Being a stay at home parent – the good, the bad, the ugly

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Considering stay at home parenting? One parent did at the is the advice they received.

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As the original poster writes:

"My son is almost 2 months and I’m considering staying at home but wanted to hear from others who made the choice about the good, bad and the ugly. Things you considered and things you wished you had considered.
Happy to meet up to chat, talk on the phone or just email is great too. I’m in center slope. Thanks so much!"

 

Replies:

 

Having a network of fellow parents is key:

"I was a kindergarten teacher in Brooklyn heights for 7 years and decided to take an indefinite hiatus to stay home with my son. I knew I always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom (at least until he is old enough to be on a school schedule with me). He’s now 15 months and I have no regrets about my decision. That is not to say, however, that there aren’t some really challenging days. I find that especially during the winter when you start feeling a bit cooped up, that things get harder. Having a network of moms is definitely the key!! And I find that having an activity or two throughout the week is really helpful....we just started a music class that meets once a week and my son’s face literally lights up each Wednesday when I tell him it’s time to go to music. It’s also really nice for me to get out if the house and be surrounded by other moms and kids my son’s age!"

 

Get some part-time help, even if it's a few hours a week:

"I'm also happy to share every aspects of staying home with the kids (technically, I work part-time, I'm a photographer so that makes my schedule very flexible). I have a 3,5 years old and a 6 month old daughter.
Yes, it can EXTREMELY challenging, Yes, sometimes I found myself 'jealous' of parents who work full time (like commuting alone or be able to use the restroom alone, lol). BUT when I pick up my older daughter from preschool and see her smile on her face or that I don't have to be on a rigid schedule with the baby when to nurse her or when she 'must' nap, then the disadvantages are instantly diminished. The ultimate goal is always to have balance, right? (what is so hard I think) What I found helpful to have part time help - once or even twice a week to hire a sitter for even 2-3 hours, to really be able to be alone. Even if that means that you are running errands ALONE (it is glorious, in my opinion, to do run errands 'lonely').
Also, always remember, CHANGE is okay and you never have to be stuck, if you try out staying home doesn't work out, you can always go back to work, there always be a job!"

 

Find what's right for you; find activities and singalongs; and find time for you:

My son is almost 2 and I’m still home.
The wonderful thing about staying home is that you really do get to witness all the change that happens in such a short period of time.  It’s exciting to see him grow from week to week, month to month.  But it’s not all about the babe, the other thing I love about staying home is that I picked up new hobbies that I can’t believe I haven’t found until now. And I love to cook, so making meals and experimenting in the kitchen is actually fun for me.
Of course, there are bad days-  some are harder than others. Besides the cranky baby and sick days, there are times I feel that I did a lot of things leading up to this point that are going to waste- like going to school, working my ass off, and climbing the ladder at work- now I’m changing diapers,  listening to Raffi songs on repeat, and wearing a sweatpants uniform. Who is this person?! It creeps up on me, the internal battle of “am I doing the right thing?” Every now and then it’s a bit extra when a friend tells me about a new job opportunity and I pass on it.
When times like these hit I ask myself what  brings me honest joy? And I always come back to my family and having this time with my little boy.  Will it be hard for me to return to work when I’m done with having babies? yes- but I accept it and I’m happy about the decision.
It’s not a one size fits all for every stay at home parent! Going to storytimes, sing-a-longs, play dates, and good ol fashion playgrounds keeps us busy and it’s fun. But, in order for me to stay true to myself- I reserve time to go out with friends solo, I put my kid in child watch while I work out at the Y, I do that monthly facial because it makes me feel good, I go for a beer with my husband after work (I actually dress up), and I pick up new hobbies.
I hope this helps! Whatever you decide, try not to be too hard on yourself.  Good luck!

 similarly:

"I always knew I wanted to stay home when we had kids, but it's been a big adjustment that has had some serious emotional/mental challenges. Like everyone says, getting out for classes and playgroups and lunches is a huge help, as is having a part time babysitter. And it's a huge help to have other SAH moms to talk to!"

