6 Things to Know About Becoming a Stay at Home Mom

OOCmom-002_flat_FINAL_webImage via Heath Robbins

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.


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.

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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.


Related post: The Stay At Home Mom Challenge


The Scary Mommy Community is built on support. If your comment doesn't add to the conversation in a positive or constructive way, please rethink submitting it. Basically? Don't be a dick, please.

    • Bobby Joe says

      I just went back to work. There is a lot of support for working women, little for the stay at home mom. I know you think you wrote this to be funny… I find it very… Very passive aggressive. The comment ” There is absolutely no point in getting dressed up for a ten minute pick up of a four year old” is really mean and just as ignorant as the awful things that were said to my mother when she went to back to work when I was an infant, Stay at home moms are raising about 75% of working mom’s kids. Who do you call when you need help & your kid is sick? A stay at home mom. Who do you call when you are running late & your baby needs to be picked up from childcare? The stay at home mom. Who can you count on, no matter what…the stay at home mom. Who is always available? The stay at home mom. I really liked your site until I read this post. In the 60’s, 70′ & even the early 80’s women were judged negatively by other women because they worked. Do you think it’s possible you are doing the same thing? Maybe a little jealous because they do have a choice? Some don’t, some have sick kids & parents that need 24 hour attention. Some have too many kids for childcare to be an option. Some stay at home mom’s have illnesses themselves & really can’t work. I know for a fact that my mother’s stay at home friends & relatives were jealous of her as she drove away in her convertible, wearing a suit, traveling across the country for her job. They would say the meanest things to her & I would laugh with them, because these were the people I was with most of the day. I had no clue how it broke her heart. All she wanted was the option of staying home with me. She didn’t have that option. Women need to support each other no matter what they do. Some of your comments like have something of your own, is valid. But harder then you think. Stay at home mom’s have less time then working mom’s. They don’t get breaks or lunch hours. Their days are 24/7. They are not valued. Stay at home dad’s have more value…. He’s a great guy…raising his kids while she works building her career. My mom had to work or we wouldn’t eat. I was always getting sick at day care so my mom fell back on relatives to watch me. I only recently found out about her guilt & the depression she had leaving me while she worked, in those days working women had no support just smart ass remarks like your yoga pants post. They didn’t hear her cry over me when she thought no one was listening. I love my mother, but we don’t have a relationship. She has tried. Her whole life, she tried. I’m sad to say I’m the one who pushed her away. The irony of all of this is, she worked for me & my welfare yet I bonded with the relatives, the stay at home mom’s & grandparents who took care of me, not her. Although she paid all the bills. My grandmother would tell me to call her mommy. She went as far as making fun of my mother. So I made fun of my mom too. Everyone thought it was funny when my mom got upset.I never heard my mom making fun of her or anyone. Now I understand. My working mom spent every free moment she had with me & only me. She even took me to work with her. Yet we never bonded. It’s so much easier to like & bond with people who give you anything you want, and let you do what ever you want, not a mom who has rules and says no to the things you want her to buy. I recently watched home movies & looked at hundreds of family photos for the first time in years for an art project. I learned about who my mom really was. When asked questions she was always honest with me. Until recently, I never bothered to ask her anything, I had my surrogate family tell me their opinions & they were wrong and I was wrong about my mom. One picture can really tell a story.
      Maybe do an article of advice on women on bonding with their children while working… would be more helpful then making fun of & looking down at the stay at home mom because she’s wearing yoga pants..Allison,you have a lot of followers, me leaving isn’t going to make much of a difference. Google women’s books & magazines from the late 60 & 70, ….they were passive aggressive too.

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      • Julie says

        I did not get passive-aggressive from this at all. I’m a SAHM, and found this, I’m not sure of the right word…soothing? comforting? Something in that ballpark, anyway. You post was baffling to say the least. The comment that set you off, the one about dressing up for preschool pick-up? Yeah, that’s 3 days a week for me. I constantly struggle with it. So many of the moms look like the have been out doing stuff and are dressed for going out. I’m in sweatpants, a sweatshirt, UGG boots, and am unshowered. Yeah. Really puzzled by your comment.

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      • Michelle says

        Yes I am a new SAHM as well and I did not get a passive aggressive feeling from this article either. I found humorous and like the other poster said: soothing. I texted the link to another SAHM friend of mine! I think maybe you are the one with the chip on your shoulder. And another thing, I’m tired of people whining about how broke they are when they go on to have 3 or 4 kids. This is 2015 people, quit making babies if you can’t afford them.

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      • Letitia says

        Oh get a grip. I am not even a stay at home mom yet but even I understand where she is coming from. Everyday cannot possible be peaches and cream no matter how much one dreams. I like that she is giving us what her reality is. We can’t sugar coat everything just because. Some may experience all of what she had written about and others only some but it doesn’t mean that its passive aggressive view it just a view that is different from yours.

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      • Amanda says

        After reading your entire post I cannot help but feel that maybe the only reason this struck a cord with you is guilt. The guilt that you feel for pushing your mother away, I am not going to pretend to know what is your entire situation. But I really hope you are now trying to take the time to build a relationship with your mother. She sounds like a wonderful person who really cares for you. :)

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  1. 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.

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    • 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.

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    • judy says

      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.

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      • 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!

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        • 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.

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          • 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.

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          • 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.

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          • 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!

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          • paige says

            I agree with you Mrs.Debbie! I understood everything you said perfectly fine despite the couple of mundane errors people think that because they understand a fraction of the grammar rules they can criticize everybody else.

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          • Mary says

            Not so. Some of us, who write for a living, are just as passionate about proper spelling and grammar as Debbie is about positivity in parenting.

            Grammar is important, whether you like hearing that or not. As they say, grammar is like personal hygiene. Ignore it if you will, but people will draw their own conclusions.

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        • MarySunshine says

          In respects to what mothers today think of motherhood- I think the difference between mothers of “today” and mothers of “yesterday” is the vocalization that parenting is not easy. Parenting is not always fun and no matter how prepared you think you are (mentally, physically, emotionally, financially), you really aren’t.

          We have the ability to connect with other moms and dads (in those spare quiet moments we get) and we’re realizing we’re not alone in our thinking and feeling. “Oh man am I am having a really crappy day with the kids! Oh! You are, too? Hallelujah, I’m not alone.” I think part of the problem lies with those who was nostalgic over motherhood are far enough removed from the their days in the trenches to remember how miserable some times were. When we’re pregnant and waddling around and our husbands are nervous wrecks over getting the car seat in just right we hear how wonderful motherhood is. How joyous each and everyday is. I agree, motherhood is a blessing. But I would be bold-faced liar if I said it was wonderful and easy and joyous.

          So in my mini-novel I guess what I’m trying to say is- yes you read some negative blog posts about motherhood and parenting in general. You can look at them like they are someone’s definitive opinion on the matter or, you can view them as one day in a lifetime of days being a parent. We all have bad days and it’s nice to know we’re not alone.

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  2. 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.

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  3. 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.

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    • 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.”

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