Stay-at-Home Mom Wisdom Needed

Friday was my final day of work after 12 years in a stable career. My husband and I are expecting our first baby in the next few weeks, and I know staying at home is the right decision for us, but it still feels like I just leapt off a cliff without knowing where the bottom is.

Looming ahead is the unknown world of parenthood and the loss of a great chunk of income. And we’re scared.

But I know we’re not special and our experience is not unique. And I am not the first woman to quit her jo…

  1. Antipodius

    My wife found staying at home after the birth of our daughter very very hard for the first 2 years. I would suggest that you cultivate a network of good friends, as well as activities for YOURSELF as much as possible. You will need the odd activity that develops you and occupies you separate from raising the child.

    I hope that helps and I pray that it works out well for you. Parenthood is the most important and one of the hardest tasks possible… and motherhood is special. Your decision to stay at home with the child will make for a better human being in your baby. God bless… and may the birth be uneventful and the labour quick.

  2. Judith Levy, Ed.
    C

    Oh, honey, mazeltov! I realize how silly this sounds, but try not to overworry. Having a baby is hard work and exhausting and all of those scary things, but it is also such a pleasure. With some planning and the help of your partner, it’s certainly possible to get out of the house, even if you’re nursing. It just takes a little forethought.

    One thing I’d suggest to mitigate the exhaustion in the early stages is to keep the baby in the room with you at night so you don’t have far to go to tend to him (I’m using the pronoun gender-inclusively). We kept our babies in a crib attached to the side of our bed, and not having to get out of my own bed to feed them went a long way toward maintaining my stamina and well-being. It was easier on the babies, too, since they didn’t have to wait for me to hear them calling, wake up completely and drag myself up and down the hall. I know this isn’t for everybody, but for us it was a win-win. Just something to consider.

  3. genferei

    Not that I’m a stay-at-home mother, but:

    Yes, you will be exhausted. No, you won’t have time to dress up and do the things you did before.

    But you won’t care (on balance), because the center of your universe will have changed, and a little, squalling, smelly fountain of infinite love will have appeared in your life. Each  impossibly small finger, the first smile, the funny little bubbles of spit – all sources of joy.

    You will end up with new friends who have babies, because you really will want to talk about the color left in the nappies and the problems you have with breast feeding and how Junior really does seem to be advanced for their age and the extortionate price of pushchairs and…

    Embrace the change – this is the most important, and most rewarding, thing you will ever have to do. (And I bet your husband agrees. In fact, he’ll be feeling awfully inferior as you become the expert on all things baby. Be gentle with him.)

  4. Lance

    Plans are for my wife to finally become a stay at home mom for our girls starting this summer at the end of her current school year. After twelve years teaching other people’s kids, she is clamoring in her soul to be able to teach her own, so to speak.  She’ll have one year with Mary Jane before she is off to Kinder.

    We have talked a lot about it and had lots of observations of other moms who have been staying at home.  My only thoughts as one clearly on the outside, but who has spent time thinking about the challenges you will face is this…make sure you figure out how to find an outlet for continuing to develop and cultivate your own sense of self.  I know coming from a guy that sounds quite trite, but the makes it no less true.  Just having the goal will help you find balance in the exhaustion.   And I know from experience,  being a stay at home dad for nearly two years while between jobs, how all encompassing and exhausting it can be. 

    Bottom line?  Have fun. And know its a worthy thing you are doing.

  5. Western Chauvinist

    Hmm, I’ve been “stay-at-home” for 15 years, and my oldest is 14. ;-)

    I think it’s important to take the long view. Those early years often feel like a drudge… do the laundry, bathe the baby, feed the baby, repeat. Clean the house, cook the meals, maintain your hygiene, repeat.

    Hopefully you are intellectually curious (and since you’re on Ricochet, I’m assuming you are), so I recommend getting your hands on every book you ever wanted to read and read them aloud while you rock the baby. The baby is soothed by your voice, and you’re getting some of what you need. And there’s no sense wasting all that good reading time on things your baby doesn’t understand anyway. Dr. Seuss is fun, but he only takes you so far. An added benefit for us is that both our girls turned into avid readers (which Mr. Chauvinist and I weren’t when we were kids).

    Socially, once your child is old enough, I recommend MOPs (Mother’s of Preschoolers at your church). Also, Gymboree has some great toddler programs, but they’re not geared to the mom like MOPs.

    Try_to_enjoy_it. It’s_over_pretty_fast. 

  6. Western Chauvinist

    About the drudgery part… I’ve developed a pretty philosophical attitude about it. My rationalizing goes something like… “Someone’s got to do it. If not me, then who? It is a service to my family. It is an act of love — doing it lovingly (damnit!)… lots of people lead hidden, humble lives, why should I be any different…”

    If all else fails, there’s talk radio. And Dennis Prager has some good advice about doing things you have to do — “Make it as fun as possible, because you have to do it anyway.” Attitude is the name of the game.

