This fall marks my first in 27 years where I won’t be returning to school as either a student or a teacher. After a lot of careful thought, and with daughter number two on the way, I decided to make the transition from a full-time working mom to a stay-at-home mom. While this new chapter is exciting (I get to stay at home with my child/ren!) and simultaneously terrifying (I get to stay at home with my child/ren?), I’m gearing up for this new stage of life by setting a few goals:
1. I will finally figure out how to fold a fitted sheet.
I’ve seen tutorial after tutorial, but I still can’t figure it out — even after watching the Martha Stewart video a dozen times with my daughter. It got to the point where my daughter had to instruct me: “Now Mommy, put the left hand over the right hand. No! The LEFT hand over the right hand.” Tears might have been shed, and not by the 3-year-old. How can something with an elastic rounded edge be turned into a square shape? How am I an adult with two degrees from top universities and I cannot, for the life of me, figure this one out? Fitted sheet, I will dominate you (after I rewatch the Martha Stewart tutorial for another 24 hours straight).
2. I will ignore Pinterest.
I despise baking. Crafting makes me anxious. I can’t cut in a straight line, and it drives me batty. Any project I try is better fit for Pinterest Fail, and I am slowly coming to terms that I will never be That Mom — the one who makes cakes with fondant, creates chore charts with money hidden in the Paper Source-manufactured pockets, and prepares lunches that look like flowers instead of food. The thought of trying to be That Mom while staying home scares me — the expectations seem so much higher that I should spend backbreaking hours making everything I do look like it’s straight out of Pottery Barn Kids. I have no desire to do that with my time, and I don’t think my daughter is missing out. So Pinterest, you can do your thing, but I’m just going to do mine. Deal?
3. I will find balance between chores and sanity, with my daughter as my partner in crime.
Another fear I have about being a stay-at-home mom is the expectation that I will have an immaculate house. I believe in cleanliness and keeping things reasonably neat, but my dreams don’t often match reality. I’m realizing that staying at home doesn’t mean I have to have a perfect house. I’m learning to not sweat the small stuff by tackling household projects in small chunks while enlisting my daughter for help. She’s quite good at cleaning up after herself, she makes magic happen to my windows with Windex and a rag, and by tapping into her earnest desire to help me, I’m teaching her to be independent, while never having to remember to feed the cats myself. It’s a win-win.
4. I will make my daughter’s childhood magical — by giving her the freedom to use her imagination.
When I’m home with my daughter, I vacillate between feeling the need to be with her every single moment of the day and desperately wanting some time to myself. While I love being with my daughter, I’m realizing that I not only can’t be by her side all day, I shouldn’t be by her side all day. Having a magical childhood isn’t about hovering over her every waking moment, but giving her the freedom and tools to create and imagine by herself. The moments that are most magical to her are not the ones I create for her, they’re the ones she invents, learns, and interprets for herself. I will encourage her to explore and play independently, all while being behind the scenes, ready to kiss a boo-boo or scare the monsters away when needed.
5. I will remember that this is a temporary phase in my life, if I want it to be.
I’m not going to lie, it absolutely broke my heart when my daughter told a stranger, “Mommy doesn’t have a job; she’s going to stay at home with me and my baby sister.” I felt like my identity had been smattered into bits. But now I realize this doesn’t have to be an either/or moment. I don’t have to be only a stay-at-home mom or a working mom. There are times in life when priorities shift and careers may ebb and flow. To stay at home we are taking a financial hit, but I get to spend incredible time with my daughter, and I hope to enjoy my second child’s infancy without being chained to a breast pump or fearful of missing first moments. And eventually, I will most likely work again in some capacity, and that’s exciting too.
6. I’m going to recognize that all of this will be moot by the time baby number two arrives, so I will . . .
7. . . . embrace asking for help the second time around.
Having a baby the first time was so, so hard. Now that I’ll be staying at home with my second and not rushing back to work after a far-too-brief maternity leave, I have anxiety thinking that I’ll have two little people to figure out all by myself. So this time I will ask people for help as I take the next step on my parenting journey. If you want to bring us food, please do. If you want to wash my dishes, I won’t tell you not to worry about it. I’m realizing that whether I’m a working mom or a stay-at-home mom, it does take a village to raise a child.