I used to think that I would not be well suited for stay-at-home-parenting. In the past, whenever I have had extended time off--through snow days, work shutdowns, underemployment, etc--I have reveled in the freedom for approximately two hours, and then stumbled down the path of apathetic madness. Still clad in a robe in the middle of the afternoon, surrounded by dirty dishes I couldn't be bothered to throw in the dishwasher, and clutching a book that I've read a million times, but determined to make it a million and one, I would wonder when I'd get around to DOING something that day. I'd decide I'd get on that as soon as I was finished reading (the story who's ending I knew better than my own social security number), and then suddenly find myself staring down the barrel of 5 pm with absolutely nothing accomplished for the day.
I know there are people out there who can enjoy that kind of sloth, but I simply am not one of them. Mind you, it doesn't stop me from indulging in laziness. I just feel terrible about it the entire time. (I'm nothing if not efficient).
So, when I used to imagine myself as a parent, I thought I'd need to get myself out of the house again eventually. I didn't think it would be a good idea to subject an innocent child to my guilt-ridden lack of momentum. After about a year, I thought, I'd be clawing the walls and ready to rejoin adult society.
Well, I've completely revised that outlook. I LOVE staying at home with LO. It's not as possible for me to hang around all day in a robe with a book as I ever thought. Because of course, LO needs me to feed him, change him, bathe him, read to him, sing to him, kiss him, launder his diapers and clothing, clean up his spit-up, etc, etc. I'm a veritable whirlwind of activity, even if I'm still in my robe at 5 pm. (I still have to convince myself I've gotten something done when the entire day has been taken up with LO-care, rather than any other of the activities I'd like to accomplish, but it's still very nice to feel necessary).
The upshot is that I can spend days at a time where I never set foot outside of the house. It's kind of awesome, although I do fear that I might be turning into the kind of pallid weirdo who spends all her time talking to herself and getting scurvy. (Particularly since I can't eat citrus right now--another of LO's allergies). As a stay-at-home-hermit (and what other kind of hermit is there?), I've been finding that though I no longer indulge in my marathon relaxation/guilt sessions, I am a bundle of bad habits. Because what's to stop you from doing something society frowns upon when the only person to see you is four months old?
What bad habits, you ask? Well, for example, there is no one to disapprove when I rear back and really chomp down on my fingernails. I've been a life-long nail-biter, but I had learned to do it covertly, at least, when I was a daily member of society. Now, no one except my son is watching. And though I really don't want him to follow in my nail-biting footsteps (it really is a filthy habit), I can't seem to convince myself that he's going to remember or understand what he's seeing. Watch me continue to make that argument in ten years.
Then, of course, there is the charming way that I convince myself that wet = clean. I will take a bath rather than a shower several days in a row, foregoing shampoo and soap, and convince myself that I am fresh as a daisy. After all, my hair is wet, just like it is after getting out of the shower, so I MUST be clean, right? I could never get away with this if I were going outside more regularly. But within the confines of the house, who's to know that the Dial is lasting a heckuva lot longer now?
So, those are my gross habits. Then there are the crazy ones. I do more than just talk to myself when spending time with no one who can answer. I also sing. I'll put on a fake operatic voice and sing about needing to clean the kitchen. (It doesn't necessarily translate into me cleaning the kitchen, but it is kind of fun). I sing about going out to get the mail. I sing in Muppet-style voices. I sing in poorly-conjugated French. I sing my son's name. I sing about needing to cut my toenails. I sing about having to brush my teeth. On the scale of one to nose-picking, singing is really rather low in the hierarchy of bad habits. But it still is not exactly something I want to pass on to LO, considering the quality of the singing. There is no way he's going to pick up any kind of musical ability by listening to me singing tunelessly about nothing at all.
Then of course there's my burning desire to know what is happening on the internet in the five minutes since last I checked my email, facebook page, blog comments section, favorite advice columnists' pages, and the "News You Can Use" portion of Yahoo's page. I hated the need for constant connectivity in teenagers when I was teaching them, and yet I'm just as bad. Any time away from the computer is potential time I could have been contacted! I must check! And I'll generally be chewing on my fingernails as I'm waiting for the pages to load. (Our internet isn't that slow. I'm just that impatient.)
The solution, of course, is for me to make some more regular appointments to get out into the world. I need to remind myself that other people do successfully make it through entire days without eating their hands, checking their email, singing about cleaning the catbox, or pretending that they don't need a shower. So if you see me out in public doing any of those things, please, for LO's sake, hand me a book I've read before. It'll be a much better terrible habit to teach him.