15 Things That Surprised Me When I Became a Stay-at-Home Mom
Six months in, I had a very loose grip on the working mom act. Then my partner got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity at work. The catch? We had to move from our small city in South Carolina to San Francisco, leaving our house, my job, and my kid's daycare behind. That's right — the amazing daycare that allowed me to be a working mom; the amazing daycare we applied to when my little one was still the size of a bean in my womb. In between packing and updating my résumé, I researched, called, and emailed every registered childcare facility I could find. No dice. They were all full with mile-long waiting lists, or not feasible to get to with traffic patterns, kept weird hours, or had health and safety violations that would stop a first-time parent's heart. Plus, many were priced so high that I'd actually be paying to work. Finding a job was a piece of cake, but finding childcare was damn near impossible. And just like that, I became a stay-at-home mom.
I figured it would be just like the weekends with a little less help and a few more chores. The house would be clean! I could learn how to cook gourmet meals! I could concentrate on my role as a mom, without having to brainstorm work presentation ideas while giving my child a bath! I could read a book! In fact, this whole stay-at-home mom thing might actually make for a nice little break.
Cue the record scratch. Most of my expectations were completely unrealistic and just downright laughable. Here's what I learned.
The House Is Messier Than Ever Before
More time at home does not mean more time to tidy up; more time at home means more messes to clean up.
There Is No Work-Life Balance
I am on call 24/7. There is always something else to do, the "office" never closes, and I no longer have the luxury of setting up an out-of-office email message to automatically reply to people who have questions. The to-do list is relentless.
I Always Have a Copilot
Daycare gave me a window of time by myself after work to run errands, hit the gym for a quick workout, or just listen to really explicit rap music in the car. That window doesn't exist anymore. I can't even close the door all the way when I go to the bathroom now.
Hanging With a Tiny Human All Day Can Get Lonely
Paradoxical, but true. I sometimes go to Starbucks or the grocery store for the sole purpose of talking to the barista or the cashier. Not in a creepy or clingy way but just to exchange pleasantries with an adult who can string whole words together in a sentence.
Stores Aren't Empty During the Day
I thought I would be able to do cartwheels down the aisles at 10 a.m. on a Tuesday. Nope. All of the other stay-at-home parents are there with their kids, along with retirees. There might be fewer people, there might be shorter people, but they take up a lot of real estate. Checkout takes a while.
I Rarely Wear Makeup or Blow Dry My Hair
My skin, tresses, wallet, and high-maintenance toddler are all appeased. Good thing I'm all for natural beauty.
Mornings, Which Used to Be Superstressful, Are Now Superchill
Since I don't have to be out the door at a certain time, mornings are a lot more relaxed now. We snuggle, I make scrambled eggs, I hand my partner some coffee on his way out the door and into hellacious traffic, and then we do whatever we want until naptime. This one was a nice surprise.
Evenings, Which Used to Be Superchill, Are Now Superstressful
Oh, the evenings. I usually need to complete about 87 tasks in the small window before bedtime. My toddler is like a boss who rolls ups to my desk to chat about nothing during the busiest part of the workday (think a tiny Michael Scott), and it's annoying as hell.
My Dog Is Living His Best Life
He's never short a playmate and gets walked every day. The witching hour also strikes around four in the afternoon here, but one hour outside (given good weather!) distracts one fussy toddler, settles the restless Golden Retriever, and cures this mama of cabin fever.
The Trash and Recycling Guys Are Our New Heroes
They don't just take away the dirty diapers and empty milk jugs — they wave, they stop to chat, they sometimes give out coloring books, and they allow me a five-minute break from reading books about animals making various noises.
Finances Get . . . Weird
On top of me not pulling in a paycheck, our spending habits have just totally changed. Less gas, more groceries. After a few months of expenditure analysis, our budget got quite the makeover.
I Am the De-Facto Expert on Our Child
Before, my husband and I shared a lot of the knowledge (or lack thereof). The other day, I went to get my haircut (by myself!), and I realized when I got home that a.) my husband had no idea our son has the climbing prowess of Spider-Man, and b.) my husband does not know who our new pediatrician is.
I Have No Idea What to Say When People Ask Me What I Do
First, I am unsure about the "politically correct" term. Homemaker? Domestic Engineer? Second, people are weirdly judgy about stay-at-home moms. I just say what I used to do and plan on doing again someday and leave it at that.
It Can Be Brain-Numbingly Monotonous
OK, this one isn't entirely unexpected; I mean, Feminine Mystique was written for a reason. I had to find some intellectual and creative outlets to juxtapose wiping down the kitchen counter. Again.
No Former Coworkers Hit Me Up to Buy Their Kids' Girl Scout Cookies
This is my one heartbreak. I really love those Tagalongs.