8 Takeaways From My New Role as Stay-At-Home Mom

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I left my job this year. After more than a decade’s worth of teaching high school and middle school, I took a leave of absence to make up for lost time with my kids. (And also because the stress and anxiety of education was making me less than a joy to be around.)

Being an educator meant a large chunk of my identity was wrapped up in my job. It was all-consuming. And then I had children, which is also all-consuming, and pretty soon I felt so all-consumed that I spent much of my free time crying in the shower. I felt like I’d lost any identity outside of the roles teacher and mother, and most of the time I felt like I was failing at both.

I almost chickened out; my daughter was already in school and my son would be headed to kindergarten in a year – would one year make any difference? And then I realized that’s exactly why I had to leave. With some budgeting and cutbacks we could afford it, and this was my last opportunity before both children would be in school. If not this year, then when?

I had so many assumptions when I made the transition from full-time working mom to stay-at-home mom. So many assumptions, and most of them wrong, but I am learning to build the plane as I fly it. So with the goal of making memories with my son, having the energy for all of my family as well as myself, I’m spending a year without working to shift my priorities and see where this year might take me.

Here are a few of my takeaways:

I’m Definitely Not Mary Poppins

I sort of thought I’d be better at this. I’ve spent summers at home with the kids; I know it’s not always easy, but I kind of envisioned a plethora of patience and days full Hallmark-style adventure and bonding. It turns out it wasn’t just stress and burnout that kept me from enjoying Barbies and monster trucks. It doesn’t matter how much sleep I’ve had, temper tantrums will get the best of me and some days I still feel like I suck. (So the guilt never goes away, is what I’m gleaning from this.) I’m having to shift my expectations, create things to do that don’t make me want to gouge my eyes out, and move on and let it go when the day has not yielded rainbows and unicorns.

Stay-At-Home Parents Don’t Get Enough Credit

I am late to the party – my son is four years old and my daughter is in the second grade, and this is my first experience being home full-time. I have the luxury of kids who can (mostly) wipe their own butts and entertain themselves while I take a shower, and I send one kid off to school every morning. But there are moms who have been doing this since the very beginning, and this is a full-time job with no breaks and the pay isn’t awesome. It’s hard work and it’s important work, and dare I say just as important as financial contribution to the family.

Domestic Responsibilities did not become easier

My house did not become any cleaner – I’m just around to notice it more.

I Naively Assumed I Would Have More Time

Without a job to take up eight plus hours of my day, I assumed that time would overfloweth. (I’m working through unrealistic expectations in therapy.) I thought that in addition to quality time with the kids, there would be plenty of extra time for exercise, self discovery, and personal growth. Will I ever learn? I am the same person who said I was looking forward to relaxing on MATERNITY LEAVE. Yet again, I was delusional. Being a stay at home mom is a full-time job on its own, and I’m still left at the end of the day with to-do list items that have not been crossed off. This has given me a lot more grace and compassion to the working me that felt like a hot mess. All. Of. The. Time.

I’ve Had to Become More Flexible

I read that for sanity’s sake, a routine is essential when staying at home. The routines I set up lasted for about – nope, they didn’t last. Not at all. Sometimes it was outside time but he still wanted to play Legos and my attempt to hold us to a schedule just ended with both of us in tears. My structured day was no match for four-year-old willpower, and flexibility has meant we’re both happier.

I Have a Lot Left to Learn About My Kids

I had to outsource a lot of things while I was working, which meant people other than me knew the intricate details of my children’s days. I’ve been getting to know them in an entirely different capacity. My son just reminded me with absolute dismay that he likes his sandwiches cut in triangles, not squares. (Easy there, bud. I threw up every day for two trimesters, so maybe you can expand your taste in sandwich geometrics.) I may know my kids’ dreams and fears, but now I’m learning the tiny little details I haven’t been a part of.

Sometimes, It’s Really Lonely

Working at a middle school, I often felt stuck in the trenches, but I was surrounded by others who were in the trenches, too. There was comaraderie, quick chat sessions, and the feeling of being knowledgeable and needed. Somehow, the debate of which Mario Kart character is the best doesn’t quite meet my emotional and intellectual needs. The need for community is essential – we were never meant to do this alone. 

I Feel Supremely Lucky

I don’t know if I could have done this from the beginning. I struggled a great deal with postpartum anxiety and depression, and being home full-time might have been just too much. I’ll never know, but I feel lucky to have this time, right now, just as it is. Like, really lucky. Because my son isn’t asking for dad all the time now and I’ve gotten to chaperone his preschool field trips and take my daughter to school and do the teeny, tiny things I’ve missed out on. We’re halfway through the year and it’s going fast, faster than I imagined. Some days are hard and I miss the absolute necessity of putting on pants, but this time next year we’ll be in an entirely different situation. I will not let my bogus expectations control what I thought it would/should be, and I’m going to be here for all of it – the good, the bad, and the four-year-old tantrum ugly.

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Emily Corak has spent the last three decades in the Pacific Northwest and prefers to live in Vancouver because parking in Portland terrifies her. A mom to two kids, ages 3 and 7, Emily has been an educator for the past decade and she currently works with middle school English language learners. She wasn't planning on becoming a mother, but she's glad she was so careless because it turns out she really likes being a mom. Most days. Emily is now going back to school for her MFA in creative writing after deciding she had more to offer the world than breast milk and unsolicited grammar advice. When the world allows, she spends any spare cash on plane tickets, and she lives for books, tea, and all things Top Chef. She occasionally writes about anything and everything that comes to mind, and you can find her work here: https://offbrandmusings.blogspot.com/

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