Moms Make it Work: April from Maine

Today we have April posting from Growing Up Maine, and as she mentions below, she is another one of my internet friends made through our losses. It feels like we've met each other in person because of the journey we shared with our miscarriages and then being pregnant after loss together (and again for our number threes!)...but alas, we have not met in real life so she must stay an 'internet friend' for now. Until I visit the East Coast or she comes to the Midwest we will just have to nod our heads at each other's emails and blog posts---which is exactly what I did for this post. Even though April is a full time SAHM and I am not, I love her attitude about her job and related to so much. I laughed out loud at a few parts and I'm sure you will, too. Read the whole series here and Enjoy! 


momsmakeitwork

Hi there! My name is April, I am a 32 year old full-time stay at home mom. My husband Matt and I were married in June of 2008, our daughter Lily was born in 2010, we welcomed our son Ben in 2012, and are excitedly anticipating our newest addition in July 2014.  Matt and I have spent the last 10 years or so living in the Boston area but recently decided the timing was finally right to make the big move "home" (yes we are from the same town) to Maine! You can find me at growingupmaine.com as well as on IG (growingupmaine).

I am another of Julia's "internet" friends, we met on the bump after our miscarriages in 2011. Our experiences at the time were tragically similar, and although I wish we had met under different circumstances, I am eternally grateful for the connections that we share. I was so thrilled to be asked to be a part of this series, and I hope that I have yet another perspective to add to the conversation.



Fair warning, you might want to get up and pee now...I am apparently conducting some sort of social experiment to see just how long I can hold the attention of perfect strangers!

And away we go...!

What is your background story? What was your career/schooling before you became a mom? And now where are you? 

I have known since I was a teenager that if I did become a mom I would want to stay at home with my kids. My mother lived to work while I was growing up, and I was always envious of my friends that had moms who seemed to live for them. That is not at all a criticism of moms who love to work or of my own mom. She and my dad always did whatever was necessary to provide for us, but given the choice between being home to greet us from the school bus or working, my mom always opted for the latter, and that stayed with me. Growing up in a family where both of my parents worked, I was also hesitant to ever daydream of a life where my husband could support me while I stayed at home.

Aside from being a mom I have always wanted to be a biologist. As a kid I loved nature, and long before Nat Geo was a channel I would pour through the pages of the magazine each month, captivated by everything from bacteria to Siberian Tigers. In middle school I had a brilliant science teacher whose enthusiasm and love for science was completely contagious. I wanted to be his star student, to sit right in the front, and to know all of the answers. As you may have already guessed I was, and am to this day, wildly popular.

Fast forward through high school, one terrible year at a large state college in PA, and three glorious years at a small liberal arts college in VT, in 2003 I earned my BS in Biology and packed my bags for Boston. I didn't have a job lined up, but with so many colleges/universities/laboratories in the area I was optimistic that I would find something. Matt and I had started dating earlier that year (we had been friends a long time and even dated a time or two in high school), and if I am being completely truthful, I moved to Boston to test and see whether or not I thought the relationship could ever really go the distance.

After a few weeks of submitting my resume to every lab tech position in the city I landed a job at a big name university. The lab technician position fit my type A personality to a tee, and although I wasn't thrilled about the fact that it was a microbiology lab I was just grateful to be using my degree. For two years I was sort of stupidly happy to go to work every day. I loved my coworkers (four of whom I asked years later to be my bridesmaids), I enjoyed the technical bench work, and I felt like I was really making a contribution to the scientific community. Sadly, after working there for two years the lab began to turn over as my friends all left to pursue further education. For the better part of a year I was left feeling frustrated and stuck. I knew at that point that I wanted to marry Matt and have 500 of his babies, which to me meant pursuing a PhD was out of the question. Teaching however had always been at the back of my mind. I asked my bosses if I could alter my hours so that I could take a few classes and when they denied my request, I simply gave my notice.

In the span of 6 months Matt graduated from college with a Masters in Engineering and started his first "real job", I quit my job and went back to school full time, and we got engaged. Although I did not love my education classes I knew I was going to love teaching. In June of 2007 I was hired as a middle school life science teacher at a highly ranked school district in MA. It was my dream job. I had a beautiful, fully stocked classroom, my students were enthusiastic and well behaved, and my coworkers were amazing teachers in their own subjects (I know, gag). I truly came to life in my classroom. I poured everything I had into my curriculum and into my students. At the end of my first year of teaching Matt and I got married.



A few weeks before I started my third year Matt and I found out that we were expecting our first baby. My due date was March 28th, and by my calculations I had just enough maternity leave/PTO to carry me through the end of the school year. In what would later turn out to be a twist of fate, those sneaky administrators within my school district had me on a technicality, and if I wanted to secure my tenure I would have to return to my classroom after just 8 weeks off. At the time I was furious, but I did not want to give up my job security, so I agreed to go back and finish out the school year. Our sweet Lily was born April 3, 2010.




