Oprah would often declare that being a stay-at-home mom is the hardest job in the world. She was dead on.
Recently, my husband, two kids and I took a vacation (within driving distance) for five nights by the beach. It was fantastic. Just the four of us spending family time together from daybreak to sunset. It was one of the best vacations of my life. Our children had a great time and so did the grown-ups. What more can we ask for?
Then we came home late Tuesday night. Our babysitter was on vacation for the rest of the week and my husband returned to work. I pushed my work as a relationship writer and couples mediator to the side to be a full-time stay-at-home mom for a few days.
Alone with a baby and a three year old who doesn't nap, with no school, no camp and no planned activities, it was very stressful. Getting my older one to eat while I entertained a baby was near-impossible. The first day he ate lunch at 3pm because he refused to eat until we got to the library (which we couldn't do until later in the day because we had an unexpected emergency doctor appointment around lunchtime. All was fine, but I had to be sure). At first I fought his no lunch declaration, but then I remembered to practice what I preach. As a couples mediator and author of Fight Less, Love More, I knew that I should pick my battles. I decided not to fight Blake over a peanut butter sandwich, so he had a banana and milk at noon and a sandwich at 3, at the library. Better late than never, right?
The next day we had a playdate that worked out well until my son wanted me to jump around the indoor playground with him and of course I couldn't with a baby in my arms (and I found this out because I tried). So we left. But still, we killed a couple hours there. I created "movie time," which was a nice help. During my baby's afternoon nap I put the TV on in my bedroom and Blake watched while mommy laid down next to him. I know, TV is not the best, but mommy needed a rest.
Despite the frustration of getting through somewhat fun activities and painful mealtimes on scattered night sleep given that both my kids have occasional night wakings, the most difficult part by far was maintaining the household with kids in the mix. Back from our wonderful vacation, I had three loads of laundry to wash and fold, unpacking to do, and worst of all our fridge was empty so I had no choice but to take both kids with me to the supermarket. (As someone suggested I could have done this at night after my husband came home from work. Um, no I couldn't because we had parents' night at school that first evening back).
My baby is at the point that she can sit in the front of the shopping cart with a little support. So I took both kids to Buy, Buy, Baby to get a shopping cart cover. Then we hit the one supermarket in the area that has toy cars attached to the shopping cart. Twenty minutes in and my kids were a delight. Emma cooed and smiled at everyone. People remarked about what a happy baby she is while Blake gleefully pointed out foods he wanted as he turned his toy steering wheel.
Supermarket peace. Shortlived.
At minute 26 it was all over. Emma wanted out and Blake wanted all the cookies. All of us unhappy, I ran for the essentials. Get the milk, eggs and bread and get out of here! Done. But not quite. Now it was time to wait in line. Both were crying and I held Emma for a bit until it was clear I could not get the food on the conveyor belt while holding her. The people behind me in line were annoyed. I wanted to yell at them, what else am I supposed to do? Not feed my children? Pregnant women often hear rude comments. Turns out SAHM get dirty looks and rude comments too.
I gave up. Fine, they will cry. People will look and I will buy my darn food. With Emma back in the cart my hands were free but my foot was not. Blake decided that he wanted to leave right now so he started pushing the cart, with Emma in it, to the door. I held my ground with my foot in the way. After he nearly broke my toes I yelled (in as soft a voice as possible). To no avail. So I laughed instead.
We left and I decided that if I ever stop working and become a full-time SAHM, two things would happen: 1) I would run my house like a military base, and 2) I will never stop working.
For all of my SAHM and SAHD readers out there, I give you tremendous credit. It's the toughest job in the world and you do it every day with no vacation. You deserve applause, hugs and lots of love from the lucky other parent who goes to work every day and knows that you are home caring for the kids.
If you know a SAHM or dad, forward them this blog post and consider it a round of applause for all they do. You deserve it!