The Price of Being a Stay-At-Home-Mom

Seeing this headline, you’re probably thinking this post will be about how you lose one full salary by staying at home, or perhaps what you’re giving up of yourself to raise your children. Not even close. This is about much more money I think I spend because I stay home.

When I was working, I certainly spent money while on the clock. Online shopping, Starbucks runs, liquid lunches, happy hours (actually sounds kind of fun!). You working people know the drill. Once I traded in my paycheck to raise my kid, I figured I’d budget and probably be spending less given the fact that there wasn’t much to do during the day while running after a little one. Fast forward to almost three years later at this SAHM (stay-at-home-mom) gig and I probably spend more money every day than I did when I was working. Hear me out…

My daughter goes to a preschool program so I have about two hours to myself a day. In this time, I usually go to the gym and run errands that are easier to do without a small child in tow. There’s always a shit ton to do, not to mention the few times I decide to treat myself to a tea or pedicure. ShopRite, Target, Starbucks, CVS, dry cleaners. The list is endless, especially when holidays and birthdays roll around. And sometimes it’s just nice to get out and break up the monotony whether I’m alone or with my little one.

After my two hours are up, I pick up my daughter and more money goes out the window. We’re pretty resourceful and don’t often treat ourselves to lunches out or fancy mall shopping sprees, but we are superfans of Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks. My child eats munchkins and chocolate milk, so added to my $5 chai tea latte or ice tea, this all adds up throughout the week. But I am oblivious most times, because I just reload my DD or Starbucks app and it’s like the money just magically appeared for me to fuel up. Then we run some errands, let’s say I didn’t get to Target while she was in school, so we go together. My kid wants everything. And when I say no and she melts down, sometimes the $7 stuffed Minion is worth it to avoid me losing my mind and her losing her shit even more. But how many $7 Minions and other crap do I purchase to either appease her or simply because it puts the biggest smile on her face? It all adds up.

I guess with the holidays, and the amount of trips to Starbucks and Dunkin’ I have recently made, it’s become a little more apparent to me that my spending habits have changed, and possibly increased a little, sans paycheck, even though I’m just trolling the ‘burbs versus gallivanting though the pricey city. Who knew staying home could cost so much (insert deep thought, quote or mantra here)?

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Where Did “My” Time Go?

I recently have had a million gifts to buy for happy occasions. New babies, birthdays, weddings. It seems like there has been much more giving than in recent years. And while I am thrilled to give, because it really is something that makes my heart happy, it’s made me realize that as of late, I tend to do nothing for myself.

I am a (stay at home) mom and a wife, so obviously, I’m constantly going and doing for my family. Food shopping, laundry, cleaning, paying bills, playdates, errands, pick ups, drop-offs; the list is endless. And in between all of those things, I feel like a chicken without its head, running around doing so much for everyone else. And it’s not even stuff people ask me to do, it’s things that I put on myself. I am my own worst enemy sometimes.

So the other day, when I was running around to 13 different stores trying to buy the perfect new baby gift for a dear friend, drop off the dry cleaning, pick up a birthday gift for a friend’s daughter, and get my own child new shoes, I was suddenly so overwhelmed that I stopped and was like, “What the fuck do I do for myself anymore?” The answer it seems: practically nothing.

Any free time I have, it seems to be spent doing for others. Even when I get away, it’s for other people (weddings, birthdays, parties), not for me or my family per se. And in one respect, I am so lucky to have people in my life that I love so much to do these things for and with, yet in the process of being me, I have also forgotten about myself. While I go to the gym, catch an hour of bad reality TV, and maybe get in a run, I rarely seem to do anything beyond that just for me. The irony is that if you asked me what I’d want to do if I had the time, I probably couldn’t give you a decent answer beyond something like getting a massage. To some, this may sound bratty or entitled, which is the last impression I want to make, but at the end of the day, it’s my reality, and I own it.

I’m always fixated on what needs to be done next. What else is on the to-do list that needs to be tackled. Maybe that’s because I’m home now and no longer in the workforce. Maybe I need to feel accomplished, so doing all this crazy shit fills a void. It could be that I just don’t feel like I have time to do things for me like I used to (I mean, who wants to go shoe shopping with a two-year-old?). Or maybe I’m just wired this way; constantly going, running and doing, because really, isn’t that life?

Whatever the reason, I need to figure out how to remember me, which is proving a lot harder than it sounds.

I Celebrate It All

I call myself a “cashew” for fun. I’m a Catholic-Jew I tell people. My whole life, I have been fortunate enough to be part of a multi-faith family. My mom is Jewish and my dad is Catholic. What does that mean exactly? The easiest way to explain it is to tell you that I celebrate everything. We have Christmas and Hannukah; Easter and Passover. We aren’t a religious family by any means, neither of my parents were particularly dedicated to their religions. I didn’t grow up going to church or temple nor did I have a communion or bat mitzvah (lost out big time on those!), but we always celebrated and shared the holidays together. In the end, being with family is what sticks out the most.

