First things first, you have to get with the SAHM acronym. (Stay At Home Mom)
I was pitifully ill equipped for my transition. My transition was a sort of last minute forced “option”. I went to school to become …. a grownup.
It was community college, and I had zero direction. After 8 years of floundering, my dad convinced me to give ASL Interpreter Training a go. I went. It worked. I found a great place in the city of Gilbert, AZ where I could get comfy with my fairly new skills. After a couple of years working as an educational interpreter, I got pregnant. I never expected to stay home with him.
We had a nanny all set up and literally the day before the new school year and my back-to-work mentality began, she quit. I had to tell my boss, who happened to be a good friend, on the worst possible day that I couldn’t make it into work. This became a permanent situation for my son’s first year.
But I still didn’t have the “SAHM” mentality. See, I was going back. And I did! The following school year I started as a part time interpreter. This was the best of both worlds. I got to get up and have a place to be, and still come home and spend a bunch of time with my baby. It was awesome!
But I still wasn’t a SAHM. I was the nebulous part-timer. Half work, all mom.
Then the housing market crashed, my husband’s independent company flopped, and we had to get the hell outta dodge. This translated to a state move within 30 days.
We had to drop everything, including a couple houses, and run. We left behind family, friends, jobs, heat, sunburns, memories. (we had gotten married in our backyard, and this was the house we brought our first child home to)
Talk about hard.
Once we got to Texas, I was in a state of shock and depression. We did what we had to do for our family, but that didn’t mean it was easy. .. or necessarily consensual. I knew my husband needed to work, but what about me ?!
Ah, the inevitable struggle for a mom. You remember that you rank somewhere in terms of importance.
We looked at the options, weighed the costs, accounted for the despair I was feeling, and then decided i’d be a stay at home mom.
What in the hell does that mean?!! What do i DO all day?! This is really it ???
It wasn’t a decision made in the best of circumstances, but after feeling like I was drowning for a little while, I got my feet back under me and moved on. Becoming a stay at home parent is not at all an easy transition. I’ve had this conversation with my husband, a few people, and I am convinced i’m right…. as usual 🙂
Once you become a SAHM you are suddenly introduced to how long a day can be. It’s lonely. It can be terrifying. You are expected to have a range of skills and knowledge no one in your life has taught you. Did I mention lonely? ‘Cause it is … very.
At what point do you call the pediatrician? When do you set a parent teacher conference? How do you clean a hardwood floor? What the hell is on that shirt in the washer, and how do you get it out? Why is the dryer making that noise? Should I call someone? My husband .. a repair man .. that stranger outside Home Depot?
To TV or not to TV
Organic or not
How many languages do I use
When is a public pool safe
How to manage a pool visit without anyone dying and still remembering all your necessities
These are just a small smattering of things you’ll be expected to handle. I’m still working on feeling like i’ve mastered any of them, personally.
You and your partner should probably agree on what exactly a SAHM looks like to you both. I’ve heard lots of opinions on what your expectations should be. Technically you have become the hands-on parent all day, so does that mean you are also expected to take on 100% of the housework? If you hired someone to be home with your kid, would you expect them to mop and wash dishes and make all the beds, too? Are you going to have an education-based day with your kid, or a free form time?
I am lucky to have a husband who always saw the value in my staying home with the kids. Especially because he knew I came from a home where my single mom worked all the time no matter what, and I didn’t want to miss or have my kids feel like I missed out on time with them. Not all husbands or partners are on board with the idea for a variety of reasons. So first I’d say deal with what that reality should look like and realize both parties’ expectations have value. One more of those fun areas where compromise will be the key word. *eye roll*
I’d say the next important step is to find a like-minded group of people in a similar situation. I found a mom group. There are mom-walkers, mom-joggers, mom-hikers, mom-winers, mom-tree-huggers.
Find your posse and treat it like the lifeline it is. You have no idea how much even the most mundane park trip can help you feel connected to the outside world when there is a group of people forced to be there with you. It’s an opportunity to talk about the rash you are unsure of on your baby’s tushie, teething solutions, diaper brands, pediatrician horror stories, kids eat free spots.
The extra perk to a mom group are the MNOs. The Moms Night Out. This is a necessity. A date night with your husband is debatable, but the MNO is a requirement in life, in my opinion. It is your pass to vent, drink, laugh, share, vent, drink, bond and it can be about anything from babies, to husbands, to friends, to elementary school drama to what your life was like before kids.
Only a group of other women who are in the trench with you will see you for all your facets. They will be the ones to remember you actually left something behind, or put it on a shelf, or whatever. But they will see you for the 85% human you are when you become a mom.
Husbands are great, but they get wrapped up into their own crap when you push a baby out of your hoo-ha/belly/adoption paperwork. They are wrapped up in the responsibility, the change to the bank account, the change to your bodies, (because we all know they change with us!) and possibly a bit of jealousy that you no longer sit in the morning commute.
Another struggle I know a lot of SAHMs have is remembering they have needs too. You have to get comfortable with forgiving yourself for lots of things. First and foremost is your lack of patience, most likely. I used to be a patient person. Now I just feel like a patient.
You also need to get comfortable with giving yourself credit. You will have a million accomplishments throughout your day, but you likely will only beat yourself up over what you didn’t do or didn’t do well. And no one else is going to applaud you… at least not sincerely. The bitch about being a SAHM is you no longer get achievements for conquering something new or foreign or scary or gross. You will not get a bonus or a raise or a promotion for your duties. You will probably get a lot of, “That’s great, honey” or “MooooOOOOOOommm, not like thaaaaaaaaaat!”s. So keep a pedicure pot and give yourself a bonus when you achieve that post blow out zen.
It is absolutely ok to take thirty minutes while your kids are napping/busy/playing to sit down. Drink however much coffee you can get down before it gets cold. Veg out on your phone. (but try to avoid the simulated perfection of FB) Watch some of that DVR show. The laundry isn’t going anywhere but up. The dishes will never end. You’ll be in a far better head space to deal with it if you can laugh at the latest Housewives of ___ cat fight or the punch line on Modern Family while scrubbing/washing/folding.
You have to decompress throughout your day, or you are just a butler. Even factory workers get a ten minute break! Do not use every spare minute for housework. Giving yourself an hour in the evening will just make the day that much longer. Why do you have to wait until they are in bed to read that article? You KNOW they aren’t staying in their room.
And do not feel guilty for locking that bathroom door once your kid(s) are old enough. That is to be determined by you 🙂
All I can say is it’s a trip. It’s a change. It’s not something everyone can do, or can do well. There is no switch you can flip to just stop going to a job every day. It takes time to settle into your roll as the primary caregiver and you will have all sorts of feelings about that. I love that i’ve been able to watch and guide and share with my kids their first years because the job stuff will mostly likely always be there after some time. My kids’ childhood will not be. It’s finite.
It took me a good year or two to really understand how to be happy as a stay at home mom and not guilty. Not ashamed or feeling less than. It’s an opportunity I will always be grateful I had…. and it’s probably the reason I like drinking now.
On a final note, good luck at the spouse’s work socials. Personally I hate having the same awkward conversation year after year when they ask, “So what do you do?” “I’m a stay at home mom.” “Oh, how old are they?” … and then inevitably find a reason to abandon the convo. I might start making shit up. “I’m a firefighter” “A surgeon” “A circus clown”
Chances are pretty good i’ll have done something related to those occupations during my stint home with the kids.