A Helpful Guide for Stay-at-Home Moms
It’s a blessing to be able to stay home and raise your kids. But for many reasons, becoming a stay-at-home mom can be a challenging move for some women. Perhaps it’s the birth of a baby, change in employment or financial pressures that call you home. Be it desire or necessity, this 6 step guide on How to Transition to Being a Stay-at-Home Mom (SAHM) will help you prepare for what’s ahead.
- Make a Plan
- Discuss Expectations
- Maintain Socialization
- Emotional Adjustment
- Finding Purpose
As with everything, there is good and bad. Naturally, the most obvious benefit is the opportunity to be a hands-on, full-time parent. Being there to attend to your child’s needs is something that few working parents are able to do.
For kids, the consistency of having the constant presence of a parent is good for stress levels. Sadly, things can be easily overlooked when time together is compromised by other responsibilities.
When mom (or dad) is there, they are in a better position to notice whether there are any behavioral issues requiring attention.
Next, moms often struggle between work and parenting responsibilities, often with work winning out. We are deluded into envisioning an abundance of time when our children are young.
But, that period of adolescence is so short. By being home, with your kid(s), moms can be unburdened by the weight and agony of mom guilt.
Studies have shown that the presence of a parent at home is positive for younger and older children. In younger children, the benefit is in a nurturing attachment, while academic achievement is recognized in older children.
Lastly, do you know the cost of daycare? It’s one of the reasons I opted to stay home with my child. Because younger children require more care and attention, the cost of daycare is outrageous! Families can actually save money by keeping a parent home, especially in the early years.
Now let’s look at the challenges associated with being a stay-at-home mom.
Namely, for many families, the loss of a second income can put a strain on family stability. This may be enough of a reason for both parents to remain in the workforce. Determining how to navigate finances on one salary is outside the realm of what’s possible for most American families.
A related disadvantage is the lapse in employment. For some, this can become an issue when attempting a return to the workplace.
Employers have little understanding for parents who prioritized family over working. Employers view the years without employment as a negative, thus making a return to work all the more difficult.
Perhaps the greatest challenge is the commitment. Unlike traditional employment, there is no time off for stay-at-home moms. You never clock in or out, you’re just there. Further, there are no sick days.
Even vacations are working vacations where your ‘clients’ go with you. It can be incredibly difficult to carve out time for your own recreation and well-being.
Now that we’ve touched on the benefits and challenges, let’s explore a way forward.
1. Make a Plan
One of the first things to arrange is determining your last day of employment. Will you work until the baby is born or not? This decision can impact your finances and thus, the foundation for your transition home.
Prior to departure, make sure you take advantage of every perk you earned through your employment. If you have vacation days, take them or cash them out! Sick days? Use them for your prenatal appointments, or cash those out as well. Don’t leave any money on the table.
Next, a daily schedule provides structure. This is not to say that you need to replicate the schedule you followed at your job, on the contrary, it’s just to ensure that your day is productive.
Without an idea of what requires your attention throughout the day, it can be easy to lose track of time and not accomplish anything.
Perhaps you’re wondering how to manage a schedule. Keep in mind that your newborn will dictate the itinerary in the early months. And the months after that. As kids age, their academic and social engagements frame your day.
With that in mind, mapping out your day will help maintain chaos and create habits and behaviors that the kid(s) can rely on. I recommend using a family calendar app like Cozi, to keep everyone in the know about what’s happening.
Related Article: Time Management Tips for Single Moms
Schedule to Consider:
- Meal Time (specified times for each meal)
- Sleep Schedule
- Tummy Time
- Outdoor Play/ Play Dates
- Mommy & Me Classes
- Errands (certain days of the week?)
- Chores (during naptime, when you partner gets home, etc.)
- Personal Time (no kids)
As a final point, think of your schedule as a living entity; some days will be full of things to do, on others you’ll just relax. As in life, it ebbs and flows.
*Note: Meals and sleep schedules are highly controversial topics of discussion in the parenting community. Regardless of whether you subscribe to any of the parenting methods out there, do what you feel will work best for you and your infant.
To begin, let’s operate on the assumption that you have time to plan for the transition to being a stay-at-home mom. If possible, make arrangements well in advance of the big day.
