I’ve spent half a month home with the boys. We’ve done a lot of things. It’s felt really great in a lot of ways.
It’s also felt challenging on a number of levels.
Truth: I’ve never simply stayed home with my sons. When I left the newsroom in 2006, I already had a contract lined up to work from home. In those nine years, I’ve worked steadily through pregnancy and bed rest, through breastfeeding and potty training, through vacations and baseball games, through preschool and the transition into elementary school.
Over the years, I found my groove. I taught myself how to shut the laptop at the end of my work day. I learned how to flex my time, how to work after the boys went to bed when things needed finished by morning. I also learned how to push myself just a bit too hard and end up with too much on my plate.
It makes sense then why I’ve felt challenges since leaving my job. I have a lot of questions about it, too.
What do I do with this free time? Why are we still late for baseball practices? Why aren’t we free on the non-rainy days so we can use our pool pass? Why are we still so busy? Why do I still feel overwhelmed by the boys? But where does clutter come from? Why are all the library books late? Do I really have to play Monopoly with them? Why am I so horrible at board games? When did they get to be better than me at video games? Why do their socks fit my feet? OMG, how much can they really eat? Why did we have to buy a house that allowed them each to have their own rooms if they only and always want to sleep in each others’ room? Can I serve spaghetti three nights in a row? Will they notice? Would they like that better? Why don’t they knock? Why are they so loud?* Why do they follow me? Why is it even worse when it’s silent and I can’t find them? And on and on.
One question leaves me questioning myself the most: Why do I still feel overwhelmed by the boys?
For nine years, I’ve assumed my frustration, lack of patience, and general feeling of overwhelm when it came to mothering these two boys came from my hectic schedule as a working mother. I knew that stay-at-home moms also felt these things, but I truly thought my own issues stemmed from how much I attempted to handle at once regarding the non-existent work-life balance.
It turns out that parenting is just this way.
Before the end of my last day of work which coincided with the boys’ first day of summer break, I found myself thinking, “And I’m taking a month off with you crazy kids because why?” I’ve been frustrated at various times since then, though I can see trends in where the frustration begins. The boys’ arguing, the rush to get somewhere combined with the summer slowness we are all craving, overtired whining, my anxiety, and a few other things all make me feel like I’m not doing this well. Like I’m not doing my month home with the boys “right.”
I’m a funny creature.
There is no “right” to this month off—though I would like to report I am mostly caught up with laundry on a daily basis. No, we haven’t made it to the pool as much as I originally hoped, but we’ve gone and enjoyed our time together, made friends, and had fun. I haven’t made fancy desserts or breakfasts, but I seem to manage feeding us on the regular. I haven’t made it to see all of my friends—and I hate that—but the boys have had a number of great adventures with their friends. I read an entire book, but we haven’t made it back to the library yet and everything is overdue. Again. Always. Plans I hoped for may have fallen through, but we’ve replaced those with other great plans. One kid is sick, the other will likely get sick, and I can imagine the two adults in this house ending up with fevers on our beach vacation.
Despite any imagined self-caused shortcomings so far this month, it’s been a great time. I’ve never had this much time with my boys to simply be. We sit on the porch at bedtime, eating Popsicles and watching the fireflies come out. We do what we want, when we want, because we can. While I try not to speak for my sons, I genuinely feel they’re enjoying this extra time with me.
While I know it won’t last forever, I know I will treasure this month through eternity—challenges and all.