Transitioning from being a working mom to a stay-at-home mom has been an enlightening move. Something I quickly learned is there’s no-one to tell me whether I’m doing a good “job” anymore. It’s nothing like the workplace where you can pretty much get immediate feedback or results from whatever method you tried. Oh, yeah, that formula worked, or nope, try something else. It’s been a bit of a transition from the full-time workforce to home life.
One of the things that makes parenting so stressful (for all parents – working and at home) is feeling like you have no idea what you’re doing at times. You do your best to follow your instincts, pull from what you learned, but most times you have no idea whether what you’re doing is working. And you don’t always find out until later on down the road. Sure, there’s Google, and book after book of parenting advice (who has the time for all that), but you feel like you’re just winging it most of the time.
From the Workforce to Raising Tiny Humans
After fifteen years in the full-time workforce of metrics and performance appraisals, team meetings and regular feedback, it’s been an adjustment switching to a workforce of one where my performance reviews are conducted by two barely speaking toddlers and a barking dog. For someone like me whose personality test showed I am motivated by appreciation and recognition I’ll admit this has been a bit of a culture shock.
When you’re raising tiny humans it’s a whole other ball game, am I right? And each tiny human is different, of course. So what works with one doesn’t work with another. Go figure. You think you’ve got one method figured out, so you try the same thing with child number two, and – nope. So you try your best, and hope and pray you’re doing the right things.
Toddler-Sized Performance Appraisals
Toddlers show their appreciation in interesting ways. Like when you prepare a meal for them, cut it up into bite-sized little pieces so they won’t choke, put it on their special little character plate, and they promptly dump it on the floor. Hmm. Or when they appreciate your clean floor by sprinkling crushed popcorn like glitter while they laugh with glee. How about when they try to eat the dog’s food, and when told “no,” they throw themselves down on the floor and appreciate your hearing by screaming at higher decibels than the human ear can tolerate. You gotta love that, right?
And yet, there are those amazing moments when they run up and hug you for no reason. There’s appreciation. Times when my youngest asks to be picked up and lays her curly-haired little head on my shoulder. And the feedback comes at such unexpected moments. When I see my older toddler comforting her younger sibling with the words, “Oh, honey. It’s okay. Yeah, I know.” And I hear myself reflected back at me in the sweetest little singsong of voices. Then those times when I lean down and give my toddler a hug and she says, “I love you, mommy.” It’s the kind of feedback you can’t get in any workplace. This stuff is priceless.
Misplaced Expectations Creates a “Grumpy Mommy”
As a stay-at-home mom, there’s nobody to gauge whether I’m doing a good ‘job’ which is different than what I’m used to, how our society has conditioned us. There’s always someone watching our performance from the time we start school until we transition to the workforce. Suddenly, it’s just me, my littles, the dog, and a seemingly perpetually dirty house to look after. What are the expectations? Wide open! Whatever I set them. Therein lies the internal struggle. When I’ve set impossible expectations for myself, I set myself up for failure, to be disappointed in my performance. I’ve had to temper my expectations and watch how I’m evaluating my ‘work’, because my self-talk spills into my behavior.
This recently surprised me with some less than stellar feedback from my three-year-old. The other day my husband and I went to pick up our kids from their grandparents’ house. They were watching a movie, and there was a scene where the mother was called grumpy. My three-year old turned to her grandmother and said, “Yeah, my mommy grumpy too.”
Ouch. The truth hurts, especially from the mouths of babes. I needed that to remind me I was being too hard on myself. I was getting grumpy because my ‘self evaluation’ was too negative. I’d forgotten to be kind to myself and it was spilling over to how my child saw me.
I realized something. It’s nobody else’s job in this household to appreciate or recognize me. It’s my job to appreciate and recognize them. And to ensure I am kind to myself. To extend myself the same grace and forgiveness I want to teach them.
It Starts With the Little Things
When I look around at the dirty floor I didn’t get to, I want to scold myself for it. I have to consciously choose to tell myself, “It’s okay mama. You did good today. Your floor might have dog hair all over it, but your kids have been fed and cared for.”
When I lose my patience with my child, yell at her and see those tears fall, I want to tell myself I’m failing. I’m scarring her because I don’t have enough patience, am not enough for her, but I have to tell myself, “It’s okay, mama. You’re only human too – with human emotions and flaws. It matters more what you do next, that you teach her it’s okay to make mistakes because we can learn from them.”
It’s easy to point out the trivial things I didn’t do, forgot to do, or am not doing as well as I’d like. The enemy wants us to focus on where we think we’re failing and make us forget where we’re being a rock star. Like all the times you made your child laugh today. Or when you stopped everything you were doing and read a story or three. When you hugged them tight and told them you love them. You try so hard and you care so much.
When I start to get down on myself for these pesky little things I didn’t do, this is the poem I think of. It helps me remember what’s important. May it bless all of you parents as well.
Mother, oh mother, come shake out your cloth!
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking!
Oh, I’ve grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby, loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren’t her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo.)
Oh, cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
But children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust, go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby. Babies don’t keep.
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