Saturday, March 13, 2010

Staying home with my kids when they were small...

 I was talking to a young mom the other day, she had 2 beautiful children under 5 years old. She shared with me how she was struggling with her 'perfect life'. Her husband had a successful career and she was putting her career on hold to stay home with the children.  She was feeling some pain and sadness and confused about why. I understood where she was coming from . I remember, oh so well, when my girls were small, how really difficult and lonely and very private all those feelings were for me. They were swirling around my head and heart with a dash of sadness and hurt.  Mostly I remember feeling very lonely.  I was very lonely for my husband. I can remember watching Beauty and the Beast(Disney) with my girls when they were very small, and just bawling my eyes out, my heart just ached.

When I was a stay home mom, it was very difficult for me to find compassion for that tough period of my life.(difficult to the tenth power!). No one wanted to hear me vent or complain about how tough it is to stay home with babies and toddlers. “Girl, you don't have to go to work, please tell me you are not complaining!” When my 2 girls were very young, there was a complexity to the emotions I wrestled with. On one hand was this huge privilege I was living. Not working outside the home, wow, how lucky am I! I get to raise my children myself. I felt I was living out my dream, we made choices and sacrifices so I could stay home and raise our children. And on the other hand, was this frustration and guilt because the days of diapers and spit up were not always days spent in the park picking clovers and attending tea parties with Pooh. I loved all of those days, tea parties and the spit up. I loved all of it. I loved feeling like I was doing a good job at this privileged position I was given . Staying home with my children was a wonderful gift, I look back and treasure everyday I had with them. But in the midst of it, it was hard work, it was emotional, and it was lonely.

One adjustment that I struggled with as a new stay home mom was my feeling of self worth. When I was working in the 'out of the home' work place, my performance was evaluated by my boss. I always loved my performance reviews. I had this wonderful opportunity to hear all the things I was doing right and even what I was doing wrong or needed improvement on. (Usually, I needed to be a bit more organized, imagine that!) These reviews were a time of evaluation, like report cards. I would receive a tangible record of my accomplishments. Raising children doesn’t come with one of these. There is no report card or job review. There is no file that I can tuck away all my achievements, a file I can present later to be reviewed by my boss. I have no review, no boss, no chance of promotion, and definitely no raise in the future. So where is the measuring stick for my self worth? Could I look to my husband for praise of a job well done?

My husband did not want to hear me whine about my day of changing diapers and grocery store challenges. Me: "Eliza had a huge fit in the grocery store today, all over some silly grapes and Rachel had a blow-out in her diaper, I mean, it was awful!! It went up her back and reeked to hight heaven!"  My lovely husband  would hear: "Blah blah blah, Eliza, blah blah, Rachel",  and maybe "grapes". I would get a look from him like, "you are not complaining are you?  Because I am busting my butt out there working so you can stay home and live your dream!!". He just wanted to fix the problem. My husband was great at fixing things but a little short on compassion. I just wanted a little compassion.
At this time in my life I learned the value of a really good play group. I found a few really good mom's that I leaned on for support. They gave me excellent job reviews, and still do!! The value of girl friends never meant so much to me as when my children were very little. These few, very wise and trusted women provided the air for me to breath through these tough years. I will forever be in debt to these women for the space they allowed me to be angry, hurt, frustrated and confused about motherhood...and wifehood!

Finding a good therapist was also a life saver for me. There was a time when I felt so crazy with loneliness, I thought I wanted out of my marriage. It took a couple tries to find a good counselor for me, but the survival of my marriage was well worth all my efforts. The best advise we received in couseling, the one thing that brought us closer as husband and wife, is telling him what I needed him to say to me. As ridiculous as that sounds, it worked wonders.

My husband loves to fix what ever problem I am having.  It is what men do, they fix things.  But I don’t want him to fix it , I want him to listen to me, and support me in my ability to find my own solutions. I want him to do this because he believes I am smart and capable and funny and cute and HOT!!  So, I explained what words I needed to hear from him...these words: "honey, that sounds really tough, I am sure you are going to find a way to work that out", "Sweetie, I don’t know how you do what you do!!  You are amazing!! ", "You are so smart to figure that out, way to go!", "You are beautiful and I love that you are my partner in this family. Thank you for working so hard for us!".   Aren't those some great phrases!! Putting these words in his dialogue with me made a HUGE difference in my attitude, in my joy and in my LOVE!   Also what we found was the same things I want to hear from him, he wanted to hear from me. 

When we first started this scripted dialogue, it wasn't smooth, it felt a bit forced, but we stuck with it. Now these words have become our love language!!  We LOVE encouraging words spoken to each other, I love hearing how great I am and I love telling him how much I appreciate all his hard work.  Now, let me tell you, there is plenty of crazy between all this but these words are the glue that keeps us close. 

Keeping the love alive is work. It is especially difficult when the kids are really small and there are diapers, and well-check visits, and chicken nuggets, and weight that wont come off, and no time to work out, and ear infections, and sleepless nights and no time for a shower today, whew! Ugh, and now he has that look in his eye...Man! Can't I get a break?!!  Maybe now is not the best time to tell him my check book is out of ballance for the zillionth time...

So I try to remember that nothing is permanent, time is moving forward, things never stay the same. Whether you want them to or not.

My daughters are 11 and 13 now.  Long gone are the diaper blow-outs, the crayon on the walls has been painted over and ear infections are way in the past. In their stead are cell phones, make up and computer privilages.  But on this leg of my journey, my husband is my partner, he is my home, he is my heart.  I am not lonely for him anymore.  He tells me what I need to hear, and I tell him I will see him later tonight!!

Joy and every blessing,


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