6 Things to Know About Becoming a Stay at Home Mom

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Thinking of extending your maternity leave for a really long time? Or quitting the office job and becoming a stay at home mom instead? Here are six things you really ought to know or do:

1. You must embrace the the yoga pantsYou might go in to this whole endeavor thinking that there is NO WAY you are joining a gym or going to preschool pickup in yoga pants and tennis shoes. But you know what?  The reason why SAHMs have been doing these things for years is because they are good decisions. Joining a gym means childcare, time away from your kids, and a chance to be around other adults, usually in your same situation. And yoga pants are the ultimate multi-tasking legging choice!  There is absolutely no point in getting dressed up for a ten minute pick up of a four year old… unless you are doing it because other moms at the preschool are judging you. In which case, get a new preschool.

2. Your kids are in charge. And they are mean bastards. As much as we like to think it will happen, our husbands will never walk in to the house after their day and say, “Hey, you did a really great job today!  I am so proud of you and don’t know how you do it all!”  I mean, how often do you say to your husband, “I know it is so hard to get up every morning, head in to work despite the weather and our adventures here at home, work hard to keep your job, and come home to kids screaming because they are DONE for the day?” Right? We all take each other for granted. So if you are looking for words of encouragement, your partner is not the right place. Don’t expect it.

Your kids are the boss of you. They will run your day and your time in a grueling way.  And they will let you know when they are unhappy with screams and tears and embarrassing meltdowns in Chick-fil-A. It will be very rare that they will tell you how they appreciate what you do. But you know what?  When they are almost four and they randomly say “Mommy, I love you so much” or “Mommy, I am so glad you are here.” That’s like money in the bank.

3. Reevaluate your performance metricsYou will most likely get on blogs or websites or have Facebook friends who make being a SAHM seem like one easy ride of Martha Stewart baking, Pilates classes, and Pinterest-inspired crafts with their Janie+Jack dressed kids, all done in an immaculate house.

LIES!

Well, if not lies, they certainly are only putting their best face forward. Every mother has breakdown moments. Every mother has days where just getting eye makeup on while the teething baby is clinging to her desperately is a feat.  You will, many times in the upcoming years, yell “I just want to pee alone!”  So redefine what you feel “success” is. For me, success is now a day where my house is not a disaster at the end of the day (I like to start relaxing when my husband gets home, I don’t want more chores staring me in the face after dinner), I get to engage in one social situation in the course of the day (playdate, gym conversation, lengthy phone call, whatever it is I’ll take it), and I am dressed in a way that will not be embarrassing when the college kid comes by to sell us a newspaper subscription.

4. You’ll need to have something of your own. Get or have something — ANYTHING — outside of motherhood. Whether this is getting involved in your church, helping on the preschool board, taking one night class a week, learning the guitar, being part of the leadership of your mothers’ club or your local alumni club (blogging?)…whatever it is, find it.  You’ll need an outlet outside of your house walls and your kids to give you something to feel like a contributor. It will make you feel respected and important. So discover what it is that can give you a small spark of passion and inspiration and devote a little bit of time to it.  After all, you need to be able to talk about anything other than the color of the last poopy diaper at the next cocktail party, and politics will not be your thing for another few years (no way you can watch the news with a two year old following you around).

5. Get some new friends. I know this sounds brutal, but you need some new friends. No, I’m not saying go ditch your old ones. In fact, work hard to hold on to relationships, but now more than ever you are going to need friends who understand you and what you are going through.

When you have a Monday where you feel irrationally depressed that you are not going to be able to get your IUD in easily because you cannot find childcare on a weekday afternoon OR because you have yet to eat lunch one time that week OR because you feel like death warmed over from the flu yet are home alone with two kids under under, find a friend that you can call. Find a friend where you can bring your kids over to her/his house on a moment’s notice, the kids can play and socialize, and you can pop open a glass of wine and lament about how good you had it when you worked.  Isolation will be staved off for one more day.  You need friends who are in a similar circumstance.

Because here’s the deal: there is a LOT of emotion out there, and literature, too, about the SAHM “versus” the working mom.  Who has it harder, who is more stressed?  Like it’s a giant competition and the most frazzled one wins. But the truth is it is damn hard for everyone.

6. It really is so fleeting and it truly is just a phase. I won’t bore you with the “savor the moment”  crap you probably hear all the time, but do remember that what seems so crazy hard now will be over in an instant. Some day, in the blink of an eye, you will be able to go back to work in some form and you will probably cry over how great your years at home were with little kids who needed you so badly.

