I’ve been thinking lately about how to spend my free time. I seem to have a lot of it these days. Sam is two-and-a-half now, and he needs me for (1) meals and (2) diaper changes. Occasionally he’ll need me to snuggle on the couch and watch Caillou, but beyond that, he’s pretty self-sufficient. Which is a good thing. I want him to be able to play on his own and entertain himself. I really wanted it this past fall, when I started grad school. I set up my desk in our dining room so I could keep an eye on him downstairs, but every few minutes he was intent on checking on me—coloring next to me, sitting on my lap, even typing in my Word document if I was writing a paper. This change in our routine is welcome, but where does it leave me?
Since I became a SAHM, I’ve been trying to figure out just what it is a stay-at-home mom does all day. Because there are approximately zero expectations for my home life. I don’t have to shower if I don’t want to. I don’t have to do the dishes, vacuum the carpet, make the bed. I don’t even have to brush my teeth if I don’t feel like it (and if I don’t have a playdate scheduled, you can bet I “forgot” this morning). I’m not saying this to crow about how lazy I am; I’m just saying there’s no system for validation. There’s no boss breathing down my neck and giving me a deadline. There’s no grade for my paper after I turn it in. There’s just my kids and my husband, mostly happy, pretty healthy, definitely well-fed.
I cut myself some slack the first year I stayed home. I was still figuring out the routine, and the kids were still adjusting to me being around all the time. I was overwhelmed with change and doing the minimum was enough for all of us. But I’ve been a SAHM almost two years now, and I’m in a place where I’m ready to do a little bit more. At least, I think I am. I want to have a routine for cleaning my house, a regular day for laundry and the grocery store. I want to take the kids out after school, even in this bitter cold. I want to do all those things so badly I even made an Excel spreadsheet that showed my planned activities in 30-minute blocks. But it backfired. If anything, I’ve backed away from my responsibilities even more.
The kids respond well to rules and limits, and I know I would too—if I wasn’t the one setting them. The problem is, I’m my own boss. No one is going to come home and say, “Great job being a mom today.” I am my own schedule-maker, my own validator, and right now, I don’t think I care enough about myself to do what I know in my heart is right. I’m just skating by, sleeping more than I should, ignoring the housework more than I should, doing the bare minimum in areas of my life I know I should be taking maximum responsibility for. I’ve got so much free time, and I’m just wasting it away.