I'm an accidental stay-at-home mom, and I want to hear your success stories

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By: sweet as candy photo - CC BY 2.0
By: sweet as candy photoCC BY 2.0
I'm currently on maternity leave from my fabulously rewarding but ultra-demanding career that requires unpredictable hours and plenty of time on-call. Although I love my work, it was very hard juggling it with one child and a part-time employed spouse. Now that I have two children and my husband's career has taken off like a rocket, it's looking like it will be very hard to justify going back to work.

I think I'm going to be an accidental stay-at-home mom! I would really like to hear any tips from offbeat stay-at-home parents about making it through the day without losing your mind. Most of what I seem to be able to find online doesn't resonate with me as full-time parenting isn't necessarily my calling. I'm struggling with the monotony of cooking, cleaning, crafts, walks, library etc., and I've only been at it for four months!

So tell me: how did you gracefully transition to stay at home parenthood? — J

  1. My transition wasn't graceful. It was full of tears (theirs and mine), nightly wine slogs, and desperate drives to my mother's house (for the 90 minutes of having my children strapped in place, and mostly quiet)–and I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom! My life vastly improved when my kids started half-day, 3 days-a-week preschool, at 3 and 1.5. Is that an option for one or both of your kids? I found that having a few mornings to myself made me calmer and more present the rest of the week, and that we all enjoyed each other more in general. Now I have a part-time morning job that I do while the kids go to preschool 4 half-days a week. I wish I had more me-time but I also really value being able to contribute to our income and engage my brain in something non-poop-related.

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    • Oh and here are a few other things that helped:
      1. Getting outside, once a day at least, twice a day even better.
      2. Letting the baby nap on the go. "Experts" say not to but we were all happier if my older child got plenty of exercise morning and afternoon.
      3. Getting some dedicated alone time. I squeezed a whole day out of my partner, once a week, but even a regularly scheduled afternoon to yourself will help.
      4. Explore every park in your area. Then start exploring the ones in nearby cities, and so on.
      5. Cry. If you want to cry, cry. The kids do it all the time. Cry with them. Tell them when you're having a hard time. Sometimes my older son would give me a hug, sometimes he'd cry harder–but I always felt a little release when I let it all out.

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      • My baby girl napped on the go all the time. The trick with her was to always have her "nappy" blanket so I could hand it to her whenever and wherever she was when it was nap time.

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    • PRESCHOOL!!

      I don't know how old your kids are, but specifically, a Co-op preschool. For me this was big, because I don't make friends easily and was living in a relatively new place. Having other parents with kids the same age, the same general ideas of parenting, and a place to drop them a few times a week really allowed me my free time. Being a co-op, you would work some days as the "teachers helpers" and get to know the other kids, the other parents… this opened up a great new circle for playdates and that emergency contact when one of your kids cracks their head open and you need to drop one to rush the other for medical care.

      Playdates=kids busy, parents talk and relax with coffee/beer/wine on the couch. This need really depends if you are craving other company and mental stimulation. If you are an introvert it might not be as helpful, but regardless, talking "grownup talk" is huge. Playdates are for the momma, too!

      Also, outdoor activities. Evidently my kids love gardening, but they are a bit older (5 and 3) now but love digging, planting, watering, and buying flowers with me. My garden is a hodgepodge but its a nice activity for us to do together. Wimpy hikes for fresh air does the soul good too. I don't know where you live, but a website like Red Tricycle in our area helps get me out of the house as well.

      I also had not planned at staying at home, but it worked out the most for us logistically and financially as well. Get out of the house at least once a day, to a park, whatever. Get on pinterest and find a stupid recipe that needs that one ingredient you don't have. My grandma went to the grocery store every.single.day. and until I had kids I didn't know why. Even seeing other humans at a store and getting "fresh" ingredients kept my sanity in check.

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  2. Ooh, I am eagerly awaiting responses. This is (possibly, almost) my situation-to-be as well and I have the same mindset and concerns.

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    • Me too! Would love to hear from people who successfully transitioned back to their careers!

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      • I just did this, I should write about it because it's like suddenly a light went off with "Ah, yes. Working. How did I forget how much I loved working?"

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    • oh yes, me too. i'm already an accidental stay-at-home-mom…i was laid off while 6m pregnant, and the rest of the manure hit the proverbial fan shortly after that, so i wound taking the rest of the year off to mentally and emotionally recuperate before looking for employment. now my son will be 3 at the end of the month and i still can't find a job, so i'm beginning to think it just isn't in the cards for me to go back to work. and this kiddo needs stimulation that doesn't require money, which is tough when there's 18" of snow on the ground and it's brutally cold for 5 months out of the year. ideas are most welcome!

