Let me just begin by sending cheers to all stay-at-home moms out there diligently taking care of house, husband, and brood day in and day out without the advantage of having any maid or helper. I know there are lots of such moms out there, and I am full of admiration. Some even work (freelance or some business) on top of it all. Some even homeschool! It takes a certain type of person, a certain amount of energy and dedication, to do what they do. And at the moment, at least, I am nowhere near to being that type.
We’ve been making do with no yayas for almost two weeks now, and I am still feeling overwhelmed. For the past year, we have been able to rely on the assistance of two household helpers in taking care of the twins and doing housework, while I did home-based/freelance work. Like a lot of people, we also had some issues or niggling complaints with our yayas, but on the whole they’d been pretty much dependable. And to go from having two to having none at all is of course not an easy adjustment.
Of course it’s not, not by a long stretch. I’ve been pretty much spoiled the past year, considering. I didn’t do laundry, I rarely cooked, and I cleaned even less. What I did was buy groceries, issue directions on meals and other housework, and spend time with the twins. And because I was working at home, the twins were not even with me all day.
Now, suddenly, we had to do everything ourselves, and just to make things a little more interesting, a typhoon and ensuing electricity loss entered the mix. “We” here means me and Don (whenever he’s not working) plus either of the grandmothers who have been taking turns in staying with us to help us out. A cousin also helped out, but she had to go back home after a few days.
So this past week, work deadlines have been put in the back burner, and I’ve been doing all the typical stay-at-home-mom things. I cooked and cleaned. I washed poopy cloth diapers. I took showers with the bathroom door open. I did stuff in the kitchen with one hand while the other hand holds a baby (while fending off the other baby who’s underfoot and also wanting to be carried). And yes, damn it, I ate a Milky Way in front of my kid and watched her wail because I wouldn’t give her any.
It’s been almost two weeks, and one of the yayas are coming back from vacation in a couple of days. Relief is at hand, at least partially, and at least for the grandmothers, who can then go home. We have a couple of prospects for a new yaya that we hope will materialize. This crazy, exhausting period will soon end, and I can go back to working on my deadlines. I hope.
So what have I been learning these past two weeks? Pro moms know all these, but here are some of my recent realizations:
- Some types of food will never look or taste the same way again after you’ve seen them go out looking pretty much the same way they came in. I now have minor reservations about eating kangkong.
- If you have the patience, you can actually talk your unruly toddler into doing what you want. Enormous amounts of patience. Grabbing her, shouting at her, and rushing her will just lead to meltdowns, and not necessarily just hers. Realize that really, there’s no rush to put that other shoe on Twin A’s foot, the shoe that Twin B has decided to temporarily hostage. Establish negotiations, talk, and wait.
- Sometimes, maybe lots of times, you will grab, shout, or rush, just to get things done. And then you may feel bad about it afterwards. When that happens, take a deep breath, hug your kid, and get enveloped in love. As a parent, you are a work in progress. And as it turns out, building patience takes a long time.
- Watching your baby/toddler bring a spoonful of food into her mouth with not a drop spilled can be a highlight of your day. Treasure that moment, because it may immediately be followed by the baby deciding to upend the bowl onto her tray and sweep all the food to the floor.
- When washing poopy cloth diapers, a hose with a jet sprayer is your best friend.
- When you feel like you’re absolutely about to lose it, one smile from your child can save you from the brink. One smile. A split second. That’s all it takes. Then you are reminded why you are doing this, and you go on.
My biggest realization, my overall take away, however, is this: I don’t think I’m cut out for the pure stay-at-home-mom-with-no-helper gig. I’m just not. Is anybody really is, given the choice? I will do it if I have to, but so I won’t have to, I am now more determined than ever to make working at home actually work. I don’t know yet if I can actually sustain an income or even build a real career at it, but I am certainly going to try.
I want to stay at home and be with my kids. I want to do meaningful work that feeds my interest and creativity. I want to contribute to sustaining my household in a more significant way. I want to be able to sustain my family even when my husband pursues higher studies abroad (I basically want it all, don’t I? Is that so bad?). Even as I type this I feel scared at making such a public declaration, but I sort of feel that I have to. A year or two from now may see me eating my words and hacking it away at a full-time job again, but in the meantime, I’m just not ready to do that yet.
And so I end this with a prayer, a question, really: Lord, am I really where you need me to be right now? I have a feeling that I’m not, at least not fully, but with your grace, with your overflowing, awesome grace, let us work on it. Work on me. Grant me your wisdom, grant me your grace. Never let me go, even when, like an unruly toddler, I try to stray.