When I was sixteen and knew everything, I had a conversation with my boyfriend about how ridiculous it was that his mother didn’t work.
Sure, his dad was a doctor and they didn’t need the measly income she’d make using her teaching degree, but she’d gone to school and earned that degree.
She should want to use it!
Why in the world would she want to stay home and spend her days making cupcakes, going to Bible study, running her children back and forth to activities, and generally making her home a happy and peaceful place?!
I mean hadn’t she ever heard of feminism?
Fast forward six years to when my sweet baby, Brinley Belle, was born.
I suddenly understood.
I understood why I would give up a job that I liked and stop using the degree I’d worked so hard to earn to stay home and take care of my baby. It became my heart’s deepest desire.
And yet, God didn’t immediately give it to me.
So, I went back to school and got a Master’s degree to be a teacher so that I could at least have more time off. I worked as a teacher for six years and hated every morning that I had to leave Brinley, and then Brinley and Dax, and then Brinley and Dax and Baylor. I was miserable at work because all I wanted was to be home with our kids.
I’d devise outlandish schemes that would allow our finances to enable me to be home.
“If we sell our house and live in a temperature controlled storage building…”
I’d be jealous anytime my stay at home mom friends would complain about being tired.
“Yeah right!” I’d think. “I do everything you do, PLUS work a full-time job.”
And then, the spring before Brinley’s 8th birthday, Chip was called to a new church that had a salary sufficient for me to stay home.
Sure, we’d be cutting our annual income by $30,000, but I knew it would be worth it.
I was so excited.
I couldn’t wait to wrap up that school year and move to our new home in McGregor, Texas and start momming full time.
And then I found out I was pregnant with our fourth child.
And then our house didn’t sell.
And two weeks after moving, I found myself lying in bed bawling at 1:00 in the afternoon surrounded by 3 hungry kids and 7,000 unpacked boxes.
I just knew I’d made a huge mistake.
I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t be a stay at home mom. My children were better off with me working and paying someone else to look after them.
When my husband talked to his sister about my emotional state, she quickly planned a trip from Tennessee. She showed up and unpacked boxes and hung pictures on our walls. She talked to me about depression. She helped me do things that I didn’t even know I needed help doing. When she left, not only was my house in a better state, but I was too.
I’d jumped into a huge job, my most important job ever, with no real plan. I’d expected the transition to be seamless and easy. After all, these were my kids. I’d been raising them their whole lives while also working a full-time job.
So why is it so hard?
After thinking it over for the past few months, I’ve come up with a couple of reasons.
1. You Have a Huge Priority Shift
I’d gone from spending 45+ hours per week at work and then another 10+ hours at home working on work. During that time, Chip and I dealt with things using a triage system.
Did the kids need showers tonight? Yes. Priority One – bathe kids.
Did the laundry have to be done tonight? No. Relegate it to the weekend.
Do the dishes have to be washed tonight? Yes – we are out of cups. Priority Two – Dishes after kids are in bed.
Suddenly, I had an extra 55 hours per week and I felt like I should do everything, every day.
I should make 3 home-cooked meals, run the dishwasher 3 times a day, do all the laundry, play with the kids, and keep the rest of the house spotless. It was too much.
I’d forgotten how to prioritize.
2. You Forget Who You Are
Not in a weird mental failing sort of way. I just mean that I became so focused on homemaking that I forgot that I was also a wife, friend, granddaughter, etc.
I didn’t take time for dates with my husband, and I forgot to text my best friend. I didn’t want to answer my grandma’s calls because I was busy homemaking.
And not in a good way.
We weren’t making homemade play-dough or sensory bins. We were cleaning – which leads me to my last reason the transition is so difficult.
3. You Forget Your Worth
Unless your homemaking experience has been completely different than mine, there aren’t a lot of people telling you that you’re doing a good job.
When I worked, I got frequent affirmation from my principal, fellow teachers, students, even strangers when they heard that I taught high school English at an alternative school. They affirmed me because I was good at it. There were things that needed to be done and I did them.
Lesson plans? Check.
Worksheets copied? Check.
Papers graded? Check.
Raise test scores? Check.
But at home? There’s no checklist for the day unless you make it yourself.
And if you’re anything like me, you do make one, and it ends up with 37 things on it which I could never accomplish in one day.
So I ended every day feeling like a failure.
I started getting hyper-focused on the cleanliness of our house simply because it was measurable. You can quickly see how clean the house is. You can’t quickly assess the state of your children’s hearts. There is no physical evidence when you walk in the door of a good quiet time.
So how can you fix this???
In part two of this two-part series, we will explore some ways to ease the transition from working mom to stay at home mom.
What have you found to be the most difficult part of becoming a stay at home mom?