To Visit This Playlist Click Here
Like books, down pillows, encouraging podcasts, bear hugs from Andrew, bone broth, and a sometimes that big glass red wine at the end of a long day, music is a balm to my soul. It’s a thick salve that heals and helps and gives hope. It’s a marker of time, a finish line, and a dance party in the making. It’s one of my essentials, the sound of music, and a seasonal marker. It’s good company, too.
I do believe I have mentioned this before, although perhaps not as much as I have mentioned my love for mothering and my staying home with our kids, but there there is absolutely another side of the coin of staying home all day and being the caregiver for little ones whose needs are unrelenting. This side, the challenging one, is not always shared on social media.
Let me shout a resounding “YES!” that the deliciously good outweighs the difficult ten-fold, but that doesn’t mean it erases it. Parents of small children who are in this season alongside me, I know you feel it too. That yes, there are hard days, easier ones, afternoons that are unbearably quiet, mornings that hurt ears, nights that can drag on, moments that bless, minutes that can be strangely lonely, times you want to bottle up and preserve like the way the sun shines on their fine hair, and then there are strings of hours that ultimately require more than I as a person am able to give. Sometimes I feel this all at once, but probably it’s more like I feel this all at once all of the time. Sometimes it stings. Sometimes it feels empty. Sometimes it overflows my cup. Sometimes it feels overwhelmingly close. Other times, it’s feels like a distant like a bird on top of a barn. It’s really difficult to explain (especially to strangers) what it’s like mothering small children without seeming like I don’t appreciate my role or my family, but I think that’s because we live in a “I’m fine! Good vibes only!” society. I do appreciate them more than anything else, but in light of honesty, I happen to be very happy and also very drained. And I don’t think a nap or a vacation will fix it. And I also think it’s okay to say that.
Parenting is all over the place. Like our weather in the Midwest, nothing is predictable nor consistent. It’s like you smell your baby, and miss them when they nap, and then cry because you can’t shower alone so you don’t, and then you cry again because of the guilt because someone just told you that it’s all meant to be enjoyed, and you know that already but you know that it’s also just really hard. Tell me you have these days too. Tell me, that even though you are never alone, that you are never not being touched or sat on, you sometimes feel like there’s no one else out there who gets it…like everyone in the world is moving all around doing things to keep it moving, and you’re trying to figure out where the heck you fit into that or even if you want to?
Tell me that even though you are content and love staying home, you could really use a little something to pick you up and hold you for a moment during your day. Something perhaps, to shine like a lantern in a cave. Tell me I am not the only one who could use a long phone call with a dear friend, or a mug of hot tea in bed, or just fifteen minutes of yoga solo. Together, let’s encourage and embrace the things that help us rise up and seek joy in the mess of our days. There is magic in the mundane, but we like anyone else must cultivate that magic like the work it is an engage in the little things that make us smile. What a courageous and beautiful way to live, I think.
And because I’ve said it before, you know this too: I wouldn’t want any other life, nor do I want this phases of mothering babies to skip pages like a book in the wind. However, because I am “in it” so to speak, I think it’s healthy to acknowledge and share mothering with all of it’s chapters, not just highlight the feel-good ones. I also know enough about myself in this point in my life to know that I need a few things to help me through it, music being one of them.
Like most of you, sounds of the holiday are a staple in our home right now. From the time I wake up, throughout the day and into supper, I’ve always got something playing around the house that makes things flow more smoothly. It’s like a little escape, something that’s just mine. I’ve put together a playlist to take us into Christmas and thereafter. I am sure by now you are tired of many of the traditional holiday tunes out there, so I’ve created a playlist that leans more towards the folksy side. It’s really beautiful and I hope it shines a light and spreads holiday cheer in your home. And remember parents, it’s okay and healthy even to say that it’s hard. It’s okay to feel more than one thing at once and to not fall back on the passive “I’m fine!” when someone asks you how you truly are.