Prioritize making a financial plan for your move away from work. Put money in the bank, make sound investments, pay down/ eliminate expenses. In short, give yourself an advantage. You want to free yourself from feeling burdened by your decision to be with your kid(s).
Indeed, the adjustment from a two income family to one may be stark and difficult to manage. Some babies arrive before any decisions can be implemented.
Not surprisingly, there are a lot of families that find themselves in the position to make a quick decision regarding family planning. In that instance, your actions may need to be more immediate and aggressive.
Certainly, as an earner, you were aware of your financial boundaries. True, we don’t always color inside the lines, but the option for indulgence is lowered when money stops coming in.
Soon, you will have a handle on the real-time, financial impact associated with being at home. Hopefully, some of the sacrifices made in the beginning can be relaxed down the road.
Steps to Consider:
- Build a Savings Account & Emergency Fund
- Be a Savvy Shopper (seek out sale & discount opportunities)
- Reduce or Eliminate Recreational Spending (shopping, restaurants, movies, etc.)
- Utilize your Network (tips, resources, hand-me-downs)
- Arrange Healthcare
3. Discuss Expectations
Communication, communication, communication. The discussion on how to transition to being a stay-at-home mom with your significant other is not a one and done.
Plan to speak about the idea early and often. Having open and candid discussions beforehand can go a long way in alleviating any future misunderstandings.
Tap into your network. Ask friends, family, co-workers about their experiences. Don’t get caught up in the romanticism, ask the hard questions. This will be a big life-changing event for all parties involved, so don’t be afraid to explore any and all questions.
And mom, you are going to have huge responsibilities with your contribution to the family. But, do not discount what your working partner is bringing to the table.
Many times, the one working has to take on more hours/ jobs in order to make ends meet for the family. If that is the case, thank them often and do what you can to keep them connected to what is happening at home.
However, keep in mind that this conversation should include input from both of you. It is not solely about what the working partner wants or expects of you in the home.
You also need to advocate for your needs. This would be a good time to outline what your personal time is going to look like and how you would like to manage care of the household.
But understand that this is a new venture, so be prepared to assess how things are going along the way. To ensure you remain on the same page, it’s important to make sure you check-in with each other regularly.
Questions to Consider:
- What is expected of you during the day?
- Are you solely responsible for upkeep of the home? If not, how will it be divided?
- How will finances be handled? Will there be a house budget? Spending allowance?
- What will the working partner’s responsibility be with regard to the child?
- How long will you be staying at home? Is there an expectation that you will return to work when the child starts school?
4. Maintain Socialization
In the beginning, limiting your social circle right after the baby is born is perfectly natural. You might restrict interactions to close family and friends. When my child was born, my circle was tight. Given the time of year (cold season), and the size of my baby (4lbs.), this mama bear didn’t want to invite trouble.
Add to that the desire to bond as a unit without the interference of the outside world.
In time, you will be ready to welcome people into your little bubble. Invite the people you hold dear to meet your little angel. If you’re lucky, you might already have friends with kids to engage with.
However, if you are looking to expand your world to include more parent friends, there are a few places that can help provide the opportunity.
Outside of baby, mom needs time for herself too. It can be hard to come by, but try to do something for yourself. It can be as small as going out for coffee at your favorite café, to lunch with a dear friend.
Really, the activity doesn’t matter. Capitalize on the opportunity to take a breather and invest in your personal well-being.
Finally, nurture the intimacy between you and your partner. It’s very easy for your connection to be lost in the chaos of day-to-day life. You need to remember that, regardless of who’s home with the kids, you are a team.
Your partnership and shared goals should be front of mind for each other. When the opportunity arises, jump at the chance to spend some quality time together.
Options to Consider:
- Mommy and Me Classes
- Story Time (library)
- Parenting Support Groups (local & social networks)
- Parenting Friends (play dates)
- Family Time (extended family)
- Coffee/ Lunch/ Dinner with Friends
- Mani/ Pedi
- Exercise (Walk, Running, Yoga, etc.)
- Date Night
Remember, you may find that just picking up the phone will help to scratch that itch until you are ready or until it’s safe for in-person interaction.
