Making the transition from Office to Home Mom
Perhaps you’re hoping to make the transition from working full-time outside of your home to staying home full-time. If you’ve decided to quit your job and become a stay-at-home mom, you’re entering a brave, new world! You’ll experience so many wonderful things as you have a front row seat to the happenings in your child’s life.
But making the transition from working to staying at home can be difficult. You’re likely to get mixed reactions from your family, friends and co-workers. Some may applaud your decision and wish they could be in your shoes. Others may be bewildered by your choice. Everyone tells you that as a new mother, you’ll be sleep deprived, moody, overwhelmed, exhilarated, and depressed, in turn. As a professional woman turned at-home mother, you’ll face more adjustments than just learning how to care for a new baby. If you’ve been in the work force for several years, you may face a difficult transition in giving up your title, salary, and business accomplishments in favor of family life.
You may feel delighted with your decision to stay home, but the first several months after leaving your job still may be hard as you work at creating a new life for yourself as an at-home mother.
All the rules and structures you’re used to at work have changed, and it takes time to get adjusted. At-home mothers often find that their new career includes chaotic, disorganized schedules, irregular work hours (with plenty of overtime), no clear job assignments, no performance evaluations, mundane chores, few coworkers, and obviously, no salary. For women who have been used to being in control of their time and of themselves, this can be extremely frustrating. Along with the freedom from commutes and meetings and work clothes comes frustration because you miss adult conversation or would just like a private trip to the bathroom!
Though rewarding, being a stay-at-home mom isn’t easy. In fact, many women are surprised to find it’s the hardest job they’ve ever had. Days spent without a single adult conversation, quieting your child’s screams in the store, cleaning bloody knees, carpooling, disciplining, doing laundry, changing diapers, packing lunches, cleaning house and planning meals may leave you wondering, “Is this really worth it”?
But you must plan for the change. The first thing to do is calculate your expenses to see what changes you’ll have to make to get by on one paycheck. Go through your checkbook and list all the expenses and bills your family has every month. Don’t forget once-a-year and irregular expenses like doctor bills, taxes, car licensing, insurance, holiday gifts, birthday presents, and school supplies. As you list your household expenses, you’ll see that some will decrease when you’re at home full time. You might be surprised to see how much of your take-home pay goes to work-related expenses like day care, gas for your commute, work clothes, meals at work, or convenience foods and take-out meals you picked up because you didn’t have the time or energy to cook.
Next, think about how you’ll spend less when you’re home. You’ll be in a lower tax bracket with just one income, and therefore pay less in taxes. You’ll have the time to decrease spending by comparison shopping, using coupons, and planning meals to take advantage of sales and leftovers. You’ll also be able to fully support your husband in his work. He might have the opportunity to work overtime when you’re home and he doesn’t have to worry about picking the kids up from day care, or caring for them when you’re at work, or seeing you during the limited amount of time you’re both home.
Now compare these numbers to the amount of money your husband earns, and you’ll be able to see what you have to do to make ends meet so you can stay home. Many families are surprised to see that there’s not a big difference between the amount you’ll have coming in and the amount of money you need to meet monthly obligations when mom stays home. Pay off credit cards and vow not to use them unless there’s an emergency (agree with your husband on the definition of emergency!). These may seem like drastic changes, but are worth it if they enable you to stay home with your children!
Planning ahead is vital for success. Here are some tips to help you to plan and ease the transition:
? Prepare, prepare, prepare. Read as much as you can on child development and the relationship between mothers and infants. This is particularly important for women who may have had a difficult childhood or a strained relationship with their own mother.
? Talk to other women who have made the transition from full-time work to full-time mom. Ask them about their struggles and their successes.
? Communicate clearly with your spouse about roles and expectations. Discuss how these may change after the baby is born and you stop working.
? Make new friends. Start networking with other stay-at-home moms through school, church, local parks or play groups. Try mom-and-child classes at the gym, story time at the library or babysitting co-ops. You’ll have instant sounding boards and sympathizers when you meet other moms in the same situation.
? But keep the old. Don’t expect all your former coworkers to remain close friends once you’ve left the office. Remember that the primary thing you used to have in common -the workplace-will no longer be a part of your life. Keep in contact with your closest ex-colleague friends by setting up get-togethers, phone calls or lunch visits.
? Face your finances. If you’re no longer working, the family finances will obviously be different. Figure out financial issues with your partner before you quit your job to avoid friction down the road.
? Don’t be Wonder Woman. Don’t feel like you have to be a gourmet cook, white-gloved housekeeper, cheerleader and chauffeur. Your house doesn’t have to be Martha Stewart-perfect and your meals blue-ribbon quality just because you’re at home instead of at an office.
? Keep connected. Stay in touch with your professional life by keeping in contact with colleagues, subscribing to a trade publication or attending an occasional seminar or conference. Consider some freelance or consulting work if you want to keep a hand in your career.
? Don’t get down on yourself. It’s only natural to question your self-worth when you make any big life change. After all, we often define ourselves by our jobs. So when your job goes away, it may change the way others see you and you see yourself. Just remember what an important new role you’re undertaking.
? Enjoy it! You know your kids will be grown up in no time. Take advantage of all the great moments you’re sharing and have fun!
Life at home can also be a shock because so many professional women never thought they’d end up there. They put all of their efforts into advancing in a career and never even considered staying at home until a baby came along and changed their priorities. For that reason, they may feel very unsure when it comes to running a house and raising a child.
It can take a year or two of on-the-job training before you feel confident that you are doing a good job as a mother.
If you accept that you’ll have good and bad days as a mother (just as you had your ups and downs at work), you’ll stand a much better chance of making a smooth adjustment to home life.
Take a good look at your finances, do some planning, and you, too, can live your dream of staying home with your kids!
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