Note: This article is in no way a commentary or comparison of working moms to non-working moms. This is simply my experience of going from being a SAHM to a mom on bed rest.
I can close my eyes and picture clearly the stress and frustration of my vocation. Standing in the kitchen listening to children cry or whine, while another creates a mess. Children are often ungrateful, self-centered creatures who struggle to control their emotions. And as I corral them all day long, day-in and day-out, doing the same household chores, cleaning the same messes, cooking the same food . . . I feel useless.
It’s funny to work so hard and still feel useless.
I feel awash with failure and lack of importance. It feels as if there’s no substance to my life. No one sees me. I convince myself that anyone else could do a better job watching my children and I could use my talents better in an office with other adults pursuing a grand purpose.
It’s easy to daydream about greener grass . . . until suddenly, the choice to be a stay-at-home mom is suddenly taken from you.
In the third trimester of this pregnancy, which has been the most physically demanding of all my pregnancies, I was put on bed rest. It’s a long story and filled with more physical suffering than I’ve ever experienced that finally culminated in the message, “You can leave your bed to go to the bathroom. That’s it.”
Suddenly, I found myself unable to cook food, clean my home, or parent my children. What’s worse, I had to hear other people do it all day long from the confines of bed. Now I am extremely blessed that my mother lives with me and my husband has a flexible work schedule. They have been holding down the fort these last two months and doing an amazing job! I mean absolutely no slight to them . . . but they are not the mother of my children.
It didn’t take very many days for me to start seeing all the subtle and powerful ways I manage my home. The cleaning I do without thinking. The tasks that never appear on a cleaning schedule; they’re just small habits I’ve picked up. I don’t leave a room without looking around and doing a little decluttering of surfaces. It keeps our home well-ordered.
I control the tone of our home. I can tell when the energy in the house feels frazzled or sad and I come up with little ways to snap us out of it and move us in a better direction. I notice the subtle changes in each of the children . . . when my oldest clearly needs some one-on-one time, when my free-spirit middle child needs more hugs, when my youngest needs to be challenged etc.
Suddenly, I was able to see these as gifts. Mom superpowers, if you will. Instead of feeling frustrated that I couldn’t be there for them, I started to feel confident. I started writing down all the ways I missed parenting my children and running my household. I began to see all the ways my family needs me.
They don’t need a house cleaner, a cook, a nanny, a driver . . . they need ME, their mom.
While my husband and my mom do a great job of making sure their needs are met, I am much better at making sure the stage is set for my children to grow in virtue. I customize their surroundings and the tasks I give them to lead them to Christ and to lead them to be better versions of themselves.
I make sure they get appropriately bored to stimulate problem-solving and creativity. I teach them to take care of the house because they are part of the family. I teach them to respect each other and to recognize when their siblings need help and also when their siblings need space.
I had often told myself, “These years with little kids are just hard. When they get older, I’ll enjoy this more.” And while it’s true that little children can be so draining, I now see that I don’t need to wait to embrace and enjoy my vocation.
If anyone had told me last year that I would be desperately missing the daily grind of motherhood . . . deeply longing for the tantrums, the messes, and monotony . . . I would have thought you were crazy.
I can’t wait to “be a mom” again! I never realized how picky or particular I was, especially about food and cleaning until I had to give up all control! I also realized that no matter how hard my husband tries, he will lack the maternal skills I have and children need those skills.
I don’t wish bed rest on anyone. It’s one of the most emotionally and psychologically difficult things I’ve ever had to go through. I know that reading someone else’s “don’t take your life for granted” stories is a faint echo compared to experiencing loss yourself.
But let me say this, mama; you are needed. You are special. You do things that no one else can do. You are exactly who your children need. The work you do is important and crucial. It’s subtle and hard to even pin down but it’s there . . . like the oxygen in your home. Your love makes everything in your home grow.
Make sure you get rest, even if it’s 10 stolen minutes in the bathroom. You can’t run on empty. But know that you are appreciated. Even if your children or your husband never voice it . . . you would be greatly missed if you were suddenly banished to your room. Your unique talents make the home run smoothly even if you’re a terrible housekeeper. Mothers are love and that love is needed!
Copyright 2017 Sterling Jaquith