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      • Can you look into finding other stay-at-home moms in the area and have playdates at one-another' house?? I just moved states and joined meetup.com in order to meet moms in the area. You can pick your own travel distance and hopefully find some close moms with kids in the home, tearing their hair out too looking for stimulation! πŸ™‚

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        • When I lived in PA as a reluctant SAHM I found MOMS Club (it is an organization). I liked it because it was a loose confirguration0 not religious based or anything. Were these the moms I would hang out with in "non-mom life"? Probably not but it got us out of the house and got the kids playdates and activities. It was also good for me because it kinda forced me to interact with people I wouldn't normally (just like when I worked! lol) and I made some good friends and expanded my understanding of family. Also, these ladies were mostly just like me in that they were "accidental" or "reluctant" SAHM too so we commiserated about our "old lives" and talked through how things have changed etc. If I had it to do over again I would find Meetups more in tune with my lifestyle (back in the olden days they didn't have those yet) but I really do look back on that club as an important thing that got me through those early years. Also it may sound cheesy but that damn scrapbooking club I got into with them actually led to the career change I pursued once the kids got older!

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  3. I went through a very similar thing. I never intended to be a SAHM. I went back to work being a trial lawyer when my son was three months old and felt very burned out after about 7 months, especially b/c my husband worked weekends so we never had any time together. Cut back to part time which was great until my daughter was born and then my boss wanted me back full time and as you are saying, that seemed even less workable with two small children so I left my job and I didn't work much for 2.5 years. I will be honest with you–I got very depressed and had a hard time with it. But the things that helped me included finding like-minded Moms in my area that I could hang out with (playdates were more for my sanity than for my kids'); getting out a lot (park, library, Barnes and Noble play area, YMCA, etc.); and leaving kids with my husband for some me time to reestablish my identity. Look at what your job or passion is/was and how you might be able to incorporate aspects of that into your new lifestyle. For example, I love to write so I joined some other Mom friends in creating a local online newspaper and writing for that every week, giving me a chance to use my brain and be creative. I started teaching a paralegal class one night a week at a local community college to keep my brain engaged and feel like I was still a lawyer. Stuff like that can go a long way toward maintaining your sanity. Also, keep in mind that this is likely to be temporary, if you want it to be. I am back at work now and stressed in entirely different ways, LOL.

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  4. My transition to staying home was an accident as well, in that I found my job too dangerous for a pregnant lady, then moved, then had other reasons that kept me from working– I always intended to go back to work but events made it never make sense.

    1. Ariel has a great post about getting over the weirdness of hiring a cleaning expert. If your husband's awesome new job allows it and you hate cleaning as much as I do, don't feel bad about having someone else do the thing that makes you crazy.

    2. Get out, out, out. Whether it's with your baby or taking up a hobby, find something that gets you out of the house. For me this worked best when it was scheduled; if left to my own devices I'd flake or never get out the door out of tiredness, but when I had something rolling on the calendar I more easily attended my own interests.

    3. Make your house more your home. If I was going to be home, I was going to have the home I wanted to be in. I built my chicken coop, garden beds, planted trees I wanted, arranged a sewing area for myself.

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    • Having a routine that got me and the kid out of the house helped me when I stayed home too, even if it was just a daily walk in the park.

    • I definitely agree with the schedule suggestion! Also, I still set my alarm clock, get up before the kids, and shower and get myself ready. It sounds simple, but I think it is really easy to use staying at home as an excuse to just stay in yoga pants all day long and not really take care of yourself. So I force myself to wake up and spend half an hour on myself before I deal with the kids, it reminds me that I am still a priority too. Also, the housekeeping thing is a great idea as well. My husband and I actually own a cleaning business and we have a lot of clients that are stay-at-home parents.

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      • Totally digging this comment: "I think it's really easy to use staying at home as an excuse to not really take care of yourself." Very true and good advice that I will remember!

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      • I totally agree! Being a SAHM is just like any other job, and should be treated as such. Get up each morning and approach it like work (showered, dressed, coffee, etc.). I feel best on days when we are up and out the door early.

    • Yes to getting out. I love the idea of hobbies, and finding other interests like painting or cooking or something, even the chicken coop idea, but I loose my mind even trying to keep the house orderly and have content kids, and my house still looks like they just had a party and I have not folded laundry in months. And at this point one of mine is in preschool. When I had both at home we would have 2-3 things a week. Monday library and story hour, Thursday swimming lessons, Friday park. Being an at home parent for five years has crushed our budget so swim lessons were the one thing we pursued. There are lots of free events, often as libraries or parks, or even the mall.

      I found going out was the most important on days when everything was going badly. A change of scenery, plus being somewhere your kid can Run around often helps everything. Chuck some pre prepare food in your bag and leave the house.

      But then everyone's situation is different. Best of luck and I hope you find what works for you.

