I’ve been thinking about writing this post for awhile, and indeed I had intended to last month, but then I realized I had only been home with the baby two weeks—the length of time I’m usually home with her during Christmas vacation. I really felt like I needed to give it some more time before I could really weigh in on the SAHM gig.
The first week was bliss. I didn’t stick to the work schedule I had created (more on that later) and simply overdosed on time with Isobel. It was lovely, but I got nothing done, and what I did manage to accomplish, I did so inefficiently. Efficiency, I’ve learned, isn’t just a workforce trait: it’s necessary when you work at home with a toddler underfoot as well.
The second week was Anthony’s vacation. What remnants of the schedule we did stick to went out the window when we took off for San Jose and did massive amounts of yard work. The week after that shall be known as The Week of the Tantrum. That was a hard week, and it seemed that the days were one long sobbing and/or screaming fit from Isobel. But we got through it and I learned more about it and now when I see one starting, I have a better idea of what to do or not do, and to accept it when it comes.
Some time after that, our whole family took turns getting really sick with the nasty summer cold that’s been making the rounds. Yay. Yet throughout the vacations and the tantrums and the illnesses, a pattern began to emerge. I had a weekly schedule all picked out but a daily schedule developed, and that is what I lean on when times get tough.
This isn’t always how things unfold, but when a day is going well, it’s pretty close to it. This schedule allows for everything to get done and for Isobel and I to have the time we need. The times I’m listing are approximate, mostly to show you about how long we devote to activities, but nap time is sort of sacred around here, and we keep it as close to 2:00 as possible, meaning the day goes smoothly if we stay on this track. I keep things like fruit, vegetables, whole grain crackers and turkey or chicken on hand for mini-meals when the stretch between my mealtimes is too long.
This isn’t to say that we are perfect, nor that we get everything done. On the contrary, there’s so much to do that usually something’s gotta give: maybe I don’t eat as well as I should, or the laundry adds up, or I don’t get a shower that day. Mostly it’s my Etsy shop that has born the brunt of this, as I have easily a hundred items stashed away that I need to upload. At best, once I get caught up on some project that need tending and some things that I let go while I was working, I can stick to this schedule and bathe at the same time. A girl’s gotta dream.
So far, our days look something like this:
6:00-7:00 Get up; usually after six but before seven.
7:00-8:30 We do our morning chores, get ourselves dressed and ready, and we eat.
(8:00ish While Isobel plays, I drink my coffee and enjoy between 15-20 minutes of internet time, when I check into twitter, answer my mail, and post the link for whatever post I have up that day.)
8:30-12:00 After that we have our morning stretch: from about 8:30 until noon we tackle whatever is going on that day. This is the chunk of the day when useful and/or fun things happen. What we do here also depends on what day of the week it is.
12:00-1:00 At noon we have lunch, and sometimes start dinner (depending on the menu for that night).
1:00-2:00 We have an hour to play before nap time. If it’s under 95 degrees, we go outside.
2:00-3:30 Nap time! While she sleeps, I work out and edit photos.
4:00-5:00 After nap time, Isobel gets a bit of TV time while I clean up the day’s mess and start dinner.
5:00-5:30 I cook while Isobel plays nearby.
5:30-6:00 After Anthony gets home, we eat.
6:00-6:30 When dinner is done, Anthony and I clean the kitchen while Isobel begs incessantly to go outside.
6:30-8:00 Usually we go outside and generally have family time until about 8:00 pm when we come inside and begin our night time routine. Sometimes we stay in and clean, watch a movie, hang out, or run errands.
8:00-9:00 After the last story is read it’s usually 9:00 and I catch up on my blogroll or instagram from my phone while waiting for Isobel to sleep. Then I get ready for bed, fall asleep, and the whole thing starts over the next day.
During that large 8:30-12:00 stretch, I focus on one of these projects:
* I devote one day a week to the house and various household projects, usually including meal planning, cleaning out the fridge and the pantry, organization and improvement projects, shopping, and errands.
Aside: One thing I don’t do a lot of on this day (or any other day) is cleaning. I take care of the chores such as the dishes, some laundry, maybe a quick toilet scrub down or a general pick-up, but as a rule I don’t dust, mop or sweep or do actual cleaning while I am home with the baby. Taking care of her, focusing on my business, and picking up after ourselves are enough. The deep-cleaning happens on weekends and after work, times when Anthony is around to help. He is completely supportive of cleaning together, and it’s important for me that Isobel sees cleaning modeled in a partnership, and not as “woman’s work.”
