I never wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. I believed that I would always work. I loved working hard and earning a living and supporting our family. When I was pregnant with my first child, my spouse and I spent a lot of time talking about how important it was that he support me in getting back to work because I was afraid that somehow after the baby was born that I would lose work. I knew that things were going to change but I didn’t know exactly what.
When my first child was born, I stayed home for about six weeks, and then I returned to work and took my baby with me. For almost a year, having my son at work. I was able to nurse him, feel like I was spending a lot of time with him, and I never had this traumatic transition to where I had to start leaving him with a care provider before I was ready. When he was a year old, he happily went to our nanny when I left him at home and I felt good about it. The same happened with baby number 2.
Then came my daughter. Working a lot with one child is a lot different than working with 3. In general, there is just a lot more to do when you have three children under the age of five. There’s a lot more laundry, more doctors appointments, dentist appointments, activities. Things. All of the things. It was during this time that I realized that in some ways, it would be simpler or me and overall better for the family if I transitioned to a stay-at-home situation. So I did.
It is just over a year since I stopped working out in the world in transition to home. I’m still working, but I do it from not go into work. I don’t have a job per se, I am working on my own project. But essentially, I have no idea stayed home. And for me, the transition has not been easy.
The loss of the social interaction has been one of the hardest parts of transitioning to be a stay at home mom.
I knew this was going to happen, but it didn’t make things easier. At work, I was surrounded by intelligent adults. I could frequently have high-level conversations. Now that I’m at home, the only people I see for the most part during the day unless we go out are the children.
I’m busy almost all day at home, taking care of the home and the kids. So that means that we have to put a special effort to go out to mix or meet up with other adults. I do this occasionally but honestly it is hard with our schedule for me to be able to do this.
The result is that I tend to fall into conversations with random adults who talk to me. I spend a lot more time talking to the neighbor over the fence in the yard. Telemarketers will sometimes get an earful from me when they call, because for me, it’s actually just a relief to talk to a human adult, even if they are trying to sell me something.
Sometimes I also find that once I start talking to someone, it is hard for me to stop. It is like there is a flood of words that is just backing up everyday because I’m not using them. If I were to go back to work and transition home again, I think I would make the first year easier by committing to a regular schedule a meeting up with other adults. Not necessarily after work drinks or adult activities, but I would try hard to get to play dates with other like-situationed moms.
I am a recovering work-a-holic
At work, I was needed, essential, important. Now that I am home, the number of people who need me has been reduced drastically. When I was working, I used to have my phone clipped to me or stuck in my hand just about all the time because there was always a fire or a question or something that needed to be done right away.
Now, that phone is quiet.
I struggle to put my phone down, even though it doesn’t beep, boop, or ring. I don’t need to have my phone at my side all the time, but I can’t put it away. What if someone needs me? What if there is a question only I can answer? At this point now, there is no need for me to be available to answer questions. I’m having a hard time getting unplugged from technology because I’m so used to being connected to it.
The quietness of my phone, email and text messages sometimes gives me anxiety. I feel like I’m missing out on something or I’m falling down on the job, even though I’m doing the job that I am supposed to be doing and no one expects me to do any more.
Moving forward to deal with this, I’m not sure that I would have done or will do anything differently. I think that the habit of having my phone around is something I will overcome with time. What I’ve learned over the last 12 months is that I don’t need my phone, and I have started being able to put it down or not take it with me when we go outside. I’m getting used to the fact that my life is actually changed.
Yes, there is less money coming in when you transition to staying at home full time.
I was expecting this, but it is still somewhat of a challenge to deal with. When you go from having two incomes to only one, there are financial implications. This goes without saying. When you make less money you need to handle your money differently.
In my situation, this meant making dramatic changes to my budget. When I was working, I got to place where I was comfortable and didn’t necessarily pay too much attention to much things cost. At the grocery store I got what I wanted and never looked up prices. The same was true when ordering food at restaurants, or eating out in general.
With the loss of that income from my job, each month we had thousands of dollars less available each month to spend on things. To maintain a solid budget and also continue to make payments against debt and save, drastic measures had to be implemented. I didn’t want to be forced to go back to work because I couldn’t afford to stay at home.
Now I pay close attention to what to buy at the grocery store, we don’t eat out, and I spend a lot less on discretionary items such as toys, books, clothes, and entertainment.
But here’s what I discovered, I don’t really live that much differently now that all of these changes have been implemented and I’ve gotten used to them. I think about how much money I was spending before even just on groceries and eating out. The amount of money that we used to spend was astronomical, I see that now. I think a cautious family could have lived and paid all their bills money that we were spending on food alone.
Now that I am home and not spending all the extra money, the change in income has not really impacted us that drastically. What I would do if I did this again was to implement the austerity measures well before I made the decision to stay at home. So I would have looked at the budget and then cut back on food and other items in advance so that I could build up more of a savings cushion for the transition time.
Having been through this experience, I think that even parents who are working should take some time to look at the family budget and see where money is being wasted. Do we really need to buy everything that we do? If having to maintain a certain lifestyle comes at the price of spending less time with your children, perhaps the solution is to look at whether that lifestyle is appropriate.
I’m not going to lie, it was pretty painful in those first six months getting used to my new budget, because I wasn’t used to doing it that way. But now the changes have been made and I’m used to them, I realize now how much of time I was spending away from my family simply to afford that lifestyle. Now I get to spend almost every day with at least one of my children, instead of being at my office, and the lifestyle changes are worth it.
