Thursday, May 2, 2013

When Your Mind Won't Set

 Connecting Families Through Creative Play E-course: Day 2 - Mindset

The other day, I took my children to a nearby park and as Elijah spent his usual 20-minutes-plus on the swing, I got to chatting with another mom with kids around the same age as mine.  As often happens around here (Washington, DC), the conversation turned to schools.  For thsoe of you who don't livehere, the preschool situation is basically this: you spend tons of time researching and applying to tens of charter schools, then get into none of them.  Seriously, for the one school I really wanted, Elijah's waitlist number is in the 700s. 

During the conversation, I said something like, "Well, I'm not too stressed about it because I am home with Isabel anyway and I would really miss Elijah if he were gone all day.  Actually, I'm not even sure that I'm ready to send him to school even if he does get in." I made this comment in an offhand manner, but the other mom was shocked.

Her response: "You must be some kind of super-mom.  I can't wait for my son to go to school.  I like him, but all day is just too much."

Days later, this conversation still stuck with me and I spent a lot of time trying to figure out why.  Am I some kind of super-mom?  I'd like to think so, but realistically I know that I am just trying my best like so many others, and some days are more successful than others.  Still, something was nagging at me...

For my book club, we are currently reading The Feminine Mystique (6 days and 200 pages to go, btw).  If you haven't read/heard of it, basically the thesis is that in the 1950s and 60s, there was widespread discontent among housewives, and society's solution was to tell these women that if they could just learn to accept that this was the life they were made for, they would feel at peace.  Or, in other words, we have seen the problem, and it's all in your heads. 

And here we are 50 years later, singing the same song to stay-at-home-moms.  Not happy? Wear bright clothes!  Listen to music! Make posters of heartwarming quotations and post them around the house!  These "tips" can help if you find yourself having a bad day or two, but what if, like the mom at the park, you find yourself in a general state of discontentment? 

After a week of reflection on this, here are some ideas I have come up with, things I would share with this mom if I perchanced to see her again*.  These are not little tips.  They require time and energy, and maybe even a lifestyle change.  But it could be worth it.

*Before I start, let me say that these ideas are for people who feel a little restless, a bit discontented.  If you are having trouble getting out of bed, or you cry all the time, or you having feelings of despair, please get professional help.  Depression is real, and it is nothing to be ashamed of.  Okay, PSA over.  Onward...

5 Things to Try if Stay-at-Home Parenthood is Getting You Down

1.  Get friends I have friends that I go to the park with, long-distance friends that I call when Elijah just wants to sit in the swing forever-ish, friends that I go out with in the evenings, friends that come over for dinner.  Each of these groups makes me happy at different times and in different ways.  Maybe you don't need all those kinds of friends, but you need friends.  Everyone does. 
2.  Get professional - One thing that can be lacking in stay-at-home parenthood is intellectual stimulation.  Think about what you liked about your job before kids, and find a way to work that into your life now.  As a teacher, I was always reading books about the craft of teaching.  Now, I enjoying reading books about parentingRecent favorites include Simplicity Parenting, and Montessori's Discovery of the Child.  If you miss collaborating, find some moms and brainstorm weekly activities.  Maybe even take turns putting together supply boxes.  Parenting is your job, so make it feel that way.
3.  Get help  Remember when you were working, and you had a lunch break, a coffee break, a go-to-the-bathroom-alone break?  That was nice.  There's no shame in hiring a sitter a few hours a week.  Or, if money is tight, find a mom to swap with once a week.  I have done that at two different times during my parenthood journey, and it brought me great peace, like a deep exhale.
4.  Get a hobby (or a small job), preferably one that requires some investment of time and energy.  Yes, yes, I know, we moms hardly have time for a shower, but if you have something (a book, a craft, a blog) that you care passionately about, you will find a way to make time for it.  If you can find a way to do something you love and make money, even better.  I am currently working on my credentials at CloudCrowd so I can do some freelance editing.  My cousin tutors.  You know, things like that. 
5. Get a big job Some people aren't going to like what I'm about to say, but I'll say it anyway.  Being a full-time, stay-at-home mom (or dad) isn't for everyone.  When Elijah was six months old, I went back to work for 25 hours a week.  It was stressful, and I really, really missed him, and I was glad when the job, which was just for the summer, ended.  But I was also glad that I gave the whole working parent thing a try.  My point is, don't feel bad if balancing work and family makes you feel more balanced. A happy parent is a better parent.

So, that's my list.  Help my out, fellow moms and dads.  What am I missing?  What do you agree with?  What have I got all wrong?  How do you find peace as a parent?

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