 

Being a SAHP offers freedom, and there is always flexibility to freelance:

"My son is 13 months.  A couple weeks after he was born he developed colic. My husband and I were up every two hours holding him feeding him and calming him, poor guy. This lasted about four months.  I couldn’t imagine him at that time not napping on me, or me not being there to help calm him down  The flexibility of me being home also helped because my husband was able to focus on getting to work and I didn’t have to hurry to be anywhere or get our son anywhere. This truly helped general morale in ways that even regular showering couldn’t. :-)  Being home allows me to be on my son’s schedule which has diffused a lot of the stress that normally comes with the first year.  My son also is a little bit a sensitive soul and gets upset by a lot of people at once so daycare would not have been a good fit.  I like being able to have the freedom to go at his pace. I also love being able to record all the memories send them to my husband in the day.  As for the challenges they are mostly due to limitations financially from staying home and also being cooped up. On a personal level it’s been adjustment because i’ve come to realize how much my career really defined me. I plan to stay home with him for another year and then maybe find ways to freelance somehow."

 

You can also find a part-time job:

"I am finding the winter pretty tough to be home as well (so doubly respect for those doing it 5 days a week ... have found new challenges in part time work as well so I guess the grass is always greener). I am a pretty social active person but it’s hard to motivate in this weather.  Also I find any play dates I try and make get cancelled because it’s so hard to plan around the unpredictable behaviors and schedules of the kiddos!"

 

Find an activity/ something to take ownership of so you don't stay cooped up all day:

"I have been SAHM for over 4 years.I have two kids ages 4 and 2.I echo the same feelings.Its great to have that flexibility and my husband has a pretty intense job so being at home helps.I have started working a little bit singing with a group and doing birthdays and running sing a longs in the area.I do get jealous of my husband going to work,b ut now with one in full time pre k and my youngest in a part time nursery program things have got easier. 
I will admit though I do get overwhelmed and worry how I am not as ambitious as I once was. In some ways I don't really suit being at home. For one I really don't like being in the apt all day I love getting out and about.  Saying all that I feel very privileged to able to stay with my kids like my mum did.I am planning to continue the singing and teaching as the kids get older."

 

Be a tourist!

"I became a SAHM in the summer of 2015 when I was living in Virginia. It was very lonely and difficult at first. We moved to Brooklyn when our son was almost a year old and now I love being SAHM! It's like I'm a tourist everyday! I would take my son to museums, libraries, Manhattan, Coney Island, etc. I've slowed down since having a second baby, but look forward to walks in warmer weather and becoming more comfortable driving in the city."

 

There are things you will miss:

"I feel like being a SAHM and being able to actively participate on my son’s life, growth and education is nearly a luxury, but I miss almost everything about having a job (getting out of the house, meeting interesting people, feeling a sense of purpose and recognition about what is being done, making money, etc!)."

 

Parenting is hard; but there are some great days:

"I have a 16mo son with whom I've been home since day 1. I'm all about the realness....This shit can be hard. I hated my job and was looking forward to this. I thought that I'd be okay with the isolation and the constant housework. But there are days when nothing goes right, days that I start drinking at 4pm, and days I cry more than he does.
But there are great days, and good days, and okay days which can outweigh the bad ones... There are gym classes and playdates and babysitters. The days are long but the years are short. I'm fortunate to be able to watch him grow and shape his early years. I am going back to school for a career change at the end of the month, so I started him in daycare 2 full days/week. He's adjusting okay, and I feel like I can breathe again."

 

Don't frame yourself as a SAHP:

"I have been a stay at home mom for 8 years. I now have 2 kids, almost 8 and almost 4. I never saw myself as a SAHM but I love it so much. With all of the challenges, financial and otherwise, I would not change a thing."