Sarah Keller - Oh yes! It’s really really good and really really hard, all at once. I’ve got four, ages five and under, and sometimes you just want to talk about some of the harder parts- not to solicit advice- but just to be able to be honest and reach out to some others who will (hopefully) understand. To be reminded that we’re not alone. Then…when the responses are the well-meaning platitudes like “babies don’t keep” and “don’t worry about not being able to get literally any housework done” (despite being home ALL DAY, hahaha), it can be a bit frustrating. But I’m with you, music makes SUCH a big difference! Sometimes I forget how much it helps until I turn it on and feel how instantly soothing it is. I also just stumbled upon a REALLY good book called (what else?) “Desperate”- haha!- by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson. I’ve read a handful of books on motherhood but this one is BY FAR the best! Anyway, thanks for the honest post! It’s always encouraging to know that all of us mothers are in it together 🙂
Rachel Vinson - Your posts are always such a breath of fresh air! And I don’t think I could have more accurately expressed what I feel most days mothering a 6 & 2 yr old like you did in this post. It’s so contenting to know that you are not alone in these thoughts. Thank you and God Bless, Rachel
Michelle - It’s like you took this straight out of my brain. I feel this exact same way every moment of every day.
Sonia - You are certainly not alone. Thank you for shining a light on the complexity of this season in life. The best days can also be the most difficult. There are unbearably precious moments followed by sorrow or loneliness or intense frustration. “For every profound truth, the opposite is also true.” I forget who said this, but it absolutely rings true for me in motherhood.
Lauren S - “Homemaking is surely in reality the most important work in the world. What do ships, railways, mines, cars, government, etc. exist for except that people may be fed, warmed, and safe in their own homes? The homemaker’s job is the one for which all others exist.” – C.S. Lewis
It is difficult, even amongst our own sex to reverberate not only the importance of a stay-at-home parent’s work, but also the incredible hardship involved in doing so at this particular time in American culture. There is an overwhelming absence of parents willing or able to stay at home. Tribe mentality is long gone, and even our parents are likely to still at their age be in the workforce, so there is little guidance and very few role models. We pull from memories of our childhood on how to parent- the good, the bad, but that’s not sufficient enough to sustain us, keep our cups full, brace our falls. It is truly challenging (like never before) to stay home with your children.
There is little to no support for stay at home parents: physically, emotionally, culturally, governmentally, and socially. The toughness is often misunderstood, so instead lean on the righteousness of the work, not matter how we falter. So long as we move forward in our vision of the homelife all children deserve: a loving, caring home where emotions are embraced, imperfect humanness is embraced, forgiveness always prevails, and children witness perseverance from the person most precious and impactful to them. This is what it really looks like to try against the odds. Those in it know that maintaining our resolve to be an always-available support system for our young ones is overwhelmingly better than an alternative figure or system to do this intimate human work. And I am just one person in it with you, that acknowledges your hurt and your amazing strength simply in trying your best at it. Much love.
Claire - Amen, and Amen 💕
Amy - Amanda, a lovely post as always. Do you know what really resonated with me though? That a nap or vacation won’t fix it. I have never actually acknowledged that. Sometimes I might be given an hour or two to myself or I might even have a full night’s sleep but yet it doesn’t seem to make a difference to how physically drained I feel. My eldest has just turned six (which is shocking, how did that happen?) and I am only realising how important self care is because how healthy the mother is directly determines how patient and present she can be with her children. And how much you can enjoy this very special time in our lives.
Krista - You are not the only one. Thank you for your honest words. I resonate with each one.
Laurence Dessureault - Oh please, Amanda. Can you please share where I can find a rug like you’re?