  5. For me I worked until my daughter was about 1.5 and then got diagnosed with Fibormyalgia, which eventually made me quit my job and unable to do much at all… my husband was the stay at home dad, and now has a job making not nearly what I was making and we are struggling to make it, but what matters most is the love in the household… and you are going to lose a HUGE part of your social life that you (If like me) didn't realize you loved so much. So, it is important to stay connected to your passions. I bought a camera and took up photography, and Started painting, crafting—tried to learn to crochet… but the most important thing I still feel that I have lost is the control over the finances and feeling as though I am contributing to the house hold. I am happy to report that my daughter is well ahead in her learning, she is 2.5 and I would guess will be more than ready for her first year of school in a year or so. So, although this comment seems jumbled, and I am sorry for my lack of organization and run on sentence here, this is what I have experienced… I am currently feeling better and looking to go back to work. Not because I don't like being with my daughter, but because I am too much of a workaholic… just lot's of pros and cons to weigh out for yourself… and your sanity… I might add..

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  6. Staying home was what I wanted, but I honestly didn't think I would have a hard time with the monotony. But I really really did.

    It was really difficult for me to go from a life where many of my goals were set extrinsically – things to accomplish at work and the like, to where the only goals I seemed to have were "organize the kitchen". It was REALLY difficult to see growth without seeing career (or school!) growth.

    I have to remind myself regularly that I don't have to be "all mom all the time", that just because I'm a "homemaker" doesn't mean that that's the only thing that I'm allowed to do. I sort of lost myself in that for awhile, before I even realized that's what happened. But now I make sure to take time out of my day to do what I need to do for me. Read books and blogs, watch some good TV, hang out with friends, learn something new, and find activities that I enjoy with my kid. I don't have to love playing cars all the time, and that's ok.

    I'm not sure how gracefully I found it – it was hard to find my balance gracefully, but for me, the key was definitely to remember that I do not have to be "stay at home mom" 100% of the time.

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    • "It was REALLY difficult to see growth without seeing career (or school!) growth."

      This, 100%! It is really challenging to shift your understanding of success and growth to the home sphere, where there are no degrees or promotions to achieve.

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  7. I am struggling with this too! I finished RN school right before my second was born, and now at 2 year old, and 7 month old, I am trying to justify working. I don't want to wait too long without experience under my belt, because it looks bad in the future… I am debating currently about a job which allows me to work every other weekend.

    I NEVER wanted to be a SAHM, and now I find it hard to picture someone else watching my kids or rationalizing paying someone else, when financially, I don't have to work. My husband would prefer I stay home, too, so its rough.

    The trick for me has been getting out of the house daily. Even if I purposely only buy 1 thing at the grocery store so I have to go back the next day. Having play dates, time at the park, time browsing through stores, or whatever is ESSENTIAL to my sanity. Also, making sure that my husband takes either morning or night shift, as in, he takes the kids asap when he wakes/gets home, so I can chill. Also, sending me off for even an hour by myself a couple times a week is so helpful.

    Its tough. I am always battling the guilt of wanting to sit and just space out on the internet, vs. developmentally stimulating my kids, vs. them needing naps and fed and HELLS NO to cleaning, lol. It requires some reorganizing in the brain, definitely. I have come to accept that my house is usually thrashed and well, if you love us, then you shouldn't judge us. Suzy Homemaker is not my calling, but I decide that cleaning is lower on the list then my sanity of interneting or playing with the kiddos.

  8. Does it have to be all or nothing?

    It sounds like from your post that its not a matter of finances, but a matter of wanting to work because you enjoy what you do. Which is awesome! Do you have options for part-time or flex-time at your current job? Some women have quit their jobs but still worked on specific projects as a contractor for their previous employer. What about freelancing, or volunteering your skills for an organization, your school district, your alumni club etc. That way your skills stay fresh, and if you do want or need to rejoin the workforce at some point, you don't have a gaping hole in your resume.

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  9. We chose for me to be a stay-at-home-mom once our second son was born (almost 2 years ago). Some days I love it and some days I hate it. The good days are usually the busier ones for me. Like Mondays, we have a small playgroup in the morning, we do laundry, we sometimes run errands or go shopping, and we have stuff going on. The days that drag are the ones with nothing planned. I'm not saying playdates every day (or even leaving the house), but having some special activity or some specific goal really helps.

    Lately I've started coming up with a list of 3 things I want to accomplish in the day before I get out of bed. i.e. Do this craft project, balance the checkbook, bake cookies. It gives me something to accomplish, and it helps if at least one thing is not necessarily kid-related.

    The other thing that helps me is I take 2 hours of "mommy time" every Sunday afternoon. I leave the house, usually to go to a coffee shop and read, sometimes to do a bunch of little errands that would take all day with 2 kids. I have to physically leave my house because otherwise I still feel responsible for the kids and I need that mental break. It's a time my husband is always home, but if he wasn't, I would get a baby-sitter, because it's totally worth it.

