A Break in the Monotony

You’d think with a 4-year-old in my care the word monotony wouldn’t cross my lips. However, the reality is while we’re active and adaptable most days, Gemma and I still have a pretty consistent routine – eat, school, eat, play, eat, sleep. It’s been just over four years since I became a stay-at-home mom, and I’m still coming to terms with what that means.

I get asked “What are you up to?” a lot. And many times it’s a subtle implication about not working outside the home…”Are you really still doing the stay-at-home mom thing“? (like it’s taboo). In response, I usually get fidgety, break eye-contact and offer some long-winded response that only half makes me feel relevant (and mostly never exudes confidence). I want to scream “This is doesn’t define me. I didn’t plan to still be at home four years later. I am still relevant. A little person relies on me…loves me…can’t live without me…and that means something, dammit!” But that seems a little desperate, right?! In reality, I didn’t plan it. And it’s still not a natural “career” for me but I have to remember you don’t start a job at the top of your game…it takes time, training, guidance, mentors, confidence, mistakes, apologies, ownership, more training, more mentoring, etc. And so it goes…parenthood.

The work of being a stay-at-home mom is primarily teaching and involves a high level of craftiness, planning and undivided attention (even when you’re not in the mood—no sick days or “I’ve got a headache” excuses will do when a little ball of energy wants you to play UNO or dress-up). Oh, and btw, the cooking, cleaning and transportation duties are just the icing (so they say). Sometimes I miss working outside the home, the selfish part of being able to have something “just for me” but then I have days like yesterday…

  • Woke up and got G ready for school.
  • Had a rare and special family breakfast at Dunkin Donuts (since daddy is going out of town for the week).
  • Delivered G safely to school then dropped packages at the shipping store, got in a 2-mile walk and a P90X workout, grabbed a shower, posted a blog, and prepped dinner.
  • Picked G up from school and hit the grocery store…G got to put all items in and mostly push the cart herself AND hand all items to cashier AND “pay”…which by the way turns a 15 minute grocery trip into an hour-long learning activity).
  • Got home, put away groceries and finished putting crock-pot chicken noodle soup together.
  • Made chocolate chip cookies with G (baked 1/2 of dough, rolled and froze 1/2 of dough).
  • Played 5 hands of Slap Jack then snuggled with G in home theater for 1 hour “quiet time” watching the Dreamworks holiday shorts episodes featuring Shrek, Madagascar and How to Train Your Dragon (super cute, btw).
  • Ate chicken noodle soup dinner; G crowned me Chopped Champion for soup…again! Golly, do I love this girl and her accolades!
  • Drove “in the dark” to UPS to pick up a package. (This, by the way, is also exciting for a 4-year-old who is usually not in a car after dinner/dark…she noticed the moon and Venus in the sky, so we chatted about the universe, planets and why the moon is not a planet even though it looks like one. Note: We need to get out more in the dark.)
  • Got back home and had a kid-friendly “nightcap” (hot cocoa).
  • G helped me put on a clarifying face mask (and take it off…which elicited a lot of giggles from both of us!)
  • Snuggled in jammies and read 3 books before bedtime.
  • Got a few quiet moments by myself to clean up kitchen/dishes and brush/floss before having a great chat with my brother and sis-in-law (planning Thanksgiving dinner so my mom doesn’t have to cook!).

I don’t realize until I write down my day’s activities how much of G’s life I would miss out on if I had a full-time job outside the home. Who would be there to answer her silly questions? Or her serious questions? Who would tell me she now has an imaginary dog (in addition to her imaginary friend)?

But truth be told…I have a mild jealous streak, and I often envy Ben’s ability to break away from our “monotony”…

  • to converse with other adults about “business things”,
  • have quiet moments in the car listening to “his” music,
  • watch a movie or “catch up on email” on an airplane,
  • have a cocktail or eat “peacefully” at a fancy restaurant on a business trip,
  • talk on the phone without being interrupted,
  • select and eat his lunch at will,
  • to pee (for God’s sake) without a tiny human sticking her fingers/artwork/candy under the door to get your attention (assuming the door is even closed!) or yelling through the door “do you need me to turn the fan on for you, mommy?”.

