My mothering has always been a bit of a sore spot for me, and I believe it’s for this reason: Somewhere along the line I adopted the misguided notion that a stay-at-home mom spends all her time engaging her children and enjoys every second of it. You heard me—every moment a child is awake, a stay-at-home mom should be talking to them, playing with them, broadening their little horizons—and thrilling in every second of the often mind-numbingly-repetitive activities.
My reality is a bit different than this pseudo-ideal. I have tried valiantly to focus entirely on my children during their every waking moment. I postponed chores until naptime and put my life on hold to sit next to them while they played, not letting me touch a single toy because each and every one had been placed just so and should never be moved. As any mom can tell you, this is insanity.
I began to realize the insanity when my oldest stopped napping. For many months, he would spend at least an hour in his room every afternoon for what we smilingly called Quiet Time. (He was usually far from quiet.) The farther he got from the days of napping, the more frequently he would open his door to call, “Is it Mommy Time yet?”
The frequent interruptions necessitated a change in schedule. I grabbed an extra rag, picked up a pint-sized mop, and enlisted little Peatie’s help for the Chore of the Day. He was thrilled. After a half-hour of helping Mommy clean, he trotted off to his room for a shortened Quiet Time while Mommy desperately stole a few moments to herself before getting both kids up for the afternoon.
Then I added baby number three. My carefully-plotted schedule went to shreds if Ender decided he wanted to eat when I was planning to clean the shower—or if he merely didn’t want to be put down all day. Peatie grew more restless with his quiet time, and with Ender napping in the big crib in their soon-to-be-shared room, I couldn’t send Peatie there to be “quiet”. Thus, my daily free time became nonexistent until bedtime.
All this has led me to the conclusion that it must be virtually impossible for a person to dedicate their full attention to their child for every moment of every day and still remain sane. I feel guilty about this conclusion (I must not love my children enough!), but the more mothers I speak to, the more I realize that perhaps this is reality.
So what does a good mother look like? I struggle with this daily. How can I maintain my sanity and encourage my children to play independently while also providing them the attention they need?