Nov 14, 2019

What I’ve Learned from Ten Years of Being a Stay at Home Mom

In September 2010, I quit my full-time job as a lawyer so I could be home when my oldest child started kindergarten. We worked hard to make it possible, paying off my student loans and building up a substantial emergency fund.

Looking back, I can see that I had some real trouble with the transition. Not that I had regrets – I didn’t miss the job, and I loved being able to take my son to school and pick him up every day. I also became an involved parent, volunteering with the PTA and School Site Council.

But I struggled mightily with my identity. I’d been an attorney for ten years, so when someone asked what I did, “blogger” just didn’t sound right. It was an identity, but I wasn’t amazingly successful – I had a small audience, and I made a (very) small income. And not only was it not prestigious, a lot of people didn’t even know what it meant to be a blogger back then. So it was hard to let go of the “attorney” label and embrace “blogger” instead.

I did come to understand the importance of different identities. When I felt like a terrible wife or mother, it helped to have blogging to turn to. Even if I wasn’t thriving as a blogger, at least I was consistent and it was something that was just for me and my readers; it didn’t involve my family. Conversely, if I got down about blogging, I knew that at least I was a valuable volunteer at school, a good mother, etc.

Eventually, I made peace with the blogger identity, especially after I got a few freelance gigs that made me feel like more of a “writer” and not just a “blogger.” These days, when someone asks what I do, I tell them I’m a freelance writer and blogger.

But because my “blogger” identity has always seemed so insignificant compared to the “attorney” identity – both in hours and income – I’ve hesitated to call myself a work at home mom. I’ve always felt more like a stay at home mom who happens to have a part-time side gig.

Most importantly, I have loved being home since my kids started school. It’s allowed me to spend a lot more time with them, and some of our best conversations take place in the car on the way home from school. I’ve been an active volunteer every school year, so I know what’s going on and have developed relationships with other parents, teachers, and staff. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What I've Learned from Ten Years of Being a Stay at Home Mom

If you’re looking to become a stay at home or work at home mom, I have some advice:

  • Start your planning early, because you may need time – maybe even years – before you feel comfortable quitting your job.

  • Sort out the finances first. You want to make your financial situation as low-stress as possible. Pay off debt. Save at least one year’s worth of living expenses. Run the numbers over and over to make sure you can pay your expenses with just one income. If you can, save your income for a few months while you live off your partner’s income, so you know you can make the one-income lifestyle work.

  • Think about how you’ll spend your time once you’re home. For the reasons discussed above, it’s important to have more identities than just mom and wife, or dad and husband. You don’t necessarily have to work, but maybe you can volunteer, whether it’s at school or a different organization that’s important to you. Or maybe you can take classes, paint, or grow a garden.

  • Plan for a social life. Being a stay at home or work at home parent can be very isolating. While you’ll probably make friends with other parents, especially if you’re involved at school, be sure to make plans to see friends away from the children. I’ve always enjoyed the post-drop-off coffee or walk, and I try to meet a friend for lunch or dinner at least once a month.

  • Be prepared for changes to your parenting partnership, because your partner is also making an adjustment. My husband had a rough time because I had a rough time. Set some clear expectations too, especially around the division of responsibility regarding housework, childcare, meals, etc.

  • Above all, be kind to yourself. Becoming a stay or work at home parent is a transition, and it’s going to take some getting used to.

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