Being a stay at home Mom is an AMAZING blessing and a privilege. I consider myself extremely lucky to have a husband who supports me in this endeavor and helps me to make it possible, even on an
impossible tight budget. But this transition from working to staying at home, is a difficult one to make. Since I have several friends embarking on this new adventure, I thought I would address the issue with some advice that has helped me weather the years myself. I am by NO means an expert… but I have been doing this for over 11 years now, so that probably makes me at least qualified to talk about it 😉
When you make that big decision to stay home, you will be surrounded with people telling you how lucky you are, and how awesome it is going to be. But the truth is, its really really hard, and most days its exhausting physically and emotionally. Oh, its WORTH IT. And you ARE lucky, really you are. But being lucky doesn’t mean you don’t cry yourself to sleep at night from how hard it is. You will probably feel forgotten by the world, and left behind by your previous friends and lifestyle. I think that’s what make the transition so difficult for most of us. There are infinite rewards, but they don’t come overnight. These rewards are the kind you invest in and wait patiently for the return.
You see, most of the time, as a working woman, you have tangible results to show for your efforts. You can look back at the end of the day, or week, and say “wow, I did A.B, and C, and I accomplished X,Y, and Z. You have measurable validation for your work. You might not always be successful, but at least you have something to show for what you did, at the end of the day. Many years ago I was an “executive assistant/Receptionist”. I worked for a Fortune 500 company and answered the phones for nearly 200 employees, and handled expense accounts /travel plans/ Etc for a group of about 10. It was a very busy job and it was HARD. But at the end of the day/week/month I could look back and see files I had completed, or stacks of finished paperwork on my desk. I had my superiors giving me feedback, whether positive or negative, and I had a paycheck in my account to show for my efforts. When my son was born and I became a “stay-at-home” Mom, I really struggled with this transition. Motherhood isn’t full of “measurable successes in the short-term. I looked around and saw the laundry that always needs to be done, and the dishes that got washed and neatly put away only to suddenly be piled in the sink again. I saw a baby that couldn’t really talk or thank me for my hard work (although sweet smiles are NICE) and needed to eat 20 minutes after I had just gotten put back together again. As my children grew I saw toddler messes, uniforms that always needed to be ironed, a bank balance always precariously low, and a car that always needed repairs. And I wasn’t contributing financially. Although I was doing what I always wanted, and I was happy, I still struggled to feel valuable.
You see, subconsciously, I still needed someone to pat me on the back and tell me what I was doing was worthwhile. And since I had no BOSS, I assigned that expectation to my husband. Here is where the problems start. My husband would come home and I would proceed to run him through a litany of how hard my day was. Like I needed to prove to him that my job really was hard. I would then expect him to tell me I was amazing and wonderful, and I got really frustrated inside when that didn’t happen. Then, I would start reading into everything he said. He comes home and says “Why aren’t the dishes done”, and means- “Huh, I wonder why the dishes aren’t done- must have been a rough day”….but I HEAR “You are such a loser, you can’t even get something so simple done, you don’t do anything to contribute to this household. Why don’t you get a job if you are just going to sit around here all day and not even keep the house clean.” I start fretting about what he thinks of me, and when he steps in and starts to do the dishes it seems to me that he is communicating that “Even though I worked hard all day and my job is really tough I still have to do your work for you, I am so mad. Even though he is really just trying to help.
All of this exists in my mind. I mean sure, I’ll bet a part of him is frustrated that I didn’t get the dishes done, but he certainly doesn’t think I am failure, and he knows the kids are exhausting. He doesn’t even realize I am upset- and when I storm away and give him the cold shoulder, he doesn’t understand why. And our marriage really starts to stuffer.
DON’T MAKE THIS MISTAKE, or if you already have- make up your mind to stop. How do you do that, you ask?
Validate yourself. Look inside yourself and recognize that what you have chosen to do with your life is amazing. You also have to OWN your OWN feelings. Learn to recognize when you are projecting your own feelings of insecurity into simple things your husband says or does. Remember that he has NO idea what’s going on in your mind. You should try to