 

Find ways to socialize:

"I recently started a nanny share with another family and their daughter. Our babies are the same age and I like the idea of them socializing with one another.  My decision to do this 3x a week was because I've been feeling lost, tired, and asking myself whether staying at home is what I really want. 
At the end of each day I feel like there is "never enough time" to do "anything."
On a productive day I'm a super woman whirlwind, and then I can't bring myself to do anything the next day when I am burnt out.
I guess I'm having a hard time finding a good balance. Naturally, this makes me feel guilty and like I have failed... which many people say is not the message my inner voice should be saying- but it's just a bummer that I can't hack it 24/7.
I love being with my baby, and am so grateful that we don't have the restrictions other families may bc of their jobs, but I also feel like I'm losing a lot of myself in the process.
We will see how this new arrangement works out for everyone, but I'm really looking forward to being on my own for a few hours this week and getting stuff done! At the same time, I miss him already .... motherhood is a real rollercoaster isn't it."

 

Create structure with your week:

"I've always been a career-oriented person and loved my job before leaving to be with Toby. It was a rough adjustment at first, and it took me some time to realize how much of my sense of self I got from work. As I've gotten my sea legs as a mom (for now!) and as [my child] has become more expressive, I've started enjoying myself so much. There are still days where I miss working, but I'm also incredibly appreciative of the time I get to spend with Toby. I've also made an effort to meet up with other moms and go to classes, etc throughout the week to give my week more structure, and that helps a ton. So have the friendships I've started making with other sahms with babies around [my child]'s age."

 

Connect with other SAHPs:

"I've been enjoying reading this thread and learning about others' experiences. I had not planned to be a SAHP at first (mostly for financial reasons), but as I got closer to having to return to work, I realized I couldn't imagine leaving my then 5 month-old for so long. My son just turned 2 and I returned to p/t work this past Sept for a job I went to school for but never did, so I can share a little of what it is like to transition to work and in a relatively new field (which has been hard but I'm glad I did it). I'm still home 3 of the 5 days. If I could have figured it out, I think I would have preferred to stay home full-time until he was 2 or 3. I have loved staying home and watching my son learn, grow and figure out so many new things. I have also greatly appreciated the friendships and connections I've made with other SAHPs. It can be hard staying home sometimes and feeling like you're not being "productive" when in fact we are doing the very important work of raising our children."

 

Try not to let yourself get "bored" but remember, it's okay if you do!:

"I’ve been home off and on since my 19mo was born.  After returning from 4 months of maternity leave, I got laid off, so I was home for a while but have also been freelancing here and there.  I’m back home now for a bit and have found that having community close by is the key (for me anyway) to surviving being a SAHM.  I have a big apartment and would also be willing to host sometime. I don’t have any advice other than to put it out there that its ok not to feel 100% confident about being a SAHM.  I’m not a natural SAHM and generally miss working but have learned to appreciate it, especially since my baby is more of a kid now and its just dawned on me that I only have so much time until she goes to school.  Still, I get lonely and bored easily and have to force myself to put on real clothes and not just leggings to feel like a person."

similiarly:

"I have been a stay at home mom since a couple weeks before my now 4 year old was born. I now have a 6 month old as well. I was the main breadwinner before I took maternity leave and the transition hasn't always been easy. Although I love being able to be with my kids and see all their amazing development, it also can feel frustrating or lonely being home with them full-time.
I think it's so cool to start this group and have a place to give each other support and advice."

and: 

And I have been a stay-at-home mom for 20 months as well. I can't lie: it's been super challenging. But I'm sure it feels different for each of us: for some of us it's easier and for others it's harder. I decided to stay at home with him until he turns 2, but I think I'm ready to get back to work.
Of course, there are amazing and lovely moments and I think it was totally worth it spending these first months of his life with him, being part of his development and being truly present. Besides, I've been learning more during this period than in my whole life.
I'm also considering a career transition and actually am looking for advice. If you guys have done that or have any experience with it, let me know."

