5 Ways to Win: Transitioning to Being a Stay-at-Home Parent
Whether you work outside of the home or not, being a parent promises a full day of challenges and experiences. Those who work outside of the home will have to be flexible when dealing with sick kids, or needing to pick kids up from daycare/school for various reasons. They carry the weight of responsibility of their day job, as well as their duties once they return home each day. The life of a stay-at-home-parent presents a whole different set of challenges.
It is often a relief to consider that I do not have to juggle a full-time job outside of the home with the constant responsibilities of being a parent. Before having my first child, I was an elementary school teacher. I loved my job and it helped me to feel successful, important and challenged. But, after having a baby and moving, my husband and I realized that the cost of childcare and time spent out of the house (and away from baby) far outweighed the teaching salary that I would receive.
So, I decided to stay home.
At first this seemed like what I would want regardless of the money I could be making. Of course I wanted to stay home! I had a new baby, and she was practicing new skills every day. How could I ever miss a thing?! Plus, it would be so EASY to stay home and not have a job. This confidence, that I was exactly where I wanted to be, slowly began to wear off and the challenges of staying at home full-time started to come in to plain sight.
As my baby got older and started sleeping less and less, I felt challenged to entertain and be engaged with her during all of her waking moments. I felt guilty if I sat down with a book, or if I took the time to clean or shower while she was awake. I started to do less and less for myself, and focus more and more on how to keep the baby “appropriately stimulated.” I stopped giving my brain a chance to rest and refuel. I often spent nap time trying to clean, cook, or shower because I wanted to be available to my child when she was awake.
It took me a few months to understand that this reality I had created for myself was not sustainable. I needed to give my daughter the gift of independence; I needed to give myself a break to decompress and do things that I enjoyed as well. I now have two kids under three and this is even more obvious to me.
When your child is young, it is easy to feel stuck at home because your life can revolve around naps, schedules, and what is “best” for the baby. I didn’t want to leave the house most days because I didn’t want to compromise nap time. I had no other distractions (i.e. a job) to dwell on, so her schedule became my 24/7 focus.
It took me until my first was about nine months to finally feel free of some self-imposed expectations, and instead realize that I could do my daughter a big service by teaching her a little flexibility and compromise. I started taking her along on errands to do things that I enjoyed, and focused less on the rigidity of her schedule. To my surprise, this ended up making us both happier and easier to be around. We both did well from some time out of the house!
As my life started to center less around the baby’s schedule, I made it a point to start attending some music classes, library story time sessions, and playgroups that allowed kid interaction for my daughter and adult interaction for me. I was so relieved to not constantly dwell on the small intricacies and needs of my baby, but instead to be distracted by and engaged in conversation with other adults. How I missed adult conversations! I developed friendships, got outside more often, and learned about more opportunities in my community that were parent and baby-friendly. I found a tribe; I found women who we could come alongside and do life with, and this was the greatest gift.
If you find yourself in a similar transition, trying to make sense of the slew of feelings that come along with such a big life change, here is my advice.
- Find mom friends. Be bold. Step outside your comfort zone and say the awkward thing to start a conversation. Assume the best of people, and keep putting yourself out there. It may seem like you don’t click with someone right away, but this is adulthood, and relationships are more complicated, so keep saying “yes” to hanging out and push through the awkwardness.
- Be flexible with the schedule. This will be a gift to you and your baby in the long run. Maybe compromise and be willing to miss one morning nap a week for a younger baby, so that you and the toddler can see friends. "Babywearing" is a huge bonus in these situations if you meet at a park and can let baby sleep in a carrier while you are on the go. Meet for a walk and utilize a stroller once or twice a week. Try and push the nap a little earlier or later to accommodate a lunch date or music class.
- Be informed about what’s going on in your community. Find free events, weekly events, art-related classes. You might find that you start running into the same people and then you definitely have a reason to awkwardly say hi (see #1).
- Focus on the positives. Don’t let one failed idea ruin the day (or the week)! Roll with the punches as much as you can. If the outcome of mood for the day depends on whether or not the babies nap, or eat well, or play nicely, then you will likely find yourself disappointed and frustrated more often than not. Failed naps really feel like a punch to the gut for me, especially when I need the time to do something else. Fortunately, we have music and dance parties for a reason.
- Last, and certainly not least, DO SOMETHING FOR YOU. Take time weekly (daily if you can) to do something that you love, that allows you to relax and remember the parts of yourself that tend to get buried behind the kid/house/spouse stuff. It can get tricky to arrange, but don’t let that stop you. The house will not fall down, and the baby will not forget his/her schedule, and the messes will be there when you return. Take an hour, a day, a weekend to do what you WANT to do. Even better would be to find a weekly thing that you can commit to – whether it be a book club, a ladies tennis group, a painting class, or a weekly date with your nail technician. LOVE YOURSELF ladies, because if you aren’t filled up, you got nothing to pour out for all of those people that need you.
Lots of days still feel mundane and unimportant. There are still times when I dwell on things I am missing out on rather than focusing why I am lucky to get to stay home with my kids for now. I know that this is just human nature – that the grass will occasionally seem greener on the other side. Fortunately, I am finding that we have more green grass days than not, and I am reminding myself to be grateful for the memories and experiences we are creating, as well as the rhythms and responsibilities that make our daily lives enjoyable.
About the Author
Jaclyn is a momma of two girls and one doodle. She is currently working on putting down roots in a new city, renovating and updating their 1950s home, and keeping their life as healthy and natural as she can! When not taking care of her kids or husband, Jaclyn loves working out, hiking, and going to the movies.