Alright ladies, let’s get real. I admit it, I’m guilty of making these comments on Facebook in the past but vow to be more real in the future. Comments like “she’s growing up too fast” next to the child’s first year of monthly pics have left me wondering if I’m the only one that felt like the first year of my children’s lives took f-o-r-e-v-e-r! Maybe it was my postpartum depression but I thought it’d never end. Sure, the coos, first words and first steps are adorable but the lack of sleep, constant neediness and care is suffocatingly hard. If you had asked me to help you put a roof on in the South during that time I would have jumped at the opportunity just to get a break from my little blessing.
Speaking of blessings, how about those ever popular “feeling blessed” comments all accompanied by adorable pictures of kids happily doing household tasks that my husband still doesn’t do. Don’t get me wrong, children are an absolute blessing but it sure doesn’t feel like it when you’re in the trenches day in and day out. Every time my kid poops in the bathtub, refuses to eat the food that he requested fifty times in…a…row or has a meltdown because I’ve turned on the movie he specifically asked for but meant a different one, I feel anything but blessed.
It’s true, being a stay at home mom is hard, being a stay at home mom to two children with autism and their ever expanding list of “ism’s,” is hard. Yet, somehow, I love every single mind numbingly awful magical moment of it. Now that’s the truth.
I worked a full-time job since graduating high school. When I accidentally got pregnant six months into my whirlwind romance with my husband (then boyfriend) I had no intention of slowing down. Why should a baby change things too much, right?! See The Miracle of Life to see how well that worked out for me.
I made it halfway through my second trimester before the thoughts of being a stay at home mom started. I would fantasize about leisurely mornings spent lying in bed playing with my newborn baby. My afternoons would be spent pushing the stroller to the park or playing at the beach. It sounded wonderful and completely out of reach for us financially.
By the time my son was born I had somehow managed to work out an agreement with my employer to work part-time and mostly from home. This arrangement was the best of both worlds. I was able to contribute financially to the household, be home to witness all of my son’s firsts yet still get time out of the house with other adults and not have to pay for daycare.
Eager to spend some time with their new grandson, both grandma’s were more than happy to watch my son on the couple of mornings I went to work each week. It was a win-win for everyone involved. In fact, things were running so smoothly that when my son turned one year old my husband and I decided to start trying for our second child. I was certain that we were amazing parents and that’s why things were going so smoothly.
My plan through my second pregnancy was to continue the same working arrangement. None of us could have foreseen the trouble ahead. The bottom dropped out of our perfect world the day we brought my second son home from the hospital. See Life After Autism.
My oldest son, Owen was extremely sensitive to his little brother’s cries. So much so that we couldn’t have the boys in the same room with one another. Everyone told us that Owen would adjust and to just give him time. He didn’t adjust. Things only got worse. One night we were in the living room, my husband was physically restraining our two year old son from hurting himself or me while he was ten minutes into a horrifying meltdown. I saw the confusion and fear on my husband’s face and I started to cry. This was happening more and more frequently since bringing Eli home from the hospital only a month ago. It felt like a lifetime.
Shortly thereafter, Owen was diagnosed with autism. Then the in-home therapy appointments began. There was no way I could return to work and keep up with the therapy appointments as well as afford paying two daycares in order to keep the boys separated during the day. Financially, we couldn’t afford to live on one income but emotionally and spiritually we couldn’t afford not to. We took a deep breath, said a prayer and took the leap of faith. That’s how I became a stay-at-home mom.
I threw myself into helping my son cope with his little brother’s cries and my husband threw himself into making up the loss of income from my job. Those two years are a blur of exhaustion, fear, anxiety and depression but through it all remained glimmers of hope as tiny milestones were met among our boys at home and small gains were being made in our finances.
When I was able to come up for air long enough to reflect on our situation I had to laugh at the image I had of being a stay-at-home mom before I became one. When I was pregnant, other stay-at-home moms would tell me how difficult it was but deep down I wondered to myself, “how difficult can it really be?” What I didn’t understand then was the complete and total exhaustion that sets in after having children. Never again getting a full, uninterrupted night’s sleep. I couldn’t possibly comprehend what exhaustion, fatigue and isolation can do to one’s mental state.
Being a stay at home mom is difficult, the constantness of it all. Most of us are familiar with the amount of work involved, whether you are working or a stay-at-home mom, the chores and constant care are never ending. Endless laundry, spills to clean up, diapers to be changed, boo-boo’s to kiss, hands to be washed, manners to be taught, meals to prepare over and over and over again. The tedious monotony and never ending tasks of it it all. There is no question that being a stay-at-home mom is hard work. Being a mom is hard work. Period.
However, the unending physical demands is nothing compared to the toll it takes on ones mental well being when you are the round the clock caregiver to tiny, narcissistic beings. That’s where the true difficulty lies in being a stay-at-home mom. Hours, days, an entire week can go by without leaving the house especially if your little ones are sick. The never ending neediness and absolute disregard for your own needs begins to wear on your nerves. The only link to the outside world, especially in the early months, is Facebook and let’s face it, images of happy people living their lives so much better than you can start to wear thin too.
Yet here I am three and half years later, still a stay at home mom and I absolutely love it. Of course, our living situation has improved greatly from that first awful year following Owen’s diagnosis. Still, it didn’t come easy. If you are wondering if being a stay-at-home mom is for you OR you already are a stay-at-home mom and are feeling disillusioned balancing between boredom and insanely busy, this series is for you!
In this series, I’m going to share with you some of the things I’ve learned as I’ve fumbled and foiled my way through being a stay-at-home mom. I’ll be sharing free printables of the various tools and charts that have helped me along the way. The first two years I thought I would go crazy (to be honest I did go a little bit crazy during that time) but it turns out with a little creativity, discipline and hard work, I absolutely love being a stay-at-home mom and you can too!