Transitions are tough. I was talking with a friend recently about how tough it was for her to transition into being a stay-at-home mom after working for years. I think being a stay-at-home mom is tough enough, but try throwing in this twist: the kids are all school aged, and no, she doesn't homeschool.
Please, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it's harder to be a stay-at-home mom whose kids are in school all day, (for sake of abbreviation, we'll call them SHMWK) than a traditional SHM (those are w/ kiddos at home). I'm not even saying it's harder to be a SHM or SHMWK than a working mom, because honestly they are all different and tough in their own rights. What I'm saying is the transition to one or the other can be tough.
It's taken me several years of transitioning into my role as a SHMWK. I had a tough time of it, and my friend did too, and she came to me for some advice since I'd been there, done that. And so I thought I'd share with you what she and I talked about, and maybe it would be helpful to someone else out there.
The first thing I struggled with was guilt. Guilt that I had this wonderful flexibility of not needing to work, kids gone to school all day and freedom to do, basically, whatever I wanted all day long. Most of my friends w/ kids have to work, and those that are home with their kids now will need to go back into the workforce when their kids all skip off to school. Especially in this economy I think my position is pretty rare. And so I felt guilt. I struggled with thoughts of "Maybe I should get a job" and "What do I do all day?" (It's pretty obvious what you do all day as a SHM mom, but a SHMWK, not so much). But what it boiled down to was the fact that this is the best arrangement for my family right now and Erik prefers that I be "jobless" and flexible instead of nailed down to a specific schedule. And No, I'm no "trophy wife", but since he does own his own business and has some flexibility there, it works better for me to be flexible too. It makes the times when he does get out of work that much better because we can go do fun things as a family.
So, if you are a SHMWK, get over the guilt and embrace your position. You can do so many great things in this role! You might not always be in this place, but you are for now, so make the most of it!
Along with this I think comes the struggle to balance everything. Yes, you are the mom and it's your job to take care of your family. Yes, your primary responsibility, or "job", is to keep up the house, feed your family and do all the other mom things. But it's not like you need to spend your whole entire day housecleaning or cooking. If those are things you enjoy, then by all means, go for it. I do have days where I spend a majority of time in the kitchen, but that's something I enjoy. The cleaning, not so much. At first, though it's easy to feel like I should have this spotless house with the laundry always done and a ton of freshly baked/cooked goods because I was at home. Yes, we need to keep up our house, but you can do other things! Being a SHMWK means you can....
- volunteer in your kids' class--but you don't have to say yes to everything. Don't go hog wild and sign up for all the opportunities to help with PTA (because there are a lot) But definitely get into the classroom and get to know the school, teacher and other kids. It's a wonderful opportunity to be involved in your kids' lives at their school.
- Donate blood or volunteer in the community.
- Visit and spend time with friends that are SHM's, they will super appreciate the adult time/conversation.
- On the same note, offer to help those SHM friends with their kids. I've watched kids for some of my friends while they've had doctor appointments, etc.
It feels so good to get out of the house and give some of your time to help someone else out. I believe that as a SHMWK the one thing you have in abundance is time, so why not share it?
Along with your motherly duties and your opportunities to volunteer, you can also do things you enjoy. Spend some time practicing a hobby, working out, just relaxing--it's okay! Now, notice I didn't say spend all day in your pajama's on the couch watching Oprah and eating bon-bon's. You do that and you will feel like crud really quickly, and your family probably won't support your role either. Being a SHMWK doesn't mean you should just be lazy all day, every day. Yes, it means you have flexibility to do something you enjoy everyday, but remember I said earlier there's a whole balance thing going on? So do one thing everyday that is just for you. For me it varies, sometimes it a workout, or blogging or working on my writing. It's not selfish to do that. I guarantee that if you spend a little bit of time on yourself, you'll have that much more of yourself to give to those around you. If you are running on empty, you have nothing to give to your family or friends.
A note on the whole housecleaning thing: At first I thought I should have all the daily chores done by the time the kids got home from school and weekly ones before the weekend, so that the time I had with my family was all "play time". And although I still try to set aside weekends for family fun, I've changed my mind about the rest. If I did all the cleaning myself and didn't have my kids help beyond picking up their rooms, I would not be doing them any favors. Part of my job as a mom is teaching them how to get along in life, and part of that is cleaning. So, I made a list of all the chores I do every week and picked out the two most kid-friendly chores for their ages now and set up a rotation. Every week one of them will dust (we use microfiber dusting cloths w/ just water, so no chemicals to worry about) and the other will wipe down the bathrooms (microfiber cloths again and I do the bathtubs for now) and they trade off on the jobs each week. They can do their chores any weeknight as long as it's done by the weekend and their allowance is based solely on this job.( I also made up a list of extra chores they could do for extra allowance since both are saving their money for big purchases. Things like helping with laundry, taking out trash, etc.) It's actually more work for me this way because they both need guidance 90% of the time on their jobs, but that's okay because I'm teaching them how to clean and how we all have to pitch in as part of the family.
So, anyways, I hope that helps any of you transitioning into the unique role of being home without the kids. I'm still learning and working on being better at prioritizing my time and balancing everything, but I probably won't have all that down pat til I'm transitioning into a new role! :-)
Now it's your turn: Are you a at home mom w/ no kiddos? How did you transition to that role? What do you "do all day"? Or if your kids are still at home, do you plan to return to work when they go to school?