I never wanted to be a stay-at-home-mom. NEVER. I’m an extrovert, an achiever, a perfectionist, a do-er. I like to be on the go all week and crash on the weekends. When we had our first child, I transitioned to part-time work simply because I was leaving one job and starting another. It worked out perfectly. We hired a sitter one day a week and my husband covered when I worked evenings or weekends. I could be present with my daughter and get the energy boost/achievement high from working outside the house part-time. I had my cake and I ate it too, with gusto! Then came the summer of 2019 when my husband’s job was transferred to a new location and I was six months pregnant with Baby #2. Unsure about what kind of job and childcare prospects awaited me in our new city, I decided to stay home.
I quickly found myself frustrated. I created schedules and routines (“Mondays are for groceries! Tuesdays I water the plants!”), but I still felt like I wasn’t productive–and that was BEFORE the baby arrived! For Christmas, I received a daily planner. I chuckled a little, wondering what I would write in it. Shall I schedule diaper changes? Toddler meltdowns? A friend suggested making a gratitude list. I had done that before and found it helpful, but I often felt a little bit of shame after making the list, as if I had failed by not being thankful in the first place. (Enneagram 1’s, are you with me?) I needed to feel productive. Was I making an impact? Could I get anything accomplished?
Here’s the thing: I already was productive. I just didn’t notice it. It was like my gratitude list–I didn’t always notice the gifts of my life. Gifts. Gifts can be received…and given. I was discounting the ways I was giving to my children, my spouse, my community, and so on. So on January 1, I began a new practice. Every day I listed three gifts I gave and three gifts I received. Some days the lists were longer, and some days shorter. A few gifts were more “extravagant” than others, but all were significant. Here are some of the gifts I gave:
- Cleaned the bathroom (because yuck)
- Treated Lucy to Chick-fil-a for lunch
- Left Pepsi on the front step for the UPS guy
- Held the baby so she would nap
- Breastfed another day (because some days, it’s HARD)
- Set boundaries for the pre-schooler (a nice way of describing a rough afternoon)
- Made dinner again (they want food every night?!)
- Donated maternity clothes to the Pregnancy Center
And here are some gifts I was given:
- Husband put the baby to bed
- A walk outside
- A shower
- Preschool teachers
- Chiropractic care
- Counseling (also a gift to others!)
- Flowers from my mom
Time to celebrate
We are often taught to downplay ourselves in attempts to be humble. Sometimes that may be appropriate, but when you are doing the nitty-gritty work of raising tiny humans, whether you work outside the home, from a home office, or are a SAHM, you need to recognize the work you are doing as important, as worthy, as a gift. You are doing hard work, Mama. Name it. Name it as a way you are giving to those around you and then name the gifts they give to you. This is a hard time. We all may not be sick, but it feels like we are all quarantined in some way. There is no checklist right now, no deadlines to meet. You are being productive, you are giving good gifts to your family. Good job, Mama.