The kids were awesome, easy to love, and I'm so proud of the teenagers they've grown into. Two of them are now seniors in high school and, Gawd, that makes me feel old.
I learned so much about being a parent from my time nannying, like setting appropriate boundaries but also learning when it was all right to bend the rules; when to be the disciplinarian and when the kids needed empathy instead of punishment. Really, that work has carried with me. I learned the qualities that a good leader should possess, because what is parenting but leading? Businesses have outcomes they want to achieve, but so do parents. Different parenting styles mainly have to do with what outcomes the parents want to produce, and therefore judgment values on what is "right" or "wrong" are incredibly silly. None of the sets of parents did things just as the others did, so I needed to be flexible to adapt to each one, as well as to the needs of each child. And you know what? All of the kids turned out fabulous, because it's not the differing parenting styles which mattered so much as creating a loving and stable atmosphere for them to grow up in.
Seeing these moms, though, I really wanted to be like them someday. Part of this desire, I suppose, was because I didn't know what I wanted to do or be when I grew up. Even now, I don't really consider myself as having a "career" in the traditional sense so much as I have a job category I fell into because it sounded more interesting than most and then it was a steady way to earn money.* Some kids know right away what they want to do, but I'm over 30 and still couldn't tell you what my ambition is for a career. Clearly, I love kids and was always told, "Oh, it will be different when you have your own. The love you feel for them is just so much...more." So, I thought, being a stay at home mom would be wonderful.
The plan, when we moved down here, was that HusbandX would get a job and I could be the stay home parent for a bit. While he was a student, HusbandX was the main parent (with help from our fantastic babysitter and some of our friends) and I felt like I'd put in my time as the breadwinner. I've been the one with the stable job for years, it's my turn to stay home and make house and play with the baby! Working sucks!
Then we moved down here, and within two weeks I was practically climbing the walls with boredom and frustration. Going to the park in the mornings, going for walks in the afternoons or running errands, and holy balls, kid, are you screaming at me AGAIN? Use your words! No? What do you mean no? You haven't even tried talking to me, you just went straight to screaming! I don't know what you want when you scream at me. Fine, if you're not going to stop you're getting a time out until you can CALM DOWN AND STOP YELLING AT ME.
Yes, I totally have been that parent who's yelling at their kid to stop yelling. For some reason, I can only take about five hours of being consistently whined and yelled at before I lose my temper. Then, I need to be on my own for an hour or so.
My little hell-raiser, stopping to sniff the flowers. Getting
out of the house is keeping me from going crazy.
Mind you, I've always known that parenthood is tough. And I have a very active, curious, bright little bundle of supersonic energy. We didn't expect her to be easy, because neither we nor any of our siblings were easy kids. The Munchkin wasn't even easy in the womb, constantly rolling and kicking. I knew she was stubborn when she stuck her butt under my ribs for two days and wouldn't move even when I tried to push her into a different spot. I stopped doing the recommended kick counts because the longest it ever took was 10 minutes, and I'd done it during one of her infrequent slow times. Usually it felt like she was practicing jiu-jitsu in my abdomen.
When the Munchkin was just a few months old I did an internet search for what qualifies as a high needs baby and came across this list. She fit every single one of those criteria, which helped me to feel less like a complete failure on days when she would demand everything we had and then a little bit more.
Even so, I thought that I would enjoy staying home with her. Maybe I was just stressed out because working and being a parent and taking care of a household is a lot. When I don't have to do as much, surely life will be a little bit easier. I clung to that thought, and tried to ignore remembering the infant days when I'd thought, "Thank God, it's Monday and I get to go to work! I can finally have a break!"
Now, I don't even get naps because she's starting to give those up. Instead, she climbs the furniture. I mean that literally. There's a dresser in her room that's about shoulder height for me and she climbs up on it when she should be napping. Even now, I can hear drawers being pulled out so that she can climb up on the desk.
And she's awesome! I love who she is, because she's such a great kid. I tell her pretty much every day that out of all the many, many babies in the world, she's my favorite. But this doesn't make being around her less draining. She's getting easier as she gets older and as she becomes more independent, but she's still not an easy kid to take care of. She is, as HusbandX and I frequently remind each other, definitely our child.
When I started browsing job postings within a couple of weeks after moving, I realized that being a stay at home parent perhaps wasn't my calling. Maybe other stay at home moms have easier kids, or more patience for a lack of stimulating conversation and time alone, or maybe tons of them are just leading lives of quiet desperation but don't want to say so because then they'd seem like terrible parents. I don't know. What I do know is, I want to go back to work.
One of the popular ideas right now is that of balance, particularly when it comes to work and life. I don't know what the right balance is for us yet. Perhaps if I found only a part-time job I'd get to have the fun time with the Munchkin (and despite my complaining, there are a lot of fun times) while still working and having my own life. Maybe I'll think differently when we have our own place to live, and maybe when we need to shop around for childcare I'll discover that being home with her is less stressful than shelling out tons of money each month for someone else to do so. But for right now, the job search is on.
*OK, the last job I had I really did love. My coworkers were great, the job itself was interesting, and I would have happily stayed there for a long, long time. Now I just need to find the same thing down here.