Today, Facebook reminded me that four years ago was my last day at “work” before I switched jobs to be a stay at home mom. I left my position as the manager of marketing for a Chicago architecture firm a few months before the twins were born. I was prepared to stay on until labor or doctor ordered bedrest, but they had found a replacement so my swollen feet and I happily headed home to the couch.
All morning I’ve been reflecting back on the past four years. I’d like to say that it’s been wonderful, and many times it has been. But mostly I’ve been thinking about what I know now versus what I knew then.
For example, four years ago I had no idea how many freakin “I’m a vehicle and also turn into a robot” shows exist in our world. Owen had found Robo-bots or something to that effect via YouTube on the iPhone and asked to watch it downstairs on the television. I searched through cable, Roku and the million other channels we don’t need. As I clicked he directed saying “Not Netflix. No not Amazon. Youtube” and “No not THAT robot one…the one with the police car!!”
They all have police cars.
ALL. OF. THEM.
Yes, my almost four year old twins know which shows are on Amazon and which ones are on Netflix. They know that the black control works the Roku and how to bypass my password on my iPhone to get them into YouTube. They become hysterically frustrated when we watch normal cable TV because they can’t “skip ad” when a commercial comes on. Part of me is amazed at the very small amount of time it took them to figure all this out, while another part feels so guilty because they had the opportunity to figure it out. And I wonder which of you will judge me for their amount of screen time. And half of me wants to tell you judgey people to “bite me” while the other half admits total screen time failure.
Which leads me to my next revelation: I had no idea how insecure I would become. I take the kids to school and look at the other moms and think “do they have oatmeal in their hair too? If so I bet is some kind of fancy organic oatmeal and not the Quaker crap I shove at my kids. But then again the kids had mini muffins today so not only is this not organic oatmeal (if organic oatmeal actually exists…I’m a hopeless mess inside a Whole Foods) but two day old oatmeal.” And as I’m trying to figure out what the hell is in my hair someone will say hello and their name will completely escape me because I’m as bad with names as I am in a Whole Foods.
It’s a bit (ok very) egocentric, to think that people are that concerned with my dirty ass hair. But feeling judged is something I think all mothers carry around. Medical advice, safety, discipline, diet, education, thanks to social media and internet blogs everyone is an expert telling me and everyone else that we are doing it wrong. And I believe it. I try to stay positive at the end of the day. Focus on the good, such as “are all five breathing? – Yes? Fantastic! Lived to play another day, Good job!!” However, between the twin tantrums and the teen eye rolling I usually go to bed saying “they lived another day, but only because I did not kill one of them.”
As much as I did not realize how judged I would feel, I am also shocked and ashamed to admit at how inwardly judgmental I have become. A few years ago, Mike and I were waiting to board a plane and there was a family directly ahead of us on the jet way. The mother told her kid, “If you don’t behave then the monster on the plane will eat you” My first thought was, “Wow, you are a horrible parent.” My second was “Wait, there monsters on the plane? I paid for an aisle seat, monster free flight. I’m going to need to call someone.”
I had no idea how quickly things can go sour. The wrong color cup can bring a screeching halt to what should have been a nice meal. Telling a teen who can’t get up in the morning they need to go to bed a half hour earlier started world war three. I spend a good amount of my day weighing my options and asking “is this worth the grief?” The rest of my day is spent doing laundry. There was this one day, once, when ever single article of clothing was clean and put away. On this same day a rainbow was over the house and we found the pot of gold at the end…with a unicorn…and pigs were flying…
I didn’t know how little I would use my brain as a stay at home mom. My sister is the brain of the family. She had all As in school except for that one A minus that we made her hang around her neck to remember the shame of it all. I was a good student, not exceptional. I majored in theatre where I had classes that involved laying on the ground to relax and learning how to sword fight without killing anyone. I did very well in college. I should have. I am very good at laying on the floor. But throughout college and my career afterwards I used my brain for more than searching for the Robot show, pouring non organic oatmeal into the correct bowl, and matching up socks when I’m folding laundry. I hate matching socks so much that a month ago I threw out all of my husband’s white socks and bought two giant packages of the same damn socks. Best 12 bucks I’ve ever spent.
But the one thing that I didn’t realize four years ago was my capacity to love. I had always been a “kid person” but these kids, all of them, have changed me. I feel absolutely awful if I need to punish one of them. I bawled like a baby when I watched Nate graduate high school. When Avery puked all over me and I calmly got her cleaned up first before I even realized I was covered in it. Owen watches me closely – closer than any of the others – and sometimes he’ll see my face turn frowny. I may not actually be in a bad mood, more lost in thought about the mundane details of the day. He’ll look at me and say “Mama, are you happy?” with his little eyes twinkling. And I’ll tell him “Yes, I am happy” And then he’ll speed off and start committing some kind of 3 year old crime that will inevitably make me crazy.