5 Things I Have Learned in 5 Years as a Stay at Home Mom

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As Dominic’s 5th birthday approaches, it occurred to me today that that means I have been a stay at home mom for almost five years. That’s longer than it took me to finish college, longer than any job I held, longer than I’ve known some people. It’s a long time. And so, in honor of Dominic’s 5th birthday, here are five things I have learned in my five years (rounded up) as a stay at home mom.

Dominic reading to me and Allen - what I've learned as a Stay at Home Mom

Structure helps us all.

This may sound silly, but I have alarms on my phone for lunch time and dinner time and bedtime. This allows us to keep things at roughly the same time every day without watching the clock, plus the kids understand what’s coming next. I also use an app that keeps track of my housework and this results in us doing certain things on certain days of the week. The kids have picked up on this and they know what to expect. It helps me a great deal to have some kind of structure otherwise the day blurs together because there’s no start and end time to my day. The kids knowing what to expect also helps them to roll with the day – they know when they can expect to be fed and they generally go to bed fine because we have a routine in place before bed.

Everyone is going to have opinions.

I have to start off by saying this is true of all parenting – not just being a stay at home mom. Everyone – and I mean everyone, including random strangers – has opinions on the “right” way to parent kids. Somewhere, someone out there thinks you are ruining your kids for something you do/don’t do. Guarantee. And every kind of mom faces their own kind of stigma and naysayers. For me, as a stay at home mom, this has included pressure from others to get a job and someone I knew called me a freeloader once. All of these things though are just opinions and frequently, not very helpful ones. You and your spouse are the ones who get to make the decisions about your unique and amazing kids – period. Check the outside opinions at the door to your house. This is way easier said than done, but it will make a world of difference.

You need a tribe.

Being a stay at home mom can be lonely and isolating. You don’t always see a whole lot of adults and being around your kids all the time can be hard. You need to find the people who are going to support you in this journey, the people who are going to lift you up when you feel like quitting or when you feel like you’re not good enough. I’m fortunate to have a strong tribe of people supporting me and I truly believe their support is invaluable.

My tribe is a diverse tribe and includes wonderful ladies nearby and far away, some who have kids, some who don’t, some who are the same age as me, some who are older, some who share my faith, some who don’t. However, what they all have in common is that they love me and want to see me succeed. They’re not seeking to tear me down but to encourage me. They’re not seeking to force their opinions on me, but to give advice when asked. They’re not seeking to tell me to quit, but to tell me I made this decision for a reason and to keep going. I am grateful to each and every one of them. I hope that you are lucky enough to find a tribe like I have. Because I can tell you when I didn’t have a very big tribe, it was hard.

There is more to you than being a stay at home mom.

When I first had my kids, I fell into attachment parenting (more about that another day). This made me feel like I could never leave my kids. Like I had to be with them 24/7 or I was a bad mom. I let myself be completely absorbed by parenting and let my other hobbies and interests fall by the wayside. But do you know what I’ve learned this leads to? A stressed out me.Over time, I’ve been able to slowly add in more things that are just for me. I sing in my church’s choir and attend Bible study regularly (with some of the moms from my tribe – thus accomplishing two things 😉 ). I blog and I read books and I write. I try and get out with friends and with Nick when I can.

Being a stay at home mom is a lot of pressure. If you let that be the only thing you have going for you, it’s easy to let the failures crush you. But the reality is, you can not measure your self-worth or success by the behavior of your kids. I still struggle with this because unlike other jobs, there’s no paychecks or promotions or recognitions. But for me, having things I can enjoy outside of parenting helps remind me on the bad days that there is more to life than parenting and I have not failed as a human being even if my kids are little terrors.

It’s normal that it is simultaneously so hard and so rewarding.

I feel like when your kids are little and it’s hard, you tell yourself that later on, it will be easier. When they don’t need you to do so much for them, it will be easier. But the reality is, it doesn’t get easier in a linear fashion. Some things get easier, but then there are other new problems that crop up. And sometimes, if you’re like me, you think if you just work a little bit harder, you will get there, to a point where it’s easier. But life – and parenting – don’t work like that. Parenting has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

But! On the flipside of that, I’ve also never done something this rewarding. There are awesome moments where you see them do a new skill for the first time. Or get a big hug from them with an I love you. Or they finally remember to do something you’ve been working on with them for ages. These moments make your heart like 3000 times bigger. It is frequently both of these things in the same day and sometimes even in the same moment. That’s normal. That’s life.

So I suppose, on reflecting on this list at the end, this isn’t just about being a stay at home mom. It’s also/mostly about being a parent. This is what I’ve learned and really, what I’m still learning. I’m still a work in progress, just like my kids.

What have you learned from parenting? 

Kids in the Kitchen: Grilled Ranch Chicken

I really believe strongly in involving kids in the kitchen. One of my goals for my kids is to teach them how to cook. I think it’s a very important life skill. I really want to teach my kids how to do it so that they can take care of themselves. Plus I want them to be comfortable in the kitchen.

