The Stay-at-Home Slump
Do you ever have one of these? Because I do.
Every day, around 4:00 P.M., I get a little bit depressed. All of my children are home, and I’m happy about that, but they’re usually talking very loudly all at once (which seems to be the only way they know how to talk), and DJ is getting fussy because he’s hungry. The kids have stuff everywhere – coats, boots, backpacks, papers, folders, toys – and the visual clutter makes me anxious. The light outside is growing dim, the house feels dark and claustrophobic, and I’m facing what I consider to be the most challenging part of my day. Dinner preparation and clean-up, homework help, baths and showers, bedtime routines.
By this point, I’m pretty tired. DJ has recently dropped from two naps to one, and now that he’s walking more than crawling, I spend most of my day chasing after him, picking up his messes, and trying to prevent him from completely dismantling the house. What I would really love to do is just sit down and rest, have a cup of coffee, read a few pages in my book…but I can’t. And knowing that I can’t sometimes reduces me to tears.
OK, so I don’t actually cry, but I come close sometimes.
I recently told my husband that I sometimes feel like a prisoner in my own house. Not because I can’t leave – I can, of course – but leaving is so difficult that I don’t leave unless I absolutely have to.
For the last three weeks, I’ve been trying to get to the bank to deposit some Christmas checks for the kids, and Bee and Cakes wanted to come along because they get treats when they make deposits in their savings accounts. But this meant that all the stars must be aligned just so….my husband had to be home so that I could leave DJ, and I wanted to wait until Bee had an early dismissal, because the bank lobby closes at 4:00, and Bee doesn’t get off the bus until 3:30. I didn’t want to have to rush, because then I feel even more stressed.
On Monday, we finally got to the bank, and the teller was talking to me about transferring money into a college saver CD for a better interest rate, and I must have looked stricken, because she said, “Don’t worry. If you want to set one up, you can just call. We can mail you the paperwork, and you can mail it back to us.”
She read my mind. All I could think about when she was talking to me was, “Oh no! Another errand!”
The stay-at-home slump didn’t really hit me until I had more than one child. When it was just Bee and me, I still had the freedom to go and do pretty much whatever I wanted, because Bee was an easy, adaptable kid, and she was always up for an outing. But Cakes…Cakes is a different story. She’s a homebody who prefers to just stay home and play her imaginative games. She hates going on errands, and whines and complains non-stop. Sometimes, I have trouble convincing her to even go to story hour at the library. She’s just not really interested. And then there are the logistics of actually leaving the house with three children. Taking them anywhere, especially this time of year when coats and hats and boots must be dealt with, is physically exhausting. Sometimes the idea of getting them all in the van is more than I can face.
I was unprepared for these feelings. When we decided that I would stay home with the children, I was really excited because this life is what I always wanted. I enjoy my children, and I sincerely enjoy domestic life. It suits me, and always has (I got straight A’s in Home Ec, or “Life Skills,” as it was called when I was in high school). But I found that many of my friendships began to dissolve when I stopped working, for a very good reason. Most of my friends were people I had met at work, or at school, and when I had children and left the work world, I no longer had much in common with them. My closest and best friends have stuck by me, but others have drifted away. In fact, part of the reason I started this blog is because I was lonely, and I needed the support of other Moms.
I was also unprepared for the fact that sometimes my children would drive me absolutely insane. I didn’t think that I could ever be irritated by my precious, adorable offspring, but when you’re with a person, any person, 24/7, you have many more opportunities to be annoyed. Especially when that person hangs on your pant leg and screams, or says, “Mom. Mom! MOM!!!” approximately 5428 times a day.
So what do you do about the stay-at-home slump? I don’t have all the answers, but here’s what I do…
1) I vent. I’m a notorious complainer because talking (or writing!) about my feelings really helps me feel calmer, and more in control.
2) I ask my husband to hold me. He has a calming effect on me, and I on him. Honestly, until I met him, I didn’t understand what people meant by “chemistry,” but when someone can put their arms around you and it immediately lowers your blood pressure, you have it!
3) I let it go. Sometimes, if I’m feeling really tired and defeated, I order a pizza and use paper plates, and if the children are not particularly dirty, we skip bath time. I have them wash their hands and faces, and brush their teeth of course, but if they don’t have a bath every night, they will survive. It’s not the end of the world.
4) I put the kids to bed early. Sometimes as early as 6:00 for DJ, and 7:00 for the girls. The girls are allowed to read in their beds if they aren’t ready for sleep (though Cakes usually is), and this gives me a chance to regroup, have some time alone with my husband, or go to sleep myself, if that’s what I need most.
5) I pray. I ask God to help me cope, and He usually does. It’s been my experience that really bad, stressful days are often followed by really good, easy days, especially if I’ve prayed for help the night before.
6) I treat myself. I have whatever sounds good to me – chocolate, or coffee, or occasionally something alcoholic. The problem is, if Bee sees me drink even one beer she prances around, chanting in a very sing-songy voice, “Mommy’s drunk! Mommy’s drunk!” I blame myself for this, because of my stern lectures about how she musn’t smoke or drink because it’s bad for her.
7) I laugh. Laughter is good medicine, so I watch something funny, like The Office, or King of Queens, or I read a little Erma Bombeck, who can always make me see the humor in child-rearing and domestic life.
So, the next time you’re in a slump, remember…tomorrow is another day. It will get better, and in the meantime, eat a giant piece of fudge cake, take a nap, or have a glass (or bottle!) of wine if you feel like it.
Just don’t let Bee see you.