5. Emotional Adjustment
Have you ever cried from sheer exhaustion? I have. Big, ugly, uncontrollable crying. As a mom of a newborn, that feeling can be all too common. The worse part about it, is that while understandable, we still feel so guilty. It’s natural for new mothers to feel a variety of emotions. The difficult thing is feeling isolated in those feelings.
Parental burnout is real. The loneliness and feeling of isolation from being at home with the kids 24/7 can amplify every feeling you have.
Being emotional isn’t new, but cutting off your previous outlets of expression likely is. Whether or not you realized it, work is an emotional outlet shared by many people.
Once home, you no longer have lunches with colleagues or gossip around the water cooler. Now, the sounds in your life are the melodic giggles and piercing cries of your little one. After a while, many moms crave basic adult conversation.
Despite prior understanding, because you are “trapped at home,” you may resent your partner for going about their daily lives. Additional irritation may arise from being primarily responsible for care of the household.
While you may have agreed to the arrangement early on, after several months, you may think otherwise.
Thus, make sure you keep the lines of communication open and active. Being with the baby can feel isolating and so lonely.
If you have a partner, talk to him/ her. Are you single? Talk to a trusted friend or family member. If you don’t have a healthy outlet at home, please reach out to a therapist.
Note: Unregulated emotions may be a cause for concern. If you are unable to gain control of your emotions, please seek help from a licensed medial professional as medical assessment may be required.
Thoughts to Consider:
- Accept that your emotions may fluctuate
- Recognize whether you need help in managing your emotions
- Talk to your partner about your feelings (frequently)
- Identify the source of your emotions (exhaustion, frustration, anxiety)
- Seek an outlet for your emotional expression (friends, family, exercise, therapy)
Related Article: Hobbies for Stay-at-Home Moms
6. Finding Purpose
As a working woman, you understood your place in the world. Whether or not your work was fulfilling, you felt secure in your contributions day-in and day-out.
On the other hand, parenting can be a thankless job. You will work harder than ever before without the validation of your achievements. I know, I know, we aren’t in it for the accolades. But, everyone wants to feel seen, valued and understood.
Fortunately, being at home may provide an ideal environment for exploration. Perhaps you were content in the workplace, but was it the paycheck or the work itself that provided motivation. If you longed for more or different, then you now have the latitude to consider a change.
Don’t look at staying home with your kids as a step-back. Your education may have been in pursuit of a career in a particular industry, but that knowledge can certainly be expanded to other opportunities.
Is there something you’ve always wanted to do? Was there a part of your job that you loved and wished you could expand upon? Do you have any desire to be a more integral part of your community? Is there a new home-based business or hobby in your future?
Seeing your child thrive and wanting the best for their future is inspiring. You may be reminded of old dreams or aspire to new ones. Motherhood may be a part of your purpose and who you are, but like your child, this could be your time to thrive.
Suggestions to Consider:
- Acknowledge and appreciate the contribution you are making to your child/ family
- Work from home (previous job, new job, seasonal employment)
- Start a hobby
- Get involved in activities that support your child (PTA, coaching)
- Volunteer Work/ Community Involvement
There are arguments on both sides of the ‘stay-at-home mom’ debate. There is a sense of pride and romanticism in envisioning being a stay-at-home parent. But it isn’t without it’s challenges. Certainly, it’s not for everyone and that’s ok.
But regardless of choice, it is personal to each and every family and should not be up for judgement.
Acknowledge the fact that it is hard, meaningful, life-altering work. Frequent communication is critical. It is key to ensuring that visions are aligned and needs are being met.
When it comes to discussing How to Transition to Being a Stay at Home Mom, decisions and compromises must be made to ensure harmony for all. Define your goals together and make a plan to work toward them.
A final point to consider, fun! Enjoy yourself! Yes! Enjoy yourself. This time with your child is what you make of it. Sure, it may be challenging, but the rewards are amazing! You have a front row seat to their lives and those are the best seats on the house!
Note: I recognize the fact that single parents may also stay -at -home with their little ones. Perhaps on their own, or living with other family members. Regardless of your circumstances, much of the information shared may apply.
Are you a stay-at-home mom? How did things go for you? Share your story in the comments below.