Stay at Home Mom Pressures and Truths

I’ll be very honest. Being an at-home mom can sometimes be the most boring job on earth. It really can. It’s very difficult to work towards something day after day knowing that you won’t see the fruits of your labors for years to come. I have bad days where I just don’t want to do it. Any of it. The cleaning, the playing, the entertaining, the cooking, any of it. And so there are days where my house looks scary and my kiddo entertains himself. I hope that I’m not doing severe damage to him by having these days. I know the house will survive. I can only hope that he does.

I may not be completely on top of things all of the time, but I have learned a few things along the way. First, when you have little ones at home, the house will never be completely spotless. It just won’t. I get asked by moms via email and comments on my blog asking about how I maintain the house and keep Little entertained and occupied, and to be honest, it was very very hard for a long time. He’s only just now reaching the age where he can play happily by himself in his room, or sit through an entire Disney cartoon without losing attention ten minutes in. I felt very frustrated about his inability to entertain himself for a while.

I enjoy reading to him, cuddling with him, and playing with him… But, let’s be honest. It isn’t always easy. Playing with itty bitties is difficult sometimes because the games can be a little… well, boring. Before you judge me as a terrible mom, just think back on your own playtime with your toddler. My son enjoys stacking blocks and knocking them over, playing with his cars on his road mat, running his trains along the kitchen floor, and playing with his toddler-sized basketball goal. However, when he has a certain imaginary “game” going on in his own head, I’m not allowed to interfere. Sometimes my participation results in a screaming fit from him. Very often I’m not allowed to touch his toys while he’s playing, but getting up and leaving the room isn’t acceptable either. So I’m instructed -by my baby child- to sit there in silence as he plays and hums to himself. It’s a sweet image, sure, but day in and day out it does get tiresome. We have great moments of imaginary fun where we’re dragons in a cave or lions in the desert, but for a good long while throughout this past year of two-ness, it was Little flexing that bossing muscle and making me sit and watch while he had a ball. There were many moments where I’d sit and watch {without being allowed to touch any toys} and wonder if this really counted as quality time. I was bored. I had other things on my mind that I wanted/needed to do, but leaving was out of the question.

I struggled with the guilt of being bored by baby games for a long time until I finally confessed these feelings to a sweet friend. I timidly asked, “Do you find infant and toddler play time to be a little…. dull?” She laughed and said, “Oh yeah! It’s totally boring sometimes! It’s very hard sometimes to play daily with a child who doesn’t yet talk or has a limited vocabulary and short attention span. Moms are troopers.” I wanted to hug her, because I was thinking for a long time that I would kick myself someday {and I still might} for harboring these feelings of boredom and exhaustion with baby games. I was also sure I was the only mother in the world who wasn’t thrilled to pieces to put blocks in a sorter all day or stack blocks all day or struggle through a four-piece puzzle all day. It’s a relief to think I’m not the only one.

Regarding cleaning, I think as long as your house is comfortable, there’s absolutely no need to feel guilty about it’s level of cleanliness when you have little ones at home. It’s very hard to find the time to work on things around the house when your kids are too little to entertain themselves. I completely understand the desire to get something done during the day that can reflect an instant accomplishment. For a long time, I would list my completed chores to Travis when he came home and asked how my day was. “Well,” I’d say, “I did two loads of laundry, a load of dishes, put a roast in the crock pot, swept and mopped the kitchen floor, and scooped the litter box.” He would just say, “Oh ok. It looks good!” But I could tell that wasn’t what he was searching for. So one day instead of listing the accomplishments I had squeezed in, I said, “I didn’t do much around the house. But Little and I colored and read books all morning and then went out back and collected sticks in his wagon.” Travis completely lit up. He confessed that anytime he was asking about what I did during the day, he was never looking for a list of completed chores. He wanted to hear about the little things I did with Little!

I was shocked because I thought for sure he wanted to hear about the work I had completed that day. I was used to answering to a boss or a professor or a supervisor who wanted to see accomplished tasks at the end of the day. But my husband isn’t my boss or supervisor. It took a load off my shoulders to finally understand that he didn’t care to hear about mopped floors or scooped cat poop. He delighted in hearing about the fort we built, the book we read, or movie we enjoyed together. And boy did that take a load off my shoulders!

I would tell any mom out there worrying over the difficult job of housework vs. caring for kiddos to simply ask your spouse what level of housework they expect from you. I’m not talking about turning your husband into your boss. But wouldn’t it be nice to know that he actually understands that the kids take priority and that there might be dishes in the sink at the end of the day? After that day, I simply told Travis that I would try to keep our house comfortable and not-embarrassing for our friends and neighbors to drop in on. Some days I accomplish that and other days there are still piles of dishes in the sink {as there are now}. All in all, our home is comfortable, which is how a home should be. It isn’t spotless, but with a nearly three year old, it’s not going to be. Knowing that my husband wasn’t resenting the lack of completed chores I hadn’t done took a huge weight off of me, and I was able to enjoy being home a lot more.

I keep the living room tidy enough that if we had a friend or neighbor drop by I could welcome them in without feeling embarrassed or apologizing for something. The rest of the house fluctuates between clean and really really not. I can live with that though. I’ve taken the pressure off of myself. I’m not always going to enjoy sitting in silence watching Little race his cars, but I just tell myself that eventually he’ll reach a point where he will let me join in. Right now he’s learning how to play, and that can be a little boring. But this too shall pass. I have also accepted the fact that my house is not going to be spotless, but as long as it’s comfortable and allows us to be hospitable to our friends and loved ones, that’s okay.

I’ll be doing a post soon on the simple suggestions I’ve discovered for maintaining a manageable daily to-do list that leaves me feeling slightly accomplished even on the laziest busiest days. Just relax and take the pressure off of yourself. We all get bored. We all get unmotivated. And we all spend a few days {or weeks} living in a huge mess. It’s hard to learn how to manage it all, and it’s truly one of those things that we get better at with time. Moms have the hardest job in the world, and that remains true whether you’re at home or at work during the day.




Filed under Parenting, Stay at Home Moms

7 responses to “Stay at Home Mom Pressures and Truths

  1. Given how absolutely happy Little is, don’t worry that you aren’t having quality time with him, and your house is toddler spotless. A few toys do not make a dirty house. They make a happy home.

    As to sitting quietly while he plays, if he will let you, flip through a magazine or a book while he does that. (Knowing him, I realize he may very well veto that, but it is worth a shot).

    The bottom line at this stage of parenthood is happiness and health, for both him and his parents. 🙂 You’re getting A+ ratings all around.

  2. Let me explain that I meant you are obviously having quality time. 🙂
    Re-reading that after it posted made me think it came out differently than what I meant to communicate.

  3. thewifediary

    This sounds like my life. I been home 3yrs Monday and sometimes I think i’m loosing it LOL.

  4. I remember. I just goes by so quickly…

  5. Holly

    I have been a stay at home Mom for 6 years and now have 3 little ones…I still don’t have this thing down. I have constant Mommy guilt that I am not doing things right or good enough. I have always had a hard time with balancing cleaning and playing with my kids. It is nice to know that I am not alone. Thank you for this!

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