 

If being a SAHP is an option, never forget the privilege of that option:

"I am a SAHM who, like some others, feels ambiguous about the role. But the time I get to have with my daughter is an incredible privilege and I do not regret my decision at all."

 

It can be difficult to meet other parents (but don't forget there is PSP!):

I was fortunate to be able to work from home up until this past fall. While I was so grateful for the opportunity, it certainly was not without its challenges! It was very difficult to meet other parents and attend meetups because I was unable to commit to anything without knowing what the day's workload would bring. I am happy to discuss my experience including how to set boundaries and tips on what worked for our family (thank you Blue Apron!).

 

There are pluses and minuses to being a SAHP or a working one:

"My very brief two cents is to absolutely go for it. I’ve been a SAHM full time since my son (who is now 2) was born. I also have a daughter who is almost four. I’ve done both - meaning the working thing and the full time Mom-ing thing - and there are about a gazillion pluses and minuses to both and the truth is they are both very hard. Sometimes in different ways, sometimes in the same way (in that you are always exhausted). But having made the choice to stay at home - at least for this period of time - I can say that I truly know my children in ways I know i wouldn’t if I were away from them 50+ hours a week. It involves sacrifices of both a personal and certainly financial nature but I know that while I will never regret having spent this time at home with them - regardless of the cost - I may one day have regretted not spending more time with them when they were little. The highs are very high and the lows can be pretty low but I love the freedom it allows both me and my kids. We have so many wonderful adventures together. I’m probably heading black to work somewhere in the fall and I know I’ll miss it and them deeply.
And just remember nothing is permanent— they won’t be this age forever and you won’t be raising young children forever. And when they no longer are you can hop back on the career train a little older and most definitely a little wiser."

 

And it can be easy to romanticize each choice:

"I initially returned to work full-time after a 12-week maternity leave at the start of 2016, but felt these waves of immense jealousy anytime I spoke with a parent who had cut back to part-time or decided to take time off (which, before becoming a mom, was not exactly what I expected to feel...). When my daughter was 6 months old, I asked if I could scale back to 4 days a week at work, which gave me a little more balance, but at the beginning of 2017 I decided I needed to leave the company entirely and come up with a new game plan. I wasn't sure what I was looking for, but I wound up taking a part-time role that's completely remote and flexible, and with some help from family, I've been able to do that and spend the rest of my time with my daughter -- even though I never thought that would really be an option for us.
Having worked, and not worked, and worked some, I've found it's very easy to romanticize whatever situation you're not in! And because it's so hard to try to guess what any of these arrangements will actually be like for you and your family, I think the closer you can get to sort of "trying them on" yourself the better. I've found this experience to be full of surprises... Also, for what it's worth, I don't have regrets about the year I spent working full-time (although I'm really glad that I spoke up about changes to my schedule that helped me find a little more balance), but I'm immensely grateful for the year I've spent half-working and getting in a lot of time with my now 2 year old. It's come with plenty of its own challenges, but all things considered, I think it was the right fit for us in this phase. This isn't exactly profound, but focusing on the positives and letting go of whatever I think I'm missing out on in any circumstance has been a major takeaway for me."

 

Perhaps find a job share:

"I’d love to join the meetup as well. Would also be good to arrange play dates if possible. I moved from London about 10 months ago. I was fortunate enough to have an entire year off paid maternity leave with my first son and then returned to work part-time with job security (America is so far behind Europe when it comes to parental leave and is so incredibly frustrating). Job shares are popular there as it helps to ease people back to work and I returned to full time work around 16 months.
I have an 8 week old and am currently on maternity leave (I was offered 16 weeks off here), but I can’t imagine going back to work and leaving my little one. My nearly 3 year old is in a 2’s program 4 days a week. I plan on staying at home at least 1-2 years but am also thinking of taking more time off as I loved the time off I had with my first (and so far with my second). Would be good to chat with other SAHM."

