I don't want to sound ungrateful. I love that I am able to stay at home with my kids. It is a privilege for which The Man of the House works very hard to provide us. The differences between staying at home and working outside of the home are many, one being that at work, a person generally has other people who are going to (hopefully) appreciate the work that is being done, and the work that is accomplished stays accomplished, at least for a little while as opposed to staying at home, where the work never ends - there's ALWAYS something that HAS to be done (and if it doesn't get accomplished one day, it'll still be waiting for you the next day, which sort of explains why 6 year-old daughter's room is still a huge mess since we moved her from almost 8 year-old daughter's room 4 months ago), and generally speaking, toddlers/preschoolers (who am I kidding? Kids in general) aren't going to give you a high-five when you've finally managed to get the chapstick off the wall that the children gleefully painted on when you weren't looking (chapstick, btw, does not come off with a magic eraser).
Many people spend a lot of time trying not to be noticed at work, but being at home means that the only time one is noticed is when one is either a) On the phone, b) In the bathroom, c) or when "So-and-so has done such-and-such and I'm really mad about it and I told them I'd tell on them!" (Most likely an "a" occurrence.) or d) When a child NEEDS SOMETHING RIGHT NOW (which inevitably occurs generally during a or b) If that something isn't taken care of RIGHT NOW, than any number of bad things can happen, such as: temper tantrums - screaming, crying fits in the middle of the floor (always great when one is on an important phone call); sibling fist-fights; tongues bitten in half and bleeding profusely because child attempted to climb shelves (with his tongue sticking out) to get what he needed RIGHT NOW (interestingly, tongues cannot be stitched, but eventually do heal, leaving a faint scar and slight speech impediment); preschoolers using steak knives to cut up their own summer sausage (ever see a 3 year-old wielding a knife to hack into 18 inches of summer sausage? yeah, me neither since usually she managed to hack off the amount she wanted and disappear by the time I got out of the bathroom). Otherwise, the stay-at-home parent (or, as I like to say, "Home Executive") lives her/his life like a magic house faerie (not much different than the house elves in the Harry Potter books, but not as ugly and unable to travel via apparition): cleaning, cooking, doing laundry (the kids believe it disappears from their dirty clothes baskets and magically shows up clean and folded in their drawers the next day), taxi-ing the kids to/from their activities, etc., going to bed after tucking every one in, only to get up before any one else is up and do it all over again.
One thing I've noticed lately is how my self-image changes over the course of a day, especially when I spend that day with four kids of various ages and temperaments. For example: One minute I can be on top of the world because for once, a few of my children have actually followed the rules and completed their chores without first turning on the TV and having to be nagged to follow the rules 17 times; and the next minute, be down in the dumps because my darling six-year-old daughter just walked by, patted my tummy-fat and said, "I like to watch your tummy jiggle, mommy!" Or how elated I can be when my 17 year-old daughter finds the "PERFECT PROM DRESS" that suits her beautifully, but then, while walking through the mall, I comment on six different outfits in six different shops' windows, of which she only "sees" other people wearing those clothes, so when I ask what she envisions me wearing, she replies, "Oh, sweats or maybe capris," even though I'd swear she'd noticed that I have been diligently trying to stay out of sweats and definitely NOT wear them out of the house. Or the pride I feel for my 15 year-old son when he tells me that he's been asked to skate with the upper-classmen during the summer hockey clinic, that later slumps into despair as I watch him battle with my 7.5 year-old daughter over the remote control (pointedly ignoring the "No TV before 8pm and chores are done" rule) resulting in son looking very stormy while daughter cries, yells insults ("Buttface" is always a favorite) and runs out of the room, inadvertently bashing into 6 year-old daughter, knocking her down and causing her to cry, too. Or the happiness I feel when I finally have figured out how to juggle multiple conflicting activities for multiple children on the same day, as long as oldest daughter manages to get a ride to her activity, only to find myself in a shouting match with 17 year-old daughter who claims I told her that I could drive or the carpool partners could drive, and they decided I should drive; the shouting match going from logistical issues to me insisting, "No, I'M NOT CRAZY. I NEVER said I could drive! Why would I say I could drive when I have all these conflicts and I'm already stressed out? I am not crazy!...No, I AM NOT CRAZY!" (Yet.) Or when I spend a couple of hours discussing different college options and think that I've gotten oldest daughter interested in at least exploring some of her options - Yay! - immediately after which she says, "We STILL need to schedule my senior portraits, Maah-om," and I realize that she had tuned me out 30 seconds into the discussion. Hello, Frustration.
My BFF jokes about how she knows it is a good day in my house when she doesn't receive at least one text or email message from me saying (either all, part or something to this effect): "I'm done. My family is making me nuts....I hate my life....I'm a horrible parent...I'm a terrible mom....my kids are going to need lots of therapy....I'm totally screwing up my kids....my kids are ungrateful, entitled stinks....how did that happen...I'm a horrible mom..." I've been trying to not send more than a couple of those messages per week, but some weeks are worse than others. Heck, some minutes are worse than others. I truly understand how some stay-at-home parents end up as alcoholics and/or why Valium was one of the most frequently prescribed drugs for women in the 1950s/'60s: sometimes, it just gets to be too much.
So, instead of turning to booze or prescription drugs to get through my days, I'm taking a class that uses a book called "The Search for Significance: Seeing your true worth through God's eyes" (Robert S. McGee). Every chapter I read, I say: "This chapter was written just for me." It has opened my eyes to how much I allow my children and my husband determine how I feel about myself, and how much my own fear of failure dictates how I feel about my children and their accomplishments or failures. Learning to see my kids' success and failures as theirs and not as a complete reflection on my parenting is pretty hard. Being told that my kids' view of God will be based upon how well (or not) I model his love, forgiveness, "loving discipline", etc. is a very scary thing. It is an enlightening class that makes me have to look deeper into my past and my present and how all of that affects my future as well as my kids' futures. Have I figured out how to see myself as God sees me and not judge my worth on whether or not oldest child makes it through the day without sassing me? No. Just last night I sent a text to BFF telling her: "I'm so done." When she called, I told her, "That's it. I'm done. Going with hands-off parenting now." She just laughed and said, "Friend, that is so not your style." It is nice to know that even when I'm struggling to see myself as God sees me ("...holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation..." Col. 1:22), that I have friends who know how badly I want to be a good mom and who tell me that I'm doing ok, that my kids aren't going to be completely screwed up (some of them might need therapy, but hopefully they'll not completely blame me for all their woes), and that someday, I'll miss these crazy days.