As a stay-at-home mom working part-time as a freelancer, I never thought this would be one of my mom worries. Everything I’ve read makes it sound like SAH moms are dying for a few seconds away from their baby, but that hasn’t really been my experience. Instead, I’m worried that I’m spending too little time with my son.
Throughout the day, I have a lot to do. Laundry needs done at least once a week, sometimes more if he has a poop-splosion, dishes are a constant battle, dinner needs prepped and made, plus I try to keep up on this blog and my freelance work. As a result, my baby spends a lot of time in his swing or on his activity mat. If you factor in the fact that he still naps about 3-4 hours every day, sometimes it feels like I spend hardly any time actually interacting with him.
Newborn vs. Baby
When we first brought him home from the hospital, I was like…so what are you supposed to even do with a newborn? He can barely see, he has no motor skills at all, and he sleeps constantly. I felt like I wasn’t spending any time with my new baby, but I didn’t know how. But people assured me that’s just how newborns are, and not to worry about it. We would play and interact more when he got older.
Now he’s older, and I worry that I’m still in newborn mode when I should be transitioning to baby mode. After all, he’s starting to develop a good grip, he’s working on rolling over, and his vision is almost completely developed (finally!). I feel like I should be spending most of our day playing patty cake or peek-a-boo or helping him roll over. But how much play time with mommy is enough? How much time am I allowed to take for myself to keep our house running and complete a few freelancing jobs? I honestly have no idea.
Right now, I mostly squeeze play time in around all the other things I’m doing, and I feel like it should be the other way around. We do tickle time while I’m getting him changed, I hold him and play with his feet after his bottles, and if he gets fussy on his mat I’ll kneel down and play with a rattle with him or sing a silly song, but only for a few minutes before I go back to whatever chore I was doing. Is that right? Am I doing this right? I find myself asking that question about 80 times a day.
Being a Stay-at-Home Mom is Weird
As a stay-at-home mom, I am incredibly lucky to have all the time in the world with my son. I don’t want to neglect that opportunity, and I don’t want him to feel bored or ignored. But I also want to get things done around the house and make some money. I assumed that when it came to balancing these things, the issue was going to be finding enough time away from the baby to get all the other stuff done. I never expected the problem to be making sure I was spending enough time with my baby.
Nothing really prepares you for being a SAH mom. It’s just so freaking weird. On one hand, you have all your normal chores and work to do, and on the other hand, you have this precious potato whose wellbeing you are solely responsible for until Dad comes home at 5:30. It feels insane to prioritize the chores over the potato. But at the same time, the potato is relatively content in his swing or on his mat like 70% of the time, so…why not get stuff done, right? But part of you knows your potato isn’t getting all the stimulation he probably needs from a swing or a play mat, and he needs to hang out with you when he’s happy too, not just when he starts getting upset. But it’s so easy to let the potato be happy on his own while you do your own stuff. And that leads to lots of mom guilt.
Navigating Mom Guilt
The weirdest part of being a mom in your 20s is that you’re still processing a lot of stuff from your relationship with your own parents. Part of me still feels like if you feel “mom guilt” that’s just normal guilt and maybe you need to up your parenting game. But that doesn’t come from the mom part of me, that comes from the wounded (and let’s be honest- immature) child in me who still expects parents to be perfect.
I am starting to understand that parents can’t be perfect, and I’m working on really believing that that’s okay. For a long time, the idea that of course no one can be perfect, felt like an excuse for crappy behavior, and I still feel that way sometimes, even as a mom myself now. I mean, is there any other area of our life where we say that? When we mess up at work, do we just shrug and say “Well, nobody’s perfect.” Hell no, we apologize, we work harder, and we stress out about how our mistakes might affect our future. A big part of me feels like that’s how it should be with parenting too. When I mess up, I want to apologize to my kid, I want to work hard to be better, and I want to be very aware of how my actions as a parent could affect his future.
So I guess how I navigate my mom guilt isn’t to ignore it or talk myself out of feeling guilty, but rather to listen to what it’s telling me. I feel guilty for spending so much time on chores and writing rather than playing with my baby. Instead of trying to rationalize why that’s really okay, maybe I need to apologize to my baby, and reorganize my priorities and time management. I’m never going to be a perfect mom, but that doesn’t mean I can’t continuously try to be a better one.
Of course, I say that, but as I write this, my son is wriggling on my lap, obviously trying to get my attention and I am once again doing my other stuff rather than playing with him. So easier said than done. But I want to work on it.
Any other SAH moms out there? 20-something moms? How do you deal with mom guilt and your own mommy/daddy-issues? How do you balance play time with chores and work? I’d seriously love to hear your advice and/or commiserations.