How a Burning Out SAHM Got Her Mommy-Mojo Back
I’ve been a SAHM for six years, and sometimes I think I’m burning out. When I first became a mother in 2005 I was completely absorbed in my daughter and could not imagine ever being anything but completely fascinated by every facial expression she made.
Two years later when my second daughter was born I decided to quit my job and stay home full-time. I took on my new role with passion and energy: we went to the Children’s Museum every Monday, the library every Tuesday, the zoo two days a week, and a playground once a day in decent weather.
I know that my motives behind these excursions weren’t purely selfless, and that beyond the stimulation I was providing my children I was also benefitting from getting out of the house and seeing other adults. Still, I knew it was good for the kids so I considered these outings a win-win and I felt good about myself. I thought to myself, “I can do this!” or sometimes just, “Winning!”
Well, six years have passed, I’ve had a third child, I have a lot more grey hairs and a lot less patience, and I rarely feel like I’m winning anymore. My three-year-old has been to the zoo about three times in her life and has never set foot inside the Children’s Museum. I know that what she lacks in children’s attraction visits she gains in having two older sisters who teach her so much more about life. And also, Children’s Museum equals mad germs.
But still, sometimes I feel like a washed-up, has-been mom.
The other day, I was feeling particularly down on my mothering skills as I let my 3-year-old have more screen time than usual so that I could get a few things done - and by “a few things” I mean check email, check facebook, and work on a blog draft. The mom I was five years ago would be appalled. Even the mom I am today felt like a turd.
So, like Sally Fields’s character in the movie Soapdish who goes to the mall to be recognized by her fans and feel better about herself, I decided to go to a place where a mom can feel like better mom: the public library.
The library has always been my Mommy-Feel-Good destination. I’m promoting literacy! Fostering a life-long love for books! Spending quality time with my kids! Not paying a penny! This place is Mother-of-the-Year fodder.
So the other day I took my 3-year-old to the library so that I could feel like Supermom again. Everything started out just grand. We sat on the couch and started reading, she pointed out all the letters and I felt like an A+ Mom again.
Then she lost interest. Quick - time to go home for a nap! As I checked out our books, she ran away from me and started pulling books off the shelves and throwing them on the floor and shrieking loudly with delight. I chased after her, doing a whisper-yell, “Stop that! Be quiet! SHUSH!” She screamed back, “YOU SHUT IT!” Somewhere along the line my youngest learned that “shut up” is a forbidden phrase, but I’m not sure how or when she determined that “shut it” was acceptable language.
All the other moms looked at me like I was the monster mother I now knew I was.
Far from feeling better about my mothering, I left the library feeling defeated and depressed. How could the place that always made me feel like a good mom suddenly make me feel like such a failure?
Later that evening, while my husband read to our older daughters, I got to have a do-over. I curled up on the couch with my youngest and read the books we’d borrowed from the library that morning. We read for almost an hour - we laughed, I taught her new words, we snuggled, and I think I kissed those irresistible cheeks on every page turn.
I realized as we sat there that I may not always be a good mom, but I’m not always a bad mom either; I’ve still got it. And I don’t need to go over the rainbow or all over town to prove to myself that I’m a good mom. Maybe all those outings I used to go on were because I was afraid of being home all day alone with my kids. As Dorothy learned, sometimes we find that what we wanted was in our own backyard – or couch – the whole time.