Thursday, September 15, 2011


Since I became a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM), I’ve had to redefine my sense of self-worth. I had all these expectations of what a SAHM was supposed to do and be.

I’ve always been driven by accomplishment, so it’s painful to see my long to-do list with only two items crossed off for days and days. I want to work on Quinn’s baby book, create a playlist for him in the car, and upload the 4,693 photos we’ve taken of him. But I don’t get to these things.

I don’t even bother writing “laundry” or “dishes” on the list, because those things are never really done. As soon as I finish, it’s time to start again.

Before motherhood, when I had a 9-to-5 job, housework was scheduled for Saturday mornings. I dusted, vacuumed and cleaned the bathrooms. The floors were swept, and the sheets were fresh. Hubs and I were a “to-do-list-demolishing” duo. Nothing felt better than looking at our finished work with pride and knowing we earned that glass (or three) of wine at the end of the day.

I assumed that when I became a SAHM I would have even more time to tackle my to-do list, complete my projects and keep my house clean. My new work location is the house. Duh. Of course, I’ll have time for that stuff. All babies do is sleep, right?

Are you done laughing now? …. How about now? Are you sure? I can wait…. Okay.

When I worked 40 hours a week, I only cleaned once a week. Now that I have a 24/7 job, what in the hell made me think I would have more time for that? I had erroneous expectations of what a SAHM should accomplish.

Quinn takes a morning nap that can range from one to three hours. It’s still a bit unpredictable and depends on a myriad of variables. And that is the only break I get until he goes to bed at night. (His afternoon nap is often spent with me driving him around.)

During that morning nap, I eat breakfast, pump (always with the pumping…), wash my face, brush my teeth, throw my hair into a ponytail, and get dressed.* Then I empty the dishwasher, clean up the kitchen and breakfast dishes, and throw in more laundry. If Q is still sleeping, I tidy up, fold laundry and make lunch.  

By now Quinn is usually awake, and I’m lucky if I’ve even started anything on my to-do list.

*Notice I didn’t say “shower” anywhere in there. That’s a luxury reserved for when Quinn goes to bed at night, as is writing my blog.

I started getting really down on myself. What SAHM has no time to cook or clean? What SAHM leaves all these ambitious projects un-attempted? What a disappointment I must be to my husband… and myself.

So I started trying to find ways to help Quinn amuse himself so could quickly escape and get things done. I’d stick him in his Jumperoo, let him play in the floor while I cleaned nearby, or put him in his pack-n-play. And then the guilt would set in. I should be playing with my baby boy. I should be interacting with him, bonding with him, stimulating his brain. What a disappointment I must be to my son... and myself.

Then someone posted this poem on Facebook that made me pause:

“Song for a Fifth Child,” by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton (1958)

Mother, oh mother, come shake out your cloth!
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking!

Oh, I’ve grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(Pat- a- cake, darling and peek, peekaboo).

The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard and there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren’t her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

Oh, cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
But children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby. Babies don’t keep.

Then I realized the difference between a SAHM and a housewife. I didn’t quit my job so I could keep the bathroom spotless. I became a SAHM so I could raise our son. I’m not too lazy to clean. I just choose to spend these precious moments bonding with my baby boy instead. 

So my to-do list items stay un-checked for longer than I’d like, and the layer of dust on my book shelves is a little thicker than I’m accustomed to. But when I rock my baby to sleep at night, I never regret not spending enough time with him. 

Would you rather clean a toilet or play with him?