  7. skipsul

    WC, you stole my wife’s advice.

    My wife is very extroverted, thrives on social interraction, and MOPS was an actual Godsend for her.  She made many friends through it, even took a turn leading it for a couple of years.

    She also seconds Judith’s advice about keeping your baby in the room with you.  We actually kept ours in bed with us for the first 5-9 months (depending on how much they kicked), then transitioned them to the crib.

    Don’t believe the curmudgeons here who say you will never get a moment alone, you will.  You will develop tricks.

    Savor the time too, they’re only little once.

  8. Full Size Tabby

    I’m not a mom, and our children are now 27 and 24, but I’ll share some things that my full-time homemaker wife did.

    She and her friends formed a “babysitting co-op” with a points system for trading “babysitting” among them. Moms got time for their own, without spending money for babysitting. The children viewed the “babysitting” as going to their friends’ houses to play.

    Groups directed to mothers with small children (often at a church, sometimes at the town library or YMCA), including Mothers of Pre-Schoolers (http://www.mops.org), have already been noted. A mixed age group of women (such as a women’s Bible study) provides the advantage of older women who’ve been through this before and can offer ideas and suggestions. And, you may even pick up an honorary grandma!

    Going to social activities when your husband is not at work provides a chance for your husband to bond with his child. For my wife, it was a quilting club. When our oldest was 8 months old I had my first solo overnight with her so my wife could go on a church women’s retreat.

  9. Jojo

    Congratulations, and I found babies lots more fun than work!  That is, they are more fun than they are work.  AND they are more fun than work is.

    Every responsibility has lots of drudgery, including almost every job, and the glamour parts of a job really don’t compare in satisfaction with being your children’s mother.

    But to the extent possible you should stay in touch with the work world because someday your children will be grown, and even before then your husband may lose his job, fall ill…….things happen. This can be tricky when you have plenty of demands on your time, energy and money from your family.

  10. Mollie Hemingway
    C

    I’ve been at home with my children full-time since the first was born. But I’ve also worked, from home, during that time. The first thing to remember is that it doesn’t matter what works for other people — just figure out what works for you. Fortunately there will be plenty of opportunities to adjust your system over time. Flexibility is the name of the game. So …. make sure you have some outlets to things outside the home. The internet is so huge in this that I wonder how women managed before. But you can jump into Ricochet when you need some adult conversation and that’s actually pretty huge.

    Anyway, you may have a different experience but the only thing that I really care about and that is non-negotiable for me is that I spend time with my children. I have been so blessed to be able to do that and am appreciative of my husband for all he does to enable this.

    Oh, and another good thing is that once you get going, try to make sure you get at least 15 minutes truly alone — and outside the house — each day.

  11. Merina Smith

    Congratulations, Nicegrizzley!  Not to worry, nicegrizzlies can handle anything!  When my first was born I had a hard time, and I had been only a student before that, not established in the workplace.  I quickly figured out what year he would go to college and dreamed about getting my life back. (Then went on to have 4 more children, BTW.)   The big change came one day when our son was about 6 weeks old.  I walked into the bedroom to see my wonderful husband talking and cooing to the baby as the baby cooed and “talked” back.  I had been so exhausted and discombobulated by my new circumstances that Dad got the first smile and “conversation.”  I can tell you that never happened again!  Suddenly the rewards of parenthood became more important than the costs.  That said though, I think the hardest thing is identity.  I would assume your identity has been tied up to some degree with your career heretofore.  Now it will be tied up much more with that precious baby, but you need to find an identity for yourself that isn’t just kids, and trust me, kids don’t want to be your whole identity. 

  12. Ursula Hennessey
    C
    Mollie Hemingway, Ed.:

    Oh, and another good thing is that once you get going, try to make sure you get at least 15 minutes truly alone — and outside the house — each day. · 1 hour ago

    Congrats, my dear, on the new little one on his/her way and on writing this post! I just had No. 4 and only now feel like I sort of  know what to do. Sort of. Barely. Some days, not so much.

    But seriously, I really agree with what Mollie writes above. The key to remember (at least for me) is that most days you will not want to leave. You will be tired. You won’t want to change out of your hole-y sweat pants. You won’t want to interact with strangers — small talk takes too much energy, etc. BUT, you must force yourself to go. For some of my fave moms, it was forcing themselves to go running, to Weight Watchers’ meetings, to AA or AlAnon meetings, to the Bible study.

    You have to find a regular way to get out of the house. It can be challenging, especially while nursing, but it must be done for your own sanity. 

  13. Barkha Herman

    First of, Congratulations!

    I was a working mother, however I did not come to that conclusion lightly.  My company offered 3 months of paid leave, and 3 more months with 50% pay – for maternity.  I decided, rather than make the decision, I’d first go on leave – then figure out if I liked it or not.

    I went back to work in 20 days (I know!).

