Let’s cut to the chase.
My new business is being a mother and homemaker.
Back in June (2020), I realized I was wasting so much time wondering what I should be doing and recognizing that I was avoiding being ‘just’ a stay-at-home mom. I wanted to do something productive, something that made us money, something that would give me the selfish satisfaction creating a magazine did.
But, I didn’t want to go backward. But, I didn’t want to jump into the homestead-y world because it appeared to have the same issues I had with the creative world. A lot of people (not all, but plenty) of people who have no clue what they’re doing trying to make money looking cute with baby animals.
There’s nothing wrong with being cute with your animals. Any time I have a dress on I beg Nate to take pictures of me with the sheep. But you know what I’m saying?
It’s like a 22-year-old life coach who still is supported by her parents.
Or the creatives who made a course about money, to get out of debt.
All of that really bothered me, too much, when I was in the creative realm. And there will be sleaze buckets in every industry, but oftentimes it’s easier to hide when all of your work is online. It just is.
So, I did not want to create an online business just for my own mental health.
As I told Nate, “You can’t lie about a cow, and get away with it very easily. It is what it is. It weighs what it weighs. You can’t say that this cow is the key to your unending success and happiness, but you have to give me all your money to find out if that’s true or not. It is just a cow.”
However, we have a mighty herd of fewer than twenty cows…woohoo. And our sheep haven’t even bred yet. And I lost almost all of my garden seedlings.
So, yeah, not quite the Annie Oakley…just yet. I’m not ready for our big picture goals.
And as I realized this, holding my youngest while signing up my oldest for preschool, and feeling that big burden we all have been carrying that is 2020 it dawned on me…
My job is right in front of me. My business is what’s in my arms, what’s already on our land, what is in our home.
Praise the Lord, in all sincerity, that I have been afforded the opportunity to take time away from pursuing a monetarily-productive pursuit, and while the girls are still home! Why am I pushing this blessing aside like it’s not enough for me?
Why did I feel like I needed to do more?
Friends and family (hi, mom), don’t hate me for saying this, but I truly did not want to be a stay-at-home mom.
A few stereotypes enter my mind: the mom who got tired and gave up (it me), the over-achieving mom who volunteers for everything to find her value (been there), the social media mom who uses her kids for likes (ouch), etc. etc.
Is it my own assumption? Is it the media? Is it academia? Who set the stereotypes?
Why do we constantly ASSUME being a stay-at-home mom or homemaker is going to be unfulfilling? Why must the mom have a side-hustle or be a mompreneur or something else, in order for her value to be appreciated by the community, or for her own self-respect? (Let me be clear, there’s a difference between WANTING to do a side hustle and feeling like you have to.)
Why do we ASSUME it is only for the wealthy or it is financially selfish for the woman? I can’t tell you how many women I have talked to and articles I have read about how, with children, having only one income-earner often saves the household money because the cost of childcare can override the return of a second income-earner, depending on the math.
I didn’t want to be bitter about staying at home. I didn’t want to hold a grudge against my kids for not ‘letting’ me feel fulfilled, even though I didn’t know what that meant for this season. I never wanted to tell them in a moment of weakness, “Well, I gave this up for you.”
Sorry, I’m getting dark and honest here.
Don’t go away, I promise there’s a silver lining lesson in this.
The night I met Nate, my now husband of nearly 10 years, on a blind date in college, he told his roommate that he had found his soulmate. I had told him that the day I graduated I was leaving Oklahoma and going back to New York.
Obviously, he changed my mind. I quit dancing and my dreams of returning to New York to move into a tiny apartment behind a Bass Pro Shop in Oklahoma three weeks after graduation.
Let’s just say, our first year of marriage was rough. But what made it worse is during an argument I would bring up or imagine what I would be doing if I had gone back to New York, what kind of life I would have had. (So, so wrong and immature.)
I harbored bitterness towards him. And if he didn’t make our marriage life perfect, I would have envisioned how my life would have been if I had stayed dancing or made him move to where I wanted to be.
This is so embarrassing. We married young.
One particular fight, I stormed out and parked at a Sonic and cried to my mom. She was a skeptic of Nate when we were dating, she would sympathize, right?
She told me that Nate loved me more than anyone on this Earth, to go home and be good to him because I would never find someone better than him nor a life better without him.
She was right.
I won’t get into details, it’s a long story, but growing up in the dance world you often become incredibly arrogant or incredibly insecure, or both. The older you get, the more emotionally mature you can get, but it’s a battle oftentimes. Your job is to look and be perfect all the time. And while it instilled great discipline and other helpful qualities in me, there was massive insecurity.
That spilled over into my dating life.
When Nate and I first kissed, I almost cried. Because it was the first time I felt like a guy wasn’t trying to take something from me. I didn’t realize how low I had set my standards.
I tend to be more private about my marriage, but I’ll just say that it is good, really good. Because we’re so private, I forget that it’s not often a husband will ask to slow dance in the kitchen or send his wife to a bubble bath with a magazine when the kids are crazy.
Y’all, I married UP. There is a reason why I chose him over the life I thought I wanted.
