I remember working at my desk and dreaming about starting a family and having my first baby. It’s gonna be awesome I thought – maybe I could leave my job behind and become a stay-at-home mom – that would a dream. Fast forward 3 years…I’m certainly blessed and grateful to be at home with my boys and watch them grow, but I had no idea how difficult it would be and what challenges would lie ahead.
Like many new moms, I wanted to have it all – a well adjusted, smiley newborn, clean home, home-cooked dinner on the table and plenty of time for myself. My first son was very colicky and that lack of sleep, uncertainty, and feeling of helplessness quickly put me in my place.
Clearly this role would challenge me and would not go according to how I planned. Welcome to motherhood – it never does! I thought it would be pretty easy to get out of the house and take him to plenty of new places, but planning outings around his naps and feeding schedule was challenging. I wanted the freedom of going when and where I pleased – like before kids – but it was clear now that this little person would change every aspect of my life.
I also didn’t realize how difficult keeping a clean house would be with a baby. Bottles, burp cloths and pacifiers all across the house – and how does such a little baby create so much laundry? Baby-wearing is the only way I felt like I got any housework done. My firstborn was attached to me when I unloaded the dishwasher, wiped the counters, picked up clothes and vacuumed the house. It didn’t take long before I realized that I needed to make time for myself – but like many new moms – it was challenging to balance my needs with my baby’s needs. Now I have two little ones and it’s even more of a challenge that I’m still learning how to navigate.
Budgeting with One Income
When you’re used to two paychecks, two tax refunds (hopefully), and two people contributing to your savings account, you easily get used to that lifestyle. Once you decide to become a stay-at-home parent and forfeit your paycheck, it’s difficult to transition to that amount of money and figure out how to budget all your expenses. I didn’t realize how many sacrifices my husband and i would have to make for me to simply stay home with my kids.
In the summer, it’s pretty easy to find free things to do with little ones – playgrounds, the beach, walking on a trail, splash pads etc. However in the winter, when us SAHMs hibernate, it’s challenging to get your kids out and limit spending money. Besides going to the library, walking through the shopping mall (“window shopping”), taking them to the gym (which costs you $ for childcare), it’s challenging to find free or low cost activities for them to do.
Indoor play areas are a great idea but the daily rates can add up – it’s more of a once in an awhile outing for us. Oh, how I love going out to eat – but food for yourself and two kids meals can add up too – which is why I save that as a drive-thru option on the way home. With budgeting in mind, I’ve learned to plan but know that we can figure things out along the way. Sometimes you think you have to spend money to have a good outing with your kids, but instead you just need to do simple things and get creative.
Loneliness and Isolation
This is probably the biggest one right here. Oh, I had no idea how lonely being at home would be. The lack of adult interaction alone truly takes a toll. Sure, I can talk to my little ones, but it’s not the same as having a conversation with an adult. The days are long and because I don’t have an outlet for my thoughts (besides my blog now 😉 I sometimes feel like I’m going to explode by the end of the day.
I’m super lucky to have my family nearby where we can plan outings, but everybody has their own schedule to navigate. I struggle with anxiety, so I believe this role is even more difficult because it doesn’t take long for negative self-talk and doubt to get inside my head. If I get overwhelmed, my instinct is to stay inside and isolate myself, which is never good for any of us. When I feel that way, I need to pack up my kids and go somewhere – even if I drive away without knowing the destination – I just know I have to get out.
If you’re a new mom and you’re feeling isolated, those feelings are completely normal. Do some research and find a local group where you can meet other new moms – I promise they do exist! You just have to find what suits your needs. There are yoga classes specifically for new moms. MOPS is an amazing Christian organization where you can meet other moms and have a little break while growing in your faith. Check Facebook for local events and groups in your area and push yourself out of your comfort zone.
Work Without Recognition
When you’re in the work-world, there are usually signs that you’re doing something right – praise for work you’ve done or at least a performance/evaluation review every once in awhile.
I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to perform all the mundane daily tasks of being a mother without any words of affirmation. Nobody is going to notice how many diapers you’ve changed, how hard you work to put food on the table, or how many sacrifaces you make on behalf of your kids.
Yet you have to push through it and realize what you’re doing is important and tell yourself you’re doing a great job. Most of us will go through the day without a pat on the back, a compliment from our spouse, or a thank you from our kids, but cherish and appreciate it when it does happen. Let those little signs of appreciation give you the motivation you need to keep pressing forward.
Despite all these challenges I’m still learning to navigate, I know I’m exactly where I’m meant to be – raising my kids and spending time with them at home. The truth is that as much as they’re learning from me, I’m learning even more about myself, what I’m truly capable of, and the person I want to become.
I love and appreciate the small joys of motherhood – their smiles, laughs and sweet words make my heart melt and allow me to overlook the hard days and see the bigger picture. After being a mom for 3 years, I realize how time really does fly by and I need to cherish every little moment with my little ones – they won’t be little for long!
What expectations did you have before becoming a mom or a stay-at-home parent? What are the biggest challenges for you right now as a stay-at-home parent? What have you learned so far?