Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Battle for 'All'

I've been pretty busy these past few weeks with the general goings-on of life as a SAHM with three little kids, as well as a surge in orders for cakes, cookies, and cupcakes as I attempt to get my little home-based baking business to take flight in the Lone Star state.  Gavin's principal, part of the PTO board, and a few other connections I've made here has meant that making buttercream frosting and/or sugar cookie dough has been almost a daily occurrence.  And I love it.  {Seriously?  I'm hosting a CDA (cookie dough anonymous) meeting next week for those interested.}.  I spend hours mixing, piping, and cleaning up only to have to make the same messes over again the next day.  It's been a bit overwhelming to go from zero to sixty, but I'm getting a bit more organized and recognizing areas where I need to continue making adjustments to this new baker-on-the-side-while-still-being-a-stay-at-home-mom status.

One {HUGE} obstacle I'm trying to navigate is striking the balance between fulfilling my role of *available* 'mommy' while working.  When I was teaching, dropping the kids off at daycare or school before heading into the sanctity of my classroom gave me the opportunity to spend time away from my children, where I was able to be a mommy who loved them endlessly while someone else took care of their immediate needs.  And to be honest, I kind of liked that.  I felt as though I was striking a balance between being a good mom while still being good to myself.  I had plenty of people who asked me if I was going to take time off to be with my kids after each time I had another baby.  My answer was always something to the effect of, "I love my kids more than I can even find words to express, but I am a better mom because I work".  Judgement was passed by some, emphatic nods of agreement given by others, and then there were the 'middle of the roaders'.  The ones who would get a sparkle in their eye when hearing that I felt better about my mom status because of my work-out-of-the-home status, only to have the dark cloud of guilt roll through.  The one that causes the inner struggle of feeling like they were failing their kids because they enjoyed most of the aspects of working away from home.  It's those people with whom I relate to most.

Sure, my outside smile says that I was 100% for working away from home, but heartstrings were being plucked daily by all sorts of things--the fact that Raegan technically took her first steps at daycare, never being able to volunteer in Gavin's classroom or attend field trips without having to spend hours on lesson plans for my own class, only having vague memories of Brynn as a baby because the time I did spend with my kids when she was a lil nugget was consumed by an active toddler.  I bashed my ability (or lack thereof) to spend more quality time with my kids when we were home because I was trying to juggle 37 different roles and responsibilities that were meant to please everyone else in my life except for myself.  I was banking on the joy, fulfillment, and satisfaction of others to keep my tank full and my spirit lifted, because the stress I was putting on myself kept my 'low fuel' light on all the time.  I had no idea that I was essentially running on fumes.

So, when we moved, I didn't search for a job right away.  My primary focus became getting our family acclimated to our new surroundings and starting to find building blocks on which to begin developing a support system here.  I hopped on to the pendulum and took a ride to the other side: life as a SAHM.  And for the time I've been labeled as such, I've had ups and downs and everywhere in-betweens.  I never once ridiculed or judged the SAHM's that I knew for having it 'easy', mostly because I was born with common sense.  But also because I know that parenting is hard as hell, and to be in the trenches night).long. is not easy feat.  I recognized prior to experiencing it first hand that I'd be working pretty damn hard without so much as a bathroom break to myself.  Even in the time it takes to eat a cheese stick, the minions beckon with demands for snacks, pleas for attention, or threats of peeing all over things because she's taken her diaper off (for the 294th time today).  I knew.  It's non-stop and I love them immensely, but there are plenty of days when it isn't fulfilling enough.

Enter the concept of 'work from home'.  I love the creative outlet, the fact that I am able to have something 'just for me' that I can also share with others, and of course the little extra money I'm able to make is an added bonus.

