As I sit here in the early hours of the day, watching Little Baby Bum and doling out Pop-Tarts Bites, it dawns on me that in an unprecedented turn of events, I have become a stay-at-home mom.
When I made the transition from full-time employee to freelance writer, I had grand plans of rearranging my bookshelves, mastering the art of macramé, and taking Sloan on random adventures in the middle of the day.
All of those previous plans have been thrown to the wayside and I am left with a bored toddler and a foreseeable future that feels out of my control.
While this is scary and somewhat unnerving, figuring out how to entertain Sloan all day every day without parks, museums, and libraries seems more daunting than the possibility of becoming Will Smith from I Am Legend.
Gone are the weeks I would wake up, take Sloan to daycare, and sip my coffee while I planned out my day by color-coordinating homework, work, and chores in my planner.
What I’ve Learned
+ I was never meant to be a stay-at-home mom, and that’s okay. Being a good parent doesn’t depend on your ability, or desire, to be with your little all day long.
+ It’s okay for rules to change, evolve, or disappear during a global pandemic.
+ As long as meals are made, naps are taken, and laughs are had, you have succeeded as a parent. Well done.
Instead, I find myself chugging my coffee while Reid gets ready for work (UPS is essential) and staring at Sloan once he leaves, knowing I have roughly eight hours to fill with educational activities that will both stimulate her brain and leave me feeling like I am a fantastic parent.
I have to be honest—this is the most pressure I’ve felt since taking the ACT. Knowing that you are 100% responsible for what your child absorbs, learns, and does for an entire day, for an entire week, feels equivalent to standing in a cornfield during a thunderstorm.
It’s full of uncertainty. It’s scary. And there’s a chance you’ll get electrocuted, though not a big one.
I’ve buried myself in Pinterest pages and “mommy blogs,” trying to fill our days with different activities and crafts. The planning isn’t too bad until you realize you don’t have everything you need to make a homemade suncatcher.
So you resort to coloring books, stacking empty milk jugs, and letting them run around with a paintbrush.
I can’t tell you how many times in the last four weeks I sat in the middle of our kitchen feeling defeated and angry, at both the situation and my abilities as a mother.
Why am I feeling bitter and short-changed?
My family is healthy and I get to spend all of this time with my daughter. Correction: I have to.
There is a sense of power in the ability to make a decision and when that is taken away, our default as humans is to want it back. I want to go to a coffee shop and do homework. I want to go to Target for nothing and leave with seven bags. I want to take Sloan to daycare because I get tired by lunchtime and it makes me feel guilty and inadequate.
If you’re feeling any of these things as a working parent that is now also a stay-at-home parent, you are not alone. Your feelings of restlessness are valid. It is okay if you are bad with a glue gun and hate watching Disney movies. That doesn’t make you a bad stay-at-home parent.
I repeat: you are not a bad parent.
The amount of quality time your child gets to spend with you during this unusual moment in history is enough. Reading the same book for hours is enough. Drawing nothing but lines in chalk is enough. Walking through your neighborhood on the off chance you will see a dog is enough.
Take this time to get to know your child and to get to know yourself. So far, I need to drink more water and Sloan really does not like when I play the piano. However, she loves reading any and all books and just sitting on the counter while I cook is enough for her.
I know not everyone wants to be a stay-at-home parent. And that’s okay. But I feel it’s safe to assume everyone wants to be a good parent. So take this time to build that foundation—and if it’s already built, there is nowhere to go but up.