An Imposter Stay at Home Mom

You know that good mom? Let me correct myself: you know that exceptional mom (we won’t even acknowledge homeschool moms who are real life angels from above)? She’s an early riser and completes a 7 mile jog before any other member of her household’s feet graze the perfectly scrubbed and polished hardwood floors. She cooks a balanced and delicious breakfast for her fleet of children before flawlessly garbing them in hand-sewn smock dresses and handmade oversized bows to match. She’s always early, dressed to impress, and every homemade, gluten-free, dairy-free, flavor-free snack in her children’s lunchboxes is carefully constructed into the shape of his or her favorite animal. She’s a volunteer at every school fundraiser, classroom party, and class field trip. She’s the president of the PTO and holds the highest respect, fear, and envy of all the lesser parents and school faculty. While her children complete a typical day at school adorned with gold stars (or greens on the behavior log) and A+ marks, she completes all household chores, errand running, a fruitful visit to the gym, and she even squeezes in lunch with the girls. She is the first in the dreaded carpool line where she catches up on some light reading about perfect mom topics and completes a crochet project for her neighborhood’s newest baby. She’s the perfect stay at home mom. Since rapidly expanding my household from a young,  unattached, working, married couple to a chaotic family of five, my husband and I have made a weighty amount of difficult choices regarding family, finances, and future career opportunities. I thought it would be a good idea to take a swing at this stay at home mom thing (I blame my husband as well for supporting the endeavor- we’ve been a couple for a decade; he should have known better) for a few months between career transitions. Let me preface with the confession that I’m not the exceptional mom. I’m pretty sure I’m not even the mediocre mom. Friends, this is the account of an imposter stay at home mom.

I started out giving that excellent mom a run for her status (I can’t say run for her money because stay at home mom is both a payless and thankless job). I would wake up early (ish) every morning. Maybe I wasn’t the first to hit the ground running, but if my husband would bring me coffee in bed (yeah, I hear your reading eyes rolling),I could at least face the day by 7:30AM, and for a night owl, such as myself, that was a win. I would cook bacon and eggs, pancakes, or some other impressive breakfast variation on which  the girls and I would dine as a family. After achieving full bellies and happy smiles, We would trek to the neighborhood park where the children would flex their imaginations while I ran a solid mile (I mean I was honestly just striving for mediocre) then we would drop by the public library because we believe in opening our minds and imaginations with reading (that’s actually not sarcasm-reading is one of my greatest passions.) After returning home, reading our fine finds, and participating in some kind of creative art activity, we would eat lunch just in time for quiet time/nap time (depending on the age of the child). The afternoons were reserved for the pool. Our summer togetherness routine was working out just lovely until I returned to my lazy morning ways and refused to wake up at a reasonable time, and the children grew ungrateful of a homemade breakfast (final result: cereal at 9:00AM). Before long, we skipped the park and library altogether to jump straight to the pool (in this Mississippi heat, every day is pool day… until October). The result was an extra 10 lbs on mom and over $30 in late fees at the local library.  I lasted three weeks in a well functioning routine that would no doubt be required to maintain if I wanted to experience even the most mediocre degree of mental wellness. This was the beginning of my imposter stay at home mom spiral into mom failure.

While I stuck to my guns over traditional values, such as limited television time, more time spent outside than indoors, and family meals at the table every meal, I made significant stumbles in other areas. My oldest child’s laziness dictated far too many daily plans, my middle child’s disruptive nature dictated far too many of my moods, and my overconfident baby called far too many shots. We ate too much junk food, fought more than we smiled, and played more than we learned. Friends, in our own mediocre family style, we survived the summer. In my own less than mediocre style, I survived life without thriving professionally for a few months (though volunteering at Vacation Bible School nearly did me in as I was blessed with the crying group). If I were to chart my emotional stability, self-esteem, and stress over the summer, it would look like a preschooler’s drawing of the Appalachian mountains.

There were some definite perks of staying home with the girls. For instance, stay at home moms, you guys are holding out on how amazing nap time is. While I started out my summer using that quiet time to complete chores and it morphed into midday wine consumption and viewing Netflix originals rated TV mature, I thoroughly enjoyed and benefited from that quiet time. It was my lifeline. I even used it productively at times while I did some backyard yoga or painted to clear my mind. I know 20 years from now I won’t reflect on that summer I proved to myself I need a career to feel complete. Rather, I’ll remember that summer the girls and I played in the water hose for hours in the blazing sun, even though I was fully dressed and unprepared, and I had to drag one of them outside while she threw a diva tantrum. My summer as a failing mom taught me that I am special, useful, and worthy regardless who speaks those truths to me day to day. I am created to serve such greater people and purposes than myself and my own gain. When I feel down, I can choose activities and relationships to pour into that bring healing. There is no failure in this mediocre existence that we all face together. We’re all just living our best lives, right?

I learned from this summer attempting the stay at home mom gig that to be a good stay at home mom, I need a prescription for sleeping meds, self-control (this girl loves carbs, sorry not sorry), and a much higher sense of self worth and overall higher self-esteem than I own. Let’s be honest: I’m probably always going to be a mediocre mom (“stay at home” or “working” because friends, it’s time to go back to work). This experience was a huge struggle mostly due to impossible expectations I set for myself and my desire to receive praise and appreciation for a job well done. Maybe I’m a mediocre parent. Maybe I’m even a mediocre human. Sometimes we’re so concerned with being good enough that we forget to admire the beautiful things in our lives. It’s beautiful that my girls and I spent more quality time together in three months than we had in the two years before this storm of a summer. It’s beautiful that these gifts from God call me mommy in the first place. It’s beautiful that though one of my children tore us all to emotional pieces, she is starting to put herself and all of us back together in a priceless mosaic pattern better than we were before. It’s beautiful that my husband supports me in whatever unexpected, untraveled path my heart leads me. It’s beautiful that I’m painting again. It’s beautiful that I am being equipped to go back to work in an exciting, risky, and influential way this fall. Quitting my job was hard and bold… and scary, but I knew in my heart the timing was right. Friends, trust the cry of your hearts. Just paint the room black. There is a loud beauty within the mediocrity. Find it. Bust the speakers. Never turn it off.

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