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  10. I'm a SAHM for 9 years. I can't say it was an accident, tho, when we relocated across the country when my children were ages 2 and 3 months old, the energy to re-enter the workforce was in short supply. Every time I feel like my kids are less needy, I consider employment and get side-tracked – another relocation, my kid needs extra help with math, one's having an emotional attachment issue, etc. It's always something. I'd like to think that I've provided my kids with stability at a time when life gets crazy for one reason or another. My advice:

    (1) Being a SAHP can be very lonely so get out and do stuff. Meet people – you can learn something from everyone, even if it's as minimal as what not to do, or how not to behave.

    (2) Hire someone else to clean your house, if possible. When I clean my house, I must get emotionally too invested cuz I get upset when everyone inevitably messes it up. At least, once every two weeks, I get to breath a sigh of relief the minute my hired cleaning help departs. It's a true sanity saver.

    (3) Find an outlet that is truly yours, like a book club, exercise club, part-time paid work, adjunct professor at a local school, etc. I am highly supportive of volunteering for a child's activity, e.g. school PTA/PTO/PVO, Boy/Girl Scouts, sports, etc. All parents should participate in their kids' activities/school (however big or small a role varies by person). However, this is not your own thing – it's too closely tied to your kids. SAHPs really need something that is their own, providing self-worth, social connections and a personal sense of doing/being.

    (4) Make the time to be informed. I spend much of the day reading news (local, national & international), learning the issues, having an opinion about current events. I know this is less appealing today because our culture is so obsessed with pop culture. Being informed can give you an idea for your own business or product. Bring the news to your kids' level – ask them for their opinions. It takes time to figure out what news is legit anymore. Just because it's online or in print, doesn't mean it's accurate. It feels good to be informed.

    (5) Spend time nesting – paint a bathroom, build a garden (kids love it), digitalize your old home movies/pictures, keep a journal, write letters (emails) to friends and family, etc. What have you been putting off but have been wanting to do around your house for awhile?

    (6) Regular exercise is important for SAHPs. We tend to forget about ourselves as we spend all day consumed with wiping butts/noses, making meals, etc. If we don't take care of ourselves, it's hard to take care of others.

    (7) Involve the kids in what you're doing, however, young. They can learn how to separate laundry as a preschooler/toddler into lights/darks/colors. They can wipe off the table, scrub the toilet, sweep the floor with a broom, etc. (BTW, there are online recipes for making non-toxic homemade cleaning supplies). They can do so much more than what society allows them to do in recent years. It's hard, very hard to do this – they usually do a terrible job & it takes time to explain these simple tasks to them. It's akin to writing detailed instructions for toasting bread. However, if we don't teach our kids basic life skills, how can they ever leave home? SAHPs are lucky to have the time to talk to our kids ad nauseam about life topics.

    (8) Get away from the house and your kids regularly. Go on a trip with friends, have your spouse spend time alone with the kids when you shop, exercise, attend book club, etc. He/she parents differently and that is a good thing. It allows the other parent to bond with your kids in their own way. He/she will do things differently, forget important stuff, irritate the living h*ll out of you because they're not doing what you think is best. But really, you married your spouse for a reason – let your kids see those reasons without you hovering. As part of this, you need to get out of the house & away from the kids WITH your spouse – keep the spark alive without mentioning the kids all the time. At some point, your kids may manipulate your relationship – keeping your spouse close mentally can reduce the impact of this. My daughter recently told me in a huff, "Gosh mom, why do you and dad always have to be on the same page about stuff!" I shrugged my shoulders and internally smiled, thinking, Sounds like I'm doing SOMEthing right!

    Tho each day will feel long – the years will fly by, I swear. There will be ups, there will be down. Ya need 'em both to appreciate the journey. πŸ™‚

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    • It sounds like you have a really strong marriage and a happy family! I'm really happy for you. This is all fab advice that I'd love to put into practise when my partner and I start having kids. Thanks! πŸ™‚

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  11. I was (illegally) let go from my job at 8 months pregnant. I, too, never intended to be a SAHM. The most important advice I can give it to cut yourself a lot of slack. Because of the nature of how I came to stay at home, I struggled with feeling inadequate professionally, and with a colicky baby who cried all. the. time. , I felt inadequate as a mother. Struggling as much as I did led to a diagnosis of PPD, which actually made me feel worse until I realized that PPD =/=failure. Over the months (my kid is 9 months old now) I've learned to let go of what I can't control, even if some days that means housework. Put your babies first; as long as they're clean, fed, and happy (and you can get in a shower a day- seriously. SHOWER AND DRESS DAILY. It's a huge help) the rest of it can wait until either they're asleep, your partner is there to help, or both.

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  12. I am an accidental stay-at-home mom as well, having spent 5 years in a very demanding career that required ridiculous hours. When we had to move for my husband's job, we decided to actively simplify our lives and that I would stay home with my son, which was also when we started to do homeschool.

