two years of being a sahm
mother's day 2016 was the start of my stay at home mom (sahm) experience. and man was it a rocky one. i had a three month maternity leave after having bina. that time was spent with the understanding that i was going back to work at the conclusion of those three months. at the beginning, i just wanted to abandon ship and return back to work pronto. i felt like i had no idea what i was doing as a mother and c-section recovery sucked. all i wanted was to be back somewhere where i had some sort of predictability and control. but by the end of my maternity leave, i wasn't ready to go back. that's how it goes, right? but return to work i did for the next eight months. and somewhere in that time we decided we wanted one of us to be home with bina. so we made some major decisions: (1) for david to leave his phd program (2) for us to move to my home state of michigan (3) for david to begin working at the family packaging business and (4) for me to be at home with bina full time.
this past week i was reflecting on this decision, remembering what my focus is during this season. we made all these major changes so that i could be home with our daughter. the more i read about child development and the brain, trauma and parenting strategies, the more i realize this is a big, big job. one that i want to do well. and one that i want to do the way that david and i decide is best for our family, no matter what anyone else thinks or says or does. i think that is the hardest part of all. because, as all parents know, everyone has an opinion about everything. and as soon as you're walking around with a little or two in tow, you've got a big target on your forehead that says "give me unsolicited (albeit, mostly well-intentioned) advice about all the things!"
in the last two years i've grown less concerned about what others think, and more focused on what david and i think is best for our family. i've grown more protective of our time. i know what is too much for my kid to handle, and what is too much for me to handle. i know what i need to do to take care of myself so i can be the best mom i can be. i know that i love giving bina opportunities to play and explore. i know that some nights we can stay up a little later, playing in the yard, going on a family walk, grabbing a bite of ice cream. and i know that some nights we've just gotta get that kid to bed as fast as we possibly can. sometimes she throws me for a loop and i feel like i'm back to square one with no idea what to do all over again. but i think that's kind of just part of this whole parenting gig. kids are always ALWAYS changing, developing, growing. and i love that! it's fun and exciting and full of joy and wonder. it's also exhausting and discouraging and full of frustration and blunder. kind of like life in general? but one thing i know -- i know my kid better than anyone (besides god). i am her mama. and though i may make mistakes, i've learned to trust my intuition and continue on this process of trial and error until we figure it out. the bina experts are me and david. and together we call the shots for our family.
i called to switch pediatricians for bina's three year appointment that we had yesterday. same practice, just different doctor. the one i switched to, we had her once for a sick appointment and i just loved her manner with bina and the way she put me at ease as bina's mama. yesterday, i was so glad i switched and was kicking myself for not doing it sooner! in typical bina fashion, she lost her mind as soon as we got to the scale to weigh her. had to do the whole mom-holds-the-kid-and-then-puts-kid-down-and-weighs-herself routine. then she wouldn't stand to be measured for height so that had to be done by marking her head and feet on the table. she protested taking off her clothes. lost it when the doctor started talking. screamed the whole time she was examined. it was epic. but when the doctor first came in, instead of jokingly ridiculing bina, she just looked at me and said something like "you know, with three year olds -- half of them love the doctor and half of them hate it and that's just how it goes, there's really no middle ground." my kid just happens to be one of the ones who hates it. and that's half of them. so. it's all good. or, it is what it is. and we just get this over and quickly and painlessly as possible!
the pediatrician went down her list of questions and was very kind and encouraging. she wasn't concerned that at three bina isn't potty trained yet. she said it's best not to force kids before they're ready -- they'll be ready in their time. which is the mindset i've had on it all along. we watch the daniel tiger potty episode. we read the potty book. we have a little potty and two potty seats. we have character underwear. and we will get there. just not today. and that's ok! the pediatrician asked if bina knows a couple colors (yes). and if she's talking (so much). she noticed that i'm still breastfeeding as bina was nursing when she walked in. she asked if bina drinks milk as well (yes) and if she eats well (pretty well). she asked if bina napped (no) and i shared she sleeps around 10-12 hours at night, not straight through but total. she thought that was great and with that amount of sleep the only nap you can really expect would be a short cat nap anyways. i never once felt self-conscious about my decisions as i have in my appointments with other pediatricians here and in austin. it was refreshing. when i voiced my concern over mold i found in one of bina's straw cups that morning, she shared a story about a moldy straw with her own kids. everyone lived. bleach and water goes a long way. i walked out of there thinking hey, i'm doing a great job at this mom thing. we've got this!
