Staying Home, Starting Over

You’ve made the big decision to leave your career and stay home with your baby. But stepping outside of your daily work routine and into the very different world of full-time parenting brings with it a great deal of unknowns. There will be physical and household changes to adjust to, a new routine to develop, a new social life to initiate, a new baby to learn about!

The feeling of accomplishment is one of the top issues that new moms face when they choose to switch from working outside of their home to staying at home. Losing an adult identity, overcoming isolation and preventing stir-craziness are common concerns among parents who make the choice, but you have to remember it’s a transition, after all.

New mom Becky Wiser struggled to adjust to life at home after her son was born. “I felt so incompetent without a measurable task and goal,” confesses Wiser.

“Feeling torn between the desire to be at home with your child as well as being a contributing member of your workforce team is common,” say Deborah Riordan, a director of human resources who counsels employees to follow their hearts and inner voices. “Someone who is truly compelled to stay at home will not be as content or productive remaining at their job — and vice versa. Parents should factor in what they feel is best for their specific situation in order to make a decision that best suits them,” she adds.

Following the sage advice of professionals such as Riordan, once you’ve decided to stay home, having the friendly knowledge and experience of fellow parents and experts can help you feel fulfilled and remain satisfied with your choice.

What’s the Difference?
It is important to realize that struggling with staying home is not a reflection of your love, dedication or parenting abilities. Many parents second-guess themselves, experiencing self doubt. “Will I be a good parent?” and “How can I remain interesting?” are common questions asked by new parents.

Accepting that full-time parenting is one of life’s most demanding, rewarding and motivating options helps struggling parents realize the beneficial job they’re embarking on.

Joanna Benevides is a former restaurant manager who quickly adopted a positive attitude about staying home. Although she expected she’d miss the self-esteem boost of earning a paycheck, she focused on her new “career.”

“I looked at this phase of my life as the chance to explore a time-honored lifestyle. I hoped it would be a new adventure for me,” explains Benevides. She jokingly adds, “It also meant that even though he cries a lot and can be demanding, I absolutely love my ‘new boss’!”

Starting Your New “Job”
Family therapist Terry Michlitz suggests transitioning parents realize the significance and importance of their new role. “Whether intentionally or subconsciously, many people feel less worthy because they don’t work outside of their home,” says Michlitz. “Letting go of the idea that work can only be accomplished outside of the home is the first step.

Relinquishing outdated stereotypes that stay-at-home parents ‘have an easier day’ or don’t work as hard as working parents is essential,” urges Michlitz. “Staying home with a child offers just as many deadlines, demands, hurdles and bonuses as working outside of the home.”

Stay Focused
Holly and Rich Turner knew they would miss Holly’s paycheck, but together decided that Holly would take a few years off from working to raise their daughter, Madelyn. “Although it was an adjustment in many ways, financially we knew we had to stay focused on our budget and goals,” says Holly. After a few months, Holly felt the impact on the family budget. She solicited the shoulder of a good friend. “I asked a friend how she manages to avoid feeling resentful. I was so relieved to hear that there were occasions when she felt the same way. It was nice to know I wasn’t the only one,” Turner notes.

Michlitz recommends keeping perspective on your hopes and needs as a parent and as an adult. “It’s easy to fall into a cycle of self-neglect, both emotionally and mentally. Remembering to take time for yourself is important,” she urges. “Workdays allow breaks for a reason, and it’s important to allow yourself a mental and physical break when you’re an at-home parent, too.”
Read a book, catch up with an out-of-touch pal or take that course in Italian. Make time for stimulation outside of parenting and stay focused on your personal goals.

Countering the Blues
Being successful at home requires you to reach out. Ask your neighbors about joining or forming playgroups, book clubs and yard work co-ops to add a social element to your daily life. Create projects for yourself using talents you have. Find ways to stretch your imagination and test yourself — it will be rewarding and beneficial.

Think Outside the Box
If you’re longing for the social advantages of sharing lunch breaks with trusted colleagues, remember that your children and their friends often generate similar friendships and social engagements Take advantage of networking options when taking your child to the park.

Post a flyer for a new playgroup on the bulletin board in the community interest area of your church, clubhouse or doctor’s office to create the opportunity for you and your child to meet new people. Attend parent and tot classes at the local park district or community college to create social opportunities, as well as provide a change of scenery for you and your newest “co-worker.”

Staying at home with your new baby can be as rewarding as any top-earning career. How successful you are at it is up to you!

Web Help to Stay at Home — Offers advice to build your budget — Offers coupons, crafts, family finances, recipes, parenting tips. — Features at-home shopping, product recalls, workout tips, mom-to-mom articles, recipes, and additional parenting links. — Provides support and promotion for work-at-home moms and information on developing and maintaining a home business and work-at-home job listings.

Gina Roberts-Grey writes about family and parenting issues for parenting publications nationwide.