Long before I ever had kids, I knew I wanted to be a stay at home mom. I wanted to homeschool my kids and be present for every minute of their lives.
When I found out I was expecting our first baby, it was very unexpected and definitely not perfect timing. We weren’t in the position financially for me to be able to stay home, but with some creative solutions and sacrifices, we were able to find a way for me to be a stay at home mom.
I thought the hard part was over. The baby would get here, my husband would go back to work, and I’d wake up early and make him these elaborate breakfasts and we’d have coffee together every morning.
I’d get up, get dressed, and do my hair and makeup even if I wasn’t going anywhere, just to make sure I still felt like a human being.
Then the baby got here and life slapped me across the face.
Elaborate breakfasts? Who was I kidding?! I can’t even cook!
Doing my hair and makeup just to stay home? I don’t even do that half the time to run to Walmart anymore and I’m pretty sure you can catch a glimpse of me on peopleofwalmart.com.
Motherhood threw some pretty unexpected wrenches into my plans, but the biggest one was just how hard it is to be a stay at home mom.
Yes, it’s difficult to find time to clean and cook, but that’s not the hard part that I’m talking about. The hardest part for me was feeling completely subhuman without a job. I didn’t have coworkers stopping by anymore to chat or laugh at my jokes. I had a tiny terrorist screaming at me for God only knows what as I scrambled to change his diaper, nurse him, and snuggle him only for him to keep screaming.
Emotionally, my first few weeks and months of motherhood were pretty trying.
I wasn’t sleeping or eating, my husband took a job 7 hours away and we moved when our son was 5 weeks old. I had literally no one around that I knew. I was the first of my friends my own age to have a baby, so I didn’t really have anyone to commiserate with. Only one of my friends had a baby at the same time that I did, and she had already raised a little one so she knew what she was in for.
No one filled me in on quite how difficult this would be.
Moving 7 hours away only made me feel more isolated.
Finally, I reached out to a few friends who are older (and wiser) than me and told them I was at my wits end. Something needed to change.
One friend had moved to Australia for 4 years for her husband’s job. She said she forced herself to make friends with other moms at her kid’s school and that I needed to find my own people.
That sounds easy enough, but I wasn’t being forced to interact with anyone at my kid’s school because my kid was 5 weeks old and still sleeping 17 hours a day. (keyword – day. He slept during the day. Never at night).
I reached out to my doula and told her my situation. She said she had gone through the same thing and to look at www.meetup.com for mommy groups. She said she’d done the same thing and had to force herself to go to some meet ups. For some reason, the best piece of advice she gave me was “I was more nervous than if I was going on a first date, but I forced myself to go. Now, some of those people are my best friends.”
I love to talk and make people laugh, but forcing myself into social situations is definitely not one of my strong points. In fact, I completely avoid having to be in awkward social situations at all costs.
Despite my social anxiety, I looked up mommy groups in my area. I signed myself up for a stroller walk that I honestly thought I’d back out of, and didn’t tell my husband my plans until the day before. He knows how I am and I knew he’d try to push me into going. I didn’t want the pressure.
I went to one meet-up and I wasn’t the only new mom there! Other people with babies exactly my son’s age were there and were going through exactly what I was. It was such an eye-opening experience for me.
Even though I had a great time, I didn’t go to another one for almost 2 months. In that time, I went home to Pittsburgh for a week to give my notice to my employer and to say goodbye to my amazing coworkers. While I was there, I vowed to get my life together and force myself to go to more meet ups as soon as I got home to North Carolina.
That week flew by and I was finally home with my husband. I told him my plans to force myself out of the house and he was relieved. Even though money was tight, he told me to go do whatever the other moms were dong. If someone wanted to get lunch, coffee, whatever it was – just go.
I started going to every single meet up that group had. It ended up being Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and my whole demeanor changed. My marriage improved 100% and I stopped crying to my husband every day about how depressed I was.
I seriously credit that meet up group with getting me out of my post-baby funk and getting me back on my feet.
I’m now one of three organizers of that group and we have over 250 members. We created a joint Facebook group to meet even more moms in the area.
My best advice is this: No matter what your situation, get on Facebook and Meet-Up and find your people. Force yourself to go. Don’t back out, just go. If it’s horrible and you hate the people, you can always make a mad dash for your car. But for the love of God, just go!
Once you are getting out of the house, you’ll start to feel much more energized to tackle everything else going on around you. Eventually, your little one will start to sleep more and you’ll be able to put together some sort of schedule to tackle the things you need.
Don’t hesitate to ask for help. Your spouse is 50% of the parenting unit in your house, so he can help do some of the chores you don’t get to. Ask your spouse to make some phone calls that you can’t make with a baby screaming in the background. Don’t try to go grocery shopping by yourself yet, save that for the nights or weekends when you have some help.
Lower your expectations. Okay, maybe you’re eating off of paper plates for a while because you can’t get to the dishes. Anytime we have a lot of stress going on, we pick up some paper plates and plastic silverware and leave our dishes in the cabinets.
We do normally try to be more “green” than that, but in some situations (like moving and having a new baby) it’s definitely worth it to take a few days off and just focus on your emotional wellbeing.
Keep in mind, meltdowns happen, naps get missed, blow outs make you late. Life happens. When you’re a parent, you have to learn to roll with the punches. The beauty of being in a mommy group is that you have a group of other moms who will gladly step up and say “yep, that happened to me too!” “I haven’t showered in 3 days.” “I went grocery shopping with baby spit up down my back.”
In my case, we met up with our doula at a coffee shop when our son was 4 days old and I walked in with a poopy diaper stuck to my jacket.
You’ll feel more normal because other people are conquering motherhood too! You don’t become a mother. You survive it first, then you become a mother. Maybe that’s a little too extreme, but life starts to become normal again and you find your tribe. Life gets better and brighter, and you, your spouse, and your kid all survive (somehow…I still don’t know how we made it.)
If you’re a newly minted stay at home mom (or dad!) trust me when I tell you that it does get better and you will get used to it. Find time for your hobbies to feel like yourself again, find your friends that are in the same stage of life that you are, and ask for help when you need it. Do not try to be superwoman, just try to embrace the new and improved you.
You have a baby after all, and that’s one hell of an accomplishment!
Are you a stay at home mom? Did you struggle at first? What tips do you have for other parents going through the transition from full-time employee to stay at home parent? Let me know in the comments!