Here you are, a new stay-at-home mom! Has the job knocked you on your rear end yet? No, no, I’m joking! (Uh, sort of.)
Stay-at-home motherhood is a rewarding, fulfilling -- even fun! -- job. But initial adjustment to stay-at-home motherhood can be really hard. It’s not often discussed at playgroups or Mommy-and-Me classes, but most moms struggle to find their footing upon first becoming stay-at-home parents.
So here are some tips for managing some of the most universal challenges to adjustment from modern career woman to modern stay-at-home mom:
- Make connections. At-home motherhood can be isolating, especially if you’re used to working in a busy office with colleagues nearby. Everyone needs co-workers, right? Your co-workers now – your fellow at-home moms – happen to work in different houses than you do. You can still compare notes, vent frustrations, and ask for tips on solving thorny problems. Reach out to fellow moms at library story-time, the playground—wherever you can. You may not become BFFs with every one, but chances are good you’ll click hard with one or two, and even casual acquaintances can help ease at-home mom isolation.
- Don’t stress about your newbie status. Are you feeling clueless about this new at-home-parenting gig? Don’t worry about it; so is everyone else. Most new stay-at-home moms are just like you: disoriented and exhausted from finding out all the things they don’t know (like how to get the baby to stop crying at 4 p.m. every day, or, um, how to make it--sanity intact--to 4 p.m. every day). Which is exactly why you need to connect with them. (See above.)
- Kiss performance reviews goodbye—happily. Remember back when you had a paying job, and every now and then you got positive feedback for all your hard work, maybe even a promotion with a raise? Well, if you hadn’t noticed already, the baby isn’t going to compliment you on your animated board-book reading or your incredible patience during marathon nursing sessions. That can be hard at first. But once you reframe “no performance feedback” as “I’m the one in charge, and it’s awesome to be my own boss, and also, to not have anyone looking over my shoulder to witness the way I just failed to sterilize the pacifier,” suddenly things seem different. (That is to say, BETTER.)
- Create your own endpoints for the endless at-home-mom work. Running a household and raising a young family is comprised of a series of repeated tasks: making meals, doing laundry, serving snacks, changing diapers, cleaning the house, and all the rest. This endless loop can really wear on a mom—especially a new at-home mom, whose home is now her workplace and who doesn’t have other places in her life to go where projects begin and then actually end. The most important remedy for this burnout is to give yourself the ends you need. The dirty dishes aren’t going to stop being generated, so pick a time at which you stop attending to them—temporarily, of course!—and take a coffee break, an evening off, or a Saturday away. If you don’t, you’ll eventually get to the point where your frustration at the tedium of making lunch over and over again may come out in somewhat unbalanced behavior involving tears and excessive amounts of chocolate. As one example.
- Never forget that you’re worth way more than you’re being paid. We all knew, going into it, that this position does not come with a paycheck. And I’m sure you also know that the work of motherhood is incredibly valuable, even if it’s not monetarily compensated (otherwise you probably wouldn’t be doing it, right?). But believe me, some days, when you’re thinking wistfully of that old office job you used to have--the one that came with a check every two weeks—you may feel a wee bit resentful that the work you’re doing now often seems much harder, and yet a.) brings in no cash, and b.) sometimes seems disrespected by the larger world. This is when you need to remind yourself that not all work can be framed in terms of financial reward, that the people who think at-home motherhood is easy (ha!) or a waste of a graduate education are seriously mistaken, and that you’re a valuable, integral part of your household—even if you’re not bringing home a paycheck.
- Remember that adjustment is an ongoing process. The things you face as a new at-home mom of a newborn are different from the things that will challenge you when the baby starts walking, or baby number two comes along, or you send a child off to kindergarten. And yet, the coping strategies here are relevant no matter your children’s (or your own!) ages and stages. Because think about it: connection with like-minded moms, seeking support and guidance when necessary, setting limits on drudgery, knowing your own value—aren’t these eternally beneficial ideas? Of course they are. Keep these thoughts in mind and review them when you get frustrated or tired. You will adjust. You are adjusting, right now, every moment of every day. No one ever said it was easy (or did they? curse them!). But “easy” was never the point.
Shannon Hyland-Tassava is a writer, psychologist, wellness coach, and mom who blogs at www.mamainwonderland.blogspot.com
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