Like many people, I worked hard to establish a successful career and my identity was strongly linked to it. When my first daughter turned a year old she became very ill while I was traveling on business. I took an immediate flight home and spent five days with her in the hospital. That experience was life altering for me. My husband and I put a plan into place so that I could stay home. It was a slow transition because, not only did we need to learn how to live without my income, I needed to learn that my identity — the essence of who I was — was not my job title or the work I performed. Thus began my transition to at-home parenthood.
Making any transition is difficult and we face many of them throughout our lifetime. Transitioning from school to a career, from one job to another, from one home to another, and from single life to married life are just a few of the most common. Feelings of inadequacy, isolation, and role confusion are often experienced by people making transitions. Many parents expect to jump into the role of at-home parenthood and be immediately capable and happy. Most of the time, it doesn’t work that way. Transitions take time. Just as it may have taken several months, or years, to feel comfortable in a past work-related role, it could take just as long to adjust to all the transitions you’ll face in your role of at-home parent.
Although there are some similarities between transitioning to at-home parenting and other transitions you’ve made in your life, there are also some significant differences. Here are just a few of the differences that make the transition from career to at-home parenthood possibly the most difficult to make:
- At-home parenting is a 24-hour a day, seven day a week job. Even if you share parenting with a partner, as long as you are within sight (or earshot) of your children, you are parenting.
- Your job performance directly affects your children and your home life. In past positions you may have held, your job performance may have affected your promotability, annual salary increase and professional reputation, but it mostly likely didn’t have a direct impact on your family life.
- Unlike most careers, the parenthood track offers no monetary pay, built-in flextime, vacations, rewards, bonuses or promotions.
- Most parents have little or no training for parenthood, whereas education and on-the-job training usually prepared us for the other jobs we’ve held.
- For the most part, the job of the at-home parent is performed alone, without colleagues, mentors, supervisors and subordinates.
- Lastly, there are few jobs in corporate America that are more intrinsically important than raising your child(ren).
These differences illustrate just how difficult moving from career to home can be. In doing so, most women face a reassessment of who they are and how they should spend their time, but they often don’t think about these changes until they’ve taken the plunge. By then, they are inundated with dirty diapers and laundry and there is little time to sort out their feelings.
Even though I officially left the workforce four years ago and thought that I would be settled in my new role and done with transitions, I find that I am constantly in a state of transition. I realized that life in general (and parenting in particular) is just a continuous series of transitions — some little, some big.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve been an at-home mom for two months or 20 years, things change. Just when you think you have the “terrible twos” figured out, a new baby is added to the family and sibling rivalry appears. Boom! — a new challenge for you to figure out and add to your parenting repertoire.
Over the years, your time at home will go through many transitions — your children grow and change, you change, your life circumstances change, and you must adapt and respond to each new stage. Whatever transition you are currently facing with, be good to yourself. Change is hard and moving though different stages of life at home with children is challenging. Give yourself credit for the successes you’ve had. Embrace your current transition. Think of it as a journey . . . one that doesn’t have to be done perfectly or quickly. Give yourself time to adjust and, most importantly, enjoy the ride!