For the most part, this is not hard because they want to be helping in the kitchen. But sometimes it’s hard to think of a way they can help. Or, like I was in the beginning, you might worry about the mess or screwing up the recipe. But, over time, I have learned to let go a little bit and let them help. So, in this occasional feature, I am going to give you a glimpse into some of the ways that I cook with my kids.

Tonight, we made grilled ranch chicken. This recipe comes from The Everything Food Allergy Cookbook (affiliate link). I got this cookbook when it was free for Kindle one time (I’m a collector haha) and while we don’t have food allergies, I’ve found it has some especially excellent recipes. I especially like the fried rice recipe it contains. But because of that, I’m not going to be including the full recipe. My main helper was Dominic (4), while Allen observed.

While Dominic has helped in the kitchen before, today was really the first time I let him help with measuring. This is a big deal for me because I was worrying that he would either measure too much and make a big mess. But today, he helped measure the ranch dressing (the cookbook had it’s own recipe for ranch dressing, but sometimes I take shortcuts ;)). Then, we talked about the difference between a teaspoon and a tablespoon, and he held the tablespoon while I poured the lemon juice (apparently I couldn’t let go of all measuring control ;)). Then I put the chicken in the bag with the marinade and after I closed it, he helped move it all around and get it all coated with marinade.

Dominic measuring the ranch dressing

It’s just simple stuff, but I see this as laying the foundation for more cooking skills later on. We all enjoy it.

What have you cooked lately? What do you like to cook with your kids? Are you comfortable with your kids in the kitchen?

Me Through Dominic’s Eyes

Dominic's name and age in a pin screenSo, these questions were floating around Facebook for a while and everyone was answering them and I thought it would be fun to have my kids answer them periodically, as they grow, to see how their answers change over time. Today I started with Dominic, who is almost 5.

  • What is something mom always says to you?
    • That you love me
  • What makes mom happy?
    • When I listen, that’s the best one
  • What makes mom sad?
    • When I don’t listen
  • How does your mom make you laugh?
    • By telling me jokes
  • What is her favorite thing to do?
    • Be our mom
  • What is your mom really good at?
    • Loving us
  • What makes you proud of your mom?
    • When you clean the dishes
  • What do you and your mom do together?
    • Learning
  • How are you and your mom the same?
    • That we’re both humans
  • How are you and your mom different?
    • That we’re not the same age
  • What does your mom like most about your dad?
    • That he loves you
  • How old was your Mom when you were born?
    • I don’t know, but maybe 5

He answered I don’t know to quite a few questions, so here are the ones who said he didn’t know

  • What was your mom like as a child?
  • How old is your mom?
  • How tall is your mom?
  • What does your mom do when you’re not around?
  • If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for?
  • What is your mom not very good at?
  • What does your mom do for a job?
  • What is your mom’s favorite food?
  • If your mom were a character, who would she be?
  • How do you know your mom loves you?
  • Where is your mom’s favorite place to go?

What do your kids think of you? What would their answers to these questions be? 

101 in 1001: Submit 30 Written Pieces for Publication – 3/30

Write, Edit, Submit

I have accepted the fact that I passed my 1001 days about a month ago. But, for me, the time frame is less important than actually doing these things that I want to do, but that I put off as being too hard or out of reach for me. Now I’m going to submit 30 pieces for publication.

I am not going to do this all at once, but I thought I’d keep a list of where I submitted with links included, for other writers who might be looking for places to submit their work. Really, every time I submit something, it intimidates me. I get rejections and that’s never fun. But you can also never be accepted if you never submit, so, pushing myself to submit 30 pieces is definitely pushing myself outside of my comfort zone, in a good way. I don’t want to let the writing part of me die just because I am a stay at home mom now – so blogging and submitting is one way I can keep that alive. So, without further ado, the (incomplete) list. In case you’re wondering, you can assume rejection if it says nothing else haha 😉

  1. Metroparent Magazine
  2.  BlogHer Voices of the Year (submissions closed for this year)
  3. Holy Hen House (they were looking for new regular contributors)

Happy submitting! May the odds be ever in your favor.

Where are some places you have submitted to in the past? Or that you would recommend submitting?

Photo adapted from photo by cohdra at Morguefile.com. 

Travel the World in Books Challenge: Algeria

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I’ve got another book to cross off my Travel the World in Books challenge. I knew I was being ambitious when I took on attempting to read one book from every country, but I have to say, I am learning so much, which I thoroughly enjoy. This time, I covered Algeria.

Algeria is a country in Northern Africa with a population of 40,263,711. Their government is currently a presidential republic, although, from 1830-1962, Algeria was a colony of France. The struggle for independence from France was the main subject of the book that I read. (Side note: I always knew that Great Britain was a major colonizer, see also: American Revolution, but until this year, with this book and also with the (this is my friend’s sister’s Usborne page, for the record) Lift-the-Flap Atlas we use as part of teaching Dominic geography, I realized for the first time that France was also a major colonizer.) The capital is Algiers.

