It’s not easy being a mom, let alone one whose full-time job is to stay home and care for children. Countless Circle of Moms members, in fact, confess that they're struggling with their decision to stay at home with their children full-time.
Stay-at-home mom (SAHM) Kenneka, for example, says she feels like banging her head against a wall caring for her 13-month-old because she has nothing to talk about other than her child. She also wonders if she should re-enter the workforce.
Another community member who calls herself MomtoMom C. is confident she made a good decision to stay at home and spend time with her four-year-old and two-year-old rather than send them to daycare. But, she admits: "Ever since I became a mom, I've been struggling with identity issues and have had trouble settling into this new role."
Mom Chera is conflicted. She gave up her career believing it was the best thing to stay at home and care for her children, but now misses her career and that part of her life. "I love my kids and I know taking care of them is extremely important too. I just miss that other part of my life, where I was doing something for me too. I feel like I want something more than just to be a stay-at-home mom," she says. "Would it be selfish of me to go back to work even though our family life is going good right now?"
While the decision whether to stay at home or return to the workforce depends on each family’s own goals and finances, staying at home doesn’t have to be drag. Here, Circle of Moms members offer four tips to make caring for children at home feel just as fulfilling as working outside the home.
1. Take Time For Yourself
A frequent complaint of SAHMs is that they don’t get time to themselves, often spending all day concerned about their little ones and the upkeep of their homes, and then evenings keeping their partners content. Moms like Fezeka S. emphasize that getting an occasional break from this cycle is essential: "Being a stay-at-home mom does not mean you don't get a break. Find a way of connecting back with society because I think that is the No. 1 reason stay-at-home moms get depressed." She suggests getting out of the house more with the kids to avoid feeling isolated, as well as paying a sitter for three hours of time once a month.
Kay G. agrees that taking a break for a couple of hours outside the house, even if it's with the baby, can make a big difference in a mom’s outlook. "You [may be] a stay-at-home mom, but that doesn’t mean you have to stay at home!" she says.
To give herself some alone time, Timora T. enforces quiet time, during which her daughter plays in her room independently or reads quietly. "Whether she sleeps or not, I get an hour to myself," she says. Timora also suggests hiring a sitter if you can afford it, or trading babysitting with a friend a few hours once a week, freeing up time to exercise or take a class.
An hour of alone time might not sound like a lot, but it really can make a difference, stresses Rebecca T., who uses her time to walk, run, hike, or go to the gym. “I find if this is not done regularly, [my husband and I] fight a lot and I begin to feel very resentful … and my husband does, too.”
2. Find a Hobby
Time away from the kids can also be used to develop a hobby, Circle of Moms members suggest. A new hobby can help alleviate feelings like those experienced by a member who calls herself Stifler’s Mum, who admits she doesn’t find being a SAHM fulfilling: "[I don't] feel important or smart or interesting, when everyone else has funny stories to tell over dinner and I have, 'Oh my kids did this ... then went for a nap, then I hung out washing.'"
Kelina G.'s way of keeping her sanity, for instance, is farming. "I love animals. You can talk to them and they don't talk back … and to have animals you have to have space," she relays.
Even in your own house there are many things you can do, insists Heather H., who herself is brushing up on her piano playing skills. "I know a lady that needs someone to transcribe her podcasts for her, or you could sign up for a pen pal," she suggests. "You could sew or scrapbook."
Whatever you do, be sure it’s an interest just for you, moms recommend. "It’s normal for a lot of us moms to lose a sense of self, [and] at times it feels like all you are is Mom, and Mom never gets the full credit she deserves. That’s why it's so important to find something that lets you just be a person, not mom," explains Chrystal B. She spends a few hours twice a month taking photos, something she fell in love with in college.
3. Make Friends
When moms look at their dissatisfaction with being a stay-at-home mom, it's important to ask what’s driving that discontent. Very often, it’s a need for adult communication and acknowledgment, says Christene C, who stresses the importance of having adult friendships after leaving the workforce. "The hardest thing I face [is] the loneliness of being at home without the ability to connect with other adults, especially woman. We need that kind of connection and sometimes find it within the workforce."
If your hobby is a group activity or something that you can work on in a class, then you have the added bonus of connecting with other adults. If your hobby doesn’t involve others, Rebecca T. still recommends pursuing adult relationships, though it may take more work to do so than it did in the past. "This isn't the 1950s where everyone you would know is also a SAHM. There isn't as big of a community out there of SAHMs to lean on, and yet the expectations are even higher than they were before."
Kate G. suggests joining a mom's group — something simultaneously beneficial for both moms and their kids. "I found one on Meetup.com and connected with four moms, and we started hanging out together. It makes the days go by faster. You have someone else to ‘play’ with and so do the kids," she says.
Edna B. appreciates the interaction of play groups so much that she takes her son to a different group every day."[They] give the children somewhere to play outside the normal routine of the home, and it gives you people who have similar problems to talk to and ask for advice if needed. You get the chance to sit and have a [coffee] in peace." To find moms with similar-aged children to connect with, Timora T. suggests looking into your local library’s story times.
4. Enjoy Your Time With Your Children
Becoming a more fulfilled SAHM who has healthy relationships with other adults can help moms appreciate their time with their children more, say many moms. Community members add that moms feeling frustrated that they’re not working should look at the stay-at-home period as a special time.
"You can always get a job, but you can never recapture the time lost by not spending time with your children when they're small," Cathy T. says. "They're only little once and once that time is gone you can never get it back."
Tamyra agrees, sharing that she was a SAHM with her first child but went to work after her second child was six weeks old. She worked for 15 years and then quit working after getting pregnant with her third child. "At first I was upset because I was used to working. Then I remembered how much of my second child's milestones I missed," she recalls. "I loved seeing my first child walk for the first time."
"There are moms out there who wish they could be in the same position as us [stay-at-home moms] but can't," Orlene C. reminds. She suggests looking at the time at home as a season. "The children will grow up and go to school full-time, and our season will change. Let's look at it [like] this is our season to nurture and teach. This is our job now full-time, but what we teach will benefit these kids in the long-run."
As Jill W. sums up, "Staying home with kids all day, every day is not an easy job. It takes a lot of adjusting, lots of talking to friends, lots of craziness, too. But it's worth it in the end."
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