Four years ago I left a successful marketing career to stay home with my firstborn. Back then, I thought I knew what motherhood was. I thought I understood what “staying home” looked like. I’d seen plenty of stay-at-home moms portrayed on TV shows and commercials. I even had fond memories of my own mother staying home with my sisters and me when we were young.
My thoughts swirled with rose-colored visions at home with my precious baby—nothing but bliss. It seemed the stay-at-home mom role had already been written for me by what I had absorbed over time—a woman happily dedicated to home and family—simple. Easy. And while that image of a stay-at-home mom is amazing in theory, it forgets to factor in the multifaceted woman herself. As I wrote in From Boardroom to Baby: A Roadmap for Career Women Transitioning to Stay-at-Home Moms ”During my first few months in my new role, I tried to emulate what I had seen in the media about being a ‘successful’ stay-at-home mom. I devoted my entire attention to cleaning, cooking and, obviously, caring for my precious babe. I kept an immaculate house, and I had dinner waiting on the table when my husband got home from work. I was Mrs. 1950s Housewife in the flesh. Wasn’t this what life as a stay-at-home mom looked like? And if it did, why did it feel so uncomfortable? “I found that as a modern-day woman, I didn’t fit the mold of the traditional stay-at-home mom. While domestic responsibilities still needed to be a part of my new role, I began looking for ways to redefine this new path on my own terms. “From this realization came the courage to deprioritize the ‘expected’ domestic routine and responsibilities and prioritize raising good humans, venturing outside of the house and exploring the world with my children, nurturing my own body, mind, and soul, and empowering myself to resurrect old passions and turn those into a hobby, and eventually, a side business.” Of course taking care of children and a home are huge, important pieces of our roles as stay-at-home moms—likely the very foundation of our choice to stay home in the first place! However, we have the opportunity to add more to this existence. We can design “staying home” in a way that reflects our dedication to family and home, and also reflects us as empowered, thriving women. How to feel empowered as a stay-at-home mom: 1. Set intentions and goals for your time at home. As stay-at-home moms know, the days often get lost in the chaos and routines of raising tiny humans and it’s sometimes hard to see the importance of the work we’re doing every day. Vacuuming cheerios off the floor and changing dirty diapers has a way of clouding the bigger picture. Try writing down your big intentions and goals for your time at home and refer to these “north stars” when the days get long or when you’re feeling a little lost in your new role. Try asking yourself: What am I trying to accomplish on a larger scale? How will I make my time at home count?
2. Redefine success In your past career life you probably defined success through raises, praise, promotions, or big goals accomplished. As a stay-at-home mom, when external reinforcements like raises and praise do not exist, it’s important to give yourself these same feelings of “success” through internal strength and confidence. Count your daily tasks, big and small, as real accomplishments in the most important job you’ve ever had: raising children. Give yourself praise and be proud of your loving, hard work. 3. Allow the space for “more than mom” It’s easy to encompass the stay-at-home mom role quite entirely since we live it 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But it’s imperative to leave room for an outlet outside of mom—something you have for yourself that fills your cup back up and allows you to grow and thrive separate from motherhood. Whether it’s a newfound hobby, a resurrected passion, or starting a business from home—allowing yourself to flourish in something outside of motherhood will refresh your soul. 4. Nurture your own body, mind, and soul Raising tiny humans all day, every day requires dedication, love, strength and extremely hard work. There’s a reason that flight attendants inform parents, in light of a change in cabin pressure, to secure their own oxygen masks first before assisting their children—it’s because we can’t help anyone else if we can’t breathe. Find ways to breathe and recharge by taking care of your mind (read, write, learn a new language, stay up to date on current events), body (exercise, make yourself healthy snacks and meals), and soul (meditate, pamper yourself every now and again, make time for evenings out with friends and hobbies.) 5. Seize the day If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last four years as a stay-at-home mom, it’s that the dishes can wait, the laundry never ends, but children have an expiration date. It’s sometimes necessary to deprioritize the domestic responsibilities and prioritize making memories with your children. They’re only little once, and you have the time and space to introduce them to the world, one experience at a time. Throw dance parties in the kitchen, go fly a kite, take a day trip into the city, go for a hike in the woods. Seize the day and enjoy the magic in these special moments with your precious babes.