October 2, 2022

The Short Years and The Long Days

The stay-at-home-parent life isn’t for the faint of heart.

Wilona Karimabadi

Sarah Singalla never planned on being a stay-at-home mom. The mother of two—7-year-old daughter Anna and 4-year-old son Abel—trained to be an occupational therapist. But like many women when they eventually have a child, Sarah felt strongly that being home with baby Anna was the right choice. “I thought about how going back to work with the amount of commuting and the hours I’d be working full-time, I would be gone so much at such an early time for her. And I felt strongly about it.” 

Those busy days with her little girl became even fuller when Abel was born. But as most parents know, time is a thief, and Anna was soon ready for full-time school. While she took to school life well, the pandemic in 2020 derailed everything. The Singallas, who had firmly embraced school life outside of the home, found themselves forced into homeschooling, which wasn’t the greatest fit for Anna. 

“I got tired of Zoom school,” Sarah remembers. “I felt it was much more work trying to keep up with teachers and making sure Anna stayed on top of it.” After slogging through this challenge for a bit, Sarah had an epiphany. “I couldn’t justify her doing online school when I was at home and could teach her. So I thought I would just try it out and see how it went,” she says. “It was hard at first, because I think I was harder on myself than Anna was on me.” 

A Day in the Life

What is a typical day like? Sarah gave us a peek: “During the school year I wake up before the kids and get myself ready. I get breakfast ready—sometimes they’ll help because they like to help out. And then we’ll start our homeschooling stuff with Anna, which also includes some basic things for Abel.” 

Piano is usually next on the agenda, followed by worship time together. “That’s a work in progress,” says Sarah. “Sometimes it doesn’t always work out, but I try.” Anna’s curriculum takes her through math, language arts, history, and science. “Depending on the day and how prepared I am, it can take a long time. But if I’m on point and prepared well, we can get through it pretty quickly,” adds Sarah. 

After school time Sarah and the children will hang out and play—sometimes at the park or just at home. They might go to the library as well. By evening both kids—who have outgrown napping—are tuckered out by 7:00 p.m., so bedtime by 7:30 p.m. is key. “ With active children who usually rise with the sun, Sarah’s day lasts sometimes longer than 12 hours, and bedtime is welcomed. 

The Juggling Act

While Abel isn’t doing a formal homeschool curriculum yet, Sarah has been challenged by the fact that Anna’s school time naturally directs a lot more attention to her. “I felt bad because even though I wasn’t neglecting my son, juggling between the two was hard to do at first,” says Sarah. So for now Abel joins in the “fun” of school life with activities and lessons that are perfectly suited for him. 

While staying at home and homeschooling was a choice, the days aren’t always full of sun-shine and rainbows. As parents know, while the years seem short, some days are very, very long.

“The first year was stressful,” says Sarah. “But I think I put a lot of pressure on myself to do things the way I thought they needed to be done. And then there was another kid there. So some days I would feel so bad. As if I were neglecting one kid or not paying enough attention to one. At the same time, they’re kids. They aren’t going to be perfectly sitting there the whole day just listening to me.” 

“I learned that sometimes we needed breaks from each other,” Sarah says. “So that I wouldn’t push them too hard or they wouldn’t drive me crazy,” But Sarah also learned that that is more than OK. That going with the flow sometimes is the sanest, safest path forward. “When I say ‘Go with the flow,’ I mean asking myself, ‘How are they responding to what I’m doing? Do they need to just run around and burn some energy? Do they feel discouraged right now? How do I feel about today?’” For this busy young mother who also suffers from migraines, these are questions well worth asking. 

Care for Yourself to Care for Others

Migraines are horrible by themselves, often requiring medication and a solitary, noiseless environment to overcome. This isn’t always possible for a stay-at-home parent. Thus staying ahead of migraine triggers, which for Sarah include stress and lack of rest, is very important. Enter the valuable practice of self-care. 

“Oh, that’s so important. So important,” Sarah affirms. “That has to be a priority. Whatever that may be—if you need more rest, make sure you get enough rest. If you need time away from the kids, figure out a babysitter. Figure out what you need to do and how to do that consistently. If you don’t have your cup at least half full, you can’t help other people.” 

Even in the busyness of raising and educating children and keeping yourself at your peak, a person needs support. And the greatest support one can have when in the business of caring for others comes from God. Thus the spiritual lessons that come from parenthood and daily caregiving are profound. “I feel good when I pray,” says Sarah. “I feel that if I say ‘Dear God, I need patience’ when I pour out my heart about what I’m feeling at that moment or what I’m having a hard time with, I’m able to move on from that emotion and move forward in my day.”

And especially in those moments when little ones (or big ones) aren’t listening, Sarah remembers that she has a God who loves her as she leans on Him more—a God who cares for her as she cares for her children.

singalla family
The Sangalla family