Sunday, July 28, 2013

One Month Progress Report: Life as a Roam Around Mom

It’s not that life as a Roam-Around-Mom (my spin on the Stay-at-Home Mom) is way different than I expected. It is actually pretty on par with what I envisioned. But it IS wayyy different from any office job I have ever held, and it sure has taken some getting used to.

The working life was simple. I’d wake up, I’d get myself and the child(ren) ready, I’d drink a crap ton of coffee, I’d drop the child(ren) off wherever they were being cared for, I’d haul ass to work and still be late to arrive, I’d work, I’d take a lunch break, I’d work, I’d pick up child(ren), I’d eat something that would qualify as “dinner,” I’d get the child(ren) ready for bed, I’d watch tv, I’d sleep.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat. 

The “stay-at-home” life is anything BUT simple. It is a mish mash of dirty diapers and trips to the potty, art projects, naps and missed naps, dance parties, book readings (in funny voices), temper tantrums, snacks, museum visits, cleaning up spills, playground time, boo boos and band-aids, packing and repacking a diaper bag, household chores, time outs, and pretending to be a princess. 

The only similarity between my life as a working woman and my life as a Roam Around Mom is that I STILL drink a crap ton of coffee. 

So here are some of the important things I have learned thus far, during my first month as a full time mommy:

  • It IS important to create a schedule. For my sanity’s sake, it is INCREDIBLY useful to wake up having SOME broad-strokes concept of how the day is going to be organized. If I were to wake up with no plans, no structure, and no backbone to the day, I’d be TOAST.

  • It is also INCREDIBLY important to FORGET the schedule. Because trying to micro-manage an almost-three-year-old and a seven month old baby is like trying to tell football fans they have to eat well on Super Bowl Sunday. It’s just NOT going to happen. So yeah, it’s GREAT to have a library trip planned for the morning, and an art project planned for the afternoon, and a nap planned for 12:30 – 1:15 pm. But when those things DON’T happen because Oren is sick and/or Emmy is begging to go to a playground and/or I don’t have the materials for the art project I planned, it’s more than OK to come up with an impromptu PLAN B.

  • The kids MUST listen to me. The first few weeks of full time mommying were ROUGH. Emmy had to get used to me being the voice of authority around here, and she started REALLY testing my limits. At first I was totally scared, thinking that Em HATED me, and that she was going to make it her mission to make my life miserable (you know, by running into the middle of the street when I was telling her to wait and hold my hand, by screaming when I was telling her to use her quiet voice, etc. etc.) But after the first few weeks, I noticed Em testing me less, and listening more. She has been paying attention, and I have been praising her for being so helpful and wonderful. Now if I could only figure out a way to make this dynamic last for, say, another 15 years or so…
  • I MUST really NOTICE my kids. By doing so, I have learned SO MUCH about my kids this past month. I’m like THE EXPERT on my kids (when I was working, the expertise was more of a shared thing, between me and Em’s teachers and my mother-in-law). For instance, I now know that Emmy likes to eat three breakfasts. She eats one when she first wakes up, and then another one twenty minutes later, and then another breakfast about an hour later. It’s kind of amazing and also quite disturbing. I’ve also learned that Em has anxiety about me leaving her in the car by herself for more than 30 seconds (she does NOT like when I put away the groceries before I take her out of her car seat). I’ve also learned that Oren LOVES objects that have strings or wires, does NOT like the sun in his eyes, ADORES opening and closing doors (especially on his teeny tiny fingers) and he is a meat and potatoes kind of a guy.

  • It IS important to do something for me, even if it only lasts eighteen minutes. I am definitely the kind of mommy who feels guilty about spending ANY time doing something for ME. It is just in my nature. But I am also the kind of mommy who feels 140% better about being a mommy if I just do a LITTLE something for myself, every once in a while. This past week I exercised for 18 minutes, while Oren was taking his morning nap. I asked Em to exercise with me, but she lost interest after about 3 minutes, so I had to ask her to be patient during the remaining 15 minutes. Even though this was a rather brief amount of “me time,” it made me super happy for the entire rest of the day.

  •  It is also VERY important to have “us time”. I feel bad for my husband. At the end of each work day, as soon as he comes through the door, I basically corner him and make him talk to me like an adult. It IS difficult talking about poopies and princesses for 9 hours a day, and by 5 PM I need a break from parent-speak SO BADLY. C and I have ALSO made more of an effort to get out together for a little “off duty” time, and it has been a life saver (and also beneficial for our relationship, of course).

  •  It is really helpful to NOT sweat the small stuff. By this I mean that when Oren is hysterically crying because he is super duper tired and doesn’t want his diaper changed even though he has the poop of a century seeping into all of his clothing, and Emmy is hysterically crying because she just spilled yogurt on her princess skirt and she is convinced this is a sure sign of the apocolypse, and I am also on the phone with the doctor’s office trying to set up my son’s nine-month check-up, and the Fed Ex guy is knocking on our door, and there is a grilled cheese sandwich burning on the stove top, and our toilet is overflowing, I find it VERY HELPFUL to picture my life as a sitcom, in which Maya Rudolph plays the part of ME, and everything horrible that is happening to me is actually VERY FUNNY to my (imaginary) live studio audience. Hey, whatever it takes to make me NOT pull my hair out during THOSE moments, right?

