Being a Stay-At-Home Working Mom
The conversation between being a Working Mom or a Stay at home Mom can sometimes be as contentious as asking someone their political view or religious beliefs. The main thing we all need to remember is that it is so individual, on what works best for each person and there is definitely no ‘right’ way to do it. One shoe does not fit all!. A big part of having these conversations is around the language we use. Regardless of which you are: working mama or stay at home mama, I’m sure we can all agree on one thing, if you are a working mom - you are working, and if you are a stay at home mom - you are working. It’s all work!
I have been reflecting on my own journey into motherhood over the past 3 years, now that I am about to go back to work full-time and everything I wish I had been told or what I found out along the way that was useful. I am sharing this in the hope that if you do happen to be a new mom that you remember to take care of YOU.
My first piece of advice is do what feels right for you and never feel like you have to explain or justify yourself to anybody if you work ,stay at home or otherwise, . In return respect others choices too. This comes back to the whole idea around being really mindful with your language. Be honest about how you are finding it and I guarantee other moms will be able to relate and share with you more on their experience too. Also don’t take what people say personally, as moms we are so sleep deprived for the first year, it’s usually not intentional.
I made the decision that I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom for the first two years of my daughters life and overall I can honestly say I loved it. It definitely was very full on and at times challenging but essentially I know I made the right decision for me and my family. I also chose to work part-time teaching Yoga and Meditation. A pain point for me at the start was when my working mama friends didn’t acknowledge my part time business as ‘work’ and would use comments like ‘it’s nice to be off’ or ‘nice to have a hobby’. I am giving this as an example to show you how important it is in the language that we use. I know for my full time working Mama friend, someone once said to her that “it must be awful having someone else raise her kids’, I can’t even imagine how hurtful that was. So point made - mindful of language and remember everyone’s journey of motherhood will look different. It’s hard for us all, so let’s stick together.
My Second piece of advice is about your personal relationship with your partner, lover, boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife. Firstly don’t assume someone has a partner and if they do, remember not everyone is married. But more importantly the first year of having a child is probably without question the hardest year on any relationship. You will be tested on every level and this is pretty much universal. It’s a big change and you have a new human in town (3’s a crowd). The best piece of advice shared with me by a fellow Mama friend was …
“Whatever you do, commit to staying in the partnership for the first year and let each other off the hook for everything. Keep practicing compassion, release and let go. Hold no resentment. Remember how sleep deprived you both are.”
and that’s in a nutshell. We all know how we cannot (CANNOT) function at normal mental capacity without sleep, so you are not of rational mind , especially in the newborn /first year days. Listen to podcast on what happens when you miss sleep. So every-time you get angry, don’t allow it to build and practice releasing resentment every-time. When I first heard this advice while pregnant, my immediate thought was ‘no way, that won’t happen us’, but low and behold it did, and from what I heard from every other single mom I know it impacted them too, all in different ways and on different levels but it’s a huge change to your family dynamic.
Thirdly - take time for yourself, alone and away from the baby, even if it’s just a 30 minute walk outdoors. However the golden rule here is don’t talk about the baby and don’t talk about work. This is something we definitely did not do in our relationship, and as a result our relationship suffered. It’s really easy to skip this step and to justify why. For us at that time, it was because we had no family in this country, no friends with a baby and I didn’t feel comfortable leaving my baby with a stranger / babysitter. Our situation then was slightly different perhaps, as we had just moved country when I became pregnant with Abbey, but my point is, don’t be afraid to ask your family and friends to mind your little one, while you have some alone bonding couple time. Remembering you still have each other which is such a gift and happy loving parents will create a happy family environment.
Fourth point which I’m thinking maybe should have been point number 1, remember to take care of yourself. You do this by continuing with your self-care practices after baby arrives and you have had some time to heal. Remember that you are now and always be your own person, you are not an extension of your child or vice versa, so take the time to nurture yourself, have fun, meet friends, laugh, pamper yourself, take time away alone without the baby, exercise, do whatever it is that makes you happy. This will benefit everyone in your family. I remember when I had Abbey, after about 3 weeks I went to the movies with my girlfriends and I thought wow, I’ve nailed this, look at me out with friends by myself. Fast forward to 3 months when the sleep regression kicked in, and we visit Ireland to see our families, I could hardly leave the house. It became all about the baby and I allowed it to be. A partnership means that both people share the responsibility and raising a little human needs that. I know a long day in work is exhausting but so is minding a demanding infant and mental health is so important. So do yourself a justice and take time away to do the nice things in order to protect and serve your mental health and your family, even if you don’t feel like it! Afterwards you will be glad you did, trust me. I recently shared my own Self Care practices in a blog post which you can read here.
