Both times I went on maternity leave, I was excited. I always planned on being a stay-at-home mom when I had kids and felt like I was finally realizing my goal… until I was actually at home, with first one and then two babies to care for. I found myself wishing they would nap so I could write, getting bored with baby games and impatient with toddler games, and even wishing myself back at work.
Transitioning from any job to another can be difficult, but transitioning from paid work to stay-at-home mom is tougher than most moms expect. I often felt less valuable when my work wasn’t bringing in any money, bored with the repeated routines of being a mom, and even at times that my education and skills were being wasted as I washed dishes and changed diapers.
What can help stay-at-home moms avoid these feelings? Here are a few strategies I learned.
Just as you had routines at work, try to establish routines at home. For me, this included weekly routines such as laundry on Monday, housecleaning on Tuesday and daily routines such as washing dishes after breakfast and writing during naptime. These routines helped me put order and purpose into each day and made me more likely to accomplish each task. Just don’t make routines into a schedule; if breakfast and dishes get done by nine o’clock one day and eleven the next day, that’s okay.
Find Mommy Friends.
Think of them like your coworkers. Just as you had things to talk about in the lunchroom because you all worked together, now you need moms who understand what it’s like to have a fussy baby up all night or toys scattered all over the house by a busy toddler. If none of your friends have kids yet, get involved with moms’ groups in your community.
Keep Learning as a Mom.
When I had questions as a mom, I turned to books, magazines and websites and did extensive research. Today’s parents are faced with a myriad of choices: Vaccinate or not? Cloth diapers or disposables? What’s the best toilet training method? I wanted to know all the options before making a decision.
Change Your Expectations.
I went on maternity leave thinking not of my baby but of the time I’d have to write. That idea soon went out the window. Maternity leave is just that: maternity leave. It’s a year to spend with your baby, adjusting to being a mom. When I accepted that and focused on my baby, rather than on the things I wanted to get done, I was less stressed.
Ask for Help.
As a perfectionist, this was hard for me. I wanted to prove I could handle a newborn (or a newborn and a toddler) by myself. I couldn’t. Being a mom is hard and I was blessed to have a mother-in-law who could drop in to rock the baby or take my toddler out shopping so I could nap. There will be times when you are tired and overwhelmed; admit it to someone (your husband, your family, your friend) and ask for help. You’ll be a better mom once you’ve had a bit of a break.
The days I wish myself back at work are few and far between. Motherhood is challenging, delighting, frustrating, amazing—and I love being at home with my girls to share all those moments.