 

It can be difficult dealing with friends who don't "get it":

"Can relate so much to the sentiments of the group.  I enjoyed a career that allowed me to travel a ton and also, I realize now, defined me.  I miss it some days, but mostly I'm enjoying my time with my 7 month old, Alexander.  I'm grateful to have the time with him though some days are....well, longer than others.  Never has the phrase "the days are long, but the years are short" seemed more right on.  and If I'm being totally honest, I DREAD the "and what do you do?" question from well intentioned strangers....it feels like an eternity before I can find an answer, which still doesn't quite fit when I manage to say something about staying at home.  I'm also finding myself really annoyed with friends who keep asking when I'm "going back" or tell me that I will understand why daycare is so important "soon enough".  Have any of you run into this?"

 

Have a sense of humor:

"In answer to the “what do you do” question, I routinely smirk and say “I’m retired.” That usually shuts people up and also lets them know that I’ve already HAD a successful career that defined me for 15 years, thanks. I usually then follow up and say “And I have two small kids, so I’m currently working on my day drinking.”
Yes, staying at home is (often) a luxury and I am a-ok owning that luxury. I wouldn’t trade these years for ANYTHING. Working is for suckers. ;)"

 

Here's tons of tips from a seasoned SAHP:

"I have three kids and I've been a stay at home parent since 2012 [editors note: thread compiled April 2018]. My kids are 2, 5 and almost 8.  I haven't worked since I was pregnant with my second.  I'm now at the point where I am plotting my return to work, so maybe in a different perspective than those getting started on these magical years.
Do:
- ...Find a way to reliably get time away from the kids once a week.  It took me a while to get there, but knowing that there's a reliable time every week when I could book a haircut, or a doctors appointment, have lunch with a friend, shower, breathe...it was enormously helpful.  I'd say at minimum 3 hours once a week with someone you completely trust.  Don't dismiss the idea of this person being another parent of a baby - one of my most wonderful friends and I had this arrangement where we watched each others kids, drop-off playdate style, even for an hour or two sometimes and the sanity regained in that time is incredible.
- ...Sleep.  Defend your sleep.  Protect your sleep.  Demand naps.  You get to sleep too.
- ...Buy at least some food that's ready to eat without prep.  Really.  You don't always have your hands free when everyone's hungry.  Salad ready to eat, lasagne ready for the oven.  This can still be very healthy.
- ...Cut yourself some slack!  You don't live in Pinterest-ville.  If an evening sometimes with the kids turns into pizza, popcorn, a movie and snuggling, but the homework didn't get done and the laundry is piled up everywhere, is that really so bad? No, it's not.  :) Same goes for kids birthday parties.  Keep it small, accept help from family.  Can your Mom be in charge of the food?  Let her!
Don't:
- ...sign up for anything that requires a rigid schedule.  It's hard to hold kids to exact timings, since putting on shoes can take from 0-30 minutes.  
- ...skimp on taking care of yourself.  This from a woman who once front-pack my 3 month old to a chair in the dentists office after about 10 reschedules.  Know what?  She was fine, and I got my teeth cleaned.  
-...forget that being a full time caregiver is incredibly demanding 24-hour work.  Don't expect you're going to write that novel or paint that masterpiece or finish that thesis.  You might, but you might not right now, and that's ok.
- ....miss a second of baby-cheek kissing or letting your baby sleep on your lap all morning. It's awesome."

 

Finding PT work was critical for one parent:

"I have found that working part time has been right for me. I am lucky that I have a profession and employer that is flexible (I teach massage therapy). I stayed home for 5 months, which I found very difficult. Between my attachment parenting style and breastfeeding and co-sleeping and my son's temperament, it was very intense and I found it much more challenging than my job outside of the home. For those people who think "stay at home mom/dad" is not work, it's probably the hardest job there is, except maybe daycare worker! Plus it is unpaid labor! Plus it's 24 hrs a day with no sick days! Of course there are joys involved, but it's a lot of work. For me, working a few hours a day, a few days a week at my job has been great. Then I can actually miss my son and come home to cheesy reunions with him. If I were always with him, I think I would burn out and not get the same quality of interaction with him. But of course, everyone is different and has different feelings and different constraints."

