When I was pregnant with Donovan, I was SURE I'd go back to work. I did not see any option for our family living on a single salary and did not think there was much I could do from home to earn money. As my pregnancy progressed and the 08-09 school year came to an end I realized, I'd rather be a stay at home mom. Well that and, my school eliminated art which is what I was teaching. While I knew staying home would be life changing and different from being at work everyday I had NO IDEA how hard it would be.
Fast forward one year and I am now a stay at home mommy to a budding toddler. I am asked frequently what it is I do all day. It has been suggested that I sit around and watch TV, play on Facebook and laze about while Donovan runs around like a crazy person in the playroom. While there are the occasional pajama days in our home most days, this is not the case. I have traded in my table side alarm clock for one of the human variety.
Every morning at some point between the hours of 6:30 and 8:30 I am awakened to a screaming child. He does not care if mommy was up late, he does not care if mommy is tired or cranky. I go in and lovingly give him hugs and kisses, change his diaper and bring him downstairs. The morning is the only time the television is on while he is awake. I get out some toys, put on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and make a bottle. If he is not in the clingy mood, I even get to make myself some coffee! About an hour after the bottle it's breakfast time for us both and after making two different breakfasts (someone is picky!), we eat. Donovan spends about two hours sort of watching the Disney Channel but mostly playing and only really looking at the TV while the characters are singing. I get on the floor and play with him... most times I can only get on the computer for a few minutes or else someone decides I am not giving him enough attention and throws a fit. After playing and if I am lucky he decides he will take a morning nap and I get to shower and clean the morning dishes. No nap = no shower and a dirty kitchen as I have a small person attached to my leg.
The morning nap can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours depending on how tired little man is. When he wakes up he either gets a snack or lunch depending on what time it is. I usually forget to eat during this time. If we have errands to do, this is the time we get them done. Long gone are the days of a "quick trip to the grocery store". I do not remember what a quick trip is like. I have been asked before why I didn't get to the gorcery store, bank and costco all in one day. A trip out goes something like this: prepare diaper bag with all essentials and all the things we MAY need should Donovan need something. Make sure diaper is freshly changed. Get Donovan dressed, making sure shoes are on (a hard task as he hates shoes but wants to walk around everywhere making them necessary). Get myself, the diaper bag, my purse and list and Donovan out the front door to the car. Little man wants to walk to the car so this alone takes a good 5 minutes. Get Donovan in the car, strapped in and make sure he has some toys. Drive to the store. Get Donovan and all his stuff out of the car. Find a cart that isn't so gross it makes me want to cry. Get through the store with a toddler who is constantly trying to pull a Houdini and get out of the cart and trying to pull everything within reach off the shelves. Hopefully there are no all out temper tantrums. God forbid we forget the binkie in case of said temper tantrums. Leave the grocery store stressed and frazzled after about one hour. If there is another errand to run, watch out. By this time, Donovan has had enough and the next errand will take twice as long due to him not cooperating. Drive home and if he is cranky, drive home to the sounds of a screaming kid. After a few hours worth of trips that use to take 30-45 minutes, the unloading begins. Unstrap Donovan and lead him toward the front door. Try to grab all bags and get to the front door in one trip while making sure Donovan follows me and doesn't get distracted by the bushes that have been outside the front door since before he was born. Manage to get us and all our stuff into the house in one trip (not always the case). If another trip is necessary, put Donovan in the playroom and run back out to the car while I listen to him scream because I am not in the same room as him.
Now the fun beings, try to unpack and put away groceries while my "little helper" tries to close every door and cabinet as soon as I open it. Takes twice as long to put the groceries away. Halfway through putting them away, Donovan needs a snack. Set up snack, put him in his highchair and get everything else put away. Depending on the time and his mood it is now time for either a nap or play. If he naps, I get to eat lunch! If not, we play for a while. I try to check email but the moment I sit down, he runs over screaming... he's an attention hog. We play and hopefully he takes an afternoon nap (this doesn't always happen). During the afternoon nap I can eat lunch, start preparing dinner and even do things for myself - a break if you will - maybe even a short nap myself! Or I do the laundry and clean. Naps for mommy rarely happen anymore as it makes my day shorter and I get even less done. After his afternoon nap we have a snack and go outside for a while. The park or a walk - something to keep him occupied. Hopefully dinner gets started and god forbid I need to get anything else done or even go to the bathroom.
It seems like every little thing I do takes twice as long these days. Just getting out of the house takes 15 minutes. Breaks are limited and zoning out is not an option. Trying to get things done is always harder when you have a child attached to your leg. Every second he is awake he demands my undivided attention. Trying to write an email, write out thank you notes, cook.... all of these things are next to impossible a lot of days. I have never worked so hard or such long hours. I constantly have to think up new things to do to keep Donovan engaged and happy. I miss "me" time and quick trips to the store. I miss shopping for clothes and actually getting to try them on before I buy them. These days it's buy, pray they fit, and usually return them because they don't. I miss manicures, pedicures, long showers and going to the bathroom alone. I miss sleeping in and watching whatever I want to on TV. I miss my old friends, hanging out and seeing movies uninterrupted IN the movie theater. I hate Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.
But... I love my life and I love my child. I am so glad I made the decision to stay home and raise him myself. I've gotten to see every milestone so far. I've seen his first smile, his first steps and heard his first words. He makes me laugh and smile everyday with his glowing personality - he's a funny kid! Being there for him makes all the things I "miss" not matter so much. So, as I sit here, hungry and tired, with my chipped nails, bad roots and a long list of tasks to get done... I smile. Trading in kickball and hanging out at the bar with friends for Gymboree and playdates has been the best life change I could have asked for.
Being a mom is the hardest job I have ever had but it's also the most rewarding. Clichéd I know but it's true. It's not always easy and there are days I want to cry, pull my hair out or crawl into a hole and hide but I am happy and Donovan is happy. He is only a baby and a toddler once. Too soon he'll be wanting to play with friends and not be around me anymore. I am taking advantage of this time in his life because I'll only get to be the center of his world once and while I am making sacrifices to do this - I wouldn't trade it for the world.