Pati from London - You have expressed it so well, Amanda. The work of the homemaker nowadays is very hard. I think I and many of us were brought up to become career women, go to Uni, find good jobs, but as soon as I had kids (I have 3) I quickly realised that combining a career with the needs of my children was not an easy task both physically and mentally….. I was mentally unprepared for the relentless demands…
As a foreigner living in London with no family to help us close by, motherhood was rewarding albeit very challenging. After the birth of my second child I stopped working and became a stay at home mum. It was certainly the best for my kids, I made loads of friends and I enjoyed focusing in the little but important things in life. However, There were days when I felt lonely, exhausted, misunderstood, Irritable with the kids…. I missed the mental stimulus, the lack of time to myself. I felt lost as an individual in my own life.
I then decided to go back to Uni, which I did part-time in the evenings. It was hard but I loved it. I was able to both look after them and feed my brain. As the kids grew older and went to school I felt things became a bit easier. I finished my University degree and when all my 3 kids went to school, I managed to get a job at the same school.
I would say things get easier with time ( my oldest is coming up to 11) and I am happy that my job allows me to have the same holidays and timetable as my kids. I think that I am happier now, it’s been a learning curve. Would I change things? Probably not. Like another reader says, I would say that taking care of yourself is very important to keep strong for your family and for your mental sanity….
it is good to hear many of us feel the same. My friends certainly did. Most of them became stay at home mums but little by little they are returning to work.
I wish you a cosy and restful Christmas, Pati xx
Kiley - I am not a stay-at-home mother, but I am a single mother of 3 small children. I have been on my own for a year and a half with them now, and I am just now starting to feel all of these emotions that you have so eloquently put into words (my youngest is in the terrible two stage, yikes!). It’s so comforting knowing I’m not alone. We’re not alone, yet here to support each other through the rough times. Because sometimes when I talk to those closest to me, they make me feel as if they don’t understand and I end up feeling guilty and thinking something must be wrong with me for feeling the way I do. But there’s not, women just don’t always talk about these things openly. Anyway, I feel you, and understand, and am sending encouragement from afar!
Riva - I’m really loving this playlist. Thanks for taking time to compile it and sharing with us!
Michelle Schneider - I feel ya girl! Mothering is wonderful and hard and lonely all at the same time. It seems like perhaps loneliness shouldn’t be in the equation, but it certainly is at times, it’s so good to hear I’m not the only one who feels it all at once all the time!
Molly - Thank you, thank you, thank you for this!!!! You put into words something I feel so strongly myself. Sending lots of love your way from a kindred spirit raising my little ones in Queens, NY! And thanks for sharing the playlist, I so needed that!
Stefanie Bush - Like you said, we all need those things that pick us up and hold us, and I do believe those things are carefully found and cultivated -much like you did with this with this lovely playlist- as we put time into self-care. Self care is making your own coffee before the kids’ breakfast because it may be that one thing that calms enough to allow patience to flow instead of frustration. Yes, every d*** day it feels like I am the only mother who can’t get it together enough to accomplish anything. Yet in most of our world (western culture being the exception) m o t h e r i n g is the most accomplished task/trade of all, and revered as such. I truly feel that those of us who feel such angst over it all will one day be rewarded with the fruit of our hours and hours of careful cultivation, this time referring to our precious “big kids” and babies.
Kimberly - At one time, I had three under four years old. I love being a mom and being at home with them. And it’s overwhelming. It just is.
Now, the youngest is six. It’s like a whole new world. It’s soooo much easier! Truly. We’re still together 24/7 because we homeschool and run our businesses from home, but the daily work of it all is just easier. Not always easy, but it’s certainly easier.
Hang in there! And play some music!!
Zosia - Thank you for your post! ♡ This is absolutely about me…! Yes, I feel alone sometimes and lost. And thank you for writing it so well, with honesty, from your heart – it’s like seeing my own thoughts put in beautiful form ♡
Flo - You are such a lovely writer Amanda, your posts are always so well thought through!
