Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Reader Wants MY Advice, Don't Be So Surprised

Not too long ago a reader emailed me to ask this question.

"Could you write something giving me ideas on what to do and how to
continue feeling like a normal person even though I will be home most
of my time?"

She is a Mom getting ready to leave her job to stay home with her almost two year old TWINS.  

(I feel the need to type TWINS in all caps at all times because I am consistently in awe of those able to handle two of any age under four.)

She wants to continue to have a sense of self despite no longer having a job outside the house. She wants to stay active, not trapped in the house. She's concerned about staying attractive for her husband.  I assume these concerns are related directly to keeping up her self esteem and self worth without a job. 

Self esteem can totally falter if she should happen to find herself in sweats every day eating mac and cheese and watching unhealthy amounts of Yo Gabba Gabba or Max and Ruby while trying to "talk" to two small people that don't understand toilets, time, or even know why they should care about tough decisions like bangs versus no-bangs.  Kids suck sometimes.

(I also would pay an insane amount of money to know where in the hell Max and Ruby's parents are during all their shenanigans?  Ruby shouldn't have to shoulder all the responsibility for Max, and they definitely shouldn't be taking city buses anywhere without an adult. That Grandma is in and out, probably running a high end bunny escort service while her grandchildren are losing their minds trying to figure out how to catch a bus to her house or make $5 stretch to pay for overalls and a shirt.  Who writes this stuff?)

(That was possibly an example of how my passion for life has been altered, some might say crushed, by staying home for the last seven years.  I shouldn't feel this much about two fictitious bunnies, but I do.  I won't apologize for it.)

I feel I should say that I think she's making the right choice to see how she likes being home with them.  It isn't the right choice for everyone, but it's great that she has the option to be with them while they are so young.   It's priceless, it sucks, it's awesome, it's torture, it's heartbreaking in a good way, it totally freakin' blows. 

I feel many emotions about being home.  But I wouldn't change it.  No way.

I think we can all agree that I, as the person currently obsessed with all things meth, lives in fear of any weeknight commitment which might last past 9 pm, pees her pants when doing any physical activity more than a walk, and still firmly believes there should be someone starting a fundraising campaign to end the cruelty of adult acne is the perfect friend to give tips on normality amongst the pitfalls of life as a stay at home Mom. 

Fine, the truth is I've lost some of my mojo since leaving the workforce and pushing out three children that somehow have enslaved me, but I'm still me.  I recognize what I need to do to stay sane.  I know how important it is that I feel connected to the world outside of my kids and that my husband and I are top priority, or everything fails. 

I don't even think a dry erase board could save me if Alex and I were in a bad place.

Here are my top ten tips, in no particular order of importance because I'm not that organized.

1. Don't Drink and Try to Read Fox and Sox

A glass of wine while preparing dinner, or while consuming dinner, is great, but keep in mind that just because you don't have to get up for "work" in the morning doesn't mean you won't be asked to read the most challenging tongue twister book ever written.  Keep things in check.  Your kids won't let you put your head down on the desk and pretend to be working.  They will mess with you and make life awful if you indulge.

2. Hire a Cleaning Lady

If there is any way you can financially swing this it will change your life. I know it's not easy on one income, but there is nothing that makes me feel more sane than the knowledge that every other week my house will be organized and clean...and I don't have to do it. 

When I don't have help, I feel like I am forever trying to squeeze in time to clean the toilet or mop the floors and it makes me want to scream. 

Well, to be honest I want to scream pretty often anyway, but it's just worse if I'm the one in charge of removing soap scum. 

As the person in charge of the running a home full of kids under 7, I still clean my fair share of everything.  I clean the toilets periodically because it's just not sanitary to let them stay for two weeks with someone trying to figure out how to use the toilet. 

When do they learn how to use the toilet?  Lower your expectations about that, whatever they are.

3. Get The Rock Out Of The House

I don't care what you have to do, but sweet Jesus, grab those kids and run to the mall, Starbucks, the park, the art museum, whatever. 

OK, don't go to the art museum, it will be awkward unless your kids are asleep or are the best kids EVER....and let's face it, they probably aren't. 

It is super important to balance staying home with the right amount of getting out and about in the world with all the functioning people.  It might be awkward to be among them, since most of them will look like they regularly sleep and shower, but it will be good.  I promise.

4. Go To The Gym

This is less about staying fit and more about finding a place that will accept your children at a moment's notice for two hours.   Though I think keeping yourself healthy makes everyone happier, most importantly you, the gym is a fantastic escape.  Find a gym with good childcare included.  It's great to make this a routine at least a few times a week, but it can be your sanctuary.

On the rough days I almost always take my kids to the gym so that I can be alone.  I've sat in the locker room, fully dressed and played games on my phone for an hour just to be away from them.  I've watched Ellen or HGTV while walking more slowly than I usually do behind an elderly my regular clothes. 

It's pretty awesome to drop your kids off and just walk away when you really need it.

5. Don't Start Doing Meth

I hear it's popular with stay at home moms, but overall it seems dangerous...and think of your teeth.