Possibly.

Comments

  1. 3

    says

    Hi Allison,
    Stay-at-Home Mom’s are the best. But it is not just those first years that are important to kids. Mine always remind me how they loved it when they were in school and come home at the end of the day and I was there to listen to how there day went.
    Sometimes as parents we think that those first years are the most important ones to spend with your kids. In reality do you remember the first 5 years of your life?
    But we sure remember those years after we started school. If you can get through those first 5 years it does get easier, teen years are more mental, staying ahead of there thinking.
    Tip 5 is very important, we all need friends. make sure you make them.
    As for appreciation from hubby, it can be amazing how he starts appreciate us ladies when we start giving him appreciation. If nothing else let him know that you need the appreciation. Or take a weekend off and go visit a friend or family member and let him take care of the kids for a few days. This can wake those dads up!
    Thank Allison for sharing a mothers world.
    Debbie

    • 4

      says

      I remember in a teaching workshop learning that the majority of kids have their first sexual encounter between 3-5. That stuck with me. Lots of kids coming home from school to empty houses & lots of kids needing guidance.

    • 5

      judy says

      @allison….
      Great article. I love how non-judgemental you are.
      @debbie. ….
      What the hell?? Nowhere in this piece does this say staying at home is best.
      I went to your blog, and you have an article about Scary Mommy being a horrible web site, so I am not sure why you are here reading or commenting.

      • 6

        says

        Judy, In my opinion have to take my hat off to stay at home mom’s. They do give up a lot for there kids and they are to be admired for that.
        As for visiting this blog, I find it very sad at some of the things mothers today say about motherhood. You might call what I am doing research. You see my kids are grown, now I am a grandmother trying to keep up with the changes in motherhood.
        I loved every minute of being a mother and now a grandmother. Kids grow up so fast that you have to enjoy ever minute. Even those bad days. Those are the ones that you will look back at someday and laugh.
        I did not say scary mommy was a horrible website! It has more negative reading about motherhood rather than postive in many of the post. I find this a little sad, since we as the adults decide to have that baby.
        Thanks for helping with my research and teaching me how mothers today think!
        Debbie

        • 7

          Jessica says

          To help you with your research for your blog:
          ….”take my hat off to stay at home mom’s” – should be just “moms” not mom’s.

          “They do give up a lot for there kids…” – should be “their kids”.

          Good luck with the blog.

          • 8

            says

            Thanks Jessica for the English and spelling course. If you are interested I was a smart enough mom to know that I shouldn’t help my kids with their English class when they were in school.
            Now if you through knocking my grammer; have a nice day. And thanks again for the corrections.
            We are never to old to learn.
            Debbie

            • 9

              Jessica says

              There is a difference between “knocking” your grammar and pointing out obvious corrections you need to make if you want to come across as a blogger gathering research. I don’t think I said anything rude, so take it as it is and try to improve your writing. Or don’t; your choice.

              • 10

                says

                I would rather concentrate on the blog post and not someones spelling or grammar in the comment they make. However I do love reading the comments.
                Jessica after hearing your comments to me, I do not believe you are rude, you are being yourself and grammar is very important to you.

                Look forward to seeing a blog from you.
                Have a great day, I plan too!
                Debbie

  2. 12

    Heather Ann says

    I’ve been a SAHM for 13 years. This article nailed it. The stress, the loneliness and the WONDER of it all! It really does go by so fast. I substitute teach now so my two girls have me home at the end of the day and on school breaks. Two statements stick in my mind from when I was making the decision to stay home. One was from my co-worker, whose kids were then in college. She told me that quitting my job to stay home was the “best career move I could make.” The second was when someone said “With you children the days are long, but the years are short.” You will look back and be amazed at how fast it all went. But you will also look back knowing you gave all you had to your kids! So. Worth. It. All.

  3. 13

    Holly Anne Balish says

    "As much as we like to think it will happen, our husbands will never walk in to the house after their day and say, “Hey, you did a really great job today! I am so proud of you and don’t know how you do it all!” I mean, how often do you say to your husband, “I know it is so hard to get up every morning, head in to work despite the weather and our adventures here at home, work hard to keep your job, and come home to kids screaming because they are DONE for the day?” Right? We all take each other for granted. So if you are looking for words of encouragement, your partner is not the right place. Don’t expect it."

