Why This SAHM’s Getting Out

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The Sam in this picture is not a SAHM, but she is my best friend and baby Sam’s namesake. Her cutie, who is six months older than mine, is Alex. We’ve been reconnecting more since I joined the motherhood club.

There’s a reason stay-at-home moms (SAHMS) are advised to get out once every day. It’s the same reason why all my mommy friends complain that they need “adult” conversation: We SAHMS weren’t meant to stay at home with our children. Clarification: we weren’t meant to stay home alone with our children.

I’ve given this a lot of thought lately. At the risk of sounding like Hilary Clinton, it seems to me that babies are meant to be raised in community. But I’ll take it a step further. Adults, whether parents or not, are meant to live in community. Overall, it’s ideal for everyone to have family and friends around. But I don’t just mean in the next town over, or even around the block.

I am blessed to have many friends and relatives in nearby towns; I even have a couple friends down the block. Out of these, a good number have offered to babysit if I need help; a few have. Still (dare I admit it?), I sometimes wish for more help. An echo of offers, made from miles away, is not the same as having many hands, and many minds, in one house.

Pitfalls of a Single Family Home

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Look at this awesome family! This picture depicts the type of celebrations my in-laws are capable of. (Most of the credit goes to my wildly creative sister-in-law, Deborah.) Here, we are celebrating my father-in-law’s birthday, dressing to represent characters from his favorite crime shows.

After we brought Sam home, I never seemed to have enough hands. Merely trying to keep him fed was a fulltime job, not to mention the dishes, laundry, and unsent birth announcements that piled around me. Two weeks later my husband went back to work and I thought I might not survive! It was then that I decided it was not good for man and wife to live alone (with a baby). But upon more thought, I’ve decided the issue is even bigger than that. It’s about more than a new mom and dad having helping hands.

 Personal Struggles

At two months in, I’m starting to feel capable of caring for Sam by myself. But this has not ended my longing for more help. That’s because caring for Sam still takes most of my day. Even when he’s sleeping, I must attend to baby or household tasks: mixing bottles, washing dishes, making supper, or running errands. (Major plumbing issues in recent weeks, now requiring remodeling, hasn’t helped matters.)

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This picture, taken with our adorable godkids a couple years ago, could actually look like our family in a few years.

With life settling into a new normal, I am re-realizing what I’ve always known about myself: I want a career, or at least some “me” time, in addition to motherhood. Whether or not that desire comes from feminist grooming or God, I know I don’t feel fulfilled only tending to baby and house chores. I don’t know whether I should apologize for this.

What’s the Real Issue?

Having had plenty of quiet time (minus the baby’s crying) to think about all of this, I’m again questioning my true desire. Maybe I’m wrong about my innate desire to have a career, and what I really long for is regular, meaningful contact with other human beings who measure more than twenty-one inches long.

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No caption needed here.

Whatever the roots of my domestic discontent, I know that if my household makeup looked more like that of former, or foreign, societies, with several generations in one house and houses within walking distance from family, life would be better. Work could be distributed according to gifts or penchants. One person cooking, one cleaning, one doing the yardwork, one teaching the children. (Yes, I realize this is utopian thinking and possibly impossible.) And thus freed up from time-consuming duties I don’t like to do (such as cooking and cleaning), motherhood probably wouldn’t daunt me like it did in the beginning—and it wouldn’t frustrate me like it still sometimes does. It would be doable alongside my desires to tangle with ideas, words, other minds.

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Here’s one of my favorite SAHMS, my good friend Ashley from church, holding my favorite Sam, along with her delightful daughter.

My Conclusion

I don’t care what a woman’s ultimate desires are, be they to raise a family or have a career or do both. (I have girlfriends in all three camps, by the way.) Life is not meant to be lived in isolation. Maybe the non-mothers out there don’t “need” extra hands as much as the mothers do, but we all, no matter who we are, need other minds with which to exercise our own. There are other feeling elements I haven’t even touched on here, which are harder for many of us to admit, (such as love, compassion, sympathy, and empathy), and we all need those, too. Thankfully, these days I don’t feel a dearth of love, thanks to a wonderfully supportive husband, family, and church family. But what I do lack is adult conversation and adequate time and space in which to articulate my thoughts. Call me a successfully initiated SAHM. It’s beautiful and sad all at the same time.