Growing up, I felt like the only Jewish kid in town. Not in a bad way, but no one knew what Hannukah was and in 1987 we didn’t get 15 days off during the year for holidays like Yom Kippur or Passover like kids do now. In my world, everyone went to CCD and celebrated Christmas. It never really bothered me, as I got to basically participate in what everyone else did. Plus, I got to play my Jew card. I didn’t have to go to school on certain obscure holidays and as I got older, I could take off work or leave early for the same reason. However, if I didn’t celebrate Christmas, I think I might have felt differently if I was ONLY Jewish; somewhat sad that I wasn’t part of holidays that were so commercially promoted and in your face.

When I moved to a new town, I noticed a lot of people were Jewish. There were more Jewish people here than I think I have known in my entire life. In fact, I am fortunate enough to have a wonderful group of friends and they are ALL Jewish. I am the only one decorating a Christmas tree and hiding eggs on Easter. I’m suddenly the religious minority in my adult life, like I was during childhood.

This time of year, I notice it even more, as my friends are getting ready to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year (it’s 5776 in case you’re wondering). They’re cooking and making plans to visit family and it’s a whole big event. It’s nothing like when I grew up in my small mountain town and it’s kind of nice to see how people embrace these holidays. In my family, if we could make it happen with everyone’s crazy schedules, we did. We’d eat brisket and challah and dip some apples in honey (just to make my mom happy). And if it didn’t work out, we’d skip it and maybe have a “Jewish meal” some other time during the year.

Even though I am surrounded by a lot more Jewishness during this time in my life, I don’t feel any more Jewish, or Catholic, than I used to. I’m married to a man who is Catholic, who doesn’t go to church and isn’t religious himself. He eats matzoh balls and chicken soup and I eat ham and lasagna when the holidays roll around. We have a daughter who is obsessed with Christmas and likes spinning a dreidel and my hope is that is how she lives her life from here on out: spinning dreidels, decorating trees, hunting for eggs, lighting candles on the menorah and eating delicious random holiday food. And most importantly, being with family. Because that’s the way life should be and we are fortunate enough to be able to do it all. L’Chaim. Amen.

The Quiet is Disturbing 

It’s 4am and I’m in the ICU family waiting room awaiting news on my father. He has a rare autoimmune disorder, which I have touched on briefly before, but he had a random setback today and was rushed to the hospital by ambulance from my home. It’s been awful. Worse than awful. There are seven other people here. Three are from my family and four from another patient. The other four have a huge air mattress, while others are sleeping on chairs. We are scattered, covered in blankets and pillows I picked up at home. And socks. Socks seemed very important to me at the time. I’m the only one awake. Everyone else is asleep, or at least trying to sleep through the uncomfortableness and anxiety. Yet somehow, as exhausted and mentally drained as I am, I just can’t let myself fall asleep. Kind of reminds me of Nightmare on Elm Street.  I’ve been checking on my dad every hour. Nothing has changed much which is good and not so good. I visited the chapel and sat there for awhile. And then, reluctant to go back, I decided to explore, thinking maybe I’d crack a smile if I found the maternity ward. While I know this particular hospital, the last time I was here was a little over two years ago for the birth of my daughter. We wanted to be here. It was a happy place then. Now it’s fucking hell. It’s funny how a hospital can seem so busy and yet at four in the morning, it’s like a ghost town. There are barely any patients or doctors walking around; no one is at the front desk except a security guard hidden behind the glass. The cafeteria is empty and the noise from the vending machines are making a curiously loud hum all night long (or morning for that matter). The lights are brighter and more fluorescent and everything seems sterile and gray. You discover random rooms and offices; like the residents’ library, located next to the waste management office or the sleep center hidden on the sixth floor with it’s own private elevator. It’s miserable here. I hope we get out soon.

The Art of Getting Older

My husband is about to turn 40 (holy shit!!!!). I’ve been working on plans for his birthday, which he is well aware of, for months. But of course, some things are surprises, which is why I am up past midnight putting finishing touches on things as the big day inches near.

Because he reads this blog, I can’t say too much, but what I can say, is looking through the years of the birthdays I have celebrated with him and the crazy times we’ve shared over the last 12 years, damn, did we have fun; and shit, did we get old!

I look through old pictures from events and birthdays and am amazed at how cool we were and how good we looked. What I wouldn’t give to look like my 30-year-old self again! What was I complaining so much about? I didn’t have wrinkles, lines on my forehead or crow’s feet. And my man had hair.

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Looking back, I smile and laugh and think about how much fun we had. I’m reminded of an easier, more carefree life. Our biggest worries were paying rent and where we were going out Thursday, Friday AND Saturday nights. These days, we struggle with medical issues of friends and family, balancing mortgages, bills, and raising children. While it’s also a happy life, it’s a much more adjusted, focused and sometimes complicated life.

Don’t get me wrong. We still get our party on. I mean, we ARE Lemieuxs. There are plenty of weekends we forget about expenses and the mundane issues of every life, but I’d be lying if I said, after looking back so much at the “old days,” that I don’t miss them. I mean, who wouldn’t?

