My favorite line in the film As Good as It Gets is when Jack Nicholson's character says, "Good times, noodle salad." I quote it to myself often. In the context of the scene it is said when the three main characters are in a car, taking a long trip together, and discussing their woebegone lives. Helen Hunt's character says, "OK, we all have these terrible stories to get over, and you--..." but she is then interrupted by Nicholson's character, who says, "It's not true. Some of us have great stories, pretty stories that take place at lakes with boats and friends and noodle salad. Just no one in this car. But, a lot of people, that's their story. Good times, noodle salad. What makes it so hard is not that you had it bad, but that you're that pissed that so many others had it good." The car ride continues with Hunt's character arguing that that wasn't the point at all or why they were truly angry. However, throughout the film (before and after this scene) Nicholson's character is proven right and this seems to be the source of their angst.
The fact that these characters have sad stories and difficult lives is not necessarily why they are so distraught, we all have sad stories and difficult lives in certain respects, but they honestly believed that they had it worse than others in the world. They thought that some people in the world only had noodle salad stories, filled with good times, and that they had it worse than others. This is the trap that everyone falls into at some point in life, comparing one's self to others and falling into despair. Another line I enjoy from a film, Anne of Green Gables, is when Marilla says, "To despair is to turn your back on God." I have honestly found this to be true because when I pray and try to recognize God's love in my own life, I always have hope. If you are not a religious person, then I think it is similarly compelling to say that if you fail to recognize the beauty in the simple things, how amazing and unique individuals and the world are, is also to fall into despair.
This philosophical tangent basically has been leading up to the fact that I love being a stay at home mother, I love being able to take advantage of community events and spend so much uninterrupted bonding time with my daughter. However, when Squeeker is frustrating and messy and sad, or I see a friend living the life I once dreamed of having, it is easy to fall into despair. That is when I think of good times (noodle salad) and the despair doesn't last too long. If the good times are hard to recall, it won't be much longer before my little girl smiles at me or I look at myself in the mirror and I'm covered in who knows what, then in that moment I can't help but smile again and know that it is useless to compare my life to another's. How could I be happier than where I am: at home, with my family?
I have read stories about, and also seen in my own life, women who resent being a "homemaker" and feel as though they are being cornered into a decade's past version of femininity. I truly believe that these women are also comparing themselves to others, and failing to see the good times in their own lives. If you don't want to be a stay at home mom, no one can force you to do that. Just go out and make enough money to pay for day care. If you feel the need to be a stay at home mom, then deep inside of you there is a desire and an ability to strengthen yourself beyond despair. It might take time and it might still be hard at times, but recognize that you have just as good of a life as anyone else, or at least you can have as good of a life an anyone else. Everyone has some noodle salad and everyone has a sad story. Don't let being a mother be your sad story, let it be the greatest adventure that you have ever dared to dream of having.
Here are a few ways that I have made being a stay at home mother an adventure and not let myself fall into moments of despair:
- Continue with a similar, if not the same, morning hygiene routine that you had before having a baby. This might mean that your baby has to play with some toys alone in their crib for awhile (or screaming with some toys alone in their crib for awhile), play in a bouncer while you get ready, or maybe you can manage to get ready while they take a morning nap, etc. I have found that I feel like I'm myself and have better self esteem when I get ready in the same way, wearing makeup and outfits I feel cute in, pretty much every morning.
- Take advantage of free days at local attractions. Squeeker and I have gone to a free day at the local aquarium, zoo, and The Natural History Museum of Utah. We go with a friend of mine who has a daughter about 7 weeks older than Squeeker and they have a good time together. These outings make me feel active and we get to see things that we normally wouldn't bother going to.
- We also do as many free activities as we can, such as walking, going to the library and a local farm with a hay ride and animals. These activities help us to connect with our community on a regular basis and get us out of the house as often as possible. This website might be helpful.
- We have also started a 12 week dance class for children ages 6-24 months. During the summer I plan to sign us up for a swimming course together. Not only do we get out of the house for these kinds of activities, but we get to socialize with other people we don't know. It is good for me to meet more mothers and good for Squeeker to meet other kids of varying ages.
- Have some personal shopping time and at least one other monthly personal activity. At least once every month or two I ask my husband if he can take care of Squeeker for a couple of hours on a Saturday and I go shopping by myself or with one other friend. This makes me feel like I can breathe and enjoy some time out in the world without stressing about Squeeker or putting her desires before my own. I also joined a book club when Squeeker was about 4 months old and I attend that for a couple of hours once a month. I love to read and do my best to read the book while Squeeker is napping or after she has gone to bed at night. I love discussing books and their themes, as well as philosophical underpinnings, so I think this club has really helped me to remain well balanced.
- The final thing I have noticed really helps me is basically what I already stated earlier, I keep my Heavenly Father and his love in my heart. I pray and I strive to be the mother of my child that He would want me to be, because she is also his spirit daughter. I try to stop and breathe in the fresh air. I point out the pretty things in the world to myself and to Squeeker. I let myself ponder upon how amazing it is that I am witnessing a life unfolding before me, I'm seeing Squeeker experience everything for the first time. There are good times and noodle salad everywhere, if we only choose to see it.