and then on the way home my kid started tantruming because "mommy, you have a baby in your tummy!" (to my knowledge, i do not). she didn't want to go get grapes from kroger as i had planned. she didn't want to go home. when i asked what she DID want to do, thinking maybe we could compromise, she insisted "YOU HAVE A BABY IN YOUR TUMMY!" now, what that has to do with going to kroger or home, i will never know. but i contemplated for a bit and then just decided to hit up kroger as planned and hope for the best. when we stopped in the parking lot i fed her a snack bar before unstrapping her from her car seat. food works wonders. my first line of defense in case of tantrum is to feed the tiny monster. sometimes that works. and it worked yesterday. we went into kroger, grabbed our grapes, and then found some "baby uffins" (muffins) for bina to celebrate surviving her three year appointment.
the rest of the day was really sweet, and ended with playing in the backyard with daddy and the dogs. and that is when it really hit me. THIS is what matters in this season. spending time with my people, together enjoying doing something as simple as playing on the swing set in the backyard. bina's happy exclamations as she plays with her daddy just make my heart burst with love. this is the stuff i want to remember -- making time to just be together as a family and enjoy each other. create that stability and security of a close knit family. we don't have to go anywhere or spend any money. we can just be right where we're at.
as a stay at home mom, my priority is my kid. that is my focus in this season of life. not that i lose myself in my motherhood role, i still have my identity and exercise self care, nurture other passions. but my main goal in this season is to raise my kid well. to give her a childhood filled of the everyday adventure of growing and developing, getting to know her world, reaching her full potential. that means doing fun things like our tinkergarten class, park play dates, coloring and painting, reading books, visiting the zoo. it also means doing not so fun things like learning how to process emotions and manage tantrums, bandage scraped knees, giving baths and brushing teeth when overtired, and dealing with the stress of being off our typical routine. and to make my kid my priority, to be able to do these things well, that means i have to say "yes" to some things and "no" to others. i read somewhere that a "yes" to something is a "no" to something else. there are only 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week. i have to say "no" (or, "hold on") to some passions of mine in this season to focus on this fleeting time with my little human that god has entrusted to me. others may be doing "more" than i am. and in a time and place where busyness is idolized, it's hard to be the one that says "no." i say "no" to being busy for the sake of being busy. "no" to over-scheduling. "no" to just meeting a need because i can. because saying "yes" to something means saying "no" to something else. and for these days that sometimes seem so slow but years that go so fast, i want my kid to be my "yes." i want my marriage to be my "yes." because they're worth it! and THIS is why david and i decided for me to become a sahm.
i'm still struggling through, sometimes day by day, trial and error. especially with the onslaught of threenager tantrums! but this job, it's worth it. and the less i care about what others think about my decisions, the better. because really the only opinion that matters is god's. and david and i are doing our best to live our lives for his glory, one messy day at a time. when this little booger tantrums all through the nature center trail and then turns a corner when we get to the tree house and happily bounces across the bridge, i remember why i want to do this.
i want to be the one with her at these moments. i want to be the one navigating the tantrums, setting the limits, beaming at this little bouncy blond head enjoying playing outside. i want to be the one to bandage the scraped knees, draw with sidewalk chalk on the driveway, play with cars on the floor, snuggle and read books. i want to be the one who brushes teeth and bathes her little angry body when she's overtired. i want all of it, the good and the bad. because living in the tension is where i grow most -- in knowledge of myself, my kid, and god. and that is a beautiful, broken wisdom. so here's to two years of being a sahm, and many more.