Those days will always bring a big smile to face and belly laughs when I can’t remember them because it was just that much fun. And while growing up sucks, (Geoffrey had it right – “I don’t wanna grow up, I’m a Toys R Us kid…”), I wouldn’t trade them in for the world. But it’s still fun to relive the memories.

Moms Can’t Get Sick

I’m not a good sick person. Never have been, never will be. However, over the last few years, I’ve been fortunate enough to avoid getting sick all that often. When my husband and daughter both get colds or viruses, somehow I dodge the bullet. I say that’s because moms can’t get sick. But this week, I did.

I woke up at my parents with a stomach bug, food poisoning, or a combination of the two. Whatever it was, I felt like shit. I won’t get into details but it had been awhile since I had felt that bad. I’ve fought things, but this was full blown sick. Luckily, because I randomly was staying at my folks, I had two sets of hands to watch my daughter while I tried to get better. I drove home that same day when I started feeling a little more like myself, but a few hours after I got home, I was worse than before.

As soon as my husband came home, my daughter peed all over the comforter and duvet cover, was screaming “Mommy, mommy, mommy,” because I shut off Bubble Guppies, and I was ready to throw in the towel. This wouldn’t be ideal on a good (yet typical) day, let alone a day when I was feeling like such crap.

But there he was, my knight in shining armor. While I changed the bed just so I could get right back in it, he cleaned up our kid, fed her, gave her a bath and put her to bed, all while bringing me Gatorade, Advil and Ambien. And to top it all off, he stayed home the next day so that I could actually rest and get better. How lucky am I?

Single moms, working moms and women with no family or extended help do it all the time. I’m pretty fortunate to have such a village behind me.  And if my parents or husband hadn’t been there, then sure, I would have pulled up my boot straps and plugged along, begrudgingly, because that’s what moms do. We rule the world all while working, being sick, taking care of kids, scheduling appointments, waiting for repairmen, paying bills, shuffling to activities, running an entire household AND trying to have a little time for ourselves. And when we’re sick, it’s like the whole damn operation shuts down. It’s not like we can call into our kids and take a sick day (like that DayQuil commercial mocks). They don’t care if you’re ill, tired or hungover; they want (and need) to play, be fed, changed, and entertained. Which is why moms just can’t get sick.

My Life is Getting in the Way of My Life

Summertime is usually when we get jammed packed. There is something every Saturday or Sunday, if not both days of the weekend; whether it be a BBQ, birthday, celebration, or something as simple as just hanging out with friends or the endless list of errands and projects.

But for some reason, things have gotten busy ridiculously early this year and I am unbelievably overwhelmed. I thought I was overwhelmed when the holidays were coming, but in the last few months, I have realized that shopping for presents and decorating the tree are minor issues in the stress department.

Right now, I’m dealing with a lot of different stressors, some good, some bad. And I truly feel that my life, is in fact, getting in the way of my life. I can’t keep up some days. I’m trying to be a good stay-at-home-mom to a little girl who is turning two and has discovered temper tantrums. Let’s just say some days are better than others! My brother is getting married in less than a month and there are so many wonderful things attached to that, many of which I am a part of. That means a ton of extra, (and fun) stuff to do and take care of (like makeup, hair, dress, shoes, montage, shower, etc.) in addition to every day life. On top of this, I’m trying to plan my daughter’s second birthday, which is only immediate family, but it’s her birthday and it’s still a big deal. My brother is also graduating from med school and will soon find out where he’ll be moving during his next four years of residency, which includes a huge ceremony to celebrate in just a week. My husband joined a band with a live show in a few weeks, and he’s also turning 40, which means another big blowout celebration I’ve been planning since mid-January. In the midst of all this, there are charity runs, birthday parties for young and old and a family vacation we are so desperately trying to plan (and the passport I have to get my kid). My very best friend is getting married in a few months, so there’s lots of planning around that too; bridal shower, bachelorette party; you know the drill.  And I don’t even want to get into how hard it is just trying to see friends on a random weekend or even weeknight, interviewing babysitters for said weekend out, or managing our daily schedule full of food shopping, music and gym classes, and getting in a workout myself. And let’s not forget gifts to buy, taxes to prepare, bills to pay, and home repairs. Should I keep going, because there’s a hell of a lot more I can add to that list?

On top of all this, there’s some emotional stuff going on too. My dad was recently diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disorder; Wegener’s Granulomatosis, which adds another layer of stress to the equation, while a very dear friend just told us she has cancer. My mom sprained her ankle through all this, though is recovered, and I feel like I battle a headache every other day. My brother is moving away; maybe to Philly, maybe to Cali. The latter are small potatoes in comparison, but still, an unneeded layer.

My birthday was this weekend and my husband treated me (and him!) to an amazing day of pampering. We went to the spa, ate oysters and drank champagne, daydreamed at the bar and indulged in an amazing kid-free dinner. It was so incredible to have a day where I wasn’t worried about everything. I didn’t care about replacing the water softener or finishing the taxes or all the stuff on my handwritten to-do list. I skipped the gym, ate two desserts and felt at ease. It was short-lived, but fabulous. And by Monday, when we were back to reality, I realized just how overwhelmed I really was. I’ll make it though, with a smile, and likely, a lot of wine.