I stood behind the kitchen counter wiping remnants of play-doh bits off of the surface of the counter and into the trash can. My son sat happily on the sofa watching a show, quiet and content. I realized in that moment that if this had been three years ago, the scenario would have looked much different...
My then three-year-old would have left the same play-doh mess for me to clean, but the baby would not have let me put him down to do so. The little bits would have either been picked up at the end of the day or not at all, eventually finding their way onto the floor and ground into the carpet fibers where I would forget about them altogether---until a few weeks down the road when a spilled cup of juice would resurrect them.
Now that three-year-old is in the first grade, and on most occasions is perfectly capable of drinking things without spilling it everywhere. That baby that never wanted to be put down takes himself away from the "Mommy and Me Play-doh Date" and sits on the couch to let me clean. I remember three-years-ago-me dreaming about this day...now I don't want it.
The problem with being a "stay-at-home-mom" is that eventually your kids don't stay at home with you anymore. With any luck, they will become independent and competent, and in the process render you completely useless (or so it seems.) When I would fill out forms with a baby on my hip and a toddler dangling from my leg, I remember never hesitating to write down my current occupation. I wrote it in all caps. STAY AT HOME MOM. It was a job!
Those days I would have been lucky to stop working long enough to take a shower. Today, not only have I showered (which I'm sure you're glad to know,) but I have also cleaned the bathrooms, mopped the floors, dropped my daughter off at school, played at the playground with my son, played 3 rounds of board games and an hour of play-doh, and was able to make an important phone call. (Not to mention compose a blog in the middle of the afternoon.) Three-years-ago-me can't believe that I am able to get so much done in a day. But nowadays-me knows better. I would be lying if I said I work a fraction as hard as I used to. Both of my kids are potty-trained. Both of my kids sleep through the night. I only have to dress them about half of the time. Most days they have no problem entertaining each other or themselves. I have a lot more free time on my hands. And rather than feeling blessed by the free time like I thought I would, I feel like I've been laid off of a job.
I usually have a pretty solid point by the time I finished composing one of these, but this time I'm not sure I know exactly what it's supposed to be yet.
Maybe for the mom with the babies and the play-doh smeared on your countertops and in your carpet, it's: Hang in there. This too shall pass.
Maybe for the mom who is getting ready to send their first child off to school, it's: Relish the feeling of being needed.
Maybe for the working mother, it's: Be sure to write your occupation in all caps...because some of us are jealous of your job.
And maybe for the rest of us with clean houses and no jobs and babies off at school or quietly entertaining themselves on the couch, it's: Exhale. And rather than beat yourself up for the work you don't think you're doing now, pat yourself on the back for the hard work you already did. And are doing, only now in a more timely fashion. Thank the Lord.