Have someone or some place take care of your child for 4 hours a week. This is a game-changer! Allow me to explain, I mentioned above my situation that it’s been the 3 of us, for close to 3 years (2 yrs 8mths) now and we tag-team, so she is with me or daddy. Until… recently she started pre-school two mornings a week, for 2.5 hours each morning. I didn’t think it would make much difference to be honest. What could I even do in 2 hours free time but SERIOUSLY it’s been a game-changer!!! I’ve never had it before and all of a sudden I have 4 hours a week and my life is made. The house is clean. The groceries are in. I got to meditate for a full 30 minutes each morning. I get to write these blog posts and the best part, I have some quiet time, some head-space. I can honestly say if I knew it would make this much of a difference I would have done it 2yrs 8 months ago ( seriously!). So if you do happen to live abroad away from family, or have a granny living nearby… try set up a weekly time as the constant routine is part of what is wonderful about it, where you can get errands done and know that you have that scheduled alone time feels comforting. You will thank me for it.
Find a way to relax your mind that works for you. Being a Mom is mentally demanding in lots of different ways, you are forever wondering if your child has what they need, are they developing and reaching milestones, what phase is next, have they what they need, what educational toys do they need - the list goes on. You need to find a way to switch your brain off and relax. For some it may be a Spin class, high intense cardio is a great way to sweat it out and turn off that constant thinking/inner chatter. For others it can be a mindful walk alone in the evening after dinner, watching the sunset. For me, it was Meditation, in particular Yoga Nidra. 30 minutes of Yoga Nidra is believed to be equal to 3 hours sleep, as it brings you into such a deep relaxed state, reaching those blissful alpha/theta restful sleepy brainwave states. When I practice Yoga Nidra I switch off entirely and in many ways remember who I am as my own person. You can listen to some Free Recordings of Yoga Nidra Here. So find a way that allows you to switch off, that doesn’t involve numbing yourself as that is different. Watching Netflix and drinking wine is not relaxing your mind, even if you think it feels like it.
Seventh point, don’t feel pressured to do stuff because other Moms, people or families are doing it. This funny sort of dynamic kicks in when you become a mother and all of a sudden meet lots of new moms and everyone is eager to share what they have done and what you ‘definitely should do’ too and in a way you sort of caught up in it, without even knowing. So remember who you are, your own sense of values and what works for you and remember you have a full 18 years (please god) to spoil your child and take those swim lessons , dance classes, family weekends away, whatever it is.
All this week I have been in full Mama Bear preparation mode getting ready for going back to work next week. Cleaning, cooking, laundry, getting new works clothes, writing lists upon lists ( I love myself a list!) - you name it. I was going along great until I went to bed the other night and realized I would be leaving my little girl every day, it just hit me like a ton of bricks. When I say I sobbed, I mean I cried hard for a good 2 hours and at 1 am found myself sitting downstairs with Colm watching ‘Anthony Bourdain’ series on Netflix distracting myself. (such a great show, the episode where he visits Iran is amazing).
The next day I felt a lot better because I allowed myself to feel all the emotions run through me and I did my best not to judge but trust the process. This will be my first time ever away from my daughter since she entered this world, so it’s a big deal for me and I honor that. Prayer plays a big role in my life. I do believe we are being guided in the right direction and that we are all fully supported . It is up to us if we choose to listen and receive.
I can say that I am really excited about embarking on this next chapter and I feel ready now. I make most of my big decisions using my gut feeling (instinct) and I always feel confident in my decision when I do so.
If you have already walked this path before me, I would love to hear your advice and tips on preparation for returning to work. Do share below.
p.s Some working Mama friends shared the following tips with me already. Have some frozen dinners made and stocked in the freezer. Work out in morning/lunch-break midweek so you get more family time each evening. Get up before your child wakes each morning for some grounding alone time. Batch prepare lunches on Sundays. Take 48hrs off social media at weekends for quality family time.