I know I am still such a NOVICE when it comes to this whole full-time parenting thing, and there is much to learn and experience in the months ahead. But if the past month is any indication, as wild as the ride is going to get, I’m gonna love (almost) every minute of it.

It's The End of the World As We Know It (aka, Oren is Crawling)...

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Top Ten Secrets of a Stay-At-Home Mom

Alright, it’s only been a few weeks since I switched over to watching my kids full time, but I’ve already discovered some really helpful secrets to getting through life as a Stay-at-Home Mom (or Roam Around Mom, as I prefer to call myself). I will share my tips, in hopes that other mothers may benefit from my wisdom.

  • Stay in bed as LONG as you possibly can. Draw the shades. Pull the curtains. Convince your kids it is still night time, even when the sun is shining brightly outside and your clock CLEARLY reads 9:45 am. Remember that every minute you spend in bed is one less minute you will spend chasing your children through the house and yard.
  • Try to make sure to set aside some “me” time. By that, I mean don’t forget to pee. Running after your kids can make you forget even your most basic needs, but you want to try your best to avoid having an accident at the playground.
  • Throw out all of your children’s toys. The less they own, the less there is to clean up. Tell your children that they have new, shiny toys called “broom” and “dustpan,” and if they want to have LOTS of fun, they can help you transfer the laundry from the washer to the dryer. Yayyy!
  • On Monday, wrap your children AND yourself in Saran Wrap. This way, you can laugh light-heartedly when your children spill juice in your lap, puke on your shoulder, poop all over your arm (yes, THAT happened to me this past week), and pee on your feet (yes, THAT happened to me LAST week).
  • Have two cups of coffee in the morning. Then, 20 minutes later, have another cup of coffee. For lunch, sprinkle some coffee grinds on your PB&J sandwich. Also, whenever you leave the house, make sure your destination is within 100 feet of a coffee shop. Better yet, just take your kids to the coffee shop every day as an “outing” and tell them it is the Museum of Magical Beans.
  • If you think you have packed enough baby wipes in your diaper bag, you HAVE NOT. There is no such thing as enough wipes. Your baby boy is definitely going to have the biggest poop the world has ever seen while you are shopping at the grocery store. Your daughter is definitely going to beg you for a lollipop, and will then proceed to smear her body with the sticky candy as if it were sunscreen. If there is ONE truth in life, it is that you can NEVER have enough wipes.
  • Pretend that you are Jillian Michaels and your babies are contestants on the Biggest Loser. Make them run 83 miles, followed by 572 crunches, followed by a zillion gabillion jumping jacks. Don’t worry. They will only be tired out for about 45 seconds (enjoy the down time).
  • When driving your children around town, do yourself a favor and don’t adjust your car’s vanity mirror so that you can see what is going on in the back seat. If you do, all you will see is your toddler spilling her apple juice all over her car seat and sticking cheerios up her nose. Ignorance is ABSOLUTELY bliss.
  • Teach your child to yell “Release the Krackens!” every time they go poopy. It will make you look forward to potty time, and will just generally brighten up your day. 
  • When your husband comes home from work at the end of the day, tell him you are longing to have an adult conversation after being around kids for ten hours straight. Then, when he starts telling you about what happened at work, start doing somersaults across the room, and keep repeating the words “doo doo head”. Only then will he understand what you have been through, which will in turn make you feel a hell of a lot better.

Do you have any top secret tips for surviving life as a Stay-at-Home Mama? If you do, please share!

Monday, July 8, 2013

I’m Not a SAHM. I’m a RAM.

We made it through Week One, and we are ALL exhausted.

So, I’ve made it through the first week of being a SAHM.

AND… I’m ready to go back to work. Naah, just kidding. Sort of.

Here are my first impressions, based on one week at home with the kids:

 First of all, the term “Stay at Home Mother” is a misnomer, at least as far as I am concerned. I think I spent about twenty minutes at home during this whole first week. The rest of the time was spent schlepping my kids around the world, bringing them to 83 different museums, 47 libraries, and 76 playgrounds. I think “Roam Around Mom” is a much more appropriate term for what I’ve been doing.

I may have overdone it on my first attempt at keeping my kids entertained for seven days straight. But we DID enjoy ourselves, and we DIDN’T make a huge mess of our house (because we were never THERE), and we DIDN’T lose any limbs or end up in the emergency room (though there were definitely some very close calls) and for those reasons alone, I feel incredibly triumphant.

I also feel incredibly EXHAUSTED. Dude, this gig is TIRING. I love how in my delusional pre-RAM state of mind, I was trying to figure out where I would fit in time to EXERCISE. HAH! There is NO NEED to exercise when you spend ten hours a day chasing a near-three year old and a seven month old child. My body is SORE. Mama needs a MASSAGE. Maybe next week, I’ll teach Emmy how to walk on my back and knead my achy feet (and if she resists the idea, I will bribe her with Oreos).