I had always told Matt that I would stay home with our kids.  It was something that he felt strongly about too, but I really loved my job. In three short years it had become who I was, and I was afraid of losing that person. Well that twist of fate I mentioned...had I not gone back for the last four weeks of the school year I might never have been 100% certain that leaving that job was the right call. Leaving my daughter broke my heart, every day, for the entire four weeks. When the school year ended I knew I was never going back.

I have been home ever since, full time with my babies, right where I was always meant to be.


My husband had the amazing opportunity to work from home (with flexible hours) for three of the last four years. We have all benefited from this situation in ways that I can not even fully wrap my head around. He has been truly my partner in every sense of the word. He has done countless diapers and 5am feedings, kissed boo boos and made lunches, helped with baths and given good night kisses. Had it not been for him I am convinced that I would have had a nervous breakdown (and honestly very nearly did anyway) after a year of sleeping in 2 hour blocks after our son Ben was born in 2012.




What are the best parts of your situation? What are the biggest challenges? 

Our current situation has been a hard adjustment for our family, as we knew it would be. Matt changed jobs in February of 2013, which meant commuting to an office 45 minutes (often more) each way M-F. For the first time since either of my children were born I was truly on my own. This is not the "poor me" segment of this post, I know that many SAHMs are on their own from first cry (or coo if you are lucky!) until bedtime...and all of the time in between. For me this was the first time that I ever felt burnt out as a mom. I did not invest time in seeking out mommy groups or new friends when Lily or Ben were newborns because I had my best friend in the trenches with me. It was an isolating feeling, and I found it very difficult to make new friends. It was as if all the good mommy friends had already been taken, and I was two years too late to the party. Like I said, wildly popular.

Our situation changed again in October when our house sold somewhat unexpectedly (we had taken it off the market), and we decided to move in with Matt's parents in Maine. At the time Matt was a few months away from acquiring his stock options, and we both agreed that we could make anything work for a few months. As of right now he commutes down to the Boston area on Monday morning, stays the night with a friend and then drives back to Maine after work on Tuesday. He works from home on Wednesday and repeats the overnight stay on Th/F. It is hard on me, the kids, and most of all him. It is not a situation that is sustainable for our family.

Through all of the changes over the past year there is one thing I know for certain, I do not want to go back to work. There are times when I miss teaching, but staying home with my babies is a privilege that I am simply not willing to give up. Plus, and this is a big factor for me in ever returning to work, I know that I would be disappointed in myself as a teacher now that I cannot possibly give it everything I have. For better or for worse, I have a very much 'all or nothing' personality.

The hands-down-best-part of being a full time SAHM, I get to be here for all of the small (dare I say mundane) stuff. I love that I know how Lily likes her toast, where to find Ben's favorite truck, and which side of Lily's bankie is "the right side". Those are the details that are important to them, and I know that they love and appreciate me, as much as they know how, for paying attention. I am fiercely protective of my role in their lives. I am happier and more fulfilled by my job as their primary caretaker than I ever could be by a job outside my home.



The second best part of our situation for me is that I get to be in charge, no more defaulting to Daddy in the middle of the day. The kids and I do whatever I want, and we do not have to worry that we are disrupting Matt's work day. Despite the fact that no one else really cares what we do all day, the kids do have a rigid schedule for meals and naps. We may wear our jammies for the better part of the day, but I can tell you exactly where my kids will be at 1pm tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that. Like other moms have mentioned, we have struggled with boundaries, especially now that we live in Maine and closer to family. It took me the better part of a year to sleep train my son, and you had better believe I will go all mama bear on your ass if you stand between Ben and his night night routine. I have had to be more flexible with our schedule while living with my in-laws for the past few months, which has been a major source of inner scowling.

As far as personal challenges I would say that I have definitely struggled with my self worth over the past year. One of the down sides of no one caring what you do all day...no one cares what you do all day. The kids do not hold a parade or give me a standing ovation if the house is spotless by bedtime. I care and I take pride in knowing that I cooked and cleaned and wiped butts all day, but no one else does. In fact I suspect that Matt and the kids are irritated by a clean house (and maybe even clean butts) because it means they have to keep it that way for more than five minutes. I have found that without a boss or supervisor to say "good job today", I have had some pretty low moments after a hard day's work. What I have learned is that I am not insecure about the job 'well done', I am frustrated by the lack of validation. The solution is fairly simple, I have to either employ someone to come over and pat me on the back...or let it go and just be happy with myself. I am working on that last part.



Is this how you expected it to be pre-kids? 

