How becoming a stay-at-home mom has changed me and some of what you can expect by making the same choice.
This isn’t a know-it-all post about motherhood. I can’t really tell you if becoming a stay at home mom is right for your situation or not. There’s a lot more to it than housework and budgeting. Spending every second with your children may be something you crave but once you have it, maybe you’ll feel it isn’t right for you after all. Or maybe you will love it. Mostly, though, it will be both.
To be honest, becoming a mother for the first time really was eye-opening for me. There’s no turning back after that. Say good-bye to any sense of independence you may have had. After your first child arrives you are handed that baby along with a proverbial slap in the face which leaves you reeling for years. Okay, that’s a little dramatic. But seriously I felt completely stunned and unprepared despite all of the reading, learning and nesting I had done. Eventually you accept the new normal but there is definitely a break-in period, and it can be rough.
I’ve never been one of those people, let alone a mother, who handles difficult things with much grace. I’ve floundered and cried and clawed my way back into society. But I’ve also laughed and played and shared in the greatest love I could ever have imagined inside these four walls.
I stayed home for the whole three months of maternity leave and before that I had left my job knowing I wasn’t going back. I knew it just wasn’t right for me and honestly I had been clinging on for a while solely to claim my paid time off, which after several years with the company, was rightfully mine.
I feel very fortunate that I have the opportunity to stay home with my children. But while I made the decision well in advance of my son’s arrival, I really hadn’t given much thought to what being a stay-at-home parent actually entails. I’ve learned a lot along the way about managing my time and over the years I’ve been able to gradually change my outlook and strive towards being a better mother and wife.
You may lose yourself for a bit
At some point, after many, many weeks of the same routine of diapers and feeding and not sleeping, you may realize that you’re not really sure who you are anymore. Moms who work have the extremely hard decision of returning to their jobs and leaving the baby with a caregiver. But they also have to buck up, wash up and become some semblance of their regular selves again. At home, you’re just…there. You don’t have to talk to people, shower (well, not a lot), or put on clothes other than pajamas if you don’t want to. You may notice you can no longer remember when you left the house last. (This is also called “mom brain”.)
Before making the choice to stay home I worked in a professional environment. I did things for me that made me happy, just because. I felt like I contributed to society. When you realize the ramifications of giving these things up you may suddenly find yourself staring into the mirror and asking “Who the hell is that?”
It can get a little lonely
I’m pretty sure there have been several occasions in which I only talk to my kids and the cat basically all day. (You say the weirdest things as a parent to children under the age of four.) I’m pretty notorious for making up nonsensical songs about every day activities and incorporating my kid’s bizarre nicknames into them. Even my son tells me to knock it off sometimes. I think my husband’s just used to it now. Or he thinks I’m insane. Whatever. My point is, that unless you make some mom friends who are relatively close by, you’ll be spending a lot of time inside with just your kids.
Plus, it’s super hard to get out sometimes when it’s just you and the baby. Or you, the baby and an older child at that. Especially when you throw breastfeeding into that mix. I also struggled with postpartum anxiety, so that is a fun double-whammy. My best defense to combat this extreme loneliness is a friend of mine who is also a mom, and only a phone call away. Unfortunately she lives several hundred miles away and so does most of my family.
There are no real breaks
What I wouldn’t do for a real one hour lunch break. Heck, I’d take 30 minutes. My son stopped napping at two, before my daughter was even born, so basically I’m always with a child. I’ve just recently been able to pee alone (sometimes). It’s exhausting.
The personal responsibility can be overwhelming
Some days I feel like I am doing everything because I ACTUALLY am. Being the person at home all the time, you’re the one doing all the housework, taking the kids to their appointments and play dates and keeping track of everyone’s schedule. You know what day the plants need to be watered and which socks your son likes the best. That the dishwasher only cleans the dishes if you load it a certain way and the cat only gets wet food in the morning. Swimming lessons start next month and the recycling truck comes every first and third Friday, NOT every other week! Ugh!
