As I cross the mark of being a stay-at-home mom for as long as I was a working mom, I feel like it’s time to share some insight and lessons learned from both sides.
When deciding what’s best for your family, you may consider finances, insurance, childcare expenses, time (something there never seems to be enough of for anyone), family priorities, and you know what, you may actually want to work and enjoy your career. Nothing wrong with that either.
It seems natural to assume that whatever you’re doing is the best way. For you. People choose to work part-time, have a career, stay home, stay home and work for all kinds of reasons, but they’re unique to that family and situation.
Now that I’ve spent equal time on both sides of this, I can tell you with certainty, they are both hard. Wonderful, but challenging.
A mom and an employee
When we got married, our plan was for my husband to become a Physical Therapist and for me to work until we had kids and then “retire” when they were born. Ha. It’s a long story, but that’s not even close to what happened.
When our oldest daughter was born in 2016, I was blessed with an unheard of 18 weeks of maternity leave. Going back to work was the hardest thing I’d ever done and it took a huge toll on my mental health, even with caregivers who loved our daughter as one of their own.
I was overcome with guilt, especially as a first-time mom, and some days, the pain seemed excruciating and unbearable.
I remember one time a close friend casually asked me “what time does she take a nap?” A simple enough question. But I didn’t know the answer. I burst into uncontrollable tears. I was her mother, how could I not know when she regularly took naps?
Stay-at-home mom life
When our second daughter was born at the end of 2018, we were blessed to be in a different situation altogether that allowed me to be the stay-at-home mom I wanted to be.
I had a little bit of a hard time transitioning into this new role. After all, I was used to working during the day with one child, and now, I was home all day with two. We were in a new house and a new city with new people.
I felt like I woke up in a mental hustle every morning. I’d been so used to squeezing in as much life as I could in the evenings (family time, chores, other obligations) that it felt unnatural to have more than just a few hours.
And even though this is what I wanted, it’s still hard.
There are days when I feel totally unstoppable – like I can do anything. These days, the girls get along, I accomplish my to-do list, and we enjoy our time working and playing together.
But my days as a stay-at-home mom are not all unicorns and rainbows (except, little girls love unicorns and rainbows, so I do have quite a few around). Some days, I want to run away. I feel like I’ll explode if I hear “mommy…?” in a whiny voice just one more time. I want time to myself.
Leaving my corporate career has allowed me to be more flexible with my time, which has given me the opportunity to write, blog, and be more involved in our local church. But just because I can be a bit more flexible doesn’t mean that I’m not busy or “don’t work.”
All moms work
Yup, you read that right, all moms work. Some may work in the home, some out of the home, some a mixture of the two – but all work.
Don’t let someone guilt you about your employment status. That is for you and your spouse to decide. You may have a choice at this point in your life, but, you may also not. Whatever situation you’re in, don’t let anyone look down on you or make you feel like you “did it wrong.” You, mama, are doing what is best for your family right now.
How to encourage working moms
Working moms are trying to do all the things of motherhood plus all the things of their careers. Free time is short, time with family is precious, and priorities keep her grounded. Here’s a few ideas on how to encourage the working moms you know.
1. Compliment Her.
Does anyone genuinely not like being complimented or noticed? I mean, they may be out there, but I don’t think I know them. A kind word can totally change someone’s day. Working moms are no exception.
Notice how she balances all the things, how she’s valued at work, how she’s able to maintain her home, how well-behaved her kids are, and yeah, maybe even tell her her hair looks nice (my Grandma’s favorite silly compliment).
2. Plan some playdates/outings she can actually attend.
When I worked, it was disheartening that all of the playdates/mothers day outs/park days were during my work day. It made me feel like an outsider or somehow like I was less of a mom. The working moms may still not be able to attend evening/weekend events, but not having everything in the middle of the workday at least allows them more of an opportunity.
3. Offer to help if babysitting arrangements fall through.
This means the world to a working mom. If someone you know needs childcare unexpectedly and you are able to help, jump in! That’s one less thing she has to worry about and she’ll be forever grateful.
Even just letting a working mom know that she can call you if something happens reminds her that she doesn’t have to do this all by herself and that she has people willing and able to help in her corner. It truly does take a village.
How to encourage stay-at-home moms
Being a mom in general can feel very thankless and isolating, especially if she is home alone with children the majority of the time.
1. Compliment Her.
Yup, same here – give that mama some encouragement with a compliment. But don’t try telling me that my hair looks nice though during this stage of life – ponytails for the win.
2. Offer to let her run errands alone.
Ah, sweet alone time, even if it’s just to the grocery store. Now that I’m a stay-at-home mom, alone time is my love language. When our youngest daughter was a newborn, I had several sweet ladies volunteer to sit with the kiddos while I ran errands or to appointments. Not having to worry about getting kids in/out of carseats feels like a vacation all on its own.
3. Don’t hold her to a different standard.
Yes, stay-at-home moms often have a greater level of flexibility, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t busy or overwhelmed already. Don’t expect her to be able to help with all the projects, teach all the classes, or attend all the events just because she “doesn’t work.” She works. Encourage and give her support in the things that she feels like she can add to her plate, but don’t set the bar a different height just because of what you think she can (or should be able to) handle.
We are all doing our very best
When someone makes the choice to work outside the home or not, remember that they are doing what is best for their family at that time. You don’t know what happens or what the needs are behind closed doors. Be mindful of your words.
Moms, extend the same grace to one another, because we’re all in the trenches right now.
If you’re struggling, reach out to some more experienced moms. I love hearing how older women have handled situations I’m currently dealing with – it gives me hope and reassurance. Whatever you’re going through, you’re not alone.