Ebb and flow – What I learned being a stay at home parent
I have always been this goal-oriented person. Even as a kid, despite the things that were happening in my life, I always found something to set my eyes on. A distant hurdle that I wanted to overcome.
Growing up I found participating in sports, getting good grades and volunteering as good ways to keep motivated and moving forward.
This helped later on when I took on leadership roles while as Airman in the military. I knew how to get along with everybody and find common things between us. I had the reputation of setting a goal and getting full participation from everyone. I took time to learn what their strengths and weaknesses were assigned their duties based on it and then I took up the slack as needed. I knew how to grow a team and achieve our objectives.
Later as time moved on my motivation and goal setting had a different purpose once I took on the role of being a stay at home parent. Now faced with the daunting task of raising other human beings, not just one but four, setting goals and maintaining motivation sometimes ran into obstacles.
Motivation is defined as “the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way” or “the general desire or willingness of someone to do something”. So having the desire to accomplish something needs to have a reason behind it or a goal.
Being a stay at home parent has both good and bad aspects. The good is being an active participant on a daily basis with your children. Teaching them and watching them grow before your eyes is a rewarding experience in itself. Helping to mold future men and women hoping that you instill not only good values but good moral qualities. It is not always sunshine and roses but it is worth it in the end.
The bad is the fact that you have to be able to manage having only one income to rely on. It’s not for everybody and people considering it should really sit down with each other, look over the finances, then determine if it will work. There will have to be some sacrifices made but everything can be managed well if both are willing to give it a try.
There have been some key ideas that I was taught as a stay at home parent that I want to share and some of you may be able to relate to them.
Patience and a sense of humor
So I grew up with two younger half-sisters that I took care of most of the time. I also had many cousins and baby sat for them. If there was a baby around then I could be seen normally holding and walking around with them while their mom could do what she needed to do.
Becoming a mother to my children was a natural thing for me because of the experiences I had with other people’s babies. Even though I was a young mom at 22 becoming a caretaker wasn’t anything that I could not handle or so I thought. It is so different when they are your own kid.
The biggest thing I had to learn was patience. It didn’t matter what my timetable was or where we needed to go when a four-year old is refusing to put on shoes or pants then what are you supposed to do?
Then there is inevitable someone spilling something on themselves just as you finished bathing them.
The chance of sickness and when one got sick they all got sick which sometimes included their father.
That was a night that is forever seared into my memory. Two in the morning and hearing that horrible vomiting sound that cascaded into the others following suit. Then their father flipping on their bedroom light only to stop dead in his tracks and vomit in the hallway at the sight. It’s a good thing I have a strong stomach but can’t stand the smell of peanut butter cookies now. The stomach flu is not a pretty sight. That’s when the sense of humor had to come in.
Patience in dealing with whatever daily disaster happened that day with a bit of humor is the only way I survived their baby to teen years.
Whether it was singing silly songs on the way to school, telling corny jokes, making funny faces or telling crazy stories it helped keep things moving along.
It is also how I have survived this past year after their father’s passing.
Patience, humor and love for what you are doing will help you accomplish most things.
Breathing in & out, kindness and understanding
Growing up and dealing with trauma manifested into a really bad personality flaw; anger and a temper.
So when I found out that I was going to be a mom, I knew that I had to find a way to extinguish that flame otherwise my child could not have the happy, safe and secure life that I wanted for them.
I learned how to deal with my temper through taking 10. Counting to 10 before I reacted. Taking 10 deep breaths if needed. Taking 10 minutes away if neither of those were working. This saved me so many times when the frustrations started building up whether with dealing with my children or their father.
When they were little I knew that I wanted them to be kind to others, understand that there are differences and that not everybody is the same but to never be afraid of who you are.
I taught them to say “Please”, “Thank you”, “I’m sorry”, “I love you” and “Can I help?” It would always amaze me during the parent/teacher conferences when they would remark about how considerate my children were and that I taught them well. I always thought these were common things that everyone should teach their children but I found out it wasn’t.
They now surround themselves with so many different people, learning more about themselves, other cultures and gaining a more worldly sense.
They see the injustice in things and want to better the world around them.
