Stay at home moms get a bad rap. The laundry is never done. We live in leggings. Dinner gets slapped together because the kids won’t stop screaming. The house is a war zone. Annoying children’s songs invade our sleep for an hour before the baby starts screaming and that’s why we look like death warmed over.
It isn’t pretty. I don’t blame childless women not wanting to have kids. I don’t blame blame the moms who say they would rather work.
Then along comes THE mom. The mom we aspire to, the mom we envy. The mom in clean clothes with shiny hair. The mom with fresh baked cookies and angels instead of children. The mom with the pretty house ready for visitors. The mom who has empty laundry baskets and neat and tidy dresser drawers and closets.
It’s impossible! Alien invasion!
No. She isn’t an alien or just the nanny. She’s possible.
Sure, if you never sleep.
No, really. Okay, maybe my home isn’t magazine-worthy, but I’m that put-together mom. All it took was desire, dedication, and a helpful husband. That last one is key. Without my husband’s help, my job would be much harder.
Going into motherhood, I was friends with some established moms. They were my grad school classmates. They were slightly disorganized and prioritized family, but they were dedicated and put-together. I didn’t know about the stay-at-home-mom-in-leggings stereotype. So I had an image of a put-together mom who was more or less on top of everything. It became my image of motherhood and, if my friends could do it, so could I. Desire.
Those early days are hard. Trying to navigate caring for a baby while not getting sleep is hard. I knew I just needed to be patient. In time, this squirmy baby would grow up, be able to self-entertain, want to be helpful, and would sleep through the night. I just had to keep pushing through, establish routines, and keep my goal in sight. Dedication.
My husband doesn’t expect a spotless home. He knows I have my hands full and he’s willing to lend his hands. He’ll take charge of the kids so I get a moment to breathe. He wakes with the kids so I can catch up on my sleep. He does the dishes every day and helps pick up. Most of all, he’s understanding when I can’t do everything and doesn’t expect me to be able to do everything. He recognizes the value of what I do as a stay at home mom and supports me.
I’m able to be a put-together mom every day because I have the support I need and the drive. Yet, I don’t drive myself crazy trying to be anything close to the so-called perfect mom (just the perfect mommy to my little darlings).
I dress every single darn day. In clean clothes. I wear skirts and dresses and neat but comfortable shirts. It might seem like a lot of work, but I literally have one pair of leggings and zero sweat clothes. Because of what I choose to buy and keep in my drawers, I have no choice. It’s either dress neatly or run around in my undies. What helps is having a husband who will get up with the kids and feed them breakfast so I can get dressed, though, with what I have, it doesn’t take long to dress. And as a helpful bonus, I don’t wear make up. I don’t like the way it feels and it always makes me break out no matter what kind or brand it is. Besides, my daughter with just scratch it off with her claws. I mean nails. Though, when it comes to young children, what’s the difference?
I have long hair. Down just past my waist. Yes, I know I have two kids under 5. No, I don’t put it up. My kids get annoyed when I put my hair up, so it hangs loose. Sure, it gets pulled, but I like long hair, and it’s a good way to teach my kids to not pull on hair and to keep their hair brushed. My hair may be long, but it doesn’t take me long to brush it (for once it’s a hooray for the super shiny, super straight Asian hair) and I do it right after getting dressed and whenever I go out.
Taking Care of Chores
I’ll admit figuring out this one took a bit of time. Like 4 years. And it’s a perpetual work in progress. With kids literally hanging on to me for dear life and only letting daddy wear them, it took me all day just to cook. But once my youngest developed some independence, it was easier to implement a cleaning schedule. My home doesn’t get tidy all at once, but everything gets cleaned once a week or biweekly. Cleaning a relatively not that dirty home is easier and faster than letting it build up and doing it all at once. Only laundry takes more than the hour I allot. My kids help or they play by themselves, with the expectation that I play with them when I’m done. Sometimes I do it after they’ve gone to bed and my husband is doing the dishes. We clean up toys when we’re done playing with them and everything has a home. It’s helpful to have a helping husband and a schedule with room to breathe (ie, my kids are not drowning in outside activities).
Most moms hate laundry. I love laundry. There’s something very satisfying about folding clean clothes and filling up the drawers that makes me yearn for laundry day. I love doing laundry so much that sometimes I’ll glance around and just decide to wash something. It gets tossed in the machine and runs by itself while I drop my son off at preschool. Folding laundry with one kid on hand is easier than with two. But my laundry day is the day my son has off from school. It’s an established routine, though, and the kids have learned I play while the clothes are washing and drying and sometimes I give them hangers while I put the clothes away, so they don’t mind the time it takes me to fold. The key here, though, is being smart with my time, playing with the kids as much as possible, and establishing the routine in the first place. Loving laundry hasn’t hurt me, either. I just overdo it.
I’m a Baker
I love to bake. I’m even documenting my adventures in ratio baking. I bake an average of once a week. I bake with my kids. They sit on the counter and eat chocolate. They love baking days. Sometimes my son will ask if we can make something. I also think the mixer has a hypnotic effect. But they’ll do almost anything for chocolate. At nine in the morning, which is usually a no-no.
The Little Angels
My kids are almost 2 and almost 5. You’d think they’re holy terrors. But they’re not. Sure, my oldest will sometimes whine, but we always make sure we have toys and snacks when we’re out. I’ve been a firm, but loving disciplinarian who explains everything to my kids, so they’ve learned to listen when I demand it. They’re not allowed to bring devices when we go out so we’re able to teach them how to behave, how to comport themselves, how to ask properly for what they want, and how to entertain themselves without wrecking havoc. They’re also actually very well -behaved kids completely on their own. They’re wary of others, so they stay close to me. They like to be praised and rewarded, so they listen. They know we respect them, so will take their concerns seriously. Honestly, I just got lucky with my babies.
I’m not that perfect, polished mom, but neither do I aspire to be her. I just want to be put-together, to look nice, to have kids who also happen to be relatively well-behaved, and to have a presentable home. But I won’t kill myself to do it or sacrifice my family to get everything done. I’ve spent the better part of 5 years to get here and I’m proud of where I am.
There were a lot of days, weeks, months, and years where I was little more than a functioning zombie. My home was in tatters and I prayed my oldest wouldn’t start eating off the floor because I couldn’t remember the last time I’d even swept. I wore clean clothes, but didn’t match most of the time. I didn’t leave home very often without my husband and dinners out meant I focused more on not dropping my food on a child’s head instead of what, exactly, I was eating.
I’m not the so-called perfect mom, but I am put-together. It just took me almost 5 years to get here. As with everything, things take time, and desire.