Earlier this year I got my Master's, had my second baby and became a stay-at-home parent in rapid succession. Lots of things have happened quickly, but I know this much is true: this is a precious time in my life.
But just because it's precious doesn't mean it's easy. For me, I know the change to being a SAHM isn't forever, (in fact I'm already beginning to look for new jobs), but I have been surprised at the way I've been feeling about staying home with my two-year-old and my infant. Here's why:
1. I really enjoy it.
I am the person who always said I would never/could never stay home with my kids full time. A number of factors converged after we had our second, and it just made sense for me to do it for a while. And I love it.
It took a few weeks for me to figure out our rhythm and how to structure our days for the least amount of crankiness and frustration for all parties, but once I cracked the code, things were amazing.
Even when I am dealing with the two-iest of tantrums, or a newborn who refuses to nap, there is (usually) a feeling of calm and self-reliance instead of the overwhelm and annoyance I assumed I would feel. Oh, there are bad days to be sure, but most of the time, I feel like I am right where I'm supposed to be.
I am as shocked as anyone that I feel this way!
2. I'm good at it.
In my old job I was a program director, and I was good at that too; I did well in my Master's program, earning virtually straight A's.
But somehow, I didn't know if I would succeed at staying home with my kids. To my surprise, I feel well-equipped to deal with all the craziness and unpredictability that comes with being in charge of two young people.
I am confident and happy (most of the time!) when I'm hanging out with my kids and planning activities for us, and thankful that I get this precious time with them this time after returning to work a lot sooner after my oldest was born.
Something about it just feels right, and that is truly unexpected.
3. It's exhausting beyond all comprehension.
My body physically aches from lifting two kids, lugging a double stroller around town, and up and down our brownstone steps multiple times a day and yes, stepping on errant toys. I am mentally depleted at the end of most days in a way that is new and very different from the previous exhaustion of having a full time job, commuting, pursuing a Master's and raising a toddler.
Somehow hanging out with my two kids is often more draining than that, even when we have a pretty average, low-key day. I have tried and failed to do the math on that—it's still a mystery to me.
4. It's easier with a friend.
I have met a few wonderful stay at home moms over the past few months, and their companionship means everything to me. When I'm having a difficult day, or just exhausted and don't feel like parenting alone, I can text one of them for a park meetup or a coffee date with the kids.
When the toddlers have a buddy to keep busy and the moms have a buddy, we are all happier! We can commiserate about hardships, laugh at the sweet and hilarious things our kids say, and come away feeling a lot better about the day ahead with a boost of confidence and empathy that only a fellow stay-at-home parent can deliver.
5. It's okay to need a break.
There are some days when my husband comes in and I immediately declare myself “off duty."
Whether I physically leave the premises, or just hide out in my room for some alone time, sometimes I need a break from making decisions, cleaning up, preparing food, etc.
I feel no shame or guilt in this, and my partner is supportive and certainly fully capable of handling the dinner/bed/bath routine on his own. So when I need a break, I take one.
And whether it's a few hours off, or an evening away, I return refreshed, invigorated and missing my crew.
I have learned a lot about myself over these past four plus months at home with my children.
To my surprise, I think I have become a better parent, and more patient, although I wholeheartedly assumed the opposite would be true.
I challenged my own definitions of happiness and success, and I embark on my job-finding mission with a heaviness of heart that I didn't think I would feel about this transition.
I think I know more now about what I want out of my career, and what kind of work-life balance I will strive for to meet my family's needs, and that in itself is a gift. I also feel lucky to have been part of the stay-at-home mom scene, if only for a little while, just to gain some perspective on the struggles of my fellow moms.
Let's face it, whether we work outside the home, stay home with the kids, or something in between, it's a tough juggling act for which we all deserve a lot of respect, kudos, and reverence.