It is difficult being a stay-at-home mom. I’m not talking about the typical difficulties of late nights and constant clean-ups with small kids and the ongoing back-and-forth chauffeuring and psychological growing pains with older kids (though yes, those are very, very difficult).
I’m talking about the times when the kids aren’t around. When the house is quiet and I am left to ask, “what now”?
That quiet, that question - it comes up every. single. day. Multiple times every single day.
To an outsider, it seems like bliss. And when I first moved into stay-at-home parenting, I agreed. Freedom! Limitless possibilities! (Once the laundry was done and dinner made (or yes, ordered) and the counter wiped off and the socks picked up out of the hallway and the school form filled out and the ….) There were days on end with blank hours on the calendar.
Each day, there was - is - tons to do. But there is no one telling me when or how to do it. And believe it or not, here’s where the struggle starts to come in.
We are VERY used to being told when and how to do things.
Think about it - as we grow, we are given rules, guidelines. There are grades and mom’s rules and consequences and as we get older, laws and work deadlines and even more serious consequences.
This thing that has become humorous to lament - “adulting” - this is us all realizing that as we move into a world outside of a parent’s watch and a teacher’s watch and a boss’ watch - suddenly, we aren’t quite sure what to do. No one is there to tell us how to do something or when to do it. We realize how little we know and yet how much we are being called to do with that limited knowledge.
In such times of uncertainty, most of us turn to what is comfortable. Doing this day after day, those comfort go-to’s become habit. When the college exams are done or when the work day is finally over or when the young kids have finally fallen asleep….THEN! Then is when we stumble onto the couch and turn on t.v. and grab a glass of wine or beer. We push-push-push then fall into mental exhaustion. Numbing tools to the rescue.
Over time, any time outside of when we are being told what to do, we revert to those comfortable habits.
Standing in line with nothing to do? Check the phone. Have a Saturday morning with nothing planned? Sleep. Watch a movie. A free afternoon after work? Grab a beer or two! Catch up on Netflix!
Those activities in and of themselves are NOT BAD. I want to be very clear on that. What is harmful, though, is our lack of self-awareness as we “adult” through it all.
Remember that quiet and that question, “what now”?
Going from being told what to do (at work) to collapsing into mindless enjoyment is a life not fully lived.
Most people are content to go from unquestioned work to mindless relaxation and to simply repeat this year after year.
And then I became a mom with unstructured hours and found that unsettling quiet in the midst of each day.
My super-power and my curse is that I am ALWAYS questioning, always looking for different perspectives. So in that quiet, I was - by nature - asking, “what now”?
The questions I was asking turned a light on the previously unexamined way I had been sleepwalking through life. Bit by bit, I saw habits that I no longer needed to continue, beliefs that no longer served me, even societal patterns that didn’t fit the way I thought life should be.
But there was no one there to tell me what to do with all of that. Or when to spend more time figuring it out.
So year after year, I did what I knew to do. Made dinner. Comforted the kids. Tried thing after thing to find my own success in the world - volunteering at the kids’ school, teaching various online classes, pursuing art and various shows. All the while asking, “why” and “what now” and only being able to guess - to do what I always knew what and how to do.
I kept thinking that the answers to all of my struggles were out there. I just needed to find them.
The funny thing is - each time during my years of “adulting” that I would find an answer, I would do what my nature told me to do: question it.
This is how you are supposed to parent. Ok … but why? This is how you are supposed to hold a job and contribute to society. Ok … but why? This is how you are supposed to clean a toilet, fold laundry, set a table for guests, raise your kids, relate to your husband, do volunteer work. Ok … but why, and what do I do now?
There’s been a lot more questioning and searching and such. Correction: There IS a lot more questioning and searching and such. But let me share with you what I’ve discovered and come to believe at this point:
We create answers so that we don’t all walk around in a daze. We need those answers.
However, at some point, all answers will no longer serve us. Life changes. We change, faster than we want to admit. What was true then isn’t true now, and/or what we have learned along the way makes the answers irrelevant.
But we either forget that we are living by habit (by those answers we gave ourselves years ago) and/or we are afraid to let go of those answers that gave us comfort at one point, afraid and unwilling to admit that we once again don’t know.
What is far more important than the answer is being willing to ask the question.
We have to move in between question and answer and question and answer not just once every year or so around the New Year when we attempt yet another resolution. If we truly want to be creating a life we want to be living, this has to be a daily practice.
Question why you are working the job you are, why you talk to your kids the way you do, why your living room is arranged and painted the way it is, why you wear the outfits you do, why you eat how you do. If you don’t have an answer, that’s cool. If you do have an answer, that’s cool too. Stay curious.
Question again. Answer so that you can get out of bed in the morning. Then let go of your answer for a moment. Fall. Fly.
Transition from not-knowing to knowing and back into not-knowing. That’s all this whole adulting thing is, really. Let’s be honest with one another about that.
Check Facebook, watch Netflix, have a glass of wine. Go to work, get paid, make your bed.
But never let these things keep you from asking the questions.