I’m "Just" a Stay-at-Home Mom

This past week my husband and I had the pleasure of having dinner at our pastor’s house. Every couple of months, they invite a group of new church members over for food and fellowship — it was fun getting to know others and relax for a couple of child-free hours. At one point, one of the pastors asked what we did for a living, and I responded with, “I’m just a stay-at-home mom!” Without missing a beat, he said, “There’s no ‘just’ about it, that’s a fulltime job!” He was absolutely right.

My life as a stay-at-home mom far surpasses my former life as a high school English teacher. I truly loved my students, but the love I feel for my own children is enough to take my breath away. These last three years as a homemaker are vastly different than the six years I spent in the classroom, but they are infinitely more rewarding. The fact that God allows me to be exactly where I am, doing exactly what I’m doing, overwhelms me with gratitude and humbles my heart.

Meeting my husband’s and children’s needs is a never-ending task, but one worth pursuing. I’ve come to see my responsibility to my family through the lens of Christ’s sacrificial love. My attitude is paramount to living out sacrificial love to my family — if my heart is not centered on God, then my patience runs thin and my children suffer. Finding balance in keeping the home, loving my husband, educating Asher, taking care of Keane, preparing meals, and pursuing my own creativity can take a toll…if my focus is in the wrong place.

Aside from anchoring myself in scripture, I have found these books to be essential to my motherhood:
     1. Grace-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel
     2. The Mission of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson
     3. Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full: Gospel Meditations for Busy Moms
         by Gloria Furman

My bookshelves are also stocked with titles on strong-willed children, childhood brain development, and methods for classical education…but I’ve found that it’s much easier to deal with my strong-willed child when my will is bent to his Maker. When I respond with grace and sacrificial love, his tantrums tend to be curbed from melt-downs into teachable moments that involve scripture. Is every discipline encounter full of snuggle-hugs and bible verses? Absolutely not. There are still plenty of off-the-charts melt-downs, but when I’ve taken the time and effort to center myself in God’s word, I am more inclined to respond as Christ responds to me.

There are days when I’m beyond exhausted from sleepless nights, and on those days it’s God’s grace that carries me through. There are days when I scoop my three-year-old up in my arms and ask his forgiveness for my impatience and my poor attitude; hearing his sweet voice say, “I forgive you, Mommy,” humbles me anew. I don’t have it all together. I am not perfect. My failures are enough to fill a vast ocean, yet his mercies are new each morning. His grace is sufficient for me, his power is made perfect in my unending weakness.

How I Tricked my Toddler into Listening

Life with a toddler brings laughter, silliness, adorable memories…and frustration. Listening is difficult even on the good days — their independent spirits are blooming, and stubbornness is in full force. If sharing my latest Hail Mary parenting pass helps at least one frazzled toddler-parent, then the struggle has been worth it!

In my extensive, highly scientific research in the field of toddlers, I have come to the following conclusion: They be cray-cray. Adorable, but certifiably crazy.

If adults acted like toddlers…

Any adult who actually did those things on a regular basis would be under psychiatric evaluation in no time. (Full disclosure: I may have witnessed my adult brother do a few of these things.) Toddlerhood is a beautiful blend of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. They’re happy and energetic one minute, then sad (and still energetic) the next. They must hear voices, because Mommy and Daddy sure didn’t say anything about eating suckers for breakfast. Or waking up at 6:30am. Every morning.

After one particularly rough morning (during my week without Facebook), I reached the end of my rope. Asher doesn’t respond to counting, or conversations, or threats, or spankings, or time-outs. I knew he needed some sort of visual aid to help him out when he went rogue. In my desperation, I turned to a paper plate. In less than five minutes, Mr. Listening Ears was born. He has my ears.

I explained to Asher that when he made good choices, listened, and obeyed, that Mr. Listening Ears would be happy. But when he made bad choices and didn’t listen to Mommy and Daddy, Mr. Listening Ears would be sad. When I introduced our new friend, I had Asher touch Mr. Listening Ear’s orange paper ears, and we talked about using our listening ears. Then he touched his own ears to solidify the concept.

He hangs out up high on the refrigerator — away from toddler hands and constantly visible. When Asher starts to exhibit a wee bit of craziness, I remind him that Mr. Listening Ears is currently happy, and we wouldn’t want to make him sad by making bad choices. Sometimes it thwarts a tantrum, sometimes it doesn’t.

On the occasion that the smile turns to a frown, Asher goes nuts. He definitely does not like seeing the sad face. He’ll fuss and cry, saying, “Mommy, make Mistew Wistening Eaws happy!” To which I reply, “Only Asher can make him happy with good choices.” Sometimes he continues on to full-on-meltdown-mode, and other times he course-corrects to earn back the happy face. We’ve had more successes than failures with this new method, which is promising.

So, my toddler won’t necessarily listen to me, but he will listen to a paper plate. I’m calling it a win.

Wake-up Smiles and Night-night Kisses

Two years ago today, Mark and I had the most gorgeous wedding in the history of weddings (of course I’m biased). One year ago today, I was five months pregnant – full of excitement and anticipation (and a squishy baby). Today, right now, that sweet little man is asleep in my arms…and I’m overwhelmed with God’s gracious blessings.

Mark’s hard work and brilliant financial planning have allowed me to stay home with Asher. While I absolutely loved teaching and miss the camaraderie of my students, I wouldn’t change a thing. This is the life I’ve always wanted. As a girl, I wanted to be a mommy – just like my mom and Granny.

Aside from my own home, I never felt more loved than when I was at my granny’s house. She had a way of making me feel like the most special little girl in the world, and I long to keep that tradition of love and nurturing alive for my son. As much as I aspire to be like my mother and grandmother, I definitely fall short in the areas of cooking and housekeeping.

The way I see it, I have the rest of my life to keep a clean house. Granted, we don’t live in filth, but there are dishes in the sink, toys in the floor, sticky substances on the counter, and a load of towels in the dryer as I type. This morning Asher and I took a two hour nap together. Well, he slept while I snuggled him. Even though there were plenty of things to keep me busy, I wanted him to fall asleep and wake up next to me (and nurse to his heart’s content throughout his nap). But most of all, I wanted to catch his wake-up smile. This is one of my greatest joys.

When he wakes up in the morning and from his daily naps, he opens his eyes, blinks for a bit, and as soon as he sees me, his whole face lights up! This happens three times a day (assuming he wakes up next to me and not in his crib…crib wakes-ups involve crying until I rescue him), and my goal is to catch all of those special, sleepy smiles.

Every time I see his smile, I don’t feel so guilty about laundry or dishes. I know one day he’ll be “too cool” to hug and kiss me in front of his friends. One day, he will sleep all night in his bed and wake up on his own. One day, he’ll rush out of the house to be with his friends…one day, a girlfriend. Right now, I’m the most important woman in his life, and I don’t want to miss anything. Fifteen years down the road, I’ll relish every memory of every wake-up smile; I’ll get teary-eyed at the thought of nursing him to sleep, and I’ll miss my sweet baby. So for now, I’ll tend to the laundry later.