Today was a tough day. My son apparently woke on the wrong side of the crib and wigged when I cut our morning reading session off at four books, instead of 10 trillion like he wanted. Then he apparently didn't like anything I offered him for breakfast. I was clued into this by the fact that he threw his food all over himself, the floor, me and a newer victim to the food party - the wall. Most of the day was filled with errands, a trip to the park to burn off the energy and then doing whatever I could to keep him from throwing his new trick - toddler tantrums. I moved him around the house with various toys while I played/held/coddled him and dutifully cleaned up the worst of the messes. I sighed as I drug an entire roll of toilet paper roll out of our dirty toilet, gritted my teeth as I scrubbed chalk marks off our white chairs and spent 20 frustrated minutes figuring out how to get the computer to stop narrating every move I made on it after my son used the keyboard as a drum.
My house was a mess and the to-do list a mile long, but it had been a busy couple of weeks, my son had been needing extra attention for what felt like an eternity, and I was weary. So I didn't do anything about most of those things, and the few things I did do, I definitely didn't do well. I told myself I deserved a bit of "me-time," that I was doing the best I could day in and day out. And let's all remember, as a SAHM, I work 24/7, not just eight hours a day like "other people." And to top it all off, I reminded myself I was pregnant with my second, so I deserved special treatment and extra grace.
So I took a nap when my son napped, then I watched TV during the last 45 minutes of his nap instead of wiping up the floor, prepping dinner, cleaning my dirty bathrooms or any of the other nine million things that needed done around the house. Because I deserved it; I was tired, weary, burned out.
But really, was I exhausted and worn out, deserving of a break, or was I just being lazy? Were things being left unfinished because I truly didn't have time and had a needy child or was I just making excuses for not being a diligent worker and keeper of my home? Was I truly doing my best day in and day out? Or did I tell myself that so I could justify me-time?
I fear there's a growing sense of entitlement for mother's these days, particularly for SAHMs to let things slide because we have it "so tough." While I think blogs and the media seem to be doing a great job moving away from the "Stepford Wife" idealism of motherhood, I fear sometimes we've gone too far the other direction. Pinterest fails, "honest" mommy bloggers (I've been on that list before!) and Instagram and Facebook posts brag about staying in pajamas until noon, feeding kids Oreos and cheese sticks for lunch, and leaving an inch of dirt under the couch - because we're humble! We're real! We're authentic!
I find myself leaning on these messages as a crutch on lazy days, and even going to other mom's for sympathy and to justify my actions - because everything these days tells me raising children and running a home is the hardest and most important job in the world. I drink those words in like my morning coffee, fast and furious, desperate for a salve to justify my selfish soul. I tell myself that me-time during nap-time is a right in exchange for this big, important job I'm doing, as I wipe yet another runny nose or clean my son's glasses yet again. I ask my husband to do the dishes after dinner because my son's been more temperamental than usual and I "just need one break today." I tell myself I can't clean the bathrooms today because I've already done so much so the care of my home can slide because I have kept my child alive and (mostly) happy - and that's what matters, right?
I think all of us as moms would say "motherhood is truly a joy; we love our littles more than life itself; they're worth every ounce of work; we only want the very best for them." And we truly believe that! But how often do those words ring true and play out in our day-to-day?
For the record, I do believe moms (parents) have the most important job in the world - raising the next generation. But that doesn't mean we as mothers are allowed to neglect the less important things in life. It's not authentic, it's not humble - it's unkind. It's unkind to have guests use a dirty bathroom, it's unkind to our husband to not make dinner, and it's unkind to our children to not model hard work and diligent home-keeping.
For a stay-at-home mom, keeping clean clothing in the drawers, mopping the floor, wiping noses and picking up what looks like the exact same mess 52 times from the floor every day are are normal, daily tasks for our job description, and when you complete them, it's not that you've gone above and beyond, it's just that you've actually done your job. No matter where you work, everyone's job has crappy days, but outside the home, you can't use a crappy day as an excuse to not get your job done. We don't have a boss that's giving us marks on our job performance. There's no quarterly check-in or yearly-review. But if we had one, what would the boss say?
There are days where it is perfectly legitimate for us as mothers and homemakers to not get to the laundry, scrub the ring out of the toilet, or complete our to-do list but I would question how often we are using the weariness of motherhood as our excuse to be lazy. Of course, the most important thing we do is to love our children, spend time with them, and some days, extra snuggles and cuddles should override our to-do list. But I don't know about you, no matter how difficult my child is being, most of the time I can still find 20-30 minutes to burn on Pinterest throughout the day. While we may have defeated the "Leave it to Beaver" expectation, the reality is that neither perfectionism nor "authenticity" are the right answer. They're both forms of pride, one to look perfectly put together, and one to look carefree and falsely humble.
SAHMs, let's unite together, not by commiserating about how hard our job is, how no one understands our 24 hour shift, and how little sleep we get, while using these things as excuses to justify our selfish desires. Instead, let's encourage one another to do the best we can in raising our children and keeping a home well. We shouldn't be expected to be perfect, but we shouldn't allow laziness to overcome ourselves either.
It's a fine balance, and one that probably looks different every single day as a mom. But isn't that what mom life is? A constant flow of the unexpected and unpredictable?
Motherhood is hard. It is tiring, wearing, burdensome. And breaks and me-time are good, good things. Necessary even! But I want to serve my family well by not acting like an entitled brat when my day/week/month has been a little harder than it usually is and I don't get one. As much as I hate to admit it, I don't deserve special treatment and breaks just because I do the most important job in the world. I would assume that's because this job is just so dang important!
Remember what we would all say? "That motherhood is truly a joy." Bring that to mind on the tough days. Instead of drudging through the weary days of motherhood, I want to remember that I signed up for this. I chose to be a mother, I chose to be a SAHM. No one is making me do this, so why am I complaining? Why am I cracking jokes about the mountain of laundry in the basement or making excuses for not getting my job done? Let's choose joy in motherhood and do our best, even when no one who can form full sentences is watching. There is grace for the times we fail, and some days are better than others, but this is our job.
Let's do this thing well mommas.
Like this post? Here are some of the top posts in my "Motherhood" series. I also share a whole lot more on this motherhood gig over on Facebook (Oakland Avenue), Twitter (@oakland_avenue) and Instagram (@laurawifler) and I'd love it if you followed along!