September 5, 2012

Confessions of a Stay-at-home-Mom

Time goes, you say? Ah no.
Alas. Time stays. We go.

 Henry Austin Dobson (1840-1921)

I came upon the above quotation a few days ago, and it struck me as particularly fitting for our family life as we embark on another school year - another school year in a long line of many, but with a very different feeling about it. I only have my two girls in public school now, one in grade eleven at the high school (her second-to-last year), and one in her last year of elementary school, which means grade six in our system here. The eldest began a term at a college in Vancouver this week and our second eldest, recently graduated from high school will spend this year working part time and taking a number of specialized music theory and history courses, as well as continued violin instruction, to prepare him for his Royal Conservatory examinations. He will remain at home for another year, which makes me happy, and I believe, him too. One child leaving home at a time seems like enough to me. I've never been very good at transition.

Yesterday, as my husband and I were busy in the back yard trimming the shrubs and cutting back the relentless ivy, our older daughter came out on the deck and asked what was for supper. As I pressed the back of my gardening gloved hand against my forehead, I responded that I was thinking of something easy to make, like nachos. She doesn't like the effect of nachos on her skin so she offered to make pizza. That would be the second or third time she has volunteered to make supper this summer, and while I have been very happy to let her do so each time, a small, wistful part of me has sighed because it is just one more sign that she is growing up. Don't get me wrong, I'm not one to be always wishing for small children again - I remember well how much work it was, how physical and demanding it was - I just wish their growing up had not happened quite so seemingly overnight.

These first few weeks with our son Ian living in Vancouver has been a bit strange. I fully admit to him being more than ready to be on his own, and to being somewhat ready for him to move out and move on with his life, but still, the house feels much emptier without him. His old room, now his youngest sister's, used to be crammed and messy with musical instruments and equipment, books and CD's strewn across the floor, posters of bands plastering the walls, and that particular teenage boy smell many of us know all too well - eau de potato chips and wet sock. After we moved him to his new place, we spent a week deep-cleaning his room and the room his sisters used to share, then painting and reorganizing. Now his old room is sparsely furnished with a few pictures, a bed, dresser and book case, some assorted girl things and a basket full of stuffed animals. Our youngest is beyond the toy stage so it remains to be seen what she will fill her new space with. I predict lots of writing paper everywhere, although, so far, she is keeping her new space fairly neat and tidy.

I am so glad I had a fourth child who will remain at home with us for a good number of years yet, so my adaptation to an empty nest will be allowed to happen gradually. She, and her dad and I were up at our favourite lake on Sunday. The other two who still live at home were both working at their summer jobs. As we set up our blankets in front of a log large enough to be a backrest, my husband said, "Just think. In a few years this will be us. All the time." I responded slyly, "You never know, someone may move back home by then," to which he said, "Oh no they won't." While my husband is incredibly proud of our children and their accomplishments, he would be lying if he said he wasn't looking forward to some more time and money to spend on ourselves.

And I? What will I do as my children advance further into independence? While the world and my bank account keep on suggesting I find some regular paid work, rather than temporary short stints sprinkled sparsely throughout the year, I still long to be primarily at home. I need to keep some brain space and some little corner of time to keep up the writing (see previous post for an expansion of this thought). I need to be free to cook properly for my family because that is the best way I know of taking good care of them. I need to regulate my energy so I have enough left over at the end of the day for my kids, for my overworked husband, and for the driving (and the driving instruction) I have to do this coming year. I find it interesting that many people believe that once their children become teenagers they need their parents less. In my experience, teenagers' needs change but they demand more 'presence' from their parents than ever. Emotional presence, especially.

Our household has always worked best with a household manager at the hub, and at this point that person is me. While Ian's move has changed the dynamic in our house noticeably, the need for me to carry on being 'Mom' has not changed. Three children still at home is not that much less than four - and there is one less person around now to help with the dishes. I carry on with my volunteer work, because that is also done from home and I believe I make a contribution there. Flexibility is the key to any commitment I make, though, especially since my husband has a second job as a head coach for our local Football Academy (that's soccer, not American football), which gives him both an integral mental and physical outlet for the stress of working in the hotel industry, but it does add yet another spoke to the household manager's hub.

As my children continue to 'go', as the quotation says, Time and I will stay at the center of our family life, managing everything with our own brand of controlled chaos. Someday, I may 'go' too. Just not yet.

Tree in Autumn by Emily Carr


  1. This is sweet and hits very close to home. Our oldest just moved out to college and I'm still getting used to missing him, even though the house is less cluttered and the grocery bill is significantly cheaper.

    Stay-at-home-mom is my favorite job in my list of occupations. The "goal" of it has always been to eventually work myself out of a job, but I'm glad our youngest is just 12.

    Touching quote.

    1. It's funny. This post started as a rant against the economic forces leading to the sinking of the middle class, but it ended up just turning into some kind of blubbering on about kids growing up too fast. I published it anyway.
      I'm glad it hit home with you. This is big stuff, isn't it! Kids leaving the nest. I'm also noticing that the food lasts a lot longer.

  2. amen! my favorite days are spent with happy children laying around my has been near on 7 years since mine fully left the nest and though i admit that i have grown to love the quiet times, this house is not truly a home without them.

    i believe stay at home motherhood is the most highly under-rated, underpaid, over looked and rewarding job in the world..

    1. Yeah, I love quiet, too, but I also like their hubbub.

      Amen to your second paragraph. I spent years trying to prove I was more than just a stay at home mom.

  3. Your mate thinks he will have more money to do things, does he now ?. And him in the hotel trade !, for shame. The pair of you have about ten years to pull the price of two weddings from thin air. And regardless of how well they are doing, you'll be putting a few percent into their first house, for all of them. Unless of course one of them finds a multi-millionaire.
    Then the presents for the grandkids. Think on the cost of the birthdays and Christmas your 'rents have with all of theirs. Heck they'd probably have bought another house :-D
    Extra money, HAHAHAHA, the poor deluded man.

    1. Vince, a father's got to have his dreams! Otherwise the drudgery is just drudgery.
      And what's this about paying for weddings and houses? Not bloody likely.

  4. You have the right title for this post! I wonder what my confessions will be if I give it some thought. Maybe when my high school junior goes to college in less than 2 years, my confessions will be similar to yours. At the moment, my two youngest are dragging the dog back and forth with a stuffed toy - loudly. And I'm trying to wind down.

    Yes, I guess I'll miss them. :)

    You must have a part 2, 3, and 4... as the years go on.

  5. Actually, as the months go on, as your feelings are sure to evolve at a pace faster than the exit of each child. I'll be waiting for the next episode of "Confessions of a Stay-at-home Mom." :)


I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!