Homemakers have to wear many hats. The fun thing about it is that you (with your husband’s input and leadership) get to decide which sorts of hats are the right sort for you and your family. All our hats don’t have to look alike.
Several years ago an online friend wrote about her struggles with being a stay at home mom. She said she was committed to it and that honestly, deep down, she liked it, but she was constantly frustrated by the disconnect between her expectations and reality. In talking with her to flesh out her concerns, I realized that she’d kind of envisioned staying at home all day doing nothing but joyfully creative things with her children while the the house would continue to look as though nobody had been in it since the last time it was cleaned and photographed for the cover story of a House Beautiful magazine.
She also thought that since she had been very good at her very complex previous career, staying at home ought to be something she just took to naturally, without any thought, prepration, planning, or training.
Definitely the Wrong hat.
She had an underlying assumption that being a sahm was going to look an awful lot like Ozzie and Harriet, only with more fun stuff. She also found children’s television programs stultifying, organized activities for children (library programs, play dates, that sort of thing) utterly boring. She thought this meant she was a bad person and something was wrong with her. I didn’t see what that was a problem, I find those things kind of boring, too. Then I learned that she thought that watching Barney and participating in story hour each week with her children was a requirement for good mothering.
You are not a bad mother if you don’t take your kids to story hour. It’s okay to read to the children at home alone together. In fact, it’s just as good, maybe better. The point of story hour is to introduce books to kids who might not be around them much, and to entertain the little ones for a few minutes while mom checks out some books. Once I could put books on hold from my home computer and just run in and check them out when the library calls to tell me they are in, we never did another story hour. There’s nothing wrong with it if you like it, but there’s no reason you should feel compelled to wear that particular hat of being the story hour mom. It’s not the right hat for everymommy.
I told her that I love being a stay at home mom, and I’ve been doing it for 25 years and am still figuring some things out. Knowing what to do, feeling comfortable about it and confidant in your choices does not just happen, any more than it just happens that somebody knows how to cook or how to be a vet or how to change the oil and plugs in a car. Most of us need to see this modeled and do some learning. IF we were lucky enough to have stay at home mothers as models in our youth, we’re ahead of the curve (I wasn’t). If not, we can expect to do some learning. Most people require some training or mentoring for whatever they end up choosing to do as adults.
Make some new friends- find somebody who stays home and likes it, someone who does it because they think it’s important. Search the web for homemakers sites, but make sure that the ones you find are upbeat and positive. It never helps to hang around with people who are busy complaining.
Get rid of the things that are hindering you. Dump all the ‘mainstream’ mothers’ magazines (if you have any). If it’s slick and glossy and inclined to make you discontented, you don’t need it. Dump the television set (if you watch it much).
I’ll be that when you were learning how to do your old job you studied it a little, practiced, watched other people who were successful at it, and maybe read in the field to find out more about it. If being new to the sahm thing is making you feel uncomfortable, inept, and unprepared, there are things you can do to change that. Go to the library and look for books that will help you with your new life.
Go to the library and check out books on subjects you need help with, or look online for websites about specific topics (cleaning, baking, playing games with the kids, honoring your husband, or whatever subjects you feel less confidant about.
Most importantly, learn ( by practicing, one moment at a time) to look at mothering not just as a default, but something you do deliberately, purposefully, and intelligently- with thought and design. Don’t take it for granted. It really matters in the life of your children, your spouse, your husband.
When all the reading is done, remember that you are married to YOUR husband, not somebody else’s. You are the mother to YOUR children, not somebody else’s. God gave that family to YOU, not to somebody else. Tackle homemaking your way with your strengths and interests. Don’t try to be somebody else. It is so frustrating and sad to me when I see people who could be joyfully working out a unique homemaking style of their own depressed and unhappy because they think there’s one right way to do this- especially when that one imagined right way is based on a television fantasy.
You know not even Ozzie and Harriet or June Cleaver thought their programs were realistic at the time? They weren’t intended to be. Somebody once criticized Harriet for always being seen with her hair done and her heels on in her television show, and she said something like, “don’t you like to look your best when you have company in your home?” She viewed her program as ‘company time,’ not ‘relaxing at home in the family circle time.’
So _why_ do we try to force ourselves into this mold? Of course we’re miserable and unhappy when we try to do things this way, because it’s all wrong! We not only cheat ourselves when we do this, we cheat our children. They never learn who we are because we’re so busy creating an artificial world based on Sesame Street and Ozzie and Harriet. Our own interests and joys should be reflected in the sort of home we create. I’m NOT criticizing Sesame Street or Ozzie and Harriet- if this is who you, reflective of what you value and where your interests are, and who you want to be, that’s one thing. If you’re hiding the real you, squelching your own personality (I do not mean sin traits- these must be squelched, I’m just talking about personality traits) trying to be somebody completely different from the woman God created, well, then, stop it.=)
By the time she was five, our sixth child had never seen an episode of Sesame Street and had never been to a library story hour. Instead, she was already enjoying hearing retellings of and seeing performances of Midsummer Night’s Dream from Shakespeare. For years my children did not know who Britney Spears was, but they could hum Pachelbel’s Canon and recognize Mozart when they heard him. My children have never read a Babysitters’s Club or a Goosebumps book, but they have been known to request the story of Jezebel as a bedtime story. My children have interests that other people consider ‘odd’ or ‘advanced,’ depending on their point of view.
I’m not talking about that women’s movement idea of putting yourself first, ‘finding yourself’ and general selfishness. I’m talking about recognizing that maybe, just maybe, God had something in mind when He gave your children to YOU, and it had something to do with what you could teach each other. We are, after all, raising our children to be adults, not perpetual children. So maybe we can start introducing them to maturity when they are children. Maybe we can let them know who we are, what interests us, and share our passions with them.
Does Shakespeare sound intimidating to you?
It doesn’t have to be Shakespeare. That’s something I enjoyed. Your interests may be elsewhere. But I think my children can appreciate Shakespeare, request the story of Jezebel as a bedtime story, and hum Pachelbel’s Canon not because they are so much brighter than ‘normal’, but for the simple reason that they have been exposed to Shakespeare and all those other things as a normal part of life. Those interests reflect some of my interests. Yours may be different. As my children have matured, their interests have expanded, too, so that now they introduce me to new things.
Children are not limited to understanding only Barney and Big Bird, and if we develop our own interests and share them with the children we enrich their lives as well as our own, and they will be repaying that favor with interest.