 

If you do find a PT job, make sure it is really PT:

"But I would add a note of caution, based on my experience, that one needs to make sure that your so-called part-time job is really a part time work.  My employer was gracious enough to give me a part time/work from home position, but did not understand that my actual responsibilities needed to be reduced.  
Also, I would note that my family's needs have changed now that they are in school, and I feel an odd twinge each time my youngest tells me, who used to earn twice as much as my husband, that daddy brings in the dough and mommy does not work..."

 

Is being a SAHP a taboo topic?

"What’s interesting to me is how this topic has never been discussed quite like this for the 18months I’ve been on listserve, I think the reason is that staying at home, especially as a woman, is a taboo topic for feminist/ political  reasons and also issues of financial privilege (whatever may be  assumed about it) so being able to talk about what a mixed experience it is is a rare privilege. My name is Heidi and I’ve been at home since I was about 5 mos preggo with my now 18 month old. I also experience panic when I have to tell someone what I do / that I’m home! Such a relief. Would love to meet up. I’m also In the north slope. One place I feel breaks up the isolation is “families first” in Cobble Hill. Play space is huge and totally baby proofed so we could actually talk. And the kids gets really engaged ...could be a nice standing meet up but just spitballing..."

 

Be prepared that some friendships might fade:

"The isolation is hard and finding ways to challenge myself mentally and creatively can be tricky too. Also I’ve had to grapple with how my decision to stay home has affected my friendships - unfortunately in a negative way in that I’ve lost some friends and the time I do spend with the remaining ones seems awkward and sparse. I’m not sure where it comes from - if I’ve changed so much or it’s a natural progression but it’s hard. But being able to see them grow up and ply with them I feel quite lucky as I’ve always loved babies and kids. I’d love to meet up and talk about this and just connect with others doing the same. I’m in center slope and could do mornings mon,tues with the smaller kid (who still needs a place to run and play) or both kids thurs or fri mornings - they are 20months and 4yrs."

 

 Don't let being a SAHP consume you:

"This thread is really interesting to see everyones point of view. I too am a sahm for the last 28 mths it's been a joyful and dark time. Without meaning to my parenting style was attachment parenting, it wore me out and I lost a bit of myself. Financially it is also a struggle. However it's also been wonderful and I wouldn't have it any other way, we have a strong bond and so much fun doing activities together . My advice is don't let being a stay at home mum completely consume you."

 

Create a support system:

"I am home with my 23 month old part-time but have been considering doing it full-time as I am constantly struggling with child care. Sometimes I feel like child care is a better parent than me, other days I feel like I am the only right option to be home with him. I am definitely having trouble with the idea of the loneliness around being a stay at home parent as I don't have a great support system of other moms in my personal network."

 

Remember you are not alone with your feelings!

"This is a wonderful thread.  It has brought me a lot of comfort knowing that my feelings are common. Thank you so much.  
I have been at home with my 3 yrs old twin girls.  I became a SAHM not by choice since I was unemployed and in a career change when I got pregnant.  I eco everything that has been said here."

 

There will be good days and bad days:

"I've been home with my little ones for 4 years now. My daughter is 4 years old and my son is 18 months. I left my job right before I got pregnant, so I sort of fell into the stay at home mom gig. Some days are wonderful and some days are really hard. I'm trying to hold out until my son goes to preschool when he's 3 before I have to get back to work. This is by far the hardest and most rewarding job I've ever done!!!"

 

Related advice from PSP members:

Should I keep working when salary just covers childcare?