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This SAHM is Julie, the friend I am reconnecting with since having Sam. Can you tell I am having fun with puns?

Epilogue

After wrestling with these ideas for several days, I decided to step outside my comfort zone and ask for the help and friendship that had been offered me. Asking for that help was hard for this “liberated” woman, but yesterday I lined up a sister-in-law who loves babies (that detail was key, so I knew she was benefiting, too) to watch Sam for four hours a week so I can get back to work on my book, and today I lined up a visit with another SAHM friend who became regrettably distant four years ago after the birth of her first child. I realized the desire I have to mix with other adults is a universal one, and there’s no reason we SAHMS should struggle on alone.

Meet Bill and Ted, my Premature Furry Babies!

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For “baby” names, we wanted something simple and symbolic–a dynamic duo. I think Bill and Ted was an excellent choice, don’t you?

When we decided to have a baby, I didn’t plan on getting two puppies with the deal. Alas, my house is filling up with testosterone faster than I can keep up!

Ever since our dachshund, Hope, died last December, my husband has been bringing up the subject of more dogs…and when my brother-in-law found these two darlings abandoned on the side of the road last week, well, all signs pointed to our house.

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Bill is the white one, Ted, the black one. If you’ve seen the movie, though, you might have guessed that!

I was initially hesitant to get more dogs, because I knew I’d be the primary caregiver. I knew we’d get more dogs at some point, but I wanted to guard my last few months of freedom before baby. However, I’ve discovered my life is not my own anymore (never was, it turns out), and God is preparing me for motherhood by way of these puppies.

Some life changes I’ve had to make are:

  • Getting up in the middle of the night for potty breaks. Of course, I have already been doing this frequently for awhile, but the pups make it a little less easy to just flop back into bed.
  • Getting up earlier for “feedings.”
  • Putting up baby gates.
  • Cleaning up poop and pee.
  • Having to make arrangements every time I leave the house.
  • Worrying all the time what the “babies” are doing; trying to keep them in my sight.

I know there are some larger spiritual applications to all this motherhood training, but today I may be in too much of a hurry to see them. You see, it’s almost noon, and I haven’t even gotten down to the business of working on my memoir yet. As I thought about how my morning had gone so far, I realized I could either get frustrated that I hadn’t gotten any “work” done yet, or I could change my expectations for myself, because—hello—my life is changing pretty drastically.

I could choose to see my day so far as worthless because I haven’t yet  worked on my profession, or I could choose to see what I’d done as worthwhile because I am a wife and mother taking care of her household.

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Bill and Ted are interested in whatever we are doing, especially if it involves food!

Since getting up, I have fed the puppies; spent much needed time with the Lord; knocked on the doors of two neighbors trying to get to the bottom of two large (and scary-looking) dogs that wandered into my backyard this morning (protecting both my puppies and the neighborhood); baked a loaf of banana bread for my college-age niece who stays over on Tuesday nights; and I have put ingredients in the bread maker for French bread for my husband, who told me he wanted a spaghetti dinner tonight.

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Although they like to fight, Bill and Ted still aren’t too “grown up” to show one another affection. I love it when they sleep like this!

I have never really defined myself as a homemaker—I haven’t wanted to be the one who stays home and sees to it that everyone else is fed and clothed and clean and sane for their careers, because I wanted to have my own career. I still want to. I want to be a writer and a teacher, just like I’m doing (with more or less success, depending on the day). But the Lord is teaching me it’s okay if some of my days are spent doing homemaking things instead of career-building things. In fact, I know that the homemaking is probably ultimately more important. How quickly I forget that if there’s not happiness in the home, life is dismal. My home was unhappy, my life dismal, for too many years growing up, and because of my beautiful marriage today, I sometimes take for granted that a happy home is well worth the investment.

But each day I’m learning to take a little more joy in the simple things: puppies, babies, sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows…you get the picture! I continue to thank the Lord that he is straightening out my priorities, and my roles. Now, if I can just figure out how to balance them all!

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So far Bill seems to be Buc’s dog and Ted, my dog. Bill is more laid back, while Ted has a hard time sitting still (and a temper that flares up sometimes at Bill)…hmmm, yes, the analogy works!