Self care is still hard for stay at home moms.
When I was working, it was really hard to find time to do self care. When you have kids and you are working, there are very few extra minutes in the day to do things just for you. I thought that when I transitioned to a stay-at-home mom, but I would have a lot more time for self-care. I would be able to work out consistently every day, that I would be cooking healthy meals, and I could finally focus on getting my physical health back to where it was before I had babies.
What I’ve discovered is that it was hard then, and it is hard now. When you are at work, you are not working out. When you have children at home, you’re focused on the tasks of raising kids and taking care of the home, and not necessarily on working out. It hasn’t been any easier than it was before to get to the gym or to do other self-care wild things like going to yoga.
It has been easier to incorporate more physical activity into my day because I am out and about with the kids. I take them for walks, I am moving towards getting a bike and being able to ride bikes or scooters with them. But a lot of my day it’s taken up with the tasks of maintaining the household and keeping the kids on track. I have laundry to do, dishes to our house to clean, chores to do or what weeds to pull, eatng.
So while overall I am sitting a lot less, and I move around a lot more, I’m not getting to the gym and I’m not doing all things I would like to be doing. I would like to be lifting weights, and I would like to jog with friends, and do CrossFit. But there was not time before for this, and there is still not time for this now.
I’m going to lay blame on my self-care upon myself and not upon my family. I am not good about prioritizing my own self-care above the needs of my children. If you are a person who struggles to make exercise a priority, transitioning home does not change how you prioritize. If you are lazy about eating healthy, this is something that you have to change in addition to being at home. Just having more time in the day does not light the fire under you to make other changes to your life. I need to start making my own self-care a priority. I think once I do that, I will manage to find more time in my day to do it.
Unexpected needs for new clothes
When I transitioned to stay at home mom wardrobe was inadequate. In the office, I needed a lot of nice pants, nice shirts, and high-quality shoes. But home, I live in yoga pants and t-shirts. When I transitioned, I didn’t have enough of those things. I had maybe two pairs of yoga pants. This was just one of those unexpected things that I didn’t plan for, and it cracks me up now that I only had so little as far as being around the house clothes.
Since I didn’t want to spend money on outfitting myself again, I ended up getting some hand me down T-shirts from one of my brothers and some castoffs from my mom who is taking clothes to Goodwill so that I can have some casual clothes to wear around the house while doing chores and not have to be wearing all the same clothes. I could just buy new, I know, or even buy discount clothes from Walmart or even from Goodwill. But I am committed to not spending money that we don’t have to spend, so this was an easy solution for me to have some stuff to wear around the house.
Avoiding losses to my career trajectory
I’ve also had a lot of time to think about what’s the transition to be at home full-time will do and what it’s currently doing to my career. When you aren’t working, you are no longer earning retirement benefits, Social Security, and your resume will have a giant hole in it.
To combat this, I have tried to set aside at least one hour a day to working on projects that I can include on my resume or be able to talk about when it is that I decide to return to the workforce. I’m imaging sitting in front of a hiring partner during an interview, and I want to be able to tell them what I did to stay connected to my industry. I know that I can honestly say that I was a stay-at-home mom to explain the gap and that legally that can’t be used against me, but that’s just not enough for me.
So what I am doing is finding work that I can do online, such as freelancing, taking courses online (even free ones), and connecting and networking with people using the various resources on the internet such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.
I’m not sure necessarily what sort of work I will want to do once the kids are all in school and I have no kids at home. Maybe I won’t go back to work when they’re all in school, but I suspect that I will have the need again to do more than what I’m doing at home. It is glorious that the internet gives us the ability to do so much from home. You can do conference calls through Skype, email, all of the file-sharing applications. It is easier now than ever to find a work-from-home job and then to do it well.
I will say that while there are kids at home, it can be hard to be as productive as I would like, because there’s always things to do and there’s always a child up in my business. So to move my stay-at-home career goals forward, I end up working a lot late at night.
It is hard, I have found, just turn off all of the things that drove me into a high-level career in the first place. I’m still a very driven person, that did not change when I transitioned to staying at home. I am working hard at home every day to raise my family, but it is more like a hamster on a wheel kind of work.
This is the kind of work that always frustrated me out in the workplace. I almost have to set up arbitrary tasks and goals for myself to accomplish to keep myself from feeling anxious. I can see that for some parents, the threat of depression is very real in the transition to home. Having less money. Fewer people that you engage with in a given day. Potentially losing friends because you aren’t able to maintain the relationship. Reduced positive feedback (affirmation) from bosses when you achieve something.
If you are a person who thrives on positive reinforcement, and need that pat on the back all the time, staying at home can be really hard because there are very few recognitions for you. This is true for stay-at-home moms and stay-at-home dads. The children don’t do or say anything to let you know how much they appreciate you, especially when they are small. If your other spouse is still working and you are staying home, that individual is also working hard of the home. You’re she may not think at all to come home and to give you props for the work that you do, because they are also working and this is just what you guys do.
Are you thinking of transitioning home? Put your questions or thoughts about it in the comments.
Emily Anderson is a mother of three children, ages 8, 6, and 3. Located in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, Emily is a full-time mom and part-time blogger, jumping in front of the screen when the kids are occupied. She can be reached through the Contact Us page.