I've been a stay-at-home mom for nine months now, and I finally feel like I'm getting into the swing of things. I'm (somewhat) confident that I can predict the times that will be the hardest (10 am is usually tough for us). I can easily discern which cries are real and which are fake. I know when I need to do something immediately to change things up or risk losing everything to tantrums and tears. I know if they don't eat at certain times, then the grumpies will kick in.
And I know what I need to do for myself each day to feel fulfilled. I know I need to go to bed with a clean kitchen, or I'll be grumpy in the morning. I know I need to get dressed before I come downstairs - or risk not being able to get dressed until naptime. I know that I need to eat when the kids eat - even though it's tempting to use that time to pick up or check email. I know that the best days are the ones where we don't turn on the television. Where we spend some time outside, regardless of the weather. When I'm not on the phone or the computer or trying to sneak in some cleaning while they play.
It takes a lot of energy to stay at home. Not just the cooking and the cleaning and diaper changing - it's more than just that. I set the mood and the spirit for the day. If I am happy and enthusiastic, then they are happy and enthusiastic. If I am silly, then they are silly.
And, unfortunately, if I am distracted - they are (usually) naughty. If I am moody or less than excited, then they are too. On the days when I'm off, there are more tears, tantrums and whining than on the other days. They need me to be happy and positive - even if I'm faking it.
And some days I have to try really, really hard to be enthusiastic. I mean, let's be honest. Even when I know the best cure for the fussies is some fresh air and time outside, that doesn't mean that I'm always excited to put on rain boots and find umbrellas so we can splash in puddles. But we do.
And there are days that I would much rather be reading a book or chatting on the phone, but instead I'm eating fake tacos and drinking fake tea - and trying really hard to summon the energy to be an engaged, deliberate mother .
And I do it because I know the day will come (far too quickly) when all I'll want is to take three little kids splashing through the puddles. I'll be craving fake tacos and tea. I'll be begging my husband to play Candyland with me before bed. As long as some days can seem, the months and years are flying by. And these little kids are going to be grown before I know it.
Anna Luther, mother of three