    Maybe it's time we start saying these things to our spouses. Actually, Matt and I DO say these things to each other. We just need to say them more often.

    • 14

      Charity says

      I thought the same thing. My husband and I are the reverse. He is the stay-at-home-dad. I tell him all the time that I appreciate everything he does for our girls and he, in-turn, tells me that he appreciates me getting up early and going to work every day. We sometimes wish our situations were reverse, but they are what they are out of circumstance and we have to make peace with that. We learned with our first daughter that no one wins the game of “I do more,” or “I have it worse.”

  4. 19

    says

    being a stay at home mom is an emotional journey that will have you laughing and crying all at the same time. it's amazingly beautiful, messy and make me want to pull my hair out but I wouldn't change my position as a SAHM for the world :)

  5. 22

    momofeveryone says

    Who has it harder, who is more stressed? Like it’s a giant competition and the most frazzled one wins. But the truth is it is damn hard for everyone.

    truer words have never been spoken.

    • 25

      says

      This is a beautiful, honest post. Thank you for sharing this and for your comment. Everyone has to follow their heart, for sure. And the SAHM business is not right for everyone all the time. I was fortunate in that I was at a career crossroads when our first baby arrived anyhow and knew that whatever I was doing was “starting over.” The timing was just good for me to make the decision I did. I do think that the business world is opening up a little more with flexibility and nearly all the women I know who stay-at-home are still able to keep one toe in the water when it comes to work and career. I am hopeful that this is a new wave of opportunity for us women that will become more normal. Fingers crossed…

  6. 27

    says

    Absolutely! My husband and I try to do this but we lose track and focus among all the crazy. So proud of you and yours for making the effort to make this happen. I am recommitting to this goal!

  7. 28

    days on my own says

    So true! The time flies, my child is in 7th grade and I am now in that other category…”Iamstillhomebutreallyshouldbeworking mom.” Don’t stress about the change in income, days of not hearing another adult except Dr. Oz, uncompleted tasks and taking a nap. It’s good to nap, I still do sometimes. Simply because there is endless tears, rolling of the eyes and sassy “okay”s being lobbed at me now. It is tiring. But I Knew I wanted to be a SAHM and I knew I would miss it when the only one home was me.
    Make sure you have “me” time once a week My husband started caring for our child at two weeks just for a few hours. (I just wanted my postnatal haircut.) I was surprised at how many of my friends would tell me their husband would never babysit the kids. Huh???!! It gave me comfort to know he could “handle” it, Sometimes they went to the park early Saturday morning so I could sleep in. He has loved the one on one time and now those are precious memories. They still go out together once a week, just for a few hours to dinner or movie or just to sit at the book store. Being a SAHM doesn’t mean your husband is not supposed to do anything around the house or for/with the kids. Don’t feel like you have to do everything for everyone. The kids can help even a toddler can learn to put toys away and help with laundry. It’s fun to teach them how to do it…sometimes these chores can turn into all day affairs but that is okay. The smiles and I did it, are worth it!

  8. 32

    Laura says

    Such truth! I was a SAHM for both my kids for several years each before I went back to work (they were separated by 8 years, so I had to quit two times to become a SAHM), and I’ve never regretted a second of it. I also didn’t regret going back to work when the time was right. But after my second, I found the perfect compromise — a job I could do at home that was flexible enough I could have time for my kids, and work when they were at school or after they were asleep.

    Not everybody can find something that flexible, but it was certainly the perfect solution for me — although, honestly, it was harder sometimes to convince other moms that I was at home working than it was kids, that there were times I couldn’t just drop everything and rush over and help out with a PTA project.

    I honestly don’t think there’s a big difference in the career paths of women who stay at home while their kids are small and those who go right back to work. There was once upon a time, but when women see my resume with the periods that say “Stayed home with kids,” they’re often envious that I was able to manage it since I realize that not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to afford it no matter how much they want to. It can be a big financial sacrifice, and there were many, many days when I felt like what little brains I had left were melting out of my head! But for me, it was a good decision.

    • 33

      says

      Thank you so much for such a thoughtful reply. I love what you shared. And I love that you were able to follow your heart and make the decisions best for you! (& brains are overrated, right? I mean, that scarecrow is FAMOUS and he didn’t have one)

  9. 34

    says

    Such a great post. I need to find some mommy friends ASAP! I stopped working 2 months and am slow to embrace the yoga pants, but I am def on my way. Still trying to figure out this stay at home thing.

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