I always planned to be a stay-at-home mom, at least while my kids were small. In fact, and if I'm being honest, I worked my ass off so I could be the one my kids can come to for school-, extracurricular activity-, or life-related things. And now that I've been at home with my children for 11 years, I can safely say there are some things every stay-at-home mom wants pregnant women to know. Now, I'm not trying to scare expecting parents. I just want you to know that, even when it's hard, being a stay-at-home parent (if you want to, are able to, or choose to) is worth it.
My first few years as a stay-at-home mom were rough. Going from the free, young, fun-loving gal who held a position at a great company to suddenly pregnant with my partner of only a little over a year was, well, a shock. I wasn't exactly ready to be a mom, or to be the stay-at-home mom I had always planned on being. Life has a way of pushing you in directions you might initially question, though, only to lead you down a path that makes you realize that thing you were terrified of? Yeah, that was the best thing that could've ever happened to you.
After my daughter was born, we spent all our time together. It was a learning process for the both of us and, honestly, it forced me to grow up before I probably would have without her. We struggled for a while — through my postpartum depression, my partner's long work hours, and through me figuring out how to be a mother — but my daughter taught me so much more than I ever expected.
Years later, when I had my son, I should've been an old pro at the stay-at-home mom thing. But working from home, getting my daughter to preschool, and generally learning how to be awesome as a mother of two was much more difficult than I could have ever imagined. Having my son threw a major wrench in the system I had become accustomed to. In other words, I had to start all over again as a, now, stay-at-home mother to two.
Still, I figured it out, and now my babies aren't babies anymore. They're (mostly) self-sufficient, independent, little power houses. And despite the difficult days — the ones where they're crying over homework or chores or, really, anything you could think of — being home with them has helped me grow into the woman I am today. With that, here are some things expectant moms, who are considering staying home with the kids, should know:
Having a baby is a lot to process. Going from pre-baby life to being a stay-at-home mom? Well, in my opinion, even more so. There's a lot of stereotypes about what a stay-at-home mom actually does all day (in the vein of poking fun at how much "nothing" they do) but I can assure you, those stereotypes are for the birds. Being home while caring for another human being means taking on a dozen roles all at once, and it can feel overwhelming.
After all this time, I still feel as overwhelmed as I did as a brand new parent. That drowning feeling comes and goes in waves, like life itself. Just buckle up, dive in, and know that those phases will pass. They always do.
It took some time for me to find a routine that worked for my new family. You can listen to all the advice everyone under the sun offers you, but it doesn't mean a thing until you decide how you want to steer your own ship. Sometimes figuring out what works best for you and your children can take weeks, months, and even years. Sometimes, when you figure it out, you'll have to change your plan as your children grow and evolve. Be patient. You'll figure it out. I promise.
If there was one piece of advice I wish I would have listened to after I had my daughter, it's this. It's easy to lose yourself in the day-to-day responsibilities of motherhood, especially when you're home all the time. You're whole world becomes about your children because, well, you're their person. It's hard to do, but you have to make it a point to find a balance. Do the things you did before you had children. Or, if you've changed to the point that you no longer enjoy those things, find something new that will fulfill you beyond your role as your child's mom. Who you are as an individual is not solely based on your role as a parent. You are more than your children. You have worth beyond your ability to keep another human being alive.
Another word of advice is to swallow your pride and ask for some damn help. As women, we tend to feel the need to do it all, whether it's draining the soul from our bodies or not. I know because, well, I am that person. I have a hard time asking for any help, ever, and the only thing it gets me is more stress. Being home with your kids is about raising your kids. Things like housework, meals, etc., should be shared responsibilities. If you're overwhelmed, ask for help. Seriously.
And yes, I need to take my own advice.
I'm a self-proclaimed hermit. I don't like to leave home and, actually, I wouldn't mind it if I never did. It's unhealthy, though, and I know that. When you're home with the kids all day, every single damn day (especially in the summer), getting out can mean the difference between maintaining sanity or not. And when you don't leave the home? Well, my friend, those days are the longest days of all.
Self care should be at the very top of every stay-at-home mom's priority list. I didn't learn this lesson until it was nearly too late. It doesn't matter if it's a hot bath at the end of the day, a run in the morning, coffee with friends, or five minutes of sitting in the car to just breathe. I do all of these things because, if I didn't, I wouldn't be very pleasant. Without a solid you, there's no them. So really: put yourself first.
Again with this, because guess what? You don't have to do it all, despite what the media says. Forget expectations. Staying home really means being the one to care for your children. Everything else is extra. Those early days when I almost killed myself trying to do all the things (and do them perfectly), I was miserable. It's not worth it. Focus on the kids. That's it.
When in the midst of motherhood, it's easy to let those little moments of celebration float by without much notice. Don't let them. Listen to your children's laughter; soak in it. Have fun with them. Enjoy your decision to be home. It's not always easy and actually, it can be really, really hard at times. That doesn't mean you can't appreciate the small moments for what they are (or what they mean to your children).
Kids grow up way too fast. This is a fact. My kids were babies I rocked to sleep and then I blinked, and now, we talk about life and love and loss. It's really strange to see how much time has passed in the time since being home with them, when, in the moments, I felt as if it moved so slowly. No matter how long some days feel, how little sleep you get, how much crying or yelling or stress there is, it's worth it. It's all worth it.
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