Snow Days

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I always thought I had the best of both worlds being a teacher.  I was a working mom for 9 months of the year and a stay-at-home mom during the summer.  And isn’t summer the best time to be with the kids?  I also got some nice blocks of time off for Christmas and spring break.  And I even had snow days.  Those beautiful bonus days where nothing was planned, it was too cold to go anywhere, and I could spend the day playing with my kids and catching up on laundry.  Oh, nothing is sweeter than a snow day.

Today school was canceled for a snow day, although I think it was really more for the below zero temperatures than the snow.  Since no one goes to school at my house, it didn’t really affect us other than Big Sis asking me every 10 minutes to go outside and freeze her tuckus off (she used the words “play in the snow”).  Yes, I spent my day playing with my kids and catching up on laundry…but I do that every day.  I’m ready to go outside!  Okay, we did go outside….and promptly went inside when I couldn’t feel my toes anymore.

I never thought I was missing much by not being a stay-at-home mom in the winter.  Turns, out I was right. 🙂  February has been my least favorite month to be at home.  Because I actually have to be AT HOME.  Sure we go to indoor playplaces and things like that.  However, I think screaming and running kids are really best in their natural habitat of wide grassy plains, not caged into an inflatable padded room.

I like the snow.  I just don’t like the cold.  I don’t like gray, cold, winter days.  At least today was sunny.  We sat on the living room floor in the sunshine and had a picnic and I pretended it was spring.  I’m really ready for spring.

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5 Tips for Stay-at-home Sanity

I’ve been at this stay-at-home game for a little more than a half a year.  So I’m no expert.  But I’ve been on the brink of insanity and learned a thing or two in the past few months.  Some tips from the trenches…

1.  Get dressed.  This seems obvious, but do you know how good it feels to stay in your pajamas all morning?!  Unfortunately, I don’t feel like doing anything in my pajamas.  Well, that false.  I feel like sleeping.  Clean up breakfast dishes?  I can’t do that.  I’m still in my pj’s!!  So first things first- get dressed.

2.  Put on shoes.  We usually have a “no shoe” policy in our house.  However, I’ve found if I wear shoes around the house it makes me want to accomplish things.  Shoes=success.  I mean, I never went to work without my shoes on.  Okay, okay….I might have taken them off once or twice under my desk.  And if you are worried about tracking dirt around the house, buy new shoes and only wear them inside.

3.  Have a game plan.  Each night after the girls go to bed, I come up with some kind of plan for the next day.  It can be as simple as “We’ll go to the zoo tomorrow.”  Even knowing that much, I can make a quick breakfast, pack a lunch, and hopefully get to the zoo when it opens.  If I wake up with nothing planned I usually do just that…nothing.  That never feels good.  You can go all crazy and write up a full 20 item to do list each night.  I’d start with a quick list (just 3 things) you want to do each day.  One work thing around the house, one fun thing with the kids, one thing for you.  Anything else is bonus!

4.  Be flexible.  The best thing about being a stay-at-home mom is you don’t have to stick to the plan.  If you planned to go to the zoo, but the kids just won’t get ready to leave the house….then stay home!  If the kids can’t do the craft you had planned, then color instead.  If you don’t everything done on your to do list, then just do it tomorrow.  No worries.  Plans are good.  Being flexible with plans is even better.

5.  Find your go/stay rhythm.  Just because you are a stay-at-home mom doesn’t mean you want to spend all your time at home.  You also don’t want to spend all your time driving from park to playdate to pizzeria (it seemed like I needed another ‘p’ word there).  It’s nice to have some days to relax.  I like to have two days of running around doing errands/shopping/fun activities and then one day at home catching up on housework.  After two days at home I get a little stir-crazy.  Maybe two-day weekends are permanently ingrained in my psyche?

Stay-at-home Whining

So I love staying at home with my two little girls, but there are downsides to everything.  I already talked about the good, here’s the bad and ugly.