    Homeschool helped a bit with the monotony of the daily routine: clean kitchen, make dinner, laundry, etc. It was not all roses however, as there was a learning curve to the two of us being home all day together. My husband now jokes that he was certain he would come home one day and my son and I would have divided the house in half with tape and claimed territories!

    All joking aside, there are some great ways to help make the transition easier and to break the monotony of it all.

    1. Rae said this one already: get up and shower and get dressed everyday. You obviously don't have to wear work clothing, but do not fall into the sweatpants trap! It is super easy to say that it won't matter, but it will matter to your mental health.

    2. Take one day a week and do whatever you want, alone. My husband is home on the weekends, so he and our son take Sunday to have a man day. I get to do whatever I please, whether it is heading to an art exhibit, catching up on a favorite tv show, or working on a project. The idea is that it is a mental health day for me, to combat all the crazy of the week.

    3. Get outside with your kids! This one was big for us because it allowed my son and I to focus on other things, and break up our routine. My son was 7 when I started staying home, so we were able to do more grown-up things, like taking a hike and exploring at the wildlife preserves near our home. You can certainly do the same thing with little ones, it just takes a bit more planning. Plus, the education kids receive from exploring outside can be tremendous: understanding season, nature, animal sightings, etc.

    4. Learn to take pleasure in a simpler routine. My husband has always said that I do not idle well, which means I learned from my fast-paced career how to juggle multiple things at one and manage every minute of my time. It was a long transition to learn that I didn't have to do that anymore. Since we scaled back and were moving toward living more simply, I have learned to take joy in some of the tasks that other people consider chores: hanging laundry on the line (which allows me some outdoor time and I can watch the hummingbirds in our backyard), making dinner (learning to make new things and teaching my son how to do so as well so he can make his own breakfast!), and just being home (a luxury I rarely had when I was working).

    We have since gotten over the hard part of the transition, although we are always learning and striving to keep everything fresh, for everyone's sake. Good luck!

    1 agrees
  13. I've been at home with my daughter for just over a year now, but will likely go back to work this year for financial reasons. I'm not looking forward to it, I love being at home. It's great to be able to get all the groceries, laundry, cleaning and other chores and errands done during the week, so that the weekends are free to do fun stuff as a family. The evenings are also more relaxed because I can usually start thinking about and prepping dinner at some point during the afternoon. I am also in better shape than I have been for years because I get to work out during the day now- I do some mother/baby exercise classes, but there are also lots of gyms that offer childcare while you workout. I am more social that I ever was when I was working because I can meet friends for lunch regularly, something I could never do on my 5 minute lunch break. I love relaxing mornings sitting around drinking coffee and browsing the internet while my daughter amuses herself for a while. It's nice not always having to rush out somewhere. And everyday my daughter does something so cute and funny, which I'm so happy not to have missed. I think it will be more difficult when I have more than one child – right now I get time to myself each day while she naps (which she is right now), and she is very easy to take out and about, so I am certainly not stuck at home. I also have a lot of great friends who are also at home with children at the moment, which is great – some are old friends who had babies around the same time as me, and some are women who I've met at different activities since my child was born. I'm sure everything will work out well when I return to work, but I am making the most of this time at home while I can.

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  14. I'm still transitioning to being a stay at home foster mom, which was not EVER in my plans! Being a foster parents was always planned, staying at home was the opposite of what I wanted. I'm still trying to figure it out. We go outside whenever possible, I try to attend playgroups/meetups or whatever when they fit into my day. My kiddos have a lot of extra appointments that eat up our time, which is why I chose to SAH to begin with. As others have said, I have to force myself into a routine that starts with getting dressed, or I could easily spend my days in yoga pants, not leaving the house.

    Being a SAHM isn't easy, and I have to fight the constant feeling that I should be doing "more" with my life. At the end of the day, though, it has proven to be worth the struggle.

  15. It looks like I will be an accidental SAHM. My daughter was born extremely premature and has health issues that require her to stay out of daycare for at least two to three years. Probably in the long term she will be healthy and have little evidence of her prematurity, but for now it is what it is.

    I can't imagine paying someone else to (quite literally) keep her alive. I'm pretty sure my salary would not be enough to afford someone with the kind of experience I would feel comfortable with, and I can't justify spending more than I earn just so I can keep working.

    It's tough. I never, ever pictured myself as a SAHM, much less one to a special needs child. The last two months have been so up and down and sometimes I have a hard time with the thought that this might be my life for years to come. I have some time before I have to make a final decision about going back to work, but I am putting it off to the last minute. I try not to think about what it will be like to try to re-enter the workforce – or how much I spent on a master's degree that might never really be used.