Despite the fact you could totally save money on a housekeeper because you could just stay up all night and clean since you'll have all that extra energy, it won't be worth it because you have to pay for all the meth.  It's so tricky to figure these things out.

Unless you can make it yourself....

No, seriously, it's a bad idea. Don't do drugs of any kind. Just watch Breaking Bad and see how awful it looks.

6. Get A Pet And Stalk Some Friends

I actually followed one of my first stay at home mom friends through the dog park for three days before I talked to her.  She looked normal, had a kid about my son's age, and I was so freakin' lonely at home all day with someone that wouldn't talk to me. I was totally cool with stalking her and then basically introducing myself and demanding she hang out with me.

I don't necessarily recommend that all the time, but it worked in this instance because she happened to be just as desperate as I was.  Finding a desperate person is a goldmine for someone to join you at the drop of a hat when you desperately need some adult conversation at the Chick-fil-a indoor playground to prevent you from drowning your sorrows in peach shakes.

7. Get Dressed More Days Than Not

It's fine if you are more comfortable in yoga pants, but for the sake of feeling human, put on a bra and a comfortable, but well fitting top with them the majority of the time.  Wearing yoga pants frequently doesn't have to mean the same thing as wearing pajamas.  The truth is we all feel better when we look a little better. 

8.  Get a "Hobby" 

This sounds really cliche, but it's important to have something that you enjoy doing just for you.  I write this blog and shop at the Gap.  The Gap might not really sound like a hobby, but that's why I put the word in quotes and have fun intonation when I say it out loud. 

Amity and I have an obsession with all things Gap and it really does fill up a lot of time, and credit cards.  Speaking of credit cards, I was just promoted to Gap Silver, an honor I'm sure only bestowed to the best shoppers.  So far only Amity and Alissa have congratulated me on this new success, but I bet the emails, calls, and texts will be rolling in after this blog post.

9.  Don't Be Afraid to Make It A Lazy Day

It can feel like you should always be teaching and interacting with your kids when you are home, but there's a lot to do.  Don't feel badly making your kid play by themselves for a while or putting on a movie while you fold laundry...or read your favorite book while sitting next to your kid. 

We all need time to get some stuff done or just check out, and your child doesn't need every moment of you just because you are there.  There will be days when in addition to that, you just are over it and all you can do is pour cereal, order pizza, and help with TV selections.  It happens. They will live and so will you. 

10.  Enjoy It, Even Though It Totally Blows Sometimes
One day you'll find yourself with a vomiting kid, trapped in the grocery store while someone screams and someone else crys because they have to poop and you'll wonder why you ever felt reproducing was a good idea, much less staying around them all day. 

Then you'll find a way out of the store and you'll climb into your trashed, overpriced minivan to endure the worst ride of your life and you'll probably be crying when you pull in to your garage. Then all your kids will be hungry, except for the vomit one, and you'll have to prepare food while cleaning poop and vomit. 

Then you'll find a way to painfully separate all of them and put them in their own beds to rest and try to sleep their way sane and they'll have their favorite music playing with their favorite blanket in their own cozy space and it will work, and you'll wander to your bed to fall down and cry and rejoice.

You'll cry because your kids suck so much that it seems damn near impoossible that you could salvage their terrible ways so that they have a chance of being functional, rationale humans later in life that you don't have to feed anymore.  You'll rejoice because you suddenly feel washed in gratitude that you are giving them the coolest gift of their own space on a rough day, their own Mom when they feel down, and you don't have to answer to anyone but yourself about the fact that you earned the right to lie on your bed and cry and watch bad TV for 45 minutes before the next shit storm errupts. 

Sometimes staying home is all about the balance of horror and joy.  It's a fine line, but I'm so glad to walk it.  I hope you enjoy it too!

I hope I could help! Good luck!


M. Costello said...

Well said. Hit the nail on the head.

Moonhowlingirl said...

This made me laugh so hard! I even read snippets of it aloud to my husband. Made me feel better to hear that someone else has all the same frustrations as I do. I wouldn't trade it either. Nice work!

Anonymous said...

I stay at home with my two girls, and I love that somewhere out there, other people "get it." It's honestly great that I have the opportunity to be with them all day, and yet there are some days that I want to be anywhere else. Thanks, Leslie, for putting it out there for the rest of us!

Masala Chica said...

Love it. Every darn second of it.

"Sometimes staying home is all about the balance of horror and joy. It's a fine line, but I'm so glad to walk it."

Think you are walking it really well!


BNM said...

I love this post I laughed out loud and was shaking my head in agreement :) it sucks and its fantastic all at the same time how does that work? Oh and dont feel bad Ive had heated discussions with my kids about Max and Ruby's parents LOL

January Dawn said...

Fucking brilliant. Oh yeah. I said the 'f' word. And it felt great. I'm totally sharing this one.

Emmy said...

You know you actually gave her really great advice. In your wonderfully hilarious way that I love about you so much. I have been such a slacker and missed your blog so much :)

Anonymous said...

good, but what about going to the gym, I think it is going to spend a lot of time