Okay, I’m venting. But seriously. You’ll always be that go-to person because you really will know where everyone’s shoes are and how many diapers to bring. It will be MANY years before your kids start handling basic tasks on their own and until then it’s going to feel like it’s always on you. Of course my husband helps but I’m still the one who’s responsible for the details of a functional, thriving home.
You lower your standards of appearance
I’ve never been a huge makeup and fashion kind of girl. I still own a scrunchie (and I love it) and I’m pretty disappointed that adult acne is actually a thing. That being said, I did used to get up, shower and apply a full face of make-up every weekday for my job. Nowadays I only apply eye shadow if I’m feeling extra frisky. I don’t apply anything on the days I don’t leave the house and other days its just the basics: mascara and foundation. My hair is always up. Leggings are my new favorite pants and loose comfortable shirts are my grab-and-go. The few extra pounds I’ve gained since I’ve stopped breastfeeding are stubborn but I’m also not putting up much of a fight.
Truthfully though, it isn’t that I’ve given up trying to look nice. It’s that I just care A LOT less what people think of me. I’m proud of being a mom. I have good kids who occasionally have complete, scream-like-a-banshee breakdowns in the middle of a crowded play place. But hey, that’s my life now and I’ve come to terms with embracing it. Unless I’m headed out on a really hot (very rare) date night with my husband, then I’m sticking to yoga pants and a ponytail.
Go find something just for you
Staying at home you’ll quickly discover how much you do for everyone else. Showering alone is a luxury now. Everyone needs something all the time. The personal sacrifices you will make as a stay-at-home mom are astounding. Sometimes it feels like your mind, body and general consciousness belong to someone else. I dream about my kids more than any other thing. I’m always thinking about them, or my husband, and how to fulfill their needs.
When you give up your identity as a working individual you may soon find that you’re now missing something vital. Before I started this blog I tried watercolor painting as an outlet. It was fun, I was terrible and I’m not sure how much I’ll continue with it. BUT it was something to do just for me. My writing has taken the place of that now and it’s been really good for my mental state.
Join a book club, or a wine club! Start a fun new hobby or some kind of side hustle. Everyone is good at something. Now is also a good time to try something entirely new as well! Have you always wanted to learn photography? Interior design? Computer programming? Take a class! Get out and do something that you feel good about and in the long run you may sense some of those feelings of success and pride returning back to you.
It makes you appreciate all the things
You may say that being a working mom teaches you not to take any moment for granted, but this also goes for moms who stay home. A car ride alone with the music blasting can refresh your tired spirit. The sweet giggle from my baby girl when she spies the cat every morning still makes me smile. My son drawing a big “T” for his name and being SO proud of what he’s learned always swells my heart with pride. A warm smile from my husband across the room when we both spy them being sweet together never fails to make for a better evening.
These everyday moments are what make my world turn. Sure, sometimes it’s hard. Really, really hard. But it’s always worth it. And yes, you may get a little lost along the way and there will be times when you truly struggle. When you don’t want to make dinner ever again or do another load of laundry or move from the sofa. But you keep going and soon the good things outweigh the bad and you find yourself again and head back out to society with makeup and jeans on.
I’m no parenting expert and I definitely don’t have it all together. I really don’t know if I’ll be a stay-at-home mom forever, either. I probably won’t but returning to the workforce is both unappealing and a bit daunting. The uncertainty of having a future career really threw me off balance for a long time. I stay grounded in knowing that these first years of my children’s lives are something I can never get back and I’m lucky to be here to witness it all.
And no, I don’t home-school, craft or make perfect dinners every day. You don’t have to fit a certain stereotype as a stay-at-home parent. You will make mistakes and some days will feel like they last for-ev-er. It helps to accept that the only real thing you can control is your attitude and your outlook. That, and making the decision to live in the day to day moments while also pushing yourself out. Outside of the house, outside of your comfort zone and outside of everyone else’s standards of you. And choosing to be happy with the results.
I’d love to hear more about you and your stories of motherhood. Email me or leave some feedback in the comments. We’re all on this journey together!