I’ve been on all sides of the mom fence: stay at home mom, part time working mom, and full time working mom. I did each of those roles both married, and now single.
Unfortunately, single moms don’t exactly get the option of being stay at home moms. Some do, but most don’t. Thanks to amazing family support and a little bit of savings, I was able to stay home with my boys for the first few months of my separation, and it was wonderful. Both me and my boys really needed that time together. They needed me during the transition, and honestly, I needed them too. But eventually, the time came that I could no longer stay home and I had to go back to work full time.
It was a major adjustment for all of us because even when I worked full time previously, I did an evening shift schedule where I was able to spend the first part of the day with them and then usually they were home in the evenings with either a friend or my husband. Full time child care was never something I had to do.
The prospect of it made me sick to my stomach in a literal sense. Not only did the financial burden make me want to run away screaming, but the thought of paying someone else to spend all that time with my sons was crushing. That’s where I was supposed to be. They needed me, not some stranger I paid.
Being a stay at home mom is really the toughest job there is. But I did it well. I loved almost every second of it.
Maybe it’s because my boys were all young and hadn’t come into the toddler phase full swing yet, or maybe it was because pouring myself completely into them helped me survive the early months of separation and divorce. I don’t know. But whatever it was, I really rocked the stay at home mom thing before returning to work about 5 months ago.
I was petrified of going back to work. Not because of the work itself, but because I think I needed my boys almost more than they needed me at that time. Going back to work felt like stepping off the high dive blind folded. Because I wasn’t just a working mom. I was now a working single mom. It felt enormous!
But alas, the time came and I had to swallow that pill. I had no choice but to do what I had to do and try to make the best of it for us all.
The beginning was rough, but as time went on, we adjusted. We got use to the early mornings and the sad drop offs. I learned how to be okay with being away from my sons, and I figured out how to release them into someone else’s care and trust they’d survive.
I assumed that the time away from my sons would make the time we are together that much sweeter. And honestly, for the most part it has. But the 2 hours we have together at the end of the day before we have to sprint to bed and start again the next day is just not enough.
I want to do everything. I want to play for hours when we get home. I want to allow them to take an hour to eat their dinner. I want to revel in their awesomeness and soak in all the little moments.
And as much as I try to still do that, the truth is it’s hard. It’s hard to balance it all and find enough hours in the day.
So I do my best during the week. I get less sleep so that I can spend more time with them and accomplish things after they’re in bed. I try to slow down at the end of the night and enjoy them before hurriedly throwing them in bed frazzled with it all.
But it never feels quite good enough.
So then I live for the weekend. The 48 hours where it’s just us! Home base. 2 full days of no schedule weighing us down or stressing me out.
But sometimes I’m tired. Sometimes I still feel behind on the weekend. Like I’m running full speed trying to catch up to myself but always staying on my own heels.
I expect myself to be Mary friggin Poppins on the weekend and to love every single moment with my boys. To be fun and awesome and carefree.
I can’t live up to that expectation at all times, and some days it kills me.
I find myself with a short fuse sometimes. Less patient. Less in the moment. Less available. And deep down, that leaves me feeling like less of a mom.
What happened to the stay at home mom that loved even changing poopy diapers and being up til 3 am with sick babies in my arms?
My fear in going to work full time was that I’d lose something with my sons. That I’d become the exhausted, frazzled, angry, short tempered mom who can’t do anything gracefully because she’s too busy stumbling through everything.
I’m happy to report I haven’t become that mom. Not most of the time at least. But I have my moments. And in those moments, I doubt everything I believed myself to be as a mom.
In the frantic, crazy moments of meltdowns and tantrums and chaos, I find myself closer to the edge of strength and grace than I want to be. When I’m running on 5 hours of sleep and I’m up nursing a sick 18 month old in my arms at 11 pm when I have to be up the next morning at 4:30, my never-ending reservoir of patience and finesse seems to deplete more rapidly than I want to admit.
And when I see how hard they struggle adjusting to this new norm as we continue to jump more hurdles and weave between more changes, I sometimes can’t help but feel like I’m doing it wrong. Like I’m failing my sons. Like I’m not where I’m supposed to be.
At times, there just isn’t enough of me to go around.
I look at my boys and I want to cry I love them so much. So it’s frustrating to feel like when I’m with them, I’m less able to give them my best because either I’m too tired or too stressed or too close to the end of myself to be able to pour the little leftovers into them.
The truth is, I do though. Even when I have to dig deeper than I want to, I always find it. A mother never runs out of love for her babies, even when she’s running on fumes and yesterday’s coffee.
So I have to cut myself some slack. I have to remember that even though there may be more moments than I’m happy about that are colored by my waning stoicism, overall, I’m still doing a great job.
Want to know how I know?
Because they’re happy when we’re together. When I fall apart and lose my cool, they don’t seem too phased. They still shower me with hugs and kisses and compliments all day, even on the “bad days.” And I still do the same for them. I’m still their home base. I’m still their soft spot, and they’re still mine.
Motherhood is filled with moments of doubt and questioning and failing and struggling. Those moments don’t make us bad moms. They make us human. And you know what? I think human moms are the best kind of moms there are!
If you’ve found yourself a little more human than you’d like to admit, it’s ok. We are all just human. We are doing our very best, every single day, and our babies can feel that. We want to get it so right; and what I’m realizing is that even on the days we don’t believe it, we are.
So hang in there mamas. Whether you’re at home, at work, or working from home, you’re where you need to be and you’re getting it right. If you doubt that, look into your baby’s eyes. See that sparkle? That’s because of you!