For a change, our bedtime routine went off without a hitch. Both kids brushed their teeth without complaint, chose a book and climbed into my bed the first time I asked—rather than have me nag them multiple times, which is the way bedtime usually rolls in our house. After reading a few Beatrix Potter stories to Gillian, I closed the book, wrapped my arm around her and asked her what her favourite part of the day was—another key part of our bedtime routine to help end the day on a positive note. But instead of talking about fishing, baking or even picking flowers, my four-year-old daughter burst into hysterical tears.
“There was nothing good in this day!” she wailed. “I missed you!”
Wondering how I could have spent the last 16 waking hours with my daughter —with nearly all of those hours fun-filled and tantrum-free—and still have her miss me, I tried to figure out a way to ask her what she meant without telling her she was nuts.
“Gillian, we were together all day. We did lots of fun things together. I’m not sure what you mean. Can you try and explain it to me?” I asked, looking over at her brother who had stopped reading to listen in on the conversation.
“We didn’t cuddle enough. I’m sad when we don’t cuddle,” she replied, hiccuping slightly through her tears and wiping her nose on my pyjamas.
“I miss you, too,” added my son quietly.
These are the last things I ever expected to hear from my kids, especially since I’m a stay-at-home mom.
There were two reasons I chose to stay home with my kids:
1. The cost of putting two children in daycare was prohibitively expensive.
2. I know I’d miss them terribly if I went back to work and I just wanted to spend all my time with them.
Of course, before I quit my job, I was one of “those” people who had no idea what a stay-at-home mom actually did all day. I foolishly assumed we’d play, craft and generally just hang out together. What I didn’t realize was how busy I’d be. I took on the majority of the housework, cooking and childcare. Once my children got older, I felt compelled to keep them busy all the time, not necessarily with scheduled sports or lessons, but I rarely set aside downtime in the day. My husband joked that I was a stay-away-from-home-mom because most days I’d buckle the kids into their carseats in the morning with a playdate or shopping trip on the schedule. It’s a habit that has stuck (the collection of apple cores and melted crayons in the backseat of my car testament to how much time we spend driving around to friends or running errands).
I never stopped to think that the quality of time with my kids could be negatively affected by the quantity of time with them. While I focused on keeping busy and checking items off my to-do list, I lost sight of the reason I wanted to stay home in the first place.
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Now, I won’t say that I’ve cured my addiction to busy-ness, but I have become more mindful of my kids’ needs to find quiet times during the day. My daughter, who is a very physically demanding child whose emotions constantly run on high, doesn’t just want hugs, but needs them to stay grounded throughout the day. My son, whose body seems to always be in motion, needs to learn the value of being still and relaxing—and to be honest, I’m a terrible role model.
And as for me, anytime I can sit quietly with my kids and just hug them, well, that’s a good day in my books.
Follow along as Jennifer Pinarski shares her experiences about giving up her big city job and lifestyle to live in rural Ontario with her husband, while staying home to raise their two young children. Read more Run-at-home mom posts or follow her @JenPinarski.