  • More cooking.  When I was working, I threw a granola bar at the kids for breakfast and called it good.  You think I’m kidding.  Now I find myself as a short order cook making scrambled eggs, pancakes, and bacon.  Then there is lunch.  I never had to make lunch.  Preschool did that.  And then there are snacks!  Before, dinner  was the only meal I really cooked…and let’s be honest, sometimes it came from a drive-thru window.
  • And all that cooking leads to dishes!  Dishes are my least favorite chore.  Now I have to do three times the dishes!  Luckily, I’ve already enlisted my two- and four-year-old daughters in helping.  Unluckily, they can only reach the bottom drawers of the kitchen.  Sigh.
  • Toy tornado.  What are toy tornadoes?  Well, they usually come through my house right after breakfast.  And they are fast!  I turn my back to load the breakfast dishes into the dishwasher (sigh) and all of a sudden the living room is covered in toys.  While I pick up the path of destruction, the tornado simply moves upstairs to a bedroom!  I chase that tornado all around the house until the girls to go sleep.
  • Diapers.  Need I say more?  I missed out on so much poop when I was working.  When I say “missed” I mean “did not miss.”
  • I thought it would be easier.  I cut myself a lot of slack when I was working mom.  McDonald’s for dinner?  It was a crazy day and I’m too tired to cook anything.  The house is mess?  We haven’t been home long enough to clean it.  Your favorite shirt is dirty?  I’ll catch up with 8 loads of laundry on Saturday.  I was doing the best I could.  But now that it is my “job” to stay-at-home, I feel like I should be cooking every meal in a spotless house.  Then I get disappointed when it doesn’t happen.  I thought it would be easier.  Turns out, staying-at-home is still work.  And just like when I was a working mom, I’d rather be playing Go Fish than doing the dishes.

Stay-at-home Life: My View at 6 Months

I realized I haven’t given an update on my stay-at-home mom life.  It’s been almost 6 months of not working, which is longer than either of my maternity leaves.  So it is officially the longest time I’ve ever had not working.  And it feels….like a vacation from life.

When I was a teacher I was constantly looking at the clock.  Did I have enough time to fit in one more book before lunch?  How many more minutes did we have at recess?  Even being a minute late to pick my kids up from PE was holding up the next PE class that was waiting in the hall.  I felt like I racing the clock every morning to get the kids ready and out the door by 7:15.  And most nights I was also trying to see how many activities I could fit into a few hours before bedtime.  We could stop at the park on the way home…but only for 45 minutes.  What dinner could be fixed in less than 20 minutes?  Each week seemed to go by in a blur because there was never enough time to do all the school stuff, housework, and fun stuff that I wanted to do.

But now I don’t even wear a watch.  The girls get up around 7:00 because they hear Dad leave for work.  They come in and cuddle in bed with me until we get hungry for breakfast.  Before, we only got to have leisurely mornings on the weekends…and now it is Every. Day.  It still blows my mind.  We can go to the park and spend the whole morning.  We can spend forever just watching turtles in the pond because we have no where else to be.  We spend the whole weekend having fun and come back late on Sunday because they don’t have anywhere to be on Monday morning.  It is a completely different life.

There are no “have-to-do’s” in this life.  I look for activities for us to do and I fill our calendar with library story times, puppet shows, trips to the zoo, play dates, and other outings.  But they are all “want-to-do.”  If someone is cranky or it is cold and rainy and we’d rather stay home, we don’t have to go to library story time.  I never had that option with my old job!

One time when my husband was out of town, my youngest got sick and started throwing up about every 20 minutes…from 2:00-4:00am.  So there I was trying to calm her, clean up the mess(es), and also type up sub plans for the next day.  Every time the kids got sick, it was an ordeal trying to figure out who could take off of work.  Now?  Who cares!  I could stay up all night and just watch movies and nap with the girls the next day.  But of course now that they are no longer in daycare, no one gets sick!

This feels like vacation to me, but I’m not exactly lying on a beach soaking up the sun.  I mean, I’m still taking care of two kids ages 2 and 4.  There is screaming, tears, and cleaning up of bodily functions (I am so ready for potty training to be over!)  I lose my patience and get annoyed.  But overall?  Much easier than my former life.  Then I was dealing with 20 kids…plus the 2 at home! Two is always easier than twenty-two, right?  I was trying to be an awesome teacher AND spend enough time with my kids AND somehow keep up with the dishes and laundry.  Take out the job, and it seems very manageable.  I’m no longer tackling 7 loads of laundry on a Saturday because I could never get to it during the week. I’m actually learning to cook because I finally have time to make something.  And I have time to read now!  Before I only read when I was on vacation. 🙂

I don’t mean to diminish stay-at-home moms and say they have it easy.  In fact, when I stayed home with my first daughter on maternity leave, I was more stressed and exhausted than I have ever been in my life.  I was very ready to go back to work.  At that time I considered teaching 20 kids much easier than dealing with the 1 infant at home!  I think it depends on the number of kids you have, their ages and temperaments, your job, plus all the other emotional factors involved in the stay-at-home/working mom decision.  Everyone feels differently.  And even the same person (me) feels differently about it over time.  While I felt it was easier for me to be a working mom a few years ago, I now feel a lot less stressed being a stay-at-home mom.

