Perhaps you were reading "Lean In" and decided you were too tired of leaning. Or you saw the Yahoo! CEO with her in-office nursery and realized you'd rather dump the office. Or some mom at PTA with her fresh-baked cookies made it all look so easy. Somewhere, somehow, someone convinced you to give up your tailored skirt, heels, and comfy office chair for yoga pants, school volunteering and laundry. Welcome to the loose band of caffeinated moms known by the misnomer, stay-at-home moms.
Pour yourself a drink (coffee, Pepsi, margarita, whatever works) and take note of a few tips to prepare you to make this wonderful transition. (And yes, I know this post is long and it will take you a week to read it, but hey, this new gig ain't easy.)
At some point, perhaps within the first year, perhaps within the first week of being home, you will think/scream/ponder, “I went to college for this?” You may feel that you are losing brain cells. Your days that once were filled solving the important problems of the world, will now be filled with important micro-cosmic questions such as “does “bag-lunch” mean it has to be in a paperbag so its disposable or just a lunch from home that they are going to eat in the classroom?” and “should I do the laundry, start dinner, or sit here and eat bon-bons?” (Note – you will rarely choose the bon-bons, but when you do, enjoy them, guilt-free.) When this happens, pick up something intellectual - a professional journal, a copy of The Economist from the magazine rack, or a barely read Toni Morrison novel to fire up a few brain cells. Then go back to figuring out lunch.
Be prepared for that first – and second and 100th – time when you respond to the “so what do you do?” question and have to remind yourself that you no longer have a professional title. In response, refrain from saying “I’m just a mom.” Proudly tell the questioner you have left your professional career and are now busy raising your children. Smile when they say “wow, that’s a hard job.” There's also the partner phrase, "I couldn't do that." Depending on who says it, you'll know whether it's a compliment or not; respond appropriately.
Also be prepared for the first – and second and 100th – time you get the question “so, how long are you doing that for? When are you going back to work?” There’s also the other variations you may encounter: what do you do all day, but don’t you have a college/Master’s/law/doctorate degree, what does your husband think about that? Your own life plans will dictate your answer, but do stop yourself from laying out those life plans, unless the person is an essential part of your life (I.e. someone who has some kind of financial responsibility to or dependency on you, or someone you really really like). Otherwise, "right now, I'm enjoying raising my children" is a sufficient answer.
Practice not rolling your eyes at your husband. This may happen when he comes home and complains about how hard it was giving a presentation to his client or when he calls from his business trip and tells you about the fabulous steak and lobster dinner he just ate. While he's talking, you will be washing dishes, checking homework, and eating a leftover peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Hey, that's his burden in life, this is your's. (Yeah, we know your's is harder, but humor him.)
Pace yourself. To fill your once busy days, you may be tempted to sign up for every committee of the PTA, volunteer to be the perpetual carpool driver and team manager for every sport your kid plays. Slow your roll. Give yourself a month or two or twelve to figure out your new rhythm, then, add to it if you so choose.
Make some friends. You probably have some friends already. But on Monday morning you will come to a stark realization - those were working friends. They are not around to get a cup of coffee after the yellow school bus pulls off and your happy hour is now filled with homework. If your kids are young, you might find some likable moms at a mommy-and-me playgroup. Perhaps you'll make connections with other moms on the sports team or volunteering at school. As with any friends, make connections with moms you actually like, not one's that just happen to have a kid the same age as yours.
Get yourself a new wardrobe. Push the suits and stilettos, the leather briefcase and the nice anything else you've got to the back of the closet. You'll need comfortable - but cute - mom clothes. Go back, did you read the "but cute" part? Whether your budget is Target or Neiman Marcus, there's no need to live in baggy sweatpants or up-to-your bra mom jeans. Do your part to make stay-at-home moms look good.
Take time for yourself. Moms feel like they are always on mom-duty. But when you were a working mom, you had a distinct period when you switched to professional-person mode and mom-hood took a slight step back. As a stay-at-home mom, there is no time clock to put you in another mode, you are always around and may feel that in this role, you should always be available. Kids (and husbands) don't need frazzled, burnt-out, resentful moms. Take a break.
At some point, your kid will hand you the field trip chaperone form and tell you that you have to go because you are the only parent around. Or they will ask you if their friend can come over during the 2-hour snow delay because everyone else's mom has to get to work. The morning will come when your kid will wake with a slight fever and you will lay him back in the bed to rest without panicking over change in child-care plans. The moment will come when you smile to yourself and affirm that you've made the right decision. I hope that moment comes everyday.
Welcome to stay-at-home-mom-ness. Linger over that cup of coffee and keep Just Piddlin' with me.