When my husband asks, “What’s on your mind,” the wheels start racing. Whatever I was thinking is suddenly gone and I can’t decide how to answer his question. It’s like all my senses kick into overdrive and job-mode hits the fan and you know what happens next…
Well, there’s dirty dishes that beg attention in the morning, because I was too tired to deal with them tonight. I’ll regret that one later.
I need a shower, but I don’t care right now, though I really should care because I don’t remember the last time I shaved, but whatever. I’ll wear jeans.
Bills are due Friday and the mail hasn’t been checked all week.
What do you know about capsule wardrobes?
I have three loads of laundry to finish tomorrow and I really want to watch the movie that I started two weeks ago, but we should probably read that parenting book instead.
There’s a doctor appointment soon and Parent Teacher conferences, too, and you may need to take a day off work. But probably I can handle it.
I wonder how long I can ignore the dying plants on the porch. Have the hummingbirds flown south yet? I should check the feeder.
The oil needs changed in the car and we need to deposit that check and gosh! I keep forgetting to go to the store. We’re down to the last box of wet wipes.
I promised the kids a trip to the park this week. But why don’t I have any available mom friends to invite for moral support and coffee?
Is it too soon to buy Christmas gifts and where can we hide them? Also, Halloween costumes and holiday cards… And what’s the plan for Thanksgiving this year?
My phone just died. Toss that diaper bag here, please.
He stares blankly for a few seconds before reminding me to calm down. This isn’t the answer he wanted. Thus, sometimes for his sake I keep it to a simple, “Oh, I dunno. Nothing really,” which he knows is a load of bull hockey, but thirteen years of marriage allows us to have an occasional wordless conversation. The point is that he cares enough to ask and I care enough to spare the details.
The point is also… People, even husbands, sometimes wonder what stay-at-home moms do all day. Nothing, really.
* * *
During a recent trip for fast-food breakfast and playtime, a long-haired, tattooed man standing nearby us dropped his ketchup packet on the floor and quickly exclaimed, “Oh shoot!”
I didn’t think much of it until my son repeated, “Oh shoot! Oh shoot!”
I couldn’t help laughing as the man covered his mouth and said, “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry.”
I assured him that it wasn’t a big deal. He apologized again and said, “I’m glad I didn’t say what I wanted to say.” We shared a good laugh and parted ways. I might have been more concerned by the other word, but it is what it is.
From what I’m told, my first swear word happened at two years old as I accidentally knocked down a tall stack of Legos with my foot. Goodness knows where I’d heard it, but I also grew up learning to refrain from using those words, especially as a child. I suppose we first must learn the words before we can learn not to use them. That’s just good parenting, right?
Here’s the thing: We parents can’t guarantee that some random guy won’t drop his ketchup packet and blurt out an emotional phrase, and we can’t promise our kids won’t repeat it. Likewise, we can’t promise we, ourselves, won’t say or do something stupid too. But IT IS OKAY, because we can still be good parents.
I’m learning quickly that parenting doesn’t happen without mistakes and we live in a silly world from which we cannot protect our kids. It’s not my job to spare them from pain and bad language and germs and even sin. But it is my job to teach them what to do with those things. It is my job to show them the way to Heaven.
A wise woman recently shared with me a piece of advice, something to this affect:
You’re not raising perfect, brilliant, successful humans; that is up to them. You’re raising saints and angels; this is up to you.
Why didn’t someone explain this sooner?! Suddenly, my whole life makes sense.
If I only ever do one thing well, I will introduce my kids to God and give them a solid foundation. That probably sounds corny to most people, but most people aren’t my problem. I will be a good mom, if it kills me, and I am absolutely praying my children’s little souls right up to Heaven’s gates so we can spend eternity bouncing on clouds and eating giant cookies together; which, in effect, means I also must earn my way to Heaven while encouraging and supporting my husband to do the same. This job isn’t getting any easier, is it?
* * *
A couple weeks ago, I told another (working) mother, “I’m a stay-at-home mom, so my schedule is fairly flexible.” And then I slapped myself in the mouth.
Sure, this statement holds some truth, but the real truth is that flexibility is situational. The fact is that the day starts and ends at certain times, and naps and meals and work and school schedules are typically regular too. This means chores and errands and play dates and volunteering and anything else must happen during the short spans of in-between time. Furthermore, when we flex the schedule to include something irregular, we must still get the regular things done at some point. There are things that can be ignored and more things that cannot, and life gets pretty stressful when too much happens at once.
Additionally, because I don’t have a career, so to speak, my husband and I depend solely on ourselves to do everything. Everything. We don’t hire babysitters or housekeepers or landscapers, and when something needs fixed at home, Hub is the man. It’s rare that we call a professional for help. If close family or friends aren’t available to help – and note that they often are not, because everyone is understandably busy – we do it ourselves or we don’t do it at all.
This is to say, flexibility is exactly why I wanted to quit my career and do this Wife-Mom thing. When a child is sick, I will be automatically available to care for him/her. When it’s time to schedule dental checkups, I won’t have to ask permission to leave the office. When Hub wants some company at a work event, we will be there. When we want to travel during the middle of the week, there’s usually little or nothing stopping us.
It’s a hard job – the hardest – to always be available for everyone, but also rewarding. (Cliché, I know, but really…) Hub totally supports us by himself. He feeds us, cloths us, affords our home and utilities, buys gas and toys and television and, bless his heart, lots of tea and coffee. In the meantime, I get to experience the majority of good, fun times with our kids. I am often the first person to see them walk, talk, jump, climb, slide, and fall asleep unassisted. I dictate most of their teaching and discipline in the early years, and I set their schedules according to what I believe works best for all of us. Of course I discuss most things with Hub first, but he also trusts me to do it well with or without him. What else could I want???
So, yes, I can be flexible, but my job is as busy as any and our family is always at the TOP of my priority list.
* * *
I don’t know exactly how to describe this job, but it includes a little of everything and endless amounts of love and patience. Some days are hard, some are easy, and most are a mix of good and bad, up and down. Sometimes I am flexible; sometimes I am not. I’m often tired and usually out of shape and always falling behind on important tasks and begging for a break. I make mistakes and say things I shouldn’t and pray that our kids will be better than us.
I’m just a mom and I am busy raising God’s angels.