As I mentioned briefly, I was hesitant to ever entertain the idea that I would actually be able to stay at home with my kids. Early on in our relationship Matt and I really bonded over the idea, and he has never once wavered in his dedication to make it a reality.

Aside from Matt's long commute and overnight stays I would say yes, this is what I had imagined our lives would be like. I will be the first person to admit, as I do frequently on my own blog, that I am not going to be 'Mother of the Year' any time this millennium. I do not make gourmet meals every night, nor do I make elaborate arts and crafts with the kids on a regular basis. I think in my imagination I somehow thought that I would magically become Mary Poppins once I became a mother.  As it turns out I can barely carry a tune, let alone host a tea party on the ceiling. I can however feed the kids balanced meals, hose them down regularly, and push the toys out of the way with the vacuum at least a few times a week. None of these tasks on their own are notable, but I suspect that no matter what your job at least part of your day is pretty ordinary.

I certainly didn't think life at home with two toddlers would be glamorous, which is good, because it is not. I did think it would be wonderful, but NEVER could have I imagined just how gratifying and fulfilling it would be for me.




Is this your ideal situation?

Again, aside from Matt's long hours away from us, this is my ideal life, not just situation. We have moved home to Maine to be closer to family, and for the foreseeable future I will be able to stay at home with the kids full time. I am very much looking forward to getting into our new house (just three more weeks!) and settling in to a new routine.

I definitely need to make some friends and in a *perfect* world Matt will be working from home by the time the new baby comes, but those things would just be icing on the cake.


Do you see yourself making a career change in the next 5-10 years, or is this current set up staying put for the long haul? 

I really do not think that I would be as happy in a full time teaching role as I was before I had kids of my own. Not to mention my license expires this year and we have now moved states so I am not even sure what the renewal process would be. It does make me a little sad to think that I will likely never have my own classroom again, but then I start to think about what I would be giving up to go back to teaching, and the sadness quickly fades into gratitude.

I am in this gig as SAHM for the long haul for sure.










How do you handle mommy guilt that comes with each role? 

There are only a few things that I ever truly feel guilty about.

If I lose my cool, yell, or snap at the kids I usually spend at least a few minutes fighting back tears in the bathroom at some point later on in the day. I put a lot of pressure on myself to model the types of behaviors I expect from my kids, and when I act less than kind I am always worried that they will in turn be less kind. I know in reality that isolated moments of anger are not going to scar them for life but if I am the only person they see all day long I had better make sure I like what is reflected back at me.

I definitely have days that I feel guilty that I do not take the kids to do a million activities. I have a few mommy friends whose weekly calendars make my head spin. That is just not the kind of person I am, let alone mom, and I wouldn't be happy rushing all over town or being bound by a strict activity schedule. I know that inevitably my unhappiness over a jam packed schedule would spill over on to the kids (probably in the form of yelling or snapping), so really I would just be swapping out one form of guilt for another! I want the kids to have great experiences and learn to play with other kids, which is why I send Lily to preschool two days a week...for me that is enough.

And then there are things that I absolutely do not feel guilty about.

I have never felt guilty or self conscious about that fact that (for now) my identity is completely wrapped up in theirs. I understand that for some women it is important that they still have a sense of self outside of their role as 'mom'. Prior to having kids I think I would have expected to feel the same way, but I really don't. It is okay to be satisfied with being just mom. I am proud of my kids and the awesome people that they are becoming, which is at least in part because of me. I really don't feel the need to establish myself as an independent entity, at least right now. I also fully understand that a lot of women may not relate to this feeling, but I thought I would throw it out there in case there are some readers who have been made to feel bad for not wanting 'more'.

I most definitely do not feel guilty about this...living the dream! 
I have also never felt guilty that I no longer bring home an income. The way I see it, the day to day service I provide to my family is invaluable. I also do not feel guilty that I am not leading by example in terms of working an outside job. I am well educated, independent, and a hard worker...none of those things will change just because I choose to stay home. I wish we weren't still paying off my student loans, but that is neither guilt nor regret...just wishful thinking!


Tips for how to make this work for you. Advice for new moms staying at home? 

My first piece of advice would be one I didn't do for myself, make some mommy friends. You do not have to have a jam packed schedule, and your infant does not need to know how to swim!! But you might find that a standing afternoon coffee/playdate is just what the doctor ordered. I wish that I had made more of an effort to find a few good friends during those crazy baby days. I was fortunate enough to make one new friend after Lily was born, and although our kids don't always play nicely, it is always great to sneak away and meet her for coffee.