Map of Algeria

Picture and facts from CIA World Factbook: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ag.html

The book that I picked for Algeria is (disclaimer: affiliate link) Wolves in the City: The Death of French Algeria by Paul Henissart.

I don’t even know where to start with telling you about this book. It was long and it was dense, but not in a bad way. The author had excellent attention to detail in what was a very complicated situation, including personally doing a lot of interviews with people involved in the situation. What I do know about finishing this book, is that nobody handled the situation well. The French government didn’t handle it well, the FLN didn’t handle it well, the OAS didn’t handle it well – everybody made a giant mess of things and this resulted in a very bloody situation. A lot of people lost their lives.

Before this, I didn’t really know much about the history of colonialism in Africa. I knew it happened, but beyond that, I couldn’t tell you very much. And to be honest, since this book, I couldn’t tell you much about the history of it, except for what happened in Algeria. But I feel like even though I’ll never be an expert, any part I can learn is beneficial. There is always more to learn, but that shouldn’t stop us from learning what we can when we can, even though we’ll never learn it all.

This book was definitely eye opening, though hard to understand at times. Out of necessity, I googled a few things. There’s also a couple of instances of French where it’s not translated and I’m like “Okay, I have no idea what that means.” But overall, you can still get the general idea and themes of what is going on.

I’d recommend this book for anyone who is interested in history. It is definitely a time-consuming read, but it’s worth muscling through. Now, I’m on to a lighter and funnier book though. It’s all about balance.

Have you read any good books about Algeria? What do you know about Algeria? Have you ever been there? 

Micro-Conservation; what the?

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OK here is my first true crack at it! Ha –

First let me give you the definitions of the words separately that I believe sum up my reason for blogging on this oh-so-important topic:

Micro: very small in comparison with others of its kind

Conservation: prevention of excessive or wasteful use of a resource

Second let me tell you why I want to talk about it! Honestly, having lived my whole life in conservation mode of “the rainforest is being depleted every minute!”, “our ozone layer has a hole in it from CFC’s!”, “our oceans have floating garbage patches!” I have felt COMPLETELY overwhelmed. I really care about these things and conservation is not just important, it is an essential duty we were given when we were created – see Genesis 1, God created the world and it was GOOD! Truly let’s first agree that we have a stewardship towards the earth that we should take seriously.

My delusions of grandeur growing up included thinking that I might be smart enough to fix one of these very large and complex issues! Yea right! Now that life has toppled into place, I find that while I can’t fix the big things, I can work on the small things. You other mom and dads, husbands and wives, probably have this figured out already but just in case you are like me and still finding your way — I hope to help guide you!

My blog series will include primarily the micro-conservation of:

  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Life Hacks (Grab Bag)

There, done. That wasn’t so bad really. Oh, my analysis says 300 words is a good length and without this sentence I was 293. 🙂 See? Even you can blog better than me!

I truly hope I have piqued enough interest for you to join me on this journey of incorporating micro-conservation into our daily lives with my first post about food coming up next!

Jess

Meet Our Newest Contributor: Jess!

As most of you know, this blog is really a Createspace and an intellectual outlet for me. That’s why I don’t blog on any sort of schedule – because sometimes it takes me longer than other times to finish posts (currently reading about Algeria for my Travel the World in Books challenge). Which is why when my good friend Jess approached me asking if she could contribute, I immediately said yes. Jess has been a good friend of mine since college and I won’t tell you too much about her because in a second, I’m going to turn the blog over to her (so to speak) but she is a new face you will be seeing around here. I’m thrilled to be opening this up to be a Createspace for her too. So, without further ado, please meet my friend Jess.

Hello! It is great to arrive in the blog-o-sphere! Melissa has graciously accepted my offer of contributing occasionally to her already-existing Createspace and I am so grateful to test out my hand (brain? typing?) at blogging.

First off…. you have to know that I have a unique sense of humor that often gets confused with seriousness — I guess they call that dry humor. I also enjoy neologism, of which you are going to experience quite a few of my own made up words for everything and anything. You can call them Jess-isms for now. So, as you read, you may find yourself rolling your eyes and trying to suppress a groan at my attempt to lighten your day!

Other than that I suppose you want some more biographical features of me:

  • Born and bred Wisconsonite – which yes, makes me an avid cheese-eater (subtract the wine, add the beer) and Green Bay Packers fan
  • Married for 4.5 years with two children under the age of 5
  • Bachelors in Communications and Associates in Arts

And you want to know if you have anything at all in common with me before you commit to reading ANY of my future posts .. HA!

  • Love historical fiction books and movies
  • Love to craft – paint, crochet, sew or just about anything that is putzy
  • Love to play & coach soccer
  • Love to try new things: food, places, activities

OK, enough about me – stay tuned for my first post on “Micro-Conservation”. Don’t even bother looking up what that is, it your first taste of a Jess-ism and you will learn my definition for it when you read my post!!

Jess

You can find all of Jess’ posts here

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