  16. Who knew how common becoming an accidental SAHM was! I count myself among the other women that didn't plan to stay home. It was hard at first because I'm used to being a very productive person and I felt quite the opposite when it was all I could do to keep myself and my daughter in one piece all day. I'm also a bit of a shut in so I have had to force myself to leave the house. I try to make a plan everyday that includes a small adventure for the two of us; library, cafe, hike, dog park. I also try to make nap time sacred and do the stuff I love to do (like write and craft). I'm sure this is tricky with more than one but if you can designate some time everyday to being all about filling your own tank you will be happier at home. And I can't stress enough how important it is to besocial with other moms (and don't forget your child-free friends too). The days I spend more time outside the house surrounded by people whose company I enjoy the more fulfilled I feel as an at home parent. You might find yourself enjoying staying at home πŸ™‚

    1 agrees
  17. Hi Ladies
    This was my question and I am just loving the responses–of course those from the experienced SAHPs but also refreshing to hear from the newbies as eager for this wisdom as I am!

    There are some tips here that are pure gold (dressing/showering in the AM, instituting a weekly 2 hr out of the house mom alone time, more exercise for ALL of us, more focus on projects/interests of my own, and more). I thank you all for that & please–keep 'em coming!

    I think theres lots of truth to the idea of getting out. We've just moved to a new town & I definitely haven't found any really like-minded women. I go to a playgroup weekly but so far no major connections there. But I will keep at it as there is no doubt that socializing & getting out of the house are awesome ideas.

    I have been letting my baby sleep/nurse on me all evening & then we go to bed together but I think that if I could have the evening "off" (ie baby in bed instead of draped on my body) instead of pinned to the couch watching TV I might be able to accomplish more & be more present & happier during the days with my kids. Going to work on that.

    Also I'm sure that being in the deepest dark of winter doesn't help much either and hopefully the coming of Spring will bring some changes.

    I realize that my kids are in a really demanding phase right now (3 yrs & 6 months). My 3 y old is very busy & will only very rarely play by himself. Also, I can't leave him & the baby alone together for fear that the 3 yr old will poke the baby's eyes out–or worse! It feels like every moment these kids are awake requires 100% focus on them. I think the thing that I struggle with the most–and am most envious of my husband for having–is A) uninterrupted time and B) the ability to start, work on & complete tasks. I also struggle with the amount of TV I let my 3 yr old watch as a tool to get some time to accomplish making dinner, paying bills, etc, ie: the bare minimum and certainly not things that would be fun or fulfilling for me. I know that this too shall pass, and I find that really concentrating on & soaking up the adorable/awesome moments with my kids really helps me keep it all in perspective. But I really wish they would both be quiet so I could get s ome things done!!! πŸ˜‰

    Anyways I wish I could comment more elaborately or reply to more of the awesome replies but of course the 10 min window I've just squeaked out is up–gotta go!

    1 agrees
    • Jewel–everything you've said is so familiar. We also moved to a new state just after our 2nd was born and I struggled (and still struggle 1.5 years later) to find mom friends. I wrote on FB during that time that parenthood is 20% joy and 80% drudgery, probably freaking out a lot of my parent-to-be-friends, but it was the truth back then. The ratio is much better for me now. (It's more like 50/50.) I too felt guilty about the tv time for my older child but really as long as it's not on all day, he'll be fine. And I also had a baby that would fall asleep on me and stay on me until we all went to bed. Eventually–when he was around a year old–I decided it was time to get him in the bed. Having those few hours before bed to do what I want or just hang out with my partner has definitely helped. (By the way, my kids are watching Dinosaur Train as I type this, though I'm supposed to be making dinner. Whoops!)

      1 agrees
  18. I don't have kids but I once read about two moms who were SAHMs together. It sounded awesome. One mom and kids would pack up and be at the other family's house all day. Together the women would knock out the housework, maybe cook ahead for the week, and the kids would get to play play play. The next day they would do it at the other house. This way there wasn't so much isolation and more of a tribe/village feeling. Of course it was great for the kids, too, since they basically had a bigger family instead of just one (potentially frazzled, isolated, unhappy) mama. (I also read about two single moms who decided to live together and raise their kids together. Also sounded awesome. They said they each had more free time than when they lived with men because they had the same expectations of housework/childcare.) I lived in a Mayan village for a month, and it was pretty cool to see how all of the women just gathered and did all their work together and socialized (that's who I hung out with all day everyday, and they put me to work, and it was fun! hehe). I think the lack of community in our culture can make you feel isolated out in Kidville. Finding/creating your own tribe might help.

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  19. I wasn't sure if I was going to be a SAHM either but I think we've finally decided that I will stay at home for at least a couple of years. I find the key to my sanity is that I give my kids my full attention in the mornings but they have to amuse themselves in the afternoon. So we plan activities, outings, crafts at home or whatever for morning until lunch time. They're still young so they nap. After nap I make dinner, clean the house etc while they play independently. Of course getting them to play independently is still a challenge

  20. When my son was four months old, we determined that, no, Mama working outside the home was not working, and I quit my job. I avoided being a stay-at-home mom because I somehow feared it would turn me into my other. It's been almost two years, and I'm still figuring it out.

