I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for nearly seven years now, and it’s a constantly evolving role as we add new babies to our family and our children continue to grow older.
Some days, I’ve loved every minute of it, delighting in the afternoons snuggled on the couch with a stack of picture books or taking leisurely walks around the neighborhood in the sunshine. On other days, the idea of going to an office to interact with adults and eat a lunch that didn’t involve peanut butter and jelly seemed extremely tempting.
The answer to whether or not to stay home with your children is different for every family, but if you do become a stay-at-home mom, here are six things you should know:
1. You have to make your own sunshine. This is a phrase my mom used all the time when I was growing up, and now as a mom, I see what she means. As a stay-at-home mom, you don’t get a lot of pats on the back, promotions, or recognition for a job well done. And children are notorious for not giving praise or appreciation (and who could blame them?) so it’s your job to make sure you take responsibility for making your life happy, whether that means getting outside, meeting up with other adults, or having hobbies or projects outside of motherhood.
2. People will assume you have lots of time. One of the things that surprised me most about becoming a stay-at-home mom is that most people think that means you’re available all the time. But even though I’m usually at home, I still have a fairly outlined schedule, with naps and bedtime, errands, library time, and some freelance projects, so it’s not as if I just am available all day every day, especially at a moment’s notice.
3. You’ll still feel busy. Almost every mom I’ve ever talked to who has left their job to become a stay-at-home mom has assumed they’ll have plenty of time to get everything done. But life has a way of expanding to fill the space available, and you’ll still feel rushed to get meals on the table or the laundry done or make it to doctor appointments, even when you’re home full-time.
4. Nothing stays the same. When I had jobs outside the home, things were pretty predictable. Certainly things changed, but usually it was with warning and not too quickly. With a baby? It’s constantly changing. There will be three naps and then two. And then none. There will be tantrums some days and perfect days other times. Learning to expect the unexpected is part of the job.
5. Mom friends will be your lifeline. I’m a fairly introverted person and I never thought of myself as someone who needed a lot of friends or interaction with other adults until I became a stay-at-home mom. Spending all day, every day with a demanding (and darling!) little human meant that I savored the time at the playground or library to talk to other adults who knew just what I was going through.
6. You won’t regret those years home with your children. Whether it’s just a few months or 18 years, you’ll never be sad you were there to rock your babies before a nap, hear all about their adventures big and small, or eating lunch together. Sure, you might miss out on a paycheck or promotions, but you’ll have lots of years to enjoy those too when your babies are a little more grown-up.