The thought for this post came to me after I was struggling to put my screaming son into a cart at Costco. I haven’t always been a stay at home mom. Here’s my motherhood story in a nutshell. I had my oldest just 2 weeks before turning 21. A few years later, I was a divorced mom of 2 kids earning a degree in social work with no family support (they lived 8 hours away). Twelve years later and I was married with 2 more kids and I working full time as a social worker. I LOVED my job but like so many parents, I was finding less enjoyment in my career. My husband works between 50-65 hours a week and it was tough to be away. After a lot of discussion, we decided would stay at home. It’s been 3 years. Here is what I have learned (believe me, I am still learning and I do not claim to be an expert on this):
- Let go of any expectations. I had an idea in my head of how this would work. I would be put together, pristine house, happy children who adored their mother, warm meals, ample gym time, daily learning lessons for kids, outings, crafts and cooking. I am here to tell you, let it go girlfriend! Some days I am just surviving here, counting down the minutes until bed time and a glass of wine! It’s ok, it is. Some days I am in yoga pants, even pj’s until lunch. My kids fight, I am the “worst mommy ever” on occasion, meals are often leftovers or whatever can be scrounged up. Daily lessons… well that’s just not me, there’s preschool for that. That’s cool though, I know who I am and what I am good at. P.S. don’t stress over dust and various scattered toys……. let it go!
- Explore your weaknesses. I am the most unorganized person! I procrastinate and am usually struggling to find that permission slip wedged in some drawer somewhere. Be honest, figure out what areas you need to improve on and put strategies in place to help,Here are a few that help me. I make lists and use my planner on my phone. I have a small notebook I keep with me for random lists. I use my phone planner and it’s alerts for EVERYTHING! You’d be surprised how easy it is to forget an appointment when you are trying to get the laundry done, playing dress up, and refereeing sibling squabbles. Plus I find that often, my husband and I forget to communicate appointments and various events. I just add him to the planner events and he is alerted too.
- Talk to your significant other. Before taking the leap into stay at home parenting, sit down and have a discussion about what your expectations are. I honestly think my husband thought that the house would be close to spotless and he wouldn’t have to do much at home. It is very important, in order to avoid future fights or resentment, to honestly talk about what you both are expecting, and then revisit it after being home for a while once you have a chance to really experience this stay at home thing. You might think you can keep the house clean, make a from scratch meal nightly, play with your darlings, and get a workout in. However, once you are in the trenches, you might find that maybe you can’t do it all, or you are, but you are losing your mind in the process. I really believe that the working parent struggles most with the homemaking portion of having a significant other at home. So talk, be honest.
- Don’t lose yourself. I see so many at home parents lose sight of who they are. Continue to feed your brain, learn new things, explore hobbies.
- Take care of you! If you are going to take care of others, you need to be at your best. Do not feel guilty taking care of you! Workout, read ALONE (something non educational and maybe trashy), get a massage, whatever you need to stay in balance. When I am stressed, I have way less tolerance for my kids and husband.
- Find new friends. I found that my old work friends and I didn’t have much in common any more. They will always hold a special place in my heart, we were just in different worlds. I found some amazing friends while working out and running. I can text one when I am having a rough day and we can have an impromptu play date. We can visit each others houses and not have to explain the mess. Sometimes one or both of us are still in PJ’s!
- Date your spouse. Go on dates and have alone time with your spouse. Do not stay in the parent role all the time with your significant other. Get all gussied up and hit the town, find new hobbies to enjoy together (we might try tennis).
- You are important. This is a tough one. Especially if you left a career. I still find myself having to tell people that I’m not “just a stay at home mom”, that I have a degree an chose to leave my career. Whether you have a degree or not, what you do matters!
- Stay active. Do not just sit around all day and watch TV. I know that is a stereotype, but some people do. You are wasting your life by doing this. Being at home is not an excuse to be lazy. Be present in you child’s life, play, get out, workout. I say workout a lot, don’t I? It’s important to stay physically active to not only keep up with our little darlings, but to stay healthy. Get up and live the life that you chose!
BONUS: If you aren’t happy, go back to work! No one said this had to be permanent. Being at home isn’t for everyone and that’s ok.