* I devote two days a week to my business. I get the bulk of my blogging done, I edit photos, I sell photos to Getty, I work on photography for clients, and I upload to Etsy. (So far Etsy has gotten the shaft, but I hope to clear up more time for uploading items in the near future.) My mom or Anthony’s Grandma helps with Isobel during this time.
* The remaining four days of the week are days that I do specific activities with Isobel: swimming, play dates, the water park, visiting family, going to the playground, and just generally having adventures. Two of these days usually fall on the weekends, so Anthony is included, or friends and family that normally work on the weekdays. On Wednesdays we like to have play dates with Kingston, and although we don’t always have an elaborate trip to the zoo, they always find ways to entertain each other. Friday we see baby Abby and go to the Farmer’s Market. I of course spend quality time with Isobel on the remaining three days, but our focus is the tasks that need to get done.
As you can see from this schedule, we are limited to doing things in the morning as lunch and nap time get in the way of the afternoon, and then once she wakes up I’m starting on dinner, but fortunately we’ve been able to find classes and activities and people up for doing stuff in our time frame.
I have learned (sadly, the hard way more than a few times) not to leave the house this summer without these:
Hello Kitty Water Bottle: when it’s this hot, water’s a necessity even if we’re just going to the store. It closes tightly so I can throw it in my purse without worrying about leaks, but Isobel can sip out of the straw from her car seat without making a mess.
Cloth Napkins: for wiping the never-ending snotty nose, cleaning up after food related incidents, or wiping off hands that have been playing in the dirt.
Snacks: usually granola bars but sometimes cheese. Purse granola has rescued so many a doomed shopping trip by now that I’m nominating it for sainthood.
Diaper bag and the umbrella stroller: they pretty much live in my trunk at this point.
These are some of the really fun things we’ve been focusing on this summer.
Gardening – along with the pergola we have planted a sunflower, marigolds, poppies, onions, pumpkins and butternut squash. All of this with the help of our good friend Jake! Additionally I’ve been growing succulents forever and just started an herb garden.
Dress up – at any given moment, we are all wearing necklaces or some other form of dress-up garment. Even Zorro.
Cooking, both pretend (her) and for reals (me) – necessary on my part—good thing I enjoy it.
Play dates with friends – we’ve had a lot of fun with Kingston and Victoria especially.
Thrifting – Mostly fun for me, but Isobel loves a chance to discover new treasures.
Playing with Grandparents – she loves visiting their houses.
Swimming lessons and the kiddie pool – and painting, obviously.
Cleaning out clutter – fun for me, naturally, but Isobel loves it, too because she gets to play with things she’s never seen before.
Farmer’s Market – I push Isobel around in the stroller while she shouts MORE FRUIT! MORE FRUIT!, usually in Spanish.) I’m going to be so sad when this closes for the season.
This is how things are right now, and I know it’s subject to change. Summer will end at some point, the Farmer’s Market and fruit stands will close, and the water park will be shut down. Our long days painting in the backyard will be over. And yet that is okay because I feel like we haven’t been taking advantage of all the things I could be doing with Isobel: toddler story time at the library will start back up in September, and there’s tumbling classes, arts and crafts sessions, Mommy and Me. I want to eventually join the Moms’ Club. Our days are so full already; we don’t have to do it all. But it’s nice to have options.
The best thing about staying home, and the most surprising, is how much closer Isobel and I have become. I am so much more patient with her because I understand her more fully. I know how certain moods will play out and the impetus for some of her seemingly mysterious mood swings. I didn’t expect our relationship would change once I stayed home, but it really has. Each day we know each other better and I bask in our closeness. It’s strange, because as mother and daughter, I didn’t think we could get closer, but we have.
It’s not all sweetness and light, and every day has frustrations and challenges. I don’t expect this to change as she gets older, either. Sometimes I don’t get a break from her for days, and I’m slowly acclimating to that. It’s hard, it’s damn hard, but we are having a great time.
A very good friend of mine was worried I’d regret my decision once the summer started. I can easily say not at all. I am so happy with my decision, even if I am not happy every moment I am at home. I was not happy when I had the cold and still had to watch the baby, nor was I happy when she was throwing her epic tantrums. I was really unhappy in that moment. But I am happy with my decision, and I still have moments of just being totally blissed-out. It’s not easy, nor do I have lots of time that’s not already scheduled, but I am so very happy.