It’s not the interrupted slumber every single night. It’s not the early morning wake up calls in the form of small feet kicking your face. It’s not the half eaten sandwich left on the kitchen table to tend to tired cries. It’s not even the piles of soiled clothes that, although tiny, can somehow add up faster than the washer and dryer cycles.
It’s really the battle in my head, the one that internalizes self-worth based on what society tells me I should be doing versus what I am actually doing. It’s the sinking feeling I get of “losing another day” when the most I’ve done is change 6 diapers and wash a quarter of the dishes in the sink. It’s the idea that I feel fulfilled in life only when I have something concrete to show for it, whether that be a Master’s degree or a paycheck or even a ticket to another country. Since I’m neither attending school or pursuing some type of career abroad at the moment, two things that I could have sworn I’d be doing at 23, this feeling of discontentment creeps up on me and suddenly I feel conflicted. I’m running around like a madman day in and day out, yet it seems like nothing ever gets done. Am I doing anything with my life?
The hardest part about being a stay at home parent is forgetting about the pressures society dictates to me and actually appreciating being with my daughter. I’ve always had a tendency to think about what I could be doing instead of the current task at hand, and a desire to reach for something different elsewhere. It doesn’t help that I have incredibly itchy feet, and staying put is a very difficult concept for me. While it isn’t terrible to thirst for different things in life, the illusion that I am actually devoid of something can compromise my ability to be the best parent I can be. Spending time with my daughter becomes spending time feeling useless, which leads to ineffective parenting.
There are many difficulties that come with parenting and staying at home day in and day out with your child(ren). By the same token, there are many unparalleled joys that come with staying at home with your little one. I wake up every morning after Chris leaves to his 10-hour-a-day job. As I lie in bed thinking about what a long day we both have ahead of us, the first thing I see is a silhouette of our daughter’s small hands, outlined with the warm shades of crack-of-dawn sunrise. She opens her hands, wiggles her fingers, grabs her left hand with her right, and raises her feet into her fingertips. She looks on in wonder, intrigued at what her ever growing body and brain are capable of doing. She turns her head, catches my stare, and beams at me with her toothless, gummy smile. Every morning, it is in this very moment that ‘problem’ suddenly becomes miniscule. I’m overtaken by simple pleasure of seeing my daughter’s excitement that another day has arrived. To witness tender moments like this each day is a luxury not many parents can afford. I’m incredibly blessed, and even that is an understatement.
Being a stay-at-home parent is still very difficult, but like many things in life, it’s a learning process. The lesson I’m learning these days, as I have my daughter velcro’d onto me, is to be still. To truly stay in the moment with her as she learns to navigate this new world in her blossoming vessel of a body. To guide her when she’s overwhelmed by the smells, tastes, sounds and sensations that both excite and frighten her. To discipline myself to focus on what truly matters. Slowly but surely, I’m dismissing this idea of paychecks and degrees equating to self-worth, and realizing that being in the moment with my daughter is what makes life worth living.
Today, as I walk out to the front yard, I hold Jojo in my arms and begin to point out all the herbs and plants in the garden. Even in her fussiest moments, simply walking outside instantly soothes her. Mint, basil, cilantro, lavendar, jasmine...she reaches out to touch the plants in earnest curiosity as a look of wonder washes over her chubby little face, a look I get to see everyday. I have the privilege of introducing her to the smallest wonders of this world, and I wouldn’t trade that in for anything.
Are you or have you been a stay at home parent? Do you have any words of encouragement or stories to share? I would love to hear them ~