    Some things that have helped:
    1) Reminding myself that it took me a long time to get good at my employment, both my former day job and my doula work. I'm not going to accomplish everything I want to as a homemaker right away.
    2) Friends! Most of the friends we had pre-baby don't have kids. Making friends with other parents has gone a long, long way. It makes such a difference to have someone to text with, "My kid is doing this thing. Is this normal?" or even, "I understand why some animals eat their young," who will respond with, "Yes," and, "YES." Even better if you can go to the zoo or the park or someplace with them.
    3) Not Mom Friends! I have had a hard time staying connected with some of my pre-parenthood friends because, even though I have many interests outside of parenting, it's what I spend 16 (or more) hours/day doing, so it's most of what I have to talk about. I've gotten a lot out of interacting with other adults in a kind of scripted setting. For me, this means a book group and networking with other childbirth professionals. When I go to those events, I automatically have something to talk about that's not my kids.
    4) Oh, yeah, continuing education. It doesn't work for me to pursue doula work a lot right now — it's really hard to be on call with small children — but I have been taking workshops, reading books, and participating in in-person and online networking groups, so that I can stay involved and maintain that part of my identity.
    5) Alone time. As an introvert, I REALLY need this. My partner is pretty good about helping me get it.

    1 agrees
  21. So, I'm just a housewife at the moment (working very hard on the mom part). My biggest concern has always been my brain turning to mush. I have a degree and always loved school and learning. I haven't pursued my career/post grad because of health problems. After about a year of being home all the time I couldn't take it anymore. Now I buy all the little puzzle books I see at stores. I take time to do a puzzle or two every day (even it's just while I'm in the bathroom). This makes me feel like my brain isn't being lost in the day to day of grocery lists, dishes and cat litter. I've even gotten a few math books and just started doing algebra for the hell of it. Admittedly I didn't read every comment but it seemed that most were geared toward sanity, and not so much keeping your brain active. Sanity is good, but I also think keeping your brain ready to problem solve can be a life saver.

    • yes! i am not a stay-at-home parent (although i would really like to be), but the thing that comes to mind immediately to me is my days unintentionally unemployed (before i was a parent). it was stressful and problematic, but the thing that kept it from being actually unpleasant for me was finding something to occupy my brain (for me it was a self-guided research project on an issue i find important).

      the additional thing i would add for the parent side of it (i don't know if this is relevant to the initial questioner, as her kids are younger than mine and so higher needs) is that even if you are home with the kids all day, they don't have to be all you do. (i'm not home full time, but) we have times that are "stay in your room and play" time. because sometimes you actually have to get things done, and sometimes you need a *break*, and sometimes you need a minute to pursue your interests. obviously this works for us because there are three of them and they entertain each other pretty well, and the youngest are 2 1/2 so they can play with less supervision than a baby. it's clearly not the same as time without the kids, but it's more of a break than nothing.

  22. "Now that I have two children and my husband's career has taken off like a rocket, it's looking like it will be very hard to justify going back to work. "

    Could you explain what you mean by 'justify' here? I am having a hard time coming up with an explanation as to why someone would need to "justify" wanting to go back to work after having a child.

    3 agree
    • My job is very unique & requires nearly 24/7 on call with no real part time or 1 day a week option. It truly is "all or nothing." Additionally, our recent move has dramatically increased my husband's salary, but resulted in a fairly hefty decrease to my earning potential. So by "justify," I mean the calculation of what I would earn minus the cost of on-call childcare & the associated stress/hassle to our family. I'm not sure it would all be worth it financially especially seeing as we are very fortunate not to need that money.

      I find it interesting how many people have suggested I go back to work, which I appreciate. However given that I'm home for at least the remainder of my mat leave & maybe more, what I'm most keen on are suggestions for being happy at home and really make it work as as a SAHP.

      1 agrees
  23. Try to find something else to do – some kind of work you can do at home, or that only requires a few regular hours per day. Or volunteer somewhere. Plenty of things to do.

  24. go back to work. at least one day a week. its easy to justify-it makes you happy! im also from a rewarding but difficult career (nursing). i've had 14 weeks off and am so happy to be going back!

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  25. Funding for the summer portion of my job just got cut, and so I won't be getting to teach the 2 days a week that I was promised, which will make me a summertime stay at home mom and I am nervous, too! I like working part time (right now it's 4 days a week) to get out of the house and remember the other parts of me.

    I second what an above poster said about 'justifying' going back to work. If you love working, then why should you have to justify it? I guess I'm trying to justify sending my kid to daycare 2 days a week to continue his routine and friendships there AND to provide time for me to do non-mom things. That one's hard for me because I won't be making money and COULD stay at home with him every day, but think he has a good setup going already…

    1 agrees
  26. I have found meetup.com works great for meeting other SAHMs (stay at home moms) and making friends who are in the same boat as you is often the first step to breaking the monotony. Go out, do things that are fun with your kid(s)… and you don't have to spend money on things either, there are plenty of free things for kids… the library, parks, children's concerts, etc.

  27. I'm a SAHM of a 3 year old. Not exactly accidentally, but I didn't expect to be home this long. I found the baby time much easier than now – mine chatters non stop so it's hard to get headspace.
    We live in a major city so luckily there is lots on offer. You don't mention what scale of place you live in but trying to do something DIFFERENT definitely shakes things up, especially if it's something you enjoy. I take my daughter to exhibitions I want to see – she can often offer interesting perspectives. Or even going to a different part of town for a kid activity can be interesting – "a change is as good as a break" they say. I appreiciate that that might be tougher with the little one in tow.
    But as many others here say, find other people to hang out, whether they've got kids or not. That saves my sanity.

  28. I make it through my day by throwing the youngest in a sling, packing the oldest and myself onto a bus, and doing what I want to. It's not always all about the kids. Sometimes they're just along for the ride so I can stay sane. Carve out stuff for you and make it work or you'll have a hard time surviving. If possible, find another mom to swap babysitting with. Stay at home doesn't mean you don't still need adult time. Often it means you need it more.

  29. I was in a similar situation and what I did was start a little daycare in my home. It seems counter intuitive, but it really worked. It allowed me to hire a wonderful nanny to care for my children along with the other 3 kids we have. The typical tuition rates in our area easily cover the nanny's salary. The person I hired is fabulous at being kid focused all day long – it is her passion. I got to spend as much time with my infant as I needed and wanted, but could leave her with a loving caretaker when I needed some time to do more adult things. It kept my older child happily engaged when I was busy with the baby. It has allowed the baby to transition slowly into a group setting, as she was interested and able. The kids and nanny we have bring a great energy into our house and give me a good reason to keep things tidy.

  30. i would suggest having a candid conversation with your partner regarding both of your expectations, especially regarding the authority of income … when i became a SAHM, i was surprised to notice a subtle and unintentional shift in our family dynamics due to the shift of the income burden. my wife and i regard one another as equals, but over a few months, as we started to see the financial impact of going from a 2-income to a 1-income family, something unconscious happened in our dynamic. it was unexpected (for me) to find that that the unspoken "authority" (for lack of a better word) of income could change us so dramatically. it took a bit for both of us to acknowledge and work through the money issue – she feels like the income burden is all on her and when she comes home, there was an implicit expectation that the homefront (homework, housework and meals) would be dealt with. i had a frustration meltdown when i let loose on her, reminding her that i'm not the housemaid but, i was also battling an internal struggle that pitted my career drive and personal frustration of being in a state of flux (i'm going to school for my teaching credentials after a 12-year career in higher ed and i'm substitute teaching but the jobs/income can be unpredictable) against my own internalized expectation that if i'm not out earning an income, the house should be picture-perfect. it took a bit – but giving voice to our concerns, confusions, frustrations and uncertainty of our power dynamics helped immensely in making the transition a bit smoother.

    1 agrees
  31. People have pretty much said it all, but I'll go ahead and put in my 2 cents. I was a stay at home mom for the first few years of my child's life because in the end daycare wasn't a good option for her when she was younger than 3. So, yeah, unplanned. Interestingly, I am also a single mom – the kind without any support, visitation, or nights off. I had to be extremely frugal and yet stay sane. My strong, strong advice is to PACE yourself in the day. Create a regular schedule and for all that is holy, STICK TO IT. Get up by 7a and get out the door by 8a. Or whatever works for you and your child, but for me, sanity and my playful quality as a mother depended greatly on how well I ran that timetable. Here is the one non-negotiable feature — JOIN A GYM WITH CHILDCARE. Just do it. Don't worry about how much it costs. You have a place to work out, or meditate, or take a shower. I have used the hell out of my gym. Even if you're not a fitness enthusiast – do it anyway. There were (many) days when my child refused her nap and screamed or broke things or hated me and then I lost it and then I felt guilty and wanted to die. I packed up the kiddy and plopped her in gym daycare, got a little sweat on and came back to this crazy childrearing project like a champ. You kind of said you didn't like library times, but we did those on a regular. And not just libraries but local museums had free events — we went to the zoo, the children's museum, the splash pad, the park — every day my child had her event, I had my event (workout), and the dog got a walk. I literally don't know how I could have survived those years without that bargaining up of our time. The final thing — and who knows how advanced you are in your career — but I enrolled in a graduate program – nothing fancy just a two year MA program at the local university in a field that seemed relevant to my previous work. If you end up SAHM forever, it'll just some grown-up, brain time. But if you ever feel differently (and once my child was 3 we were both ready for something different) you'll have some more options and recent references. Good luck!

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