I have realized that my children are MORE hysterical than I thought they were. When I say “hysterical,” I mean that they are immensely FUNNY. I ALSO mean they are prone to unpredictable bouts of hysteria, at the most inconvenient times. For instance, my dear son chose to have an overtired meltdown in WalMart on Monday, which caused a total stranger to come up to me and COMMAND me to make him stop crying. That was an AWESOME way to begin life as a Roam Around Mom, let me tell you.

I have realized that I will miss adult conversation, but conversation with Emmy is MUCH MORE entertaining than any conversation I ever had with my officemates. Today, in the car, we talked about how she does not like it when I get angry (apparently I am more strict than her teachers and her Baba, and she was offended when I gave her a "time out" for running through the museum parking lot like it was a grassy meadow). The conversation went a little something like this:

“I don’t like it when you get angry, Mama.”

“I don’t like it when I get angry either, Emmy. That is why I ask you to behave and cooperate. When you behave, I can be Happy Mama, and I would much rather be Happy Mama than Angry Mama. But when you don’t behave, sometimes I become Angry Mama.”

“I like Happy Mama.”

“Me too, Emmy. Most of the time, I am Happy Mama, but sometimes I am Angry Mama.”

“And sometimes you are a FROG!!”

“Um, yes, that’s true. Sometimes I act like a frog, too. Who do you like the best? Happy Mama, or Angry Mama, or Frog?”

“FROGGG! Ribbett! Ribbett!”

I NEVER had conversations like that with my co-workers.

I have realized that I have more resilience and more patience than I thought I did. Because this first week of “stay at home” life included my son having constant antibiotic induced diarrhea, and me having a sinus infection, and my husband working late pretty much every night, and Emmy nearly scraping off her entire nose on the pavement in front of our house. Despite all these lovely hurdles, I still made it through the week with a relatively clear head, and a relatively loving heart (and a LOT of gratitude for Desitin, and for MY antibiotic, and for the half-hour of conversation I have had with my husband this week, and for what is left of my daughter’s nose).

I have also realized that I will likely be blogging a lot LESS. Which is OKAY, because I would rather be the kind of mom who has TONS to write about but no time to write, than the kind of mom who has TONS of time to write but nothing to write about. I’ll try to keep writing regularly, but if I DON’T, it’s probably just cause I am busy having fun with the kiddos (or perhaps just trapped under a huge pile of their toys).

This coming week, we will be visiting with my parents and relatives in New Jersey, which means we won't be at our house at all, and we likely won't stick to much of a schedule. My only goal for this week is that the kids have a wonderful time with their family. I'll deal with my other goals when we get back.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Week One SAHM Goal: Establish a Daytime Schedule that Actually Works

In becoming a stay-at-home mom, I have some pretty LOFTY aspirations for all the changes I hope we can make as a family. But I know that if I try to conquer all of my goals in the first week of this new life, it will be a recipe for disaster, and I will end up exhausted and overwhelmed, with lots of sticky notes stuck haphazardly to various parts of my body. In order to avoid this scenario, I think it is wiser to aim low and focus on one SAHM goal at a time.

For my first week at home, I would really like to try and establish a daytime schedule that works for everyone in our family. I’ve done lots of R&D, reading SAHM blogs and online forums, trying to figure out the winning formula for SAHM time management. After gathering all my data together, I’ve worked with my Google calendar to create a basic daily schedule that takes meals, activities, naps, and cleaning all into account.

It looks like this:

6:30 – 8:00 am: Morning Preparation - potty/diaper changing, breakfast and nursing, get the kids dressed, parents shower/dress, brush teeth/hair, free play)
8:00 – 9:00 am: Exercise/Movement – outdoor walk, tricycle ride, playground visit, or indoor exercise and active play with dance/movement, OR grocery shopping if needed
9:00 – 9:30 am: Snack and diapers/potty time
9:30 am – 12:00 pm: Activity – playgroup, library activity, visit museum, etc. (Oren takes first nap)
12:00 – 12:30 pm: Lunch time
12:30 – 2:00 pm: Quiet time - naps, reading books, drawing, movie, etc. (if the kids nap, mommy works on cleaning and/or projects)
2:00 – 4:30 pm: One child visits with Baba, while the other gets one-on-one time with mommy. Art activity, cooking, or developmental activity with Emmy. Nap time or developmental activities with Oren.
4:30 – 5:30 pm: Clean up from day, on own play, or outdoor play (visit playground)
5:30 – 6:30 pm: One parent cooks and cleans while the other plays with the kids
6:30 – 7:00 pm: Dinner as a family
7:00 – 7:30 pm: Bath time and prepare for bed (potty/diaper changing, brush teeth, pajamas, read books)
7:30 – 8:00 pm: Kids go to sleep

Do you think this will work? Am I being delusional?

I am interested to see how much of this schedule DOES actually stick, and how much it will need to be modified as I test it over the next week. If you are a SAHM with two young children, I would love to hear more about what has worked for you and your family. Any advice or insight is greatly appreciated!