I think the biggest take-home message I would like to pass along is this: you do not have to be a 'pinterest perfect' mom, unless YOU want to be. There is a lot of pressure out there to have it all together all the time, or at least make it appear as if you do! Succumbing to that pressure can make you crazy, and if you are like me, that can be a serious source of self doubt. At the end of the day you have to do what makes you happy because ultimately, your happiness is their happiness (and this definitely goes the other way too). Your kids will love you for coloring in dollar store books with crayons you found in the bottom of your purse just as much as they would love you for making paper mache farm animals. The best thing I can do for my kids, and the part about my job that I love the most, is just being there. I watch their mindless TV shows on PBS because my daughter likes it when I know the songs. I sit with them at breakfast, lunch, and dinner (even if I am not eating) because they like to chat while they eat. I crash race cars and brush pony hair because Ben likes the way I say "Oh Noooo!" and Lily insists that I am the only person who can do the elastic just right. That is not to say that my kids never play by themselves, of course they do, but unless I have something else I am really trying to get done...I am right there by their side, taking it all in. The bond that my kids and I share is all in the details. If one day, years from now, my kids utter the sentence, "Ugh, my mom was ALWAYS around when we were growing up," then I will know I have done my job.



Thank you so much Julia for allowing me to share my story! And thank you all so much for reading!

12 comments:

  1. What a beautiful family you have! I also have a Ben born in 2012. ;) And another on the way! Such an exciting time of life. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. This was about the perfect thing for me to read this morning. I am a middle school teacher, with my 3rd on the way this summer. I had the opportunity to only teach part time after my 1st was born, so I have been doing that for four years now, but with the addition of baby 3 I will be taking some time to be a SAHM. I know that giving up my position may mean I am done teaching for good, which makes me sad sometimes, but I can't wait to be home with my kids in June! Thanks for sharing!

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  3. April, this is crazy…I feel like we have lived the same exact life! I'm 32, grew up in Portland, Maine, went to college for a year in PA (Lehigh University), then transferred to Boston University and stayed in Boston. My husband majored in Mechanical Engineering at Northeastern. I went back to school for another degree when we got engaged. Oh and my husband and I got married in June of 2008 as well! Seriously…so much in common, it's crazy! We stayed in Boston until having our first, and then we moved just north of the city. I would LOVE (love, love, love) to move back to Maine and be closer to family, but alas, I married a Masshole, so I think I'm stuck here :( We just had our 3rd baby last April and it would be so nice to be closer to family.
    I'm heading right over to your blog to start following you :)

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  4. Haha that pic of the TV and your little girl on the potty is AWESOME :) Living the dream, right there!! Our kids are the same ages, but no #3 for me. I'll definitely be following your blog - your current situation sounds pretty tough with your husband's commute so hopefully moving to your own house and having him in a different work environment all goes smoothly!

    Love the reminder that we don't need to have it all together. I'm the opposite of a Pinterest mom, and proud of it ;) Someone else posted about that too - we don't always need to be rushing to this and that - very good reminder. I am the type that likes to have things going on every day but if that starts to feel overwhelming, a PJ movie day at home sets me right :)

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  5. love this series - i've secretly stalked julia's blog for a long time and have really enjoyed this whole bit.

    i do just want to say...i'm not a SAHM (not an option for our family), but i STILL know all the details about my kids' lives - how they like their toast, where (and what) their favorite toys are, exactly how much of the clementine to "get started" before my daughter likes to do the rest herself. it is heartbreaking to read yet another assumption that i can't/don't do those things for my kids or that i don't relish the mundane just as much.

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    1. Hi Piper! I can't speak for April but I don't think she meant that as a dig to working moms. Even if we aren't with our kids 24/7 of course we know them 'best' and love their little personalities/quirks to death. Our time isn't unlimited with the babes as working moms but we try to make the most of what we do have and that's what this series is all about--coming together and supporting each other.

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  6. Thank you SO much ladies for the kind words and the support! Consider me official blushing :)

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  7. Hi Piper, I just wanted to take a quick second a follow up on your comment. It was never my intent to imply that other mothers (working or SAH) do not know their children as well as know my own. My entire post was about me and my relationship with my kids, the parts that I love and cherish the most are those tiny details. I believe that is a "mom" thing, not at all exclusive to us those of us who stay at home. Thank you for taking the time to comment, I think it strengthens this entire series to talk these things through.

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  8. Amazing, I wish I lived in Maine, I'd be her friend!!

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  9. thanks, april and julia! re-reading my comment, i didn't mean to come off so whiny. this winter has turned me into such a crab (and i live in texas!). i'm embarrassed that i totally turned into one of those obnoxious, cranky commenters. woops.

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  10. Great post! I am also a SAHM who grew up with a mom who worked a lot - I don't hear that perspective from many other people. Loved this: "If one day, years from now, my kids utter the sentence, 'Ugh, my mom was ALWAYS around when we were growing up,' then I will know I have done my job."

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