Nate has been the best thing that ever happened to me, and I don’t say that in a cliché way. How could I ever hold bitterness over him?
Part of why I thought I’d be bitter about staying home is because of what I thought I HAD TO give up. I have to have a purpose and my skills and mind have to be used. I thought I’d get depressed, like many mothers do, and lose my sense of self.
But when I got married and grew the heck up (again, we got married pretty young), my marriage did not take away from who I was. It added to who I was.
Nate and I say that we don’t complete each other, but we deeply complement each other. We make each other more.
What if I approached motherhood the same way? My daughters will definitely take from me—my time, my energy, my sanity. Obviously. That’s going to happen no matter how strategically or positively I approach it. I will have to give a lot up.
But instead of dwelling on what I’m giving up, how can I create a life that makes it feel like a better yes because it is…even if I don’t see it now. More than just leading with gratitude (so easy to say, tricky to actually do), how do I trick my selfish brain to see that this is better? Get what I’m saying?
I had a ballet teacher who gave the best advice once:
We were in the middle of Nutcracker—nearly 60 performances in fewer than 30 days. My friends and I were exhausted, complaining in the hallway. He heard us and started yelling…
“Get up! Leave! You can quit anytime!
Sweeties, you choose the life. You chose to be a dancer and this is what dancers do. You are welcome to leave anytime!”
Another teacher with him went on to say if we were tired, get more sleep. If we’re still tired, talk to the nutritionist, go to the health food store and get support. If you’re sore, stretch, ice, go to physical therapy.
Basically, we chose this life. There is ample support if you ask for it and seek it out. It won’t be easy, but you CHOOSE the life and you can choose to complain or figure out how to make it work for you.
I am choosing the stay-at-home mom life. I get to choose, to some extent, how this goes.
Instead of complaining and staring out into space wondering, the last few weeks I’ve been reading, researching, Googling all the dumb things like, What to do with your kids when you don’t want to hang out with them anymore…
I’m choosing this. How can we make this good? How can we make it fun? How can we make it simple? How can we, as best we can, plan ahead and prepare mentally and physically to have better days?
What if I used my skills and mind—utilize my strategy skillset. (Strategy is #1 in my StrengthsFinders.)
What if I made it like a game? What if I made motherhood and homemaking my business? (But say it out loud like Tabitha.)
When Nate and I argue now, we stop each other and ask if what we are saying makes ‘Team Selvidge’ better or not. It’s almost a game for us to make our arguments more productive. What if I thought about that in motherhood?
What if I took my no-nonsense approach I had a business coach to reset my mindset on motherhood and staying home on MY terms? As much as possible, of course.
I had a good chat with my sister-in-law about this: overcoming feelings of unfulfillment as a stay-at-home mom and homemaker. We both talked about where the unfulfillment comes from—is it outside pressure or us?
We both talked about being there with our kids during quarantine, and before then, but not being mentally there because we were wondering if we should be doing something else (in addition to) that would bring value.
It was in that talk, and the quote I mentioned before about bringing order to your own home before attempting to solve the world’s problems— it all connected in my mind to approach being a stay-at-home mom as a business.
If this were my business, I wouldn’t be allowed to come in late…aka allow the girls to be my alarm clock. I’d have to get dressed, EVERY DAY. I wouldn’t go home until I had cleared my desk or at least made a plan for the next day, aka no bedtime before the dishes in the dishwasher and laundry put away.
Yes, there is more grace at home. And being a mother is much more complicated and layered and emotional and those things should be considered, but…really though. I preached to work-from-home entrepreneurs about physically taking your work seriously even whilst at home. Dress like you’re working, set hours like a real business because…aren’t you a real business?
See, when you own a business or start a business, what most creatives missed is setting an actual business plan, aka, how they make money. They’d get lost in the minutia of colors, feelings, and aspirations and not what exactly they did day-to-day, for whom, and how that produced money.
So to put this into terms I can digest and feel familiar with, I had to set up a ‘business plan’ for homemaking.
Motherhood (caring, loving, cleaning, teaching, playing) is my service, our home is my storefront (would the kitchen pass a restaurant inspection? yikes!), my family is my clients, and love (OK, too cheesy…perhaps peace, good attitudes, lots of learning and joy) is the currency or the desired outcome.
Financially, I want to contribute. Yes, love and that all matters (I’ll get to that and the vision I have for our family), but I do want to monetarily contribute. But instead of bringing money in (other than through the cows and sheep), I want to focus on saving my family money. All of those aforementioned Chick-fil-A visits and unnecessary Target runs had to stop.
How can we cut our grocery bills in half? What streaming subscriptions do we rarely use that we can get rid of? Why the heck does good chicken feed cost so dang much and why have two of them stopped laying? Is growing our own vegetables actually going to save us money? If it’s just for pleasure, we should budget as such.
I can financially contribute even if it’s not a paycheck.
Also, during this pandemic, I’ve gone down rabbit hole after rabbit hole about all things wellness which leads me to the first executive action I’ve been taking: putting my oxygen mask on first.
I’ll be sharing my action plan (ish) in the next post!