Friday, May 10, 2013

Stay-At-Home Survivor

My eyelids are heavy, but I can't go to bed yet. I'm finally mindlessly trolling the internet, all by myself, and this time must be cherished. I've been asking myself recently why I bother to blog, and there are a few things I come back to, but as it pertains to motherhood, one of the big ones is just a sort of therapy. I can be meandering in my delivery of my thoughts, both in writing and in person, but in the end, I like to feel as if I've thought through some things and at least cast off my burdens in the form of released thoughts. I call this "mom barf."

I've become a modern 50's-housewife without even realizing it. I cook, I clean, I watch the baby, I Pin stuff, I do the occasional shoddy DIY. Then, I blog about cooking, cleaning, baby watching, and my failed DIY. I dress up for church, I work my mind-numbing part-time job, and occasionally find myself with a new pair of shoes when I can no longer stay in the house with my wildly social child and resort to retail therapy for me, big-boy chair in public for him. He's pretty much destined for Broadway at this point.

Our typical day (when it's not my turn to go to work) goes something like this: Giggle and play time in Mama and Daddy's bed after everyone wakes up happy and rested. Ishmael plays by himself for a while as I deliberate whether to start a household chore I know I won't have time to complete or check Pinterest. I love the days where Jonas and I are home at the same time because we can actually accomplish something. Next in our day, we go on an outing, whether that's a long walk, a trip to the pet store in the mall, farmer's market, or errands. Then, nap time. Then, he eats a whole banana. Mommy is on the brink of insanity until dinner, Squish plays with the mirror and starts to be pleasant again. Bath time, story time. Dad gets home, which is Ishmael's favorite. Mom gets sucked into staying up late to do her own thing, and is so exhausted the next day. Repeat. This is "Stay-At-Home Survivor", and Ishmael gets voted off the Island at 8:30, his bed time. I try and not get voted off by him during the day.

I'm both thankful for and sick of the affects of the feminist movement. The young wives I know, particularly those who already have a child, are in the feminist backlash of actually loving the stay-at-home routine. In fact, it's a status symbol and a luxury to be homey again (even if most of us are part of the workforce too, in one way or another). And I know there is some amazing connection to be made between yesterday's tupperware parties and today's blogging (or internet presence), but I can't quite formulate it correctly. At the same time, I think all moms want to feel important and like they're contributing to society and making a difference above and beyond rearing their children, and as frowned upon as that can be in some circles, I think it's a legitimate and God-given desire.

When I'm home alone in the evening (Jonas works night shifts sometimes), I feel a manic hyena laugh bubbling up in me when I think about trying to plan ahead in my life right now, or perhaps ever again. I frequently get an urge to write enormous slogans in red letters on my living room walls because that's how badly I need to be reminded of some really basic things on a daily basis. I've considered, "this too shall pass," "day by day, bird by bird, blow by blow," or perhaps even "you are a good mom."

I get really fired up when I look at the class line-up for finishing my degree (Middle Eastern Studies), but then I remember that I work and have a baby (and won't wait too long to have another) and want to still have fun, meaningful other stuff in my life. When I tally up all the things I'm trying to do and want to do and think I should be doing, I feel like I'm going to have a seizure. Or at least lay down on the floor and not get up until someone brings me ice cream. I think it was Anne Lamott who said "parenthood is like having a terminal illness, in a good way." That feels especially true when I start talking with other people and realizing how crazy I'm becoming in my isolation from my peers who are still busy playing beer pong and forming bands and my desperation to feel like I matter on the basis of my own skills. I'm so irritated that I feel the need to qualify that statement every time I say it by explaining that I do think motherhood and wifedom are worthy pursuits. I was so encouraged that my mom, who is the ultimate stay at home mom in favor of giving your all to your household (and we loved her for it) totally got it and cut me off from making further excuses when I expressed a desire to matter beyond my familial duties (joyous as they are; here I go again).

The entire scale of what I consider life has shrunk considerably since becoming a mom (which is not always bad). I am often frustrated, feeling like I simply can't DO things (because of having to do everything in 2 minute spurts as I keep Ishmael from various perilous deaths), but in the moments where I come to terms with that, I sure love that boy's smile.

We actually go shopping a lot, because it helps us get through the week, but it's not like I have a high paying job. Retail therapy has hit a whole new level of simultaneous necessity and impracticality in my life, and as someone brilliant once said, "If you think money can't buy happiness, you don't know where to shop." However, in my defense, we still accomplish being out and about and not having tantrums (both of us) even if we don't buy stuff and I mostly get home with kid's books from Goodwill, so I feel like that's a worthy investment. That, or shoes.

Ishmael stays pretty happy when I take him shopping because he likes to look around and be on the move. And he's crazy talented at smiling HUGELY right at the moment when strangers say, "he is so cute." Then they shriek in joy. He commands an adoring public. Jonas actually hates it when people "intrude" to comment on or engage with Ishmael, but as with being pregnant, I happen to totally love this new world of everyone being connected through shared experiences of parenthood. Ishmael brings smiles to people who would never have looked at me twice on my own (and I'm not saying that self-deprecatingly), and I love that he's a doorway into comradery like that.

