What do you do all day as a stay-at-home parent?
Life is busy and some days it takes all we have as parents to just get through the day. There are so many pressures surrounding us each day as a parent, that it is paralyzing sometimes to know what to do first. When my kids were young, I found myself wondering, at the end of the day, what I did that day that was useful. Oh sure, I kept my kids alive, I made sure there was healthy meals on the table and the laundry may not have been done (definitely not folded), but all in all, I struggled with finding value in what I was doing.
It wasn’t long after that thought when my husband came home from work…the house was a mess, toys and clothes everywhere, I hadn’t showered yet, I was still in my pajamas, and dinner was not ready. He said, “What do you do all day anyway?” (insert head spinning, fire coming out of my nostrils, and the heat of fury rising up from my feet to the top of my head)
In that moment, with me questioning my self-worth and my husband questioning my time-management, I knew I had to do something to calm myself, build up my self-esteem, and give my husband an answer that would forever make him think twice before asking that question again.
And so, I decided to write down everything I did in that day:
- Wake at 12:00am, 2:00am, and 4:00am to feed the baby.
- Wake at 6:00 am to feed the baby and answer a million questions from my toddler.
- Make breakfast for toddler and make a herbal tea for myself.
- Set the tea down and find it again around 10:00am.
- Feed the dog and let her out in the backyard with promises to walk her later.
- Dress both the baby (again because she threw up on herself), and the toddler, because she is covered in strawberries and oatmeal.
- Have a full on rodeo-style take down to get my toddler to brush her teeth.
- Take another 20 minutes to describe what happens when you don’t brush your teeth.
- Take another 20 minutes to explain why mommy is crying – (not my first sign of postpartum depression).
- Attempt to go to the washroom but the baby starts crying and my toddler is saying “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy…” like a million times from outside the door.
- Turn the TV on, but don’t want to be that kind of mom that let’s the TV be the babysitter, so I turn it off…even though I just wanted it on…for just a few minutes (insert the crazy judgement and shame we put on ourselves).
- Change the baby’s diaper every 2 hours.
- Empty diaper pail.
- Don’t quite make it to the garbage can and the dog gets into it.
- Clean up incredibly disgusting mess from the dog.
- The baby is finally down for a nap.
- Let dog out because she is barking at the mail delivery person and wakes baby.
- Wash dishes and plan out meals (stare at cupboards hoping to see fully prepared meals suddenly appear).
- Nurse baby every three hours.
- Plan a play date for my toddler.
- Make snacks for the play date.
- Cancel the play date because the baby just fell asleep again for like 10 minutes.
- Pack up everyone to go grocery shopping around 10:00am and attempt to leave the house before 2:00pm. It is now 3:30pm so I decide to wait and go later at night once the kids are asleep and my husband is home.
- Try and get dressed but end up crying because nothing fits me.
- Call a friend but she is at work and can’t talk – wonder if I should be going back to work soon and jealous that she is at work.
- I feel like a total failure…like I am not good at anything.
- Go outside (in the backyard as I still have my pajamas on).
- Realize it is too windy for the baby, so we make a tent but then all the snacks are inside for my toddler so we go back inside.
- Make lunch that my toddler decides she hates.
- Dress my toddler again because she peed her pants…and then realize that this is not the right time to work on potty training.
- Dress my baby again because she blew through the last diaper.
- Thank the Lord that my kids are healthy.
- Do a craft with my toddler and admire her creativity (she is still very creative).
- Sing to my baby because sometimes “You are My Sunshine” is the only song that will calm her.
- Smile and play and love my kids with all my heart…no matter how tired I am (and it takes every bit of strength I have).
- While baby is napping, I get a load of laundry together, but don’t make it down the stairs without my toddler having a meltdown over ________ (insert just about anything here).
- Look in the fridge and realize that I have nothing to make for dinner.
- Look in the mirror and wonder who is staring back at me.
- Cry again, but alone this time because I am so tired and the baby is crying again.
- Realize that I cannot set the baby down or she will cry (ended up holding her for the full first year).
- Watch my toddler bring every toy she owns from her bedroom to the front living room as I nurse the baby.
- My husband walks in the door and I think, “Why have you been gone so long?”, and then I think, “Finally, I can go pee.”
When I was done the list, I gave it to my husband. He, of course, apologized and said that was not what he meant. And if you know my husband, you would agree…this is definitely not what he meant, but it is what I heard! (Still working on that one:) Maybe he will write a post one day for us from his perspective as a parent who had to work all day away from his family…it wasn’t easy for anyone those early days! If you have a perspective as a parent to share with us, please comment below. The more we understand and can empathize with each other, the less shame and stress we will put on ourselves.
That was the first and last time my husband asked me what I did all day. And, it was the start of a journey for me – a journey back to myself.
I realized that being a stay-at-home mom is hard and it takes a lot of courage to remind ourselves of our self-worth, when the world is telling us that we need to be better, do more…be perfect! This is an impossible task, just as it is impossible for any of us to live up to the expectations of our society, to live the kind of life we see other parents living on Facebook (totally not real life 100% of the time), and to live the kind of life that we were raised to believe we should be living.
Now is the time to embrace our great qualities and be kind to ourselves when we don’t get it quite right. We are going to mess up…that is guaranteed…no one is perfect and there is no such thing as a perfect parent.
I just hope that the next generation allows themselves a bit more forgiveness than I allowed myself. We are all just doing the best we can.
We could all use a bit more self-compassion but also a little more support from fellow moms.
If I could step back in time and nurture my new mom self, I’d say:
- Cut yourself some slack.
- Ask for help ahead of time– build a support team.
- Get out there and try to fit in some fun. Join groups, have play dates, remember that you’re an individual and try to fit in time doing things you loved before kids (even if that means watching The Bachelorette with your sister every Monday night, if getting out of the house is too challenging).
- Get a grip on your reality and your expectations. It can’t all get done the way it used to pre-kids, and that’s ok.
- Acknowledge that this too shall pass and it was a bad day…but if those days become more bad than good, get help. Postpartum depression is fairly common and not as taboo as you might think so reach out to your family doctor or public health nurse if you’re struggling.
- Care less about what other people think and more about what is right for your family.
- Accept that there are no perfect parents – we are all just doing our best!
- Love yourself and the sweet life you have built…all the good, and the bad, and the messy!
- Spread the love with other new moms who just might be wishing for someone to tell them, “YOU GOT THIS”, that it was/is hard for you, too, and that, one day, we’ll all look back on this time in our lives and high-five our struggling new mom selves and say, “yeah, you did it!”
If you are a parent looking for a group to love and support you, please join our Facebook Group here! All love and no judgement!
Written by Jennifer McCallum – Edited by Vanessa R.