The only problem is the sense of purpose that was instilled in them to do well. They now see that as a flaw in others and can’t understand why others don’t do the same but are slowly learning that not everyone has a same purpose or are ready to take that step.
Learning kindness and understanding through seeing the beauty in the differences and making everyone feel welcome is the best thing.
Action and Time Management
As a stay at home parent it sometimes required getting involved with the children whether at school or at extra-curricular activities.
Learning how to better manage our family calendar and organizing important documents became essential as they headed into their school years.
During this time I also took on my own personal goals such as teaching cake decorating classes, going to college and completing my military requirements.
Organizing and maintaining a set schedule was the key.
I would always start my day early. Usually around 5 a.m. getting up to finish what I needed and finding some quiet time to contemplate or plan out the day. Then getting the rest of my household up to start their day.
I knew some parents who would set up everything the night before such as school lunches or their clothes to make sure everything would run smoothly. We attempted this a few times but it didn’t fit for us because I started giving my kids the freedom of choice early so they would become more independent thinkers. I did control our time though and we got out the door on time or at least within reason.
There were occasional delays when someone forgot homework, lunch money or I forgot to put gas in the vehicle but hiccups happen and you just have to keep moving along.
Then there were days when I would wake up and just not feel like doing anything or I just didn’t care. Those days required digging deep down inside and finding that action to get things moving. My moods were usually sullen and I became weepy. Their father would do his best to help but he was often more focused on what he needed to do. The kids never knew that was the reason why the local doughnut place became breakfast or that fast food became that evening’s meal. To them it was always this unexpected treat.
Learning how to manage time wisely was important and I am grateful at that time I wasn’t into social media or on my phone enough to be distracted because things would have never gotten done. 🙂
Planning and flexibility
A plan is just an idea until action is taken then being flexible is the most important part of the execution.
Things happen all the time that can delay or even stop a plan.
Funding issues, non-participants, time constraints or even the plan not being viable are all potential issues that can arise.
That’s when a backup plan or plan B has to be in place, just in case.
Learning to be flexible when it came to managing my children’s activities was vital and prevented wasted effort. Most times I wasn’t relying on myself or their father but on other parents to do their part of the activity. I knew that other parents didn’t manage things like I did so letting things go with the flow was always the best option.
Learning to be flexible and having a backup plan became important to other things in my life as well such as work and school.
Peace and Quiet
Before becoming a parent not much thought was put into what true peace and quiet really meant or how important it was.
From the noisy cartoons, television shows, or toys to the sounds of laughter and tears once you have children you don’t realize what you are missing.
Peace and quiet became treasured moments.
The daily hectic lives we were living was filled with noise from the time we woke up until they fell asleep. Once they began school my mornings were spent cleaning, shopping for groceries, doing laundry, taking care of pets and preparing meals before picking them up at the end of the day. Then when I had military duties or classes this activity increased and had to be managed well.
So those early 5 am mornings became my moments of solitude. These moments became filled with drinking coffee, reading and writing, listening to music or just planning for the rest of the week without interruption.
Now that our family dynamic has changed so dramatically, my youngest two are in their mid-teens and the two oldest in their twenties, peace and quiet is all that I have most days.
Sometimes I miss the days when they were little but I remember that time does not stand still. Like a river it keeps flowing and we have to learn how to keep maneuvering through it. The ebb and flow does not stay the same.
I don’t get up as early as I used to and I stopped setting an alarm clock unless I have something specifically planned.
Nowadays, I spend time still reading, writing, listening to music and trying to cut back on the coffee. I also spend a great deal of time on social media as a quiet form of entertainment or searching for inspiration.
I realized recently that my children still need me but not in the same capacity as before.
So from this point forward it’s now time to look at what I want from the rest of my life.
To come up with new plans, staying flexible, finding motivation and sticking with my goals.
Remembering to keep in mind kindness and understanding for others.
Staying patient and keeping a sense of humor about things.
Taking time to breathe in and breathe out.
Continuing to seek out peace and quiet not just within my environment but within my soul & thoughts as well.
Thank you for stopping by.
Have a great week!
Peace, Love & Happiness to you always.