Thanks be to God, Ishmael and I are friends now. I was giving up hope in months 3 to 6, but we're currently on the same page with liking each other, even when we don't go shopping. Cool. I need one of those good day/bad day rocks to flip over depending on our daily friendliness level or a Lilo and Stitch chart of "this is your badness level today. It's unusually high for someone your size." It would only be fair for him to have one of me too, though I have a lot of potential for bad-mom-ness because I got the tall genes from my dad's side of the family and therefor my outline has a lot of space for badness levels. [image]

I am becoming a tiny-chore ninja: Fold laundry for 10 minutes. Clean one surface. Put half the laundry away. Sweep under one chair. Chop a cucumber. It's incredible how little I can get done now and still consider my day productive. Parenthood should be subtitled, "a massive adjustment in expectations" (among other much more wonderful things, of course). Oh, and I forgot to mention the finding a new toy, picking up the baby, or taking him on a 1 minute walk that goes between each of those things. It's like living with someone with bipolar disorder. One moment, you look over and he's grinning like a mad man. the next moment, you hear a wail, turn around, and he's face down on the other side of the room. Whaaaat?

Indeed, he's learning to crawl (mostly towards wires and people's toes) and has already accomplished the obligatory tumble off our bed, and I have resorted to drinking coffee multiple times a week, for the first time in my life. Not international moves, nor college finals, nor wedding planning ever moved me to take it up before.

Never the less, I've learned a trick or two. Such as this ultimate play time set up. Let me just explain this, in case your child can sit, but not crawl yet (alas, that only lasts for a short time and so this set up is already outdated for Ishmael). It's kind of like "If You Give A Mouse A Cookie", but instead, if you sit your baby down on a blanket..., he will probably need some cushions and blankets around him to soften the fall if he tumbles over. As he attempts not to fall over, he will realize that he'd like to be entertained, and you should introduce a mirror for his enjoyment along with one or two toys (not too many or he'll hate them all). Once he sees the mirror, he will want to meet himself, so be sure to put a little blanket at the foot of the mirror to soften the blow of lunging into it. When you see the multiplied sunshine in the mirror, you will realize that you should probably get an umbrella to keep your child from getting sunburned. When he sees the umbrella, he will realize it's his greatest desire to hold on to the handle and constantly move it from shadowing him in any way. When you realize the futility of your perfect mom-ideas, you will just have to be happy that he's happy, and leave it at that.

Every time you feel like you finally have the hang of something (like this set up), it's bound to change. Babies don't really form habits like adults do. And they can break habits much more quickly too. It makes me feel a little bit like being a deep sea diver - every day when I put my feet down over the edge of my bed, I'm plunging into a whole new dimension of the unknown since yesterday's unknown which I may or may not have conquered the day before. But it's breathtakingly deep blue beauty, in the midst of the terror.

It sort of mortifies me that moms with grown children are still giving me that "knowing look" that makes me panic deep down. Like they know a hilarious secret as I'm here trying to tell myself the trials of parenthood are just a phase. Like they know how big the iceberg really is. I don't exactly find it discouraging, but in light of mother's day and the way parenthood is a part of the rest of my life, I start thinking of what Jad Abumrad from Radiolab said about our actual influence as parents being only "a blip in a very, very long story." I make myself out to be such an integral part of Ishmael's life, and in a way I am, but ultimately, he will become an independent man and what is my life's work will be but a puzzle piece in the picture of his being.

As we approach this weekend, I'm rolling my eyes at all the anti/alternate views of Mother's Day floating around. It's like Valentine's Day haters got bored of raging against those of us who are in relationships. Celebrating mothers doesn't subliminally say that women without kids aren't worth celebrating. How about you just let me enjoy the things I've done right in peace, ok? It doesn't mean you've failed your life if you don't have a kid or a spouse, but I feel like I've scored in my life because I do. So I will accept presents and extra love, ok-ok? I'm tired of reading stuff that makes me feel suddenly guilty for something I don't need to feel guilty about. Sometimes it feels like I'm barely holding my "poo-poo" together, despite my friends and family who are very supportive and take Ishmael from me whenever I need a break. But Ishmael Azure Rajan, there is nothing on God's green earth that I'd rather be than your mama.


  1. An amazing amount of great nuggets in here! Great read. Let's get together to vent.

  2. Karissa, thank you. This is absolutely great! I applaud you for being a mommy, and for standing up for that principle! I totally understand what you mean about being "in between" and having to justify the worthiness of being a godly wife (and mom). This is something my husband and I have had to deal with a lot recently (well, not the mom part... yet). Not part of the youth group at church, but not yet adults in the eyes of the adults (this is particularly irritating since we're working towards the mission field). We'll even turn down engagements with friends, just to spend time with each other; but then we have to justify that spending time with our spouse is godly and good for us and our marriage.
    In the end, we can't let other people pull us down because they don't understand. God established marriage, and Jesus showed us what marriage is supposed to look like. As Christians, that's all that should matter.

    Happy Mother's Day to you, Karissa! Be encouraged, and God bless!

  3. I think, especially as MKs, we have an even stronger desire to do something bigger with our lives than "just" be a mom. Though it may have looked like our moms were going about their normal duties (with maybe a little ministry mixed in), their entire lives were framed by the fact that they'd given up everything and moved to the field. And don't even get me started on growing up with helpers and watching your mom get to actually do things because housework wasn't an issue. There's a lot out there to help MKs transition into college, but nothing can prepare you for the mundane-ness of being a stay-at-home mom. After you've met in secret house-churches, climbed the Great Wall, ridden elephants, and learned several languages how are you supposed to gather up the motivation to clean the bathrooms... again? I'm still figuring it out. I'm still asking God to either show me the meaning and worth in my daily routine or give me the chance to get involved in something else.

    Thanks for writing this! So much empathy pouring out your way. Happy Mother's Day!


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