Stay at home? No problem
Moving from work to home takes time for everyone
Sunday, April 24, 2005
Essays from moms Exactly two weeks after turning in my office keys and my company ID to become a full-time stay-at-home mom, I found myself in the throes of a serious identity crisis. Had I really chosen to relegate myself to the position of full-time poop changer, mess cleaner and complaint resolver? Was I ever going to have a complex or coherent thought again?
Don’t get me wrong. I knew somewhere in the back of my brain that this was the most important job I would ever do and that it does require skill and intelligence. I just wasn’t feeling that way.
I was surprised the transition was so difficult because I had continued to work two days a week for two years after my daughter, Emily, was born. Now I missed those two days. They were two days a week when I could go to the bathroom whenever I needed to (with the door closed), spend an hour having lunch and socializing with co-workers, talk on the phone without anyone hollering at me or pulling on the cord. More important, I missed feeling intelligent, organized and responsible. I missed working toward a goal that was all my own.
Overwhelmed yet guilty
The craziest thing was that while I was overwhelmed by the never-ending sea of household chores and child-maintenance duties, I was also feeling lazy and guilty. I felt lazy for staying home full time when I have only one child to care for and guilty about not earning my own money. My husband was completely supportive of my decision to stay home, so the concerns were all my own.
When I took this gig, I had aspirations of spending quality time bonding with my child, teaching important life lessons, building my daughter’s self-esteem and shaping her personality. I wanted to make the most of these precious years and give my daughter more consistency from day to day.
In reality, all I was doing was becoming increasingly bored with household chores and short on patience with my daughter. She was bored, too, having gone from spending two days a week with her cousins to being home with Mom every day. I began to realize there had to be more to life for both of us.
In an attempt to stimulate my brain, I started reading anything I could get my hands on—magazines, books, newsletters, junk mail, cereal boxes. I pulled my piano books and keyboard out of the closet and began practicing. I signed up for a painting class at the park district. It didn’t end up being my thing, but it was a step in the right direction.
One of the books I found during my reading craze was Mom Management, by Tracy Lyn Moland. She writes about the need for mothers to continue pursuing their own dreams and setting personal goals. Moland believes moms can become so wrapped up in the welfare of their families that they let their own lives “fall onto a course with no direction or destination.” After only two weeks, that’s exactly how I began to feel—as if I had no direction and no goals.
So I spent some time thinking about my dreams, set some goals for myself and started working toward them. Almost immediately, I felt a little better.
One of my goals was to teach a night class at the university where I earned my master’s degree, which I will be doing this semester. Another of my goals is to do some freelance writing, and I’ve started working on that. Having personal goals has returned my sense of direction and a feeling of control over my life.
To address Emily’s boredom, we signed up for a couple of park district classes. The classes give some structure to our week. Emily learns new songs and games, does craft projects she is proud of and enjoys interacting with the teacher and the other children. I was surprised to find that I, too, look forward to these classes. I get to act like I’m 2 again—singing, dancing and playing. It’s also an opportunity to meet other parents with children Emily’s age.
Emily also spends one afternoon a week at her grandparents’ house playing with her cousins. Luckily for us, Emily’s grandparents missed their regular babysitting days with Emily and offered to have her over one afternoon a week. So now Emily gets to see her grandparents and cousins every week and I have a luxurious afternoon to myself.
Once upon a time, I believed that being a stay-at-home mom was something I could just decide to do. I’ve come to realize that it’s a journey. Like any other major life change, it takes time, patience, effort and even some mistakes to adjust successfully.
Now, nine months after taking the leap, I’ve learned to cherish the lazy mornings Emily and I spend cuddling on the couch in our pajamas and watching “Dora the Explorer.”
Maureen O’Brochta is a mom, writer, teacher and lifelong learner who lives in Villa Park.