While I envy his luxuries, I’m learning to better accept my position and its “on-the-job training”. My latest revelation is 4-year-old’s are bipolar…one minute I’m gritting my teeth because G’s refusing to finish breakfast and get dressed for school, and the next minute my heart is melting because she’s sweetly requesting a hug and a kiss, with arms outstretched and puppy-dog eyes, because (doh!) we haven’t hugged and kissed since we woke up (a mere 40 minutes ago).

This is a special time for both Gemma and I. It is challenging and rewarding in so many ways. I must remind myself more often because someday I’ll work for someone else again but for now I’m pretty happy working for Gemma.

On a side note…while searching the archives, I came across this photo…

shaving cream mask

You see, I was at wit’s end. We were visiting my parents in Illinois, and Gemma had been pushing everyone’s buttons the whole day. Come bath time, she was spitting fire, and I’m fairly certain scales were forming on her arms and legs. So instead of fighting it (more), I decided to just be silly. I snuck off, grabbed a can of shaving cream and slathered it on before creeping through the house to give my l’il dragon a scare. Before I knew it we were all laughing, and l’il G returned to her kind-hearted self.

As I look ahead to this week while Ben’s out of town, I may need some ideas from you (yes, you!) on how to inject some more levity like this into our daily routine! Suggestions are greatly welcomed in the comments section below. What out-of-the-ordinary things do you do to maintain humor in yourself and with your kids/family??!!

4 thoughts on “A Break in the Monotony

  1. Yes. . .you took your wind out of her sails! Ingenious. It’s a good look for a tough time.

    Jill, these years will live as one of the most precious times of your life. Trust me, I know. I was a stay-at-home mom for 6 years, then worked part-time for five more. If we could have afforded it, I would have loved more time at home. At times I felt like a dinosaur from another age, and my saving grace was trying to have one adult conversation a day with other moms. At one particularly trying time I spoke about this at Quaker Meeting. A seasoned Friend told me, “Make your decision, and then make it work.” OK.

    Ideas: Backwards Day.
    Freeze water in containers and build an ice castle (lesson on when water freezes/melts).
    Skype with Nonna and Papa. . .frequently!
    FaceTime with Nonna and Papa.
    Send her artwork under the bathroom door when SHE’s inside.
    Buy ziti. . .color with crayons. . .make necklaces. . .could be for Thanksgiving as “wampum.” Same goes for paperbag vests.
    Dance! Ben used to love the juke box!
    Seriousness over something clearly ridiculous. . .

    I know these might not be the ideas you’re looking for, but there they are. Love, Linda

  2. The girls and I have been enjoying painting with acrylics on canvas – Michaels has both pretty cheap along with table top easels. I tend to “help” (read micromanage) their art less when I’m working on my own canvas. Of course, once they dry you can add glitter puffy paint to accent! We wear old tshirts as smocks and lay down plastic covered with old towels to protect the floor. Use a paper or plastic plate for your palette so that it can be tossed at the end for easy clean up! We start with an inspiration piece and try not to get too ipdet when it doesnt come out just right (talking about myself). Viola! Beautiful unique artwork and at least 1 hour occupied 🙂

  3. 1. Find an old air pop popcorn maker. 2. Spread an olD sheet or tablecloth. 3. Take the top off the pcorn maker. Use only the bottom. 4. Put in some kernels. Turn on. 5. Try to catch the kernels as they come out.

    Caution : we did this at one of Marty’s birthday parties and an unpopped kernel came out and went down Meg Shoemaker’s top. Ouch! How DID that happen!!!???

  4. Like a post from my own page. I agree that a four yr old tyrannt is still the best kind of boss. Mine drives me literally to the brink of insanity on the daily. But those “momma you’re the best” moments take the cake. Which speaking of…one thing I can always count on to fill time and usually have some laughs doing is baking. I literally had to learn how to be ok with getting messy and now that’s why I enjoy it so much. I don’t let myself huff and puff about perfectly sized muffins, I don’t ration how much cookie batter we eat and I clean us both up whenever I’m damn well ready. Its liberating. And my baby boy enjoys the beaters as much as we do now.

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