    I know this is not very helpful advice; but do what is right for you.  And remember that your decisions will change as time goes on.  You have options, don’t think it’s one or the other forever.  

    Incidentally, after my kids started High school  I was finally mentally prepare to be a house wife :-D.

  14. hazel krabinski

    No one will love or care for your baby like you will.  No one.  Remember that and you can deal with all the rest.  

  15. Ursula Hennessey
    C

    I could go on and on about working vs. not with kids. I’ve done both and I find staying at home, with all its challenges, to be more peaceful for my soul. The extra money from my job was eaten up by too many dinners ordered in because of our exhaustion and lack of time. Also by the laundry service. And part time babysitters. For us, it wasn’t worth it on so many levels. I felt guilty, pulled in too many directions, and, worst of all, I felt that I was suddenly quite mediocre at two things — my job and parenting — instead of somewhat acceptable at one. So, for me, staying at home was our only choice. We have no money and probably never will. But, I’m relatively happy on a daily basis. There’s a lot to be said for that. Good luck. Definitely write up your feelings/experiences here. We are interested! That will also keep you busy and your mind (somewhat) sharp!!

  16. Karen

    Good advice. I’m a stay at home mom of 3 little boys. I understand the drudgery part. A stomach bug came to our house last night. I waved to my husband as he left for work this morning as I shook out bedsheets in the yard. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. Do make an effort to leave the house occasionally. Play groups are great but some moms whine and complain a lot. That’s why I’m grateful for mom friends who edify, not enable, me. Do take advantage of Ricochet. So much wisdom here. And make time for yourself. It will make you a better mommy. Learn to be present with your child. Don’t overschedule or obsess about milestones. You have the opportunity to rediscover the world through his eyes. Oh, and how much you will love this little person, more than anything you have ever loved in your life. And you’ll worry about them constantly. You’ll be tired, anxious, and even bored (podcasts and audible.com help). And you’ll get frustrated, because nothing, ever, ever stays clean. But this experience is a gift. Remember that. It’s not a job. It’s a gift, even with the throw up.

  17. PsychLynne
    Nicegrizzly:  I’m one of those types that needs to get out of the house and around people.

    I should pointing out that I have worked outside the home with the exception of maternity leave (7 months).   Like you, I’m extroverted, not really a self-starter (unless you count books and phone calls) and pretty undisciplined.  Here are my thoughts:

    1.  Cultivate friendships with new moms/couples, but make an effort to keep in touch with your single or childless friends–it always helped me feel better.

    2.  This is a season–for me, infancy was the hardest.  Like all seasons, it will change into something new. 

    3.  Try to plan something outside of the house each day.  However, also make some of those plans flexible so they don’t increase your stress.

    4. Find alone time for more extended periods of time on the weekends.

    5.  Create lots of margin in your life

    6.  Hire a babysitter – I had a dear friend who picked up my baby one morning a week and watched him while my older one was in school.  Those Thursday mornings kept me sane….or at least kept sane in sight.

  18. Nick Stuart

    Dad of 5. Some observations

    Stockpile so you don’t run out. Use the “open plus two” inventory system where, for example, you have an open container of baby wipes and two full containers of baby wipes. Buy another one as soon as you open a full one. This will save your husband midnight trips to the store so have him read this. If he’s wise he’ll maintain his own private stash.

    Emergency supplies:  six pack Pedialyte, box frozen popsicles, syrup of ipecac. Have a well-stocked first aid kit. Take child & infant CPR.

    Multiple pairs of safety scissors (use for trimming the baby’s nails).

    FWIW the environmental impacts and costs (when everything is taken into consideration) of cloth vs disposable diapers are about the same. Don’t be guilted into one vs. the other. Tip: baby needs changed a lot less, and has a lot less diaper rash with disposable.

    When changing a girl, put the diaper under her first thing. When changing a boy, put the diaper over him first thing. Don’t lean over the baby boy’s bare midsection. You’ll quickly find out why not if you do.

  19. Sandy

    You have been given a very large chunk of excellent advice here.  Lucky you!  I will just share the wisdom of a  friend with seven children who advised us young moms (some 40 years ago, this was) to surrender ourselves to the task.  You know you will fall in  love with your baby, though you can’t yet quite know what that is like.  Surrender is the natural next step.  Take it and you’ll never look back, and you’ll know, too, the great fortune of being a woman. 

  20. Sandy
    Judith Levy, Ed.: Oh, honey, mazeltov! I realize how silly this sounds, but try not to overworry. Having a baby is hard work and exhausting and all of those scary things, but it is also such a pleasure. With some planning and the help of your partner, it’s certainly possible to get out of the house, even if you’re nursing. It just takes a little forethought.

    Yes to everything you write here, except that going out is much easier with a nursing baby.  Food always at hand.  A nursing toddler is another story, but by then one hopes to have the help of supportive friends and family.

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