I’m sure I will go back to teaching in a few years once both girls are in school.  I know I will miss it.  My first year of teaching, I was so happy.  I couldn’t believe my good fortune to have such an amazing job.  I loved my students, my co-workers, and my principal.  I couldn’t believe they were PAYING me to teach kids and play at recess, when I would do that for FREE!  Now that’s how I feel about staying at home with my own kids…because I am doing it for free. 🙂

Deciding to be a Stay-at-home Mom

Quitting my teaching job was probably the most difficult decision I’ve ever made.  I know other women say it was the easiest decision they ever made.  You love your kids more anything, so it should be a no-brainer right?  Well, it didn’t seem that straightforward to me.  Maybe that’s because I’m horrible at making decisions and often second-guess my dinner choice at restaurants once I see other people’s food.  So I relied on the old pro-con list.  Or in this case the pro-pro list.  I’d recommend it for dinner menus as well. 🙂

Reasons to keep my job as a teacher

  • I love kids- it’s the reason anyone becomes a teacher.  They say funny things.   They give hugs.  Enough said.
  • Teaching new things is fun.  Maybe I like being a know-it-all?  I seem really smart compared to eight-year-olds.
  • I have something that is mine.  It’s my own little world away from the family.
  • I feel like I’m doing important work.  I’m contributing to society and making a difference.  It’s not curing cancer, but it’s something.
  • I got lucky with a great school community.  I loved my co-workers, principal, and parents.  I couldn’t ask for better support as a teacher.
  • I get paid.  Who doesn’t like that?

Reasons why I should stay home with my kids

  • I love MY kids.  My happiest moments in life are having fun with my two girls.
  • It is a calmer life.  I know being a stay-at-home mom can be hectic sometimes.  But, to me, it feels more laid back than being a working mom.  No morning hustle out to get everyone dressed, fed, and packed up.  No trying to start dinner the moment you walk through the door after a busy day.
  • More freedom.  It’s beautiful outside and I want to go to the zoo?  Done.  It’s cold outside and I want to snuggle up and watch a movie?  Done.
  • Daycare is expensive.  Yeah, I was still making money…but not that much.
  • They are only little once and then it’s over.

And that last reasons is the one that sold it to me.  How many years do I have left before both my kids are in school?  Three.  That’s not much.  Why not spend as much time as possible with my kids in those three years?  So here I am.  (Okay technically right now I am spending time with the computer because my kids are upstairs napping, but you knew what I meant, right?)

Day 1

This is the day.  The day that would have been the first day of new school year.  The day when I would have rushed around getting little ones dressed and fed and dropped off (hoping they didn’t cry) at preschool.  The day when I would see all my teacher friends and answer the question “How was your summer?” twenty times.  The day when I would be making name tags and putting up bulletin boards.

But it wasn’t that day.  It was the day that my daughters crawled into bed with me and cuddled while watching Dada get ready for work.  It was the day while we ate a lazy breakfast, played with puzzles, cleaned the kitchen a bit, then went to see a magic show.

When I quit my job last spring I thought today would really bother me.  Packing up my classroom in May didn’t seem real.  But not coming back in August?  That would be weird.  I have been going “Back to School” as a student or teacher since I was five-years-old.  I love buying new school supplies and making a fresh start.

But now I am making a new fresh start being a stay-at-home mom.  It is pretty exciting doing something I never thought I would do.  Although the more I think about it…of course I should be a stay-at-home mom!  I love kids and my daughters’ ages (2 and 4) are especially fun.  I love doing silly kid stuff like magic shows.  Not going to school today didn’t seem nearly as strange as I thought it would.  Maybe it won’t really hit me until the fall.  Maybe I’m just so excited about my summer not ending on August 7 that it still hasn’t sunk in that I don’t have a classroom anymore.  I don’t have a desk anymore.  I don’t have a job anymore.

Okay.  It feels a little weird.