When I read your post and those of some other American bloggers I follow, I always get the impression that there is so much pressure felt when it comes to the ‘ideal’ life. You know, the version that channels like Instagram have helped to cultivate, the simple, grounded life in pastel colours with wonderful homecooked meals, adorable retro children’s outfits and a well put-together momma whose treat is a somewhat fetish-ised coffee in the morning and a glass of wine at night. Included in the whole aesthetic is the idea of this endless unconditional love of your children, the need to fill their childhoods with the loveliest, most wonderful memories only…
Even in your post I almost hear a little bit of guilt, like it wasn’t entirely and completely normal to struggle, to doubt, to be exhausted, to want to run away sometimes, not only in an insignificant, spur of the moment way, not only in the ‘oh well but I will have a glass of wine in the evening’ way…
As a European who has lived in the US for a while I do associate these kinds of expectations and pressures with American culture quite closely. In Denmark, it is so normal for the mum to stay at home for the first half or full year of the child’s life or so, and then the dad does the same thing for the next year. It solves so many things…so many conflicts, dependencies, perspectives, feelings get swapped. I know this is obviously not an option for you, but all I want to say that it is so so important to be honest with your feelings, to create little pockets of time for yourself that last longer than a glass of wine, to truly take care of yourself without guilt, to involve your partner in a way where you both shoulder some of the hard.
Crystel Hardin - Amanda,
My son is fifteen months old, and I stay home with him full-time. My husband has a very demanding job, and we don’t have any family that live in town, so there are many days (and quite a few evenings) where I am alone with my sweet boy. As much as I love every second with him and I adore being a mom, I feel you. He fills my days, nights and every moment in-between and sometimes I just need and want some alone time. I wish I had a circle of friends who were stay-at-home moms, but unfortunately most of my mom friends work and they don’t understand where I’m coming from at all. I know these sweet days of toddler will fly by in a flash, and I feel plenty of guilt about wishing for a little me time without getting guilt trips from outside sources, you know? We make plenty of sacrifices so I can be home with him, but I know I’m still one of the lucky ones. Still, there are moments when I’m grateful for that second nap so I can read my favorite blogs, take a long shower or exercise.
Thank you for being a beacon to other moms out there! You are not alone in your feelings.
Christine - Amen.
Suzanne - I am just discovering your blog for the first time and after reading some how-to-clean-and-tidy posts, thanks for those, I read this one. I thank you for articulating the many feelings we feel all at once and for being so accepting of your own range of emotions in round-the-clock mothering. I have and do feel all of these feelings. A nap is not enough. What helps is being in it with other mothers who are doing the same, women who have become dear friends and whom I think of as my co-workers. And what also helps is understanding the big picture, and that we are deep in a very intense phase of life that does not last forever. I know a woman who is in her 60s now. When I first knew her years ago she had three young children. I saw her recently and she said, Oh, I remember those days, when I just wanted so much to have an hour to myself, just an hour. Now all that time is just a blip.
admin - Suzanne, welcome to this space! You are so right, it’s so important to have support from other mothers who are in the same season and can relate. Blessings to you x Amanda
Joann @ Woman In Real Life - We were all once children ourselves and mothering is so tough, I think we mothers all long to be mothered ourselves every now and then. When it’s not possible to actually be mothered, we need to treat ourselves kindly – as you say, a good cup of tea in a quiet moment works wonders. Those days with young children are challenging and busy. As they get a bit older like my kids, there is more freedom for parents but more anxiety too. Often you don’t have them with you, and that lack of control is a worry (for this mom anyway).
Emily - For some unknown reason, I have been putting off reading this post for later, later, later. Something told me to read it tonight and as I did I repeated “YES!” over and over (in my head as to not wake the sleeping babies, for the love of God).
I’m currently 32 weeks pregnant, measuring a solid 3 weeks ahead, with babe number 3 and when I reply honestly to those who have asked how I’m feeling – run down, beat up, SO VERY TIRED – I get a version of the same response. I must enjoy my babies while their young and aren’t I so grateful to stay home and every point you hit in this post. I AM entirely thankful that my husband’s job allows me to raise our children but I am also entirely HUMAN. It’s not always sunshine and roses but then the sweet isn’t as sweet without the sour.
Thank you for this post. I feel ever slightly less alone tonight.