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These are long days. Little ones have many, constant needs. Keeping up a home is hard work. And then for the WAHM, there is also work to do.
I get it. My days have been super long this spring. Each year, I look forward to this time with so much anticipation. I hate winter and not being able to get out as much. Spring and summer seem to hold so much more excitement and fun activities.
And then along came the coronavirus pandemic, and slowly, it feels like I’m failing at being a mom. Layered on top of all of that, my son took a developmental leap and has very well-formed ideas about what he wants to do. He’s strong willed and adamant that I allow him to do what he wants to do.
To complicate things further, he’s teething, which means shortened naps and lots of crying. Some days it feels like I’m living for that magical 8 o’clock hour when he goes to sleep and I mindlessly play on my phone, write or watch Netflix.
So am I failing at motherhood? How can it be that there are all these other WAHMs who have more than one child and everything is going so well.
If the work-at-home mom life has taught me anything, it’s that success looks very different than the world’s view of it.
Defining success and perfection as a WAHM
I can’t really remember the last day where I didn’t get frustrated with my toddler, which to the rest of the world would mean I’m failing at being a good mom. But I also look at this feisty little child and I know he’s not the kind of child you sweetly say “no, thank you,” to and he stops doing what he was doing.
He’s the kind of kid where until we lock eyes and I say in the firmest voice I can muster “get down now!” does he finally get down off the table (yeah, that’s happening), and find some toys to play with.
I’ve seen the kids who listen on the first “no.” Mine is not one of them and chances are, yours isn’t either. Those kids are a rare breed, but we’re somehow led to believe that our children should be that way and that firm talking is bad.
So what is success for a WAHM? For me, a successful day has a few key elements:
- I never yell. There’s a difference between a firm voice and yelling voice and striking that balance has its own challenges.
- My son and I play together, and I work toward teaching him the skills he needs for his development phase. During quarantine, he’s learned four animal sounds and a few parts of the body. That’s because I’m making time for him and some quality one-on-one time. Those giggly moments on the floor are really the best times of the day, when I make time for them and force myself to be more patient with my son.
- He only watches TV for 30 minutes. I fail at this one a lot. A more realistic goal is probably an hour and it’s educational programming so that makes me feel better. I know I use the TV too much though and it adds to his mischievous nature sometimes.
- I get up within 15 minutes of my alarm going off in the morning. This gives me plenty of time to get everything done for the day. Sadly, many times I spend way more time in bed than I should and then some days I fall back to sleep, which doesn’t help anything.
- We get outside or run exercises in the basement. Like most children, my son is super energetic. Making time and ways for him to get that energy out is important. When the weather is bad, we run upstairs or in the basement just back and forth tons of times. It helps with winding down for naptime and my son’s overall mood.
- The time after my son goes to bed is time for my husband and I, at least a few nights a week. If I’m constantly working in those evening hours, it means there is no time for us to work on our marriage and connect, which will have long-term effects.
Reflecting on a day in the life of a WAHM
When I write those out, it looks so simple to be successful. But then the chaos of the day starts to hit and I start missing my goals. I think the important thing to remember is that kids don’t need perfection. They need love and attention. Additionally, all those moms you’re looking at from a distance are a lot less perfect than you think. Everyone has their own struggles.
So during these trying times, be nice to yourself. Make your own list of what success looks like (it might be way different from mine). Be patient with yourself and your child and work your way through the really tough days one minute and hour at a time.
No child will ever know how perfect you were at being a mom. All they’ll know is that you love them and created a good life for them. To all the WAHMs out there, hang in there.