But really.  Like I said, I'm trying to figure out how to navigate the road of 'devoted-momma-while-trying-to-complete-an-order'.  I have countless people ask me on my highlight reel Facebook how I 'do it all'.  I usually cringe when I read the questions and/or comments about how I must never sleep, etc, etc.  Truth is, how I 'do it all' is not well.  I have terrible sleeping patterns courtesy of both my *darling* toddler and my own overactive brain.  In my written truths post, I listed {some} of what it is that makes me feel incomplete and inefficient as a woman/mommy.  I was broad enough that my statements encompassed various areas of my life, but I wasn't forthcoming enough to say that when it comes to 'doing it all', I suck.

I didn't write about how I rely solely on my 5 year old to inspire, and motivate, and further cultivate the interest Raegan has shown (yet again) in potty training.  I didn't write about how my almost 7 year old has to come in and wake me up in the morning because of the 5 alarms I set for myself, not one managed to rouse me from the random happenstance of a full night's sleep.  I chose to omit the fact that when I do get to 'sleep in' on weekends, more often than not it doesn't happen and I'm laying in bed playing possum whenever I hear the kids come in to see if I'm awake so I can pour their cereal, milk, or whatever random tidbit of uselessness they feel compelled to share with me during those sacrilegious hours.  I lay still and breathe shallow, hoping they'll approach with curious intent yet be disenchanted by a 'still sleeping' mommy and scamper off to strategically {and possibly intentionally} place Legos and other toys in my direct pathway to my most favored kitchen household appliance, my Keurig.  I neglected to share that there are days when the girls don't ever change from their pajamas, thus making me feel better about offering them cereal for breakfast, dry cereal for morning snack, cereal with fruit for lunch, and a trail mix of random cereals with a few m&m's for afternoon snack.  (Did I mention that in conjunction with the girl's pajama day(s), I join them, donning comfortable clothes for days filled with confectioner's sugar clouds, laundry folding marathons (most often occurring on the day Randy is slated to fly back in to town), or the rare times I'll indulge in a little couch-sitting/Barbie playing/channel surfing myself.)

I chose to keep those things (and many, many more) out for a few reasons...
a.) I'm wordy enough as it is.
b.) I guess there was still a fundamental disposition about my persona that felt the need to still come across as having it *partially* together
and of course, the one true reason:
c.) in reality, no one--NO ONE--has it all, does it all, is it all.  I don't even know what this 'all' is that so many people ask me about.  When I worked out of the house, I never felt like I had it 'all' because I was missing instrumental pieces of my kid's early lives.  I also felt as though I was shortchanging the 30 sweet students who relied on me for education, feedback, and encouragement.  Truth is, I couldn't strike a balance no matter how hard I tried.  On the flip side of the coin, I enter into the world of SAHM-mania and am faced with the inability to get a single room to stay 'in order' for more than 39.4 seconds of any given day.  My qualifications as a short-order cook have been questioned as I quickly throw some shredded cheese between two tortillas, put it on a paper towel (no extra dishes), and nuke it in the microwave to make a 'quesadilla' for my daughter's lunches (at the 'supermom time' of 2 pm because I was 'in the zone' with buttercream or Facebook or pretending  to organize the loft).

The reality is there is no 'all'.  There are the bits and pieces you've been given to create a puzzle for which you have not seen the final picture and for which can (and does) change on a frequent basis.  When I went to hear Glennon speak, she said to consider all the wonderful parts of being a woman as a puzzle, and that we're each only given a few parts, which is okay.  One of her monkee mantras is that 'together we can do hard things'.  She went on later to say that we need to let the 'hard' be what drives us (as women, mommies) together.  We need the connections in life to deal with the hard.

Working out of the house gave me those connections.  I had a support system that was an interwoven web of friends, colleagues, former students, and families.  The web isn't gone, I've just ventured to find a new place to make a web, to connect, to bake, to smile, to cry, to feel like giving up, to carry on, and to not do it 'all', but to do whatever parts I'm able to do as best as I possibly can.  Even if it means stocking up on Honey Nut Cheerios and Raisin Bran for another pajama day.

shine bright, lone light...

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