I knew it would be hard. And lonely. And frustrating.

I was afraid it would be boring, and nervous about living up to my own expectations.

I even considered the fact that I might resent Mark and miss my old, less-than-beloved job.

But despite all my worrying and thinking and looking at every possibility and angle about the whole situation, many things about staying at home with Annalyn have still surprised me. Here are the ones I’ve noticed so far:

1. Losing track of dates: I know it’s fall. I know it’s November. I do. But a couple weeks ago, I saw people on Twitter mention that schools were closed for inclement weather (wind and rain, I believe). I told my husband about it and said, “I don’t know what schools are in session. Maybe summer school?” He just looked at me for a minute and then said, “Mary, it’s October!”

Right. I knew that. I did. But apparently some part of my brain believes that if I’m “off” work, it must be summertime!

2. Dry skin: Obviously the weather has a little bit to do with this, but more than the dry air outside, the constant washing and wiping of every surface possible is sucking the life right out of my skin. Laundry, dishes and dozens of trips to the bathroom each day (“potty trained” does not mean “completely independent and able to use an appropriate amount of toilet paper”) are killing my hands.

3. Messy, lived-in house: I’d heard about this problem. My stay-at-home mom friends, especially those who happened to be listing their houses for sale, complained that it’s impossible to keep a clean house when you’re IN that house all day long. With children. And their toys.

No kidding! I like to think that Annalyn is pretty neat, but good grief, that girl can wreck a room! In less time than it took me to clean it up, that’s for sure – and often, just minutes AFTER I cleaned it up in the first place!

4. Seeing more dust and cobwebs: Another result of being home, specifically during the light of the day, is that I am seeing the dust and cobwebs that call my house home. Ugh. If there’s one chore I hate (although, let’s be honest, there are MANY), it’s dusting. I’m allergic to dust, so I prefer to just let it sit. That way, I’m not stirring it up and breathing it in.

Unfortunately, that means my house is – here’s the surprise – dusty. And when the sun shines through the windows at ten in the morning, I can see that dust as clearly as I can see the computer screen in front of my face.

The dust, it’s mocking me. It’s just so…THERE.

5. A toy shortage: Historically, we have not bought toys for Annalyn. We’ve left that up to family and friends at holidays and birthdays. Until recently, that didn’t matter, because she was playing with a seemingly endless supply of toys and dolls and blocks and games at daycare.

But now that we’re home for the majority of the day, I’m realizing just how few toys we have! We don’t have much room, so we’ve kept our toy supply low on purpose. But faced with another round of the same puzzles and same blocks and same dolls, I’m starting to think Santa needs to bring a big bag of toys this year.

(Or at least a few more toys with lots of options. Because even though I feel like we have nothing to play with around here, I love how vivid and active Annalyn’s imagination is and I love how she uses that imagination instead of relying on dozens of toys for entertainment.)

6. Crowded closet: My laundry has never been so DONE. The first week I was home, I emptied all our hampers and started in on the rugs and curtains. I even got that clean laundry put away for once.

And that’s when I noticed the problem. Because it’s been so long since I was on top of our laundry situation – and I normally just leave all my clean hanging clothes in the garage, where our washer and dryer are – I didn’t realize how FULL my closet is!

I just went through my clothes and gave away a TON of wrong-sized (AHEM.) work clothes, so now I need to put away my spring/summer clothes. I think I saw a flat Rubbermaid box for just that purpose in the garage…

7. Redirection is hard: I’ve realized that it is so much easier to yell at Annalyn than to redirect or distract her. Of course, it doesn’t work. And it makes me feel awful. But in the moment, when I’m so tired of the WORK of keeping toddler tantrums at bay, yelling is easier.

I’m working on that.

8. I can’t bake. Correction: I can bake. I just shouldn’t. Nothing has felt more productive and, honestly, domestic than baking cookies and bread these last few weeks. On the flip side, nothing has felt more gluttonous than eating them almost immediately.

New plan: Only bake when I can give [at least some of] the goodies to someone else!

9. Obsessive compulsions: I’m particular about many things, from stacking books in a straight line to sorting M&Ms by color. But after years of convincing myself that a moderately neat house was good enough, I had no idea how quickly I’d morph into Perfectionist Housewife.

That’s not to say my house is perfectly clean! Nope. See #4 for more about that. And though I’m slowly making my way through a list of cleaning and organizing projects, the key word in that statement is “slowly.”

But the parts that I have cleaned? Well, they had better STAY that way! Which, if you’ll refer back to #3, you’ll know is impossible.

The worst case of my OCD is the garage and its blanket of leaves. I’ve cleaned and straightened our garage so we can park in it again (a constant battle in our house with too little storage, no laundry room and one-car garage). I even washed the rugs in front of the washer and dryer and swept out all the debris.

Yet every single time we open that garage door, leaves fly right in like they live here or something. So annoying.

10. Contentment: The biggest surprise of all is that I kind of like being at home. I’m not saying I love it all – or that I love it all the time. I’ve cried tears of frustration and boredom and anger more than once. (Pretty much every day, if I’m honest. And I am.)

But I can’t deny that it is nice to have time to get to the projects that have been sitting on my to-do list for, literally, years. And though I could do without Annalyn’s recent clinginess and Mommy-obsession, I also kind of like just how much she loves spending time with me.

So while I still don’t imagine this will be the life I choose forever – and I’m still actively pursuing a freelance career – I’m not sorry I chose it for now.

Have you gone through any changes lately? What about the new situation surprised you? And if you bake, how do you manage to NOT eat all the cookies???

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