I broke one of my cardinal rules last night. The rule crumbled around 2:33 am, which is as good a reason as any for a rule to break. The rule crumbled in the face of stiff opposition: a disoriented toddler weeping in the dark corner of a nondescript hotel room, a distracted toddler attracted like moth to lightbulb to the in-room safe with glowing green key pad, and two parents who had both been spending the past two hours of sleep time in an escalating cycle of scolding/cajoling/lecturing each other and experiencing limited (read: zero) success at coaching said toddler back into the pack-n-play.
So I broke one of my cardinal rules.
The kid got to sleep in bed with me.
Trust me, in my best state, I’m that baby-wearing, cloth-diapering, hug-squeezing, granola-munching mom. Still, a girl’s got to have limits. I draw my limit here: 10 pm to 6 am. Those are my hours. Since I no longer punch the clock in corporate America, it’s normal to sacrifice fancy hair-dos and presentable clothes to the Stay-at-Home Mom Slump. In fact, I find it’s far too easy to let the business of running home and family seep into a watercolor wasteland of blurred boundaries. Thus, my cardinal rule that I get to be alone with my thoughts and zzzz’s between the hours of 10 pm and 6 am. It’s an unbreakable* rule.
I did not skip merrily into stay-at-home-mothering. Looking behind me, I spy two furrows in the dirt of the past two years–furrows created by my heels dragging in mulish shock that the cloistered reality of stay-at-home mothering could be such a Janus-faced opposite of what I had expected to encounter when that mewling, blanketed bundle was placed in my arms.
I thought it would be blissful. And easy. And blissfully easy.
I hear chuckles from the stay-at-home moms reading along.
In my early days of adjusting to homemaker status, I would have welcomed the excuse to get away from the laundry that glared with accusing neglect from each corner of my house. I would have welcomed the chance to exchange a complete sentence with some adult other than the teenage check-out clerk at Target. I would have welcomed the chance to blame someone (boss, co-workers, day care, universe) when things didn’t go exactly right on the home front.
In short, I would have loved to go back to work.
Something kept dragging me away from working-mom status, something with the power to overcome the resistance of my heels dug into the terra firma. Turns out it was something with a deep and terrifying power.
It was Hope.
I’ll be honest–I usually think of Hope as something fluffy, pink, and whimsical with an aftertaste of cotton candy. I think of Hope as something like the prize in the bottom of the Cracker Jack box–great if you get it, but not essential to enjoy the contents.
Being a stay-at-home mom has taught me that Hope actually has an iron clad will that dominates my own. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, NASB). The only thing that held me to the course of home manager was some deeply rooted, compelling faith that this job (and not some other job that would provide me with more money, clothes, vacations, shoes, dates, and hair products) this job would be the most important thing I would do with my life.
Why did I remain a stay-at-home mom? It’s simple. I couldn’t imagine anyone else being as thrilled with the way my baby laughed at the word “splash”. Or the way her two bottom teeth clicked on the spoon when feeding her peas. Or the way she slept, balanced up on her right side.
I couldn’t imagine anyone else loving her like I did.
I hoped. I hoped that my 24-7 (minus the hours of 10pm to 6 am, of course) adoration would invest limitless quantities of riches in the bank of her life. Riches that she can withdraw for the decades to come.
It doesn’t seem to be a popular choice these days, to be a stay-at-home mom. And I can understand why–it’s not easy to sacrifice so much of yourself on the altar of Hope. It’s the biggest risk of all to give up everything you’ve worked for in the hopes that you can make a difference in another’s life.
Being a stay-at-home mom takes an almost back-breaking, will-conquering conviction in things unseen.
Last week, Little Friend and I were squeezed around the tot-sized table in the corner of our kitchen. Dribbles of yogurt adorned her dress. The dying batteries in the fridge barn magnet squeezed out some wheezing cow noises. I don’t remember what she said. I do remember the way her eyeballs pasted to mine as I crowed, “You are the cutest thing ever!” She got it. I saw it. I saw that thing I had begun Hoping for two and a half years ago: I saw my presence at home making a permanent tattoo of good on her life.
My unseen conviction had turned into assurance of things hoped for.
I’m convicted that Hope is the keenest-edged weapon in a stay-at-home mom’s arsenal. What else could allow us to face a day filled with dirty diapers, vomit, pee, poop, temper tantrums, whining, back talk, forgotten lunch boxes, lost coats, burned dinners, time outs, rolled eyes, carpools, and meltdowns, and still set our alarm clocks for 6 am to get up and do it all over again tomorrow? Being a stay-at-home mom isn’t about today. It’s very much about tomorrow. It’s about an iron-clad, deeply-rooted, sacrificial Hope that what we cannot see right now will indeed come true later.
It’s a Hope that makes it a little easier to get through those moments of 2:33 am angst when all else crumbles.
For some excellent guidance on making the whole stay-at-home-mom thing practically doable, I’d highly recommend reading Steady Days: A Journey Toward Intentional, Professional Motherhood by Jamie C. Martin. I think daily of her phrase “Intentional, Professional Motherhood.” Yeah. I like that.