping boo boos and passing out stickers (both at work and at home) she enjoys Twix bars, yoga, and Jim Gaffigan’s “Dad is Fat.” She clings to the rosary if for nothing else than sharing with another mom who doesn’t judge her.
Right now, my life is a blur of nursing and diaper changes, snack requests and stories, groceries and laundry. My sweet girls are 5 years, 3 years and 9 months old, and leave me utterly exhausted by the end of each day (sometimes earlier). I’m striving to embrace this season of parenthood, but I admit to regularly daydreaming about the day when a dinner date with my husband won’t seem like such a foreign concept!
A few years ago, I never would have expected to be a stay-at-home-mom. I was working in a full-time, permanent government job in my field of study. I had benefits and pension. And I thought it would be irresponsible to walk away from something like that. So when my first beautiful daughter was born (we affectionately call her Monkey), I took a year of maternity leave and put her in daycare so I could return to work. It broke my heart. The only thing that consoled me was that I was already pregnant with my sweet Peanut, so I knew I would soon be home with my babies again.
When Peanut was only a few months old, we decided to sell our house and move across town to a much bigger home. There were many factors involved in the decision, but looking back, I think we got swept up in the excitement of “new”. The very first night we slept in our new house, I crawled into bed with a knot in my stomach, tears in my eyes, and a startling realization in my mind. I had never before admitted it to myself, but I wanted to stay home with my babies. And we had just bought a house we could not afford on my husband’s salary alone. I would *have* to continue working and put both my babies in daycare. I cried in my husband’s arms and we talked about it until the wee hours of the morning. We decided that I would finish my maternity leave, go back to work, and re-evaluate after a few months.
“If you want to stay home with the girls, we can sell this house and move,” said my darling husband. “It’s just a house.”
After returning to work, it quickly became clear that it would be better for all of us if I stayed home. So up went the For Sale sign, and we started house hunting. In the midst of this, we conceived our third sweet baby, whom we call Punkin (or Punkinator, or Punkin-unkin, you get the idea). So it was decided that I would continue working until she was born.
We moved into a lovely little home when I was 20 weeks pregnant, and set about getting things as ready as possible before Punkin arrived. In September, Monkey started school, Punkin was born, Peanut needed her Mama more than ever as she became the middle child, and it was evident I was needed at home. A few months later, when I was 100% confident in my decision to stay home with these sweet girls, I broke the news to my boss and colleagues that I wouldn’t be returning to work. I was absolutely giddy with excitement! A new chapter, new challenges, new plans to make.
We love our home. It is beautiful and cozy. It is filled with love. Some days it is filled with yelling and tears and too much TV, but it is always filled with love. And I love my new job as a stay-at-home-mom. I struggle, and I still have a *lot* to learn, but this opportunity is an enormous blessing.
It’s a rainy Wednesday afternoon here in “The Plains”, as we like to call the community where my husband and I live with our three small kids. Not that there are actual plains anywhere nearby, but whatever.
We’ve just returned home from a busy play date at the home a new friend from church. Seven mommies and eleven children under six, all together under one roof. Coffee mugs, bottles, sippies, nursing babies, and one very special water bottle, purchased for somebody’s first soccer game last weekend. In a sequence of moments that were anything but quiet and serene, we spent our morning together.
“Is that happy squealing or hurt squealing?” we asked one another repeatedly as our young children played together. We took turns investigating odd sounds coming from the rec room, and alternated intervening in mild disputes over toys and snacks. We replaced articles of clothing that had been discarded, questioned them as to why their socks were so wet when they hadn’t gone outside (had they?), coached them on appropriate social behaviours, encouraged cooperative play, and passed around the six babies, all of whom are at various stages in their first year of life. We chatted, we laughed, we sympathized, we shared, we interrupted, we encouraged. “Chaos!” you imagine. “Lovely!” I tell you.
We are both right.
How my expectations for social gatherings have changed these past four and a half years! A “lovely” morning out used to mean something very different. I would arrive on time and already relaxed after having spent well over an hour getting ready, choosing a flattering outfit that fit well, applying make-up, and styling my hair while Bach’s cello suites floated over the sound waves in my immaculately clean house. It usually involved quiet chit chat where sentences and stories were finished, the smell of spa products or freshly baked treats from a local café filled the air, and I would be in the delightful company of one, or perhaps two, girlfriends who had spent their mornings in much the same way that I had. Then there would be a quiet drive home to an empty house, still immaculately clean but painfully quiet. I would then turn on some music to fill the silence.
By rather extreme contrast, the drive home in our mini-van today involved “Silly Songs With Larry” and was liberally peppered with questions shouted from the back row of the vehicle where my two small sons sat in their car seats within easy slapping distance of one another. My tiny daughter somehow managed to fall soundly asleep, despite the decibels, while I tried to think of something other than the fact that my clean-this-morning shirt now smelled faintly of regurgitated green peas, breast-milk, and bananas.
And now we’re home. My bitty princess has been tucked into her crib and my small sons are having their regularly scheduled afternoon “Quiet Time”. This can mean different things on different days, but the one aspect that remains the same is that they are not allowed in Mommy’s kitchen until summoned. Even more than they do, their Mommy needs quiet, and their Mommy needs time.
Time to do what? Many possible answers come to mind: our normally tidy house is, well, not so much. In our hurry to arrive at our friend’s house “on time” (yet another phrase whose meaning has changed dramatically over time!), we left our beds unmade, small pajamas on the floor, breakfast dishes in the sink, clean laundry on the stairs in a basket, dirty clothes on the floor in the laundry room, and toys on the floor. My hard-working husband will be home in a few hours, and his supper is, at this point, a good idea but far from a reality. It is, however, neither of these tasks that will fill my sacred hour of “Quiet Time”. That is not to say that they aren’t there, nagging, pulling, and distracting me as I sit at my counter with my cup of tea growing cold beside me, but that today I choose to put them aside, because this hour is not for tasks, or for doing.
This hour is for stillness.
This hour is for re-focusing, and not for planning.
For listening, and not for speaking.
For repenting, and not for regretting.
For forgiving, and not for nursing hurts.
For receiving from Him, and not for demanding of Him.
And always, this hour is for choosing to embrace with both arms this season of diapers, mini-vans, sippies, Treehouse, tantrums, questions, snuggles, night-time wakings, wonder, and the joy that comes from giving of myself to these little ones until it seems impossible that anything remains. It is for knowing that there is still this Faithful One who gives to me so that I may keep giving to them. For knowing that while I strive to meet their needs, that my own are likewise being met.
This hour is for deep thankfulness for seven mommies and eleven little ones to share my morning with.
This hour is for Quiet Time.