Being a SAHM isn’t just a hard job, it’s a job that is known by its acronym alone. It’s feared and loved by many. It’s an athletic feat and a test of endurance. It’s about knowing your audience, sweating, and speaking a foreign language. You must outwit, outlast, outplay! Wait, isn’t that the Survivor theme? Same difference.
I have three kids, but having all three kids—a three-year-old daughter and twin baby boys—in daycare is just too expensive and it makes more financial sense for me to be home with my twin boys than to keep my full-time job. I still run my cleaning business, OCD Cleaning Services, but I’m only out of the house 15 hours a week. Cleaning other people’s toilets feels like a break. That means I am home with my twin boys, my almost walking, almost one-year-old, curious twin boys, a lot more than I am not.
I can totally relate to the many SAHM articles on why it’s such a hard job. There is little time to shower, sit down, or do anything that can’t be done with one eye on a mobile baby and a limb covered with another.
And besides the ridiculous amount of pressure we put on ourselves as moms to raise the best and brightest children—seriously, sometimes I feel guilty for not having babies who can work an abacus—I have found being a SAHM challenging in ways unique to other really hard jobs.
First of all, you must be able to navigate your day as if you are in a foreign country where the natives don’t understand the language you speak. I spend all day asking what turn out to be rhetorical and unanswered questions. Do you really need to throw your food on the floor? You pooped again? Do you want to go for a walk? Are you tired? Or I speak in broken and ridiculous phrases. Yeah! No thank you! No! Blue ball. Little People! So soft!
I get as many blank stares as smiles. But the smiles seem like an act of generosity, as if my boys are thinking, we hear you and see your mouth moving but have no idea what you’re talking about, Mom. The dog seems to be the only one who understands me and God help the adult who comes to the house during my time alone with the boys. I will hold the mailman verbally hostage if he should have the bad luck to deliver a package that does not fit in our mailbox.
While your audience doesn’t seem to understand you, you must absolutely know your audience. I do my best to keep my boys engaged, not so much entertained. They entertain themselves by hiding in corners together or poking each other in the face. And this goes back to that whole self-inflicted pressure—I try to give my boys new experiences. For example, I put water and food coloring in baggies and taped them to the window for a mess-free sensory experience. It was a total success until one of them poked a hole in the bag and covered the other one in red dye.
The next day I made homemade play dough. One of them ate it, deemed it unacceptable and crawled away to find an electrical cord to play with. And the other boy carried around the cookie cutters while he found his big sister’s flip flops to chew on. Why does a three-year-old need so many pairs of flip flops and why are they so tasty?
Okay, so maybe I am trying too hard. If I really want to get a standing ovation, I would let my boys play in the bathroom all day. They LOVE the toilet. They love to bang on the lid. They love to lift the lid. And they really, really love the little caps that cover the screws that keep the toilet secured to the floor. I saw an abandoned toilet on the side of the road and seriously thought about putting it in our back yard. Some people have sandboxes; we may end up with a toilet.
And then there is the sweating. Maybe it’s because I am dealing with two babies all day, but I am always a little damp. Like forehead and under the boobs kind of sweaty. Not so much that I need to immediately shower, but enough to make me want to shower. With twins I am up and down the stairs double-time and hopping over baby gates more than Lolo Jones jumps over hurdles in any given training session.
Or I am chasing them. The house is pretty baby-proofed, but they seem to know when I forget to close the bathroom door or forget to pick up the dog’s water dish. Getting out of the house for a walk is good and the only real exercise I have time for. Pushing a double stroller while walking the dog keeps me sweaty. Bathing them is an aerobic workout. And rushing around the house, trying to get as much done as possible while they nap is the tipping point of going from wanting to needing to take a shower.
In so many ways, my boys are different. For every minute one of my boys will sit contently and look at the wall, the other one will try to take down the wall. The guy who will destroy whatever is in front of him is the also one who hates to be restrained. Car seat, high chair, diaper change. All require athletic strength to keep him from squirming away and onto the floor. He arches, he screams, and his legs never stop moving.
Changing his diaper combines all of the things being a SAHM means to me. In a two-minute time-span, I say things that are not understood: Stop kicking! Stop moving! Why do you need to touch your penis? And then I feel guilty for wishing a healthy baby couldn’t move. I mean some babies can’t move and I would never want that. I’m so glad you can kick your legs and use my braless breasts as speed bags for your fast-flying feet!
I give him a tube of diaper cream to distract him long enough to snap his onesie back on and release him to find an electrical cord. I wipe my brow, decide to put on a bra—it’s almost lunchtime after all—scoop up a baby, hop over a gate, repeat, and then sit and speak in a language that gets friendly, almost pitiful smiles.
So, yeah, I’m a (mostly) SAHM. It’s hard. It’s awesome. And it will totally prepare me for that trip to Europe my partner and I hope to take someday. If I can survive with two babies all day, I can totally order lunch at a café in Paris. Or I’ll just have the skills of a lousy public speaker, one who sweats a lot and takes too long to read a room.
Happily pulled in many directions as a partner, parent, and business owner, Amber is a writer for VT Mommies and InventorSpot where she reviews products for parents and kids. She loves the challenge of learning how to relax. This article was originally published on VT Mommies.
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Originally published on The Seattle Lesbian
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