My husband and I share the duties of a stay-at-home parent. We both work- Andrew part-time, and myself full-time, but we take turns caring for John while the other is working. I even work twelve-hour days in my office twice a week to make sure that I can really be with John while I’m at home. This arrangement has produced a very busy schedule for both of us, but we think it’s important for someone to be at home with John, and of course there’s the fact that daycare is expensive.
The breakdown of our week is simple: I’m at home with John all day Monday, Wednesday, and occasionally Friday when Andrew takes an extra shift at the National Shrine, Andrew watches John all day Tuesday and most Sundays during the school year, we split Thursdays, and Andrew and I are both home most Friday afternoons and all day Saturday (usually). It’s a tight schedule, and we have both been known to rush out the door as soon as the other walks in, giving instructions as we tug on shoes and walk out the door. It’s tough, but totally worth it. I love my days at home with John.
This past weekend, Andrew and I were discussing some of John’s most recent habits- waking up at 5:30AM and refusing to finish his bottles unless the Gilmore Girls theme song is playing, just to name two- when he thanked me. I assumed he was thanking me for taking care of John so often. He thanks me for doing this fairly regularly, and considering our conversation, it seemed fitting that this would be what he was thanking me for. I was the one who had discovered the Gilmore Girl trick after all (Granted, it would have been weird if Andrew had discovered this). But no, he was not thanking me for doing anything, but for being able to not do anything so patiently. Because his thank-you was immediately followed by this statement: “It can be so boring being with him all day.”
I instantly knew what Andrew meant, but I was still caught off guard by his acknowledgement. I’ve written on the monotony of motherhood before; life with John is an endless cycle of sleeping, eating, changing diapers, and playing. We go through this cycle of activities three or four times a day before bedtime. It’s monotonous, but I love it.
But Andrew wasn’t talking about the monotonous cycle of life with an infant. He was talking specifically about the playing part. In the past month or two, John has lengthened his wake times between naps. We now get 2.5 hour doses of John every time he wakes up, sometimes longer. That breaks down to about an hour of fighting with John to get him to drink his bottle (or 45 minutes, if a Gilmore Girls episode begins during his bottle), ten to twenty minutes of John jumping up and down (either in your arms or in his jumper), and over an hour of stacking blocks. Over an hour. That’s what Andrew was talking about.
Recently, John has been fascinated with stacking blocks. Or more exactly, knocking the blocks over after we stack them. He can do it a million times in a row and still want to keep going. John gets excited every time the stack reaches eye level, and it’s one of the few distractions that works when he’s in a bad mood. Most of his play time is spent stacking blocks, knocking them over, and then stacking them again. And that means that we spend hours every day stacking and re-stacking blocks. Hours.
Up until that moment this past weekend, I hadn’t really thought about how boring stacking and re-stacking blocks can be. I enjoyed seeing his face every time the blocks went tumbling to the floor. I loved watching as he looked up at me to see my reaction when he knocked the blocks over. Every single time. As if my reaction was going to change at some point. It was adorable. But yeah, it was boring.
Stacking and re-stacking blocks is boring. It’s more boring than teaching Confirmation classes. It’s more boring than leading Youth Group meetings. It might even be more boring than answering emails. Though I guess it depends on the email.
Stacking and re-stacking blocks is boring. And yet if I had the choice between teaching Confirmation class and stacking blocks, I would choose my son’s squeal of excitement as his blocks tumble to the ground. If I had the choice between leading Youth Group meetings and stacking blocks, I would choose my son’s face when he looks up at me for reaffirmation. If I had the choice between answering emails and stacking blocks, I would choose the moment of complete stillness right before my son destroys my artwork…again. I would choose my son every time. Even if it’s more boring. I would choose boring every time.
Yes, the life of a stay-at-home parent can be boring. Often, it is boring. It involves repetition after repetition, stacking and re-stacking, bottle after bottle, diaper after diaper. It is an endless cycle of sleeping, eating, changing diapers, and playing. It is boring, but it also one of the most rewarding aspects of my life. As much as I love my job, love my students, love my Youth Group teens, I love my stay-at-home life with John more. I love the monotony. I love the repetition. I love the stacking and re-stacking. I might get bored, I might be tired, I might dread the next diaper explosion or war over a bottle, but I wouldn’t trade any of it for anything. Because I love my little man, and the love that I have for him is the most overwhelming, amazing feeling in the world. So there’s no need to thank me. Just keep the blocks coming.
Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!