I never intended to be a stay-at-home mom.
My first child arrived when I was in my mid-twenties and just getting started in a writing career I loved. I was working from home a few days every week and going into the office as well. It was a great balance and I told my boss I’d be back when my six weeks of maternity leave was up.
And then life happened.
The Reluctant Stay-at-Home Mom
My firstborn daughter was a handful from the moment she entered this world.
I had worried during my entire pregnancy that she would have colic. When my pediatrician labeled her a high-needs baby that would likely take six months to a year to calm down, the irony of my worry was not lost on me.
Five weeks into my maternity leave, I could not fathom leaving her in the care of anyone else. She refused to even go to my husband for short periods of time. When she wasn’t eating or sleeping (which she only did in my arms), she was screaming. I finally got up the courage to call my boss and break the news that I would not be coming back to work.
Perhaps because it didn’t feel like I had a choice, it took me a while to accept my new status as a stay-at-home mom. It took even longer for me to figure out how to enjoy it. If I could go back and give myself a little pep talk, this is what I’d say:
Find Your People
Staying at home with my kids was very rewarding, but it was also lonely. I craved adult interaction and conversation.
Often when my husband would walk through the door, I would bombard him with all the words I hadn’t gotten out all day. This didn’t work well for either of us.
Finding my tribe was critical to surviving as a stay-at-home mom. Whether that means meeting for play dates once a week, joining a moms group or MOPS, or just scheduling the time to talk with a close friend on the phone. Have people you can connect with on a regular basis that is in the same stage of life.
Take Care of Yourself
Newsflash moms, no one is going to say to you, “You really seem like you need a break.”
If you need a break, and we all do, you will have to schedule it and take it. I know how hard it can be, but you have to take care of yourself. Join a gym with childcare, take naps when you can, and ask someone to watch your kids so you can run errands or go grocery shopping alone.
If you don’t take care of yourself, you’ll be no good to anyone else.
Stress Less and Love More
One of the ways I set myself up for disappointment as a new stay-at-home mom was having unrealistic expectations. Somehow I had imagined all these special moments with my kids like baking cookies and reading stories, without the reality of constant messes everywhere and a toddler taking her clothes off and streaking through the library (not that mine have ever done that).
The truth I discovered over the years is that it didn’t need to look perfect in order to be beautiful. Perhaps more importantly, I didn’t need to always get things right in order to be a good mom. All of the stressful moments and crazy days passed whether I embraced them or wished them away.
Now that my youngest is in school, I realize the days were long, but the years were short.
I’m so thankful looking back for the lazy days at the playground, long afternoons spent by the pool, quiet afternoon naps for all of us, and yes the hours spent in a rocking chair with my babies. With kids in high school, middle school, and elementary now, things move at a much quicker pace.
I hope we had fun. I think we did.
And if you’re just starting out on this stay at home mom journey, I hope you find your people, take care of yourself, and enjoy the ride!