Mountain View Mommy: Sand, Trucks and Testosterone

February 28, 2007

Core Competency

Filed under: Thinking — by mvmommy @ 8:25 am

When Andrew was about 4 months old, I was at my Mom’s group discussing life with kids and staying at home. This Mom’s group is made up of 5 women. These women have subsequently become my lifeline throughout motherhood; but at the time we were just getting to know one another, and figuring out what we were going to do with the rest of our lives as mothers.

One of the ladies was telling us about her girlfriend (an experienced mom with 3 kids who were all older than our 4 month olds). She said that this woman told her that over the years, she came to realize that she is a horrible stay at home mother. No, that doesn’t mean she chose to go back to work. It means that she IS a stay-at-home mom, but she hates staying at home. She found that if she planned excursions for her & her children to go on, she was a great mom. Everyone would have a great time. She would enjoy the time spent with her children & they would enjoy her as well. However, if she was stuck at home for the day, she would go crazy. Likewise, the kids would too. This woman had explained to my girlfriend, that in time we would all figure out what type of mother we were… and when we did, we should embrace it.

At the time, I listened to the story & didn’t really get it. I myself was going to be a stay-at-home mom. And so far, after my 4 month initiation, I was loving being at home. I could sit for hours at home next to the playmat, staring at my child, watching every breath and every move. Yes, it was boring at times – but I was loving it. I couldn’t really relate.

As the months went on, our group of five ladies started settling into their paths. One went back to work full-time. One went back to work part-time. Three of us decided not to go back to work & stay at home. Of the three stay-at-home mothers, one spends most of the time at home playing with the kids, she rarely goes out. The second spends most of her time out & about with her children, at classes or friend’s houses. And I myself fluctuate somewhere in between. We still get together every week, but we bring a great variety of perspectives to the table. Each of us marvels at the other one, constantly saying things like “how can you deal with that, that would make me crazy.” It’s great! It’s the glue that holds us together & helps us all learn from one another.

It is because of these women that I have realized that I am not a stay at home, stay-at-home mother.

At first I didn’t understand why a quiet day at home would usually end up being one of the worst days of our week. The kids would act up. I wouldn’t be able to get anything done that I was trying to do around the house. Everyone would end up miserable. By the time 6:00 rolled around and Nathan walked in the door, there was a collective sigh of relief that another adult was going to be in charge… and that adult would not be me.

On the other hand, when we would go out… everyone always had fun. We would do things we wouldn’t normally do. We would explore things that were off-limits at home. No one had an agenda that wasn’t being fulfilled. Everyone just enjoyed each other and the time being spent together. And when we would come home for nap-time, I could get done everything that I wanted to before the kids woke up. For some reason, the whole scenario was just easier.

When I am with my girlfriends, we often compare our different situations… and I was distinctly getting the impression that I was not meant to sit at home. I thought I was, but I am just not that mellow. I have to be organizing. I have to be picking up, cleaning, cooking dinner, calling people back, doing laundry, checking email, changing diapers, folding clothes, taking out the trash, restocking diaper stations, etc. Each task gets a few minutes here & there, as I buzz around. This includes my children who get a few minutes of car racing, a few minutes of tower building, a few minutes of music & singing. Clearly they aren’t pleased with a few minutes. Likewise, I am not pleased with my inability to sit still before the urge to pick up that stray toy in the corner takes over. I end up feeling horrible about leaving them, but just can’t stop myself.

In the beginning, I didn’t have that urge/compulsion. I could keep things organized and play with Andrew. But now with two kids… the chaos is greater. There is more to juggle, and less time to do it in. And an organized home is the only thing that brings some sanity to my day.

Having realized this weakness, I also just figured out my strength – my ability to take my kids on adventures at the drop of a hat. The car is always packed. The diaper bag always stocked. Food is usually ready in the fridge to pack for a lunch on the spur of the moment. And we can be out the door by 8:15 if I am motivated. This is definitely my core competency… using my organization skills to get us out of this house!

Clearly, I need to be outside of my home to be a good mom. It doesn’t matter how we get out, just that we do. It can be to take a drive to the airport to watch the planes take off & land. It can be walking to the park and having a picnic. It can be running to the grocery store and letting the kids help me. Or it can be a big trips like to the zoo or museum. In the end, I need to do something that allows my kids to have my undivided attention, where they don’t feel like they have to fight with the laundry to get it.

Now that I know what I am good at… how do I fix what I am bad at? There are days that it is good to stay at home. The kids need it & I need it. However, I can’t just sit and play in the playroom for hours on end, with no agenda. It doesn’t work for me. So knowing that, I need to find some fun activities that we can do at home … like planned events. Things that will keep me involved and engaged… and not running to the next chore on the chore list. Any suggestions? I am up for them!

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