I used to be a working mom. I went back to work full time when my oldest was 12 weeks old. I dutifully pumped my breastmilk three times a day, spent every moment not at work snuggling this ever changing little boy, and dreamt of the day I could quit my 9-5 and stay home with him. I worked from the time he was 3 months old until he was just over 3 years old. My high risk pregnancy gave me a taste of SAHM life, but I became official after resigning from my job following the birth of my youngest.
The transition to staying home wasn't a smooth one for me. I had a real sense of pride from earning paychecks and getting praise for a job well done. When you're at home, there are no paychecks and praise can be sparse. Perhaps it was the move to a new city or my PPD and anxiety, but I had a difficult adjustment period. I was finally living my dream, but found myself wishing for the life I once had. Here are a few things no one told me about being a SAHM.
Being at home can be lonely
The only interaction I got during the day was from my children. Unless we went to a grocery store, I wouldn't speak to another adult until my husband got home from work. It didn't change until I found a mom-centric exercise group. Working out outdoors and being around other mothers made it less lonely. There were occasional playdates and the dance of making a new mom friend. I am glad to have Facebook to keep in touch with old friends, but for me, it isn't a good substitute for face to face interaction. Finding a local moms group through Meetup, Facebook, or a religious organization can help ease the loneliness.
Deadlines are now nap time and lunch time
Rather than deadlines for large and expensive projects, I was dealing with sleepy or hungry (usually both) kids. Both are challenging in their own way. It helped me greatly to figure out a routine, even if nap time was a ballpark rather than an exact point. Just as I'd stop my work to go to a meeting, I'd make sure I was close to home when it got close to nap time. If that wasn't an option for me, I'd make sure I had my baby carrier to help him fall asleep. Routine helped a lot, but it was important to be flexible.
Multitasking is still the name of the game
Making sandwiches while on the phone with the pediatrician, breastfeeding on the couch while reading my oldest a story, folding laundry while doing a puzzle, and even more. As mothers we never stop doing more than one thing at once. Despite the juggling act, I tried hard to set aside a little bit of time to focus on just my oldest child. We would do something just for him and he would have my undivided attention - no laundry, no phone, no little brother (this was only accomplished during nap time).
Make time for yourself
This was a big one for me. My therapist told me that we as mothers tend to pour from our cup for everyone else. By the time we get to us, our cup is empty. When our cup is empty, that's when we lose our cool with loved ones and can start to feel down. Self care is vital for me: it helps me focus on myself instead of everyone else. It doesn't have to be a day at the spa, little things can make a big difference in the long term. A glass of wine and my favorite mindless TV show after the kids go to bed, a solo grocery store trip (two birds with one stone!), or even a few extra minutes to put on makeup help me fill my cup. Cultivate a hobby, join an athletic league, pray or meditate, or take a hot bath. Do whatever you need to honor yourself and your current place in life.
Now that I've been a stay at home mom for about 18 months, I have found my groove. We have a good routine, I'm able to meet up with mom friends, and I can take a few minutes for myself every day. While the initial period wasn't easy, I am grateful for the opportunity to watch my youngest grow. Rather than miss out on his milestones, I am present to see them. I call him my BBF - best baby friend. Even though there are some not so great days, I love my new role. If you're adjusting to life as a new stay at home mom, remember to give yourself some grace. It is an adjustment and will take some time.