As you can tell from the title of my blog, I never aspired to be a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM). Growing up, I knew I wanted kids but I also wanted a career. I really never thought I would choose to stay home myself instead of taking advantage of a daycare or preschool. But, here I am. At home. With the kids.
Many of you know that right after having my second child, I graduated from my Master's program and made the transition to being a full-time SAHM. Coincidentally, it was just a few months later that I was diagnosed with Post-Partum Depression. Even though I got treatment and was able to come out of that bad place, I have struggled for the last two years with being happy.
Time and time again, I'd find myself envious of my husband for being able to forward his career, talk to adults all day, have some sense of purpose on a day-to-day basis, and do something personally fulfilling for himself. What was I doing in comparison? Wiping butts, changing diapers, cleaning house, doing laundry, breaking up fights, listening to whining, cooking meals and basically doing everything for everyone. Some lucky parents don't have to try hard to view their lives in a better light. Some women naturally love doing all of those things and do feel a real sense of purpose every day. But for me, it just wasn't happening. I would constantly go back and forth on whether or not I would try to get a job and if I was being a good SAHM (thinking I need to do more crafts, more homeschooling stuff, better cleaning, etc.). All the ups and downs were frustrating and tiring.
Not long ago, I decided to start watching clips and webcasts online from Oprah's Lifeclass that she started in October. Go ahead and laugh. My husband did. One class was about finding your life's purpose and I found myself thinking about what my dream job would be... and what kind of career goals I wanted to try and set for myself once the girls were both in school (even that was a little depressing as I thought about how long it would be before that could happen). Then, a woman Skyped into the class and said that at 40 years old, she felt like she was being held back because she was a mother; that she couldn't drop everything for her own goals because she had a responsibility to take care of her own children. Besides telling this woman that she would be a better mother to her children by following some of her own passions, Oprah made a statement that changed my life.
She said, "There is no greater calling on earth than being the life-guide, teacher, nurturer, supporter and honorer of a young life. Everything else in this world - being a doctor, social worker, teacher, etc. - comes under the order of 'mother.'"
When I heard that, something clicked for me. I can't even put into words the feeling of contentment and purpose I felt at that moment. It has become my personal mantra. When the going gets tough, I remind myself of this amazing fact: "I am a lifeguide for my children." It's what I hear when the days are good and it's what I hear when I want to pull my hair out.
I am a life-guide.
We all get one chance to live our best lives and right now, I've been given the major responsibility of giving my girls a good head-start. In every situation, my girls look to me as an example of how to live. It's the ultimate personal wake-up call. Am I living intentionally? Am I living the life I want? I want to be a calm, patient, compassionate mother. But I'm human. I'm going to have times when I lose my cool or act in a way that I wish I hadn't. Remembering that I'm a life-guide reminds me to be my best self. And it has changed the way I parent.
I am a teacher.
No matter what kind of educational path you choose for your children, you will always be another teacher in their lives. I highly value education. Not just a graduate or doctoral degree, but a life-long love of learning and expanding one's awareness of the world around them. Children will get an education in school, and another one - an even more important one - at home. You have a responsibility to choose whether or not to be their teacher.
I am a nurturer.
To nurture is to bring up, help develop, help grow, and provide with nourishment. Providing for your children's physical needs is a given, but we also have to tend to our children's emotional, psychological, and spiritual needs as well. To nurture your children is to gently cultivate their understanding that they are enough, just the way they are. At the moment your child was born, you loved them simply because they were there. You did not ask anything of them and you did not want them to be any different than they were. To nurture your child is to make sure that they always know that they are unconditionally loved.
I am a supporter.
Even when you love your children unconditionally, it can be hard to support them when your idea of how their lives should go doesn't add up with reality. When your children grow older, there will undoubtedly be times when you are asked to be supportive of something that you would not have chosen yourself. But even with young children, be aware of simple moments when you have the opportunity to show that you will always support them. For example, I found some adorable pink house-shoes at the store and wanted Thing 1 to get them. She could have cared less about the pink ones after she saw some red race-car shoes. It's just shoes, right? Right. But letting her get the shoes that she chose - without weighing in with my own opinion of how hideous they were - reinforced to her, in a small way, the fact that she can make her own choices and I will be here to support her. Always.
I am an honorer.
To honor someone is to value them. I want my kids to know that they are important. They add so much happiness and meaning to my life and to the lives of so many others, simply because they are them. I want them to feel loved, heard and appreciated while they are living under my roof and I try to find small ways to show this to them every day. It's easy to get caught up in "life," - the laundry, dishes, cooking, cleaning - and you'd be surprised at how much time can go by before you're reminded to stop for a moment and say, "Hey, do you know how much I love you?" Most the time, it's my own children that are the reminder. Thing 1 is great at randomly coming up to me and saying, "Mom? Ya know what? I love you." If she can make me feel valued, then I want to make her feel the same way twofold.
I don't claim to know everything and I'm not expert on being a mother. But I know I'm not the only one to have trouble feeling confident and content in the role of "mother." Those words from Oprah (laugh again) just seemed to click for me and if they click for you too, that's fabulous. If not, that's fine too. Eckhart Tolle said, "The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation, but your own thoughts about it." If you are having trouble, find your own mantra that changes your perception of the situation you're in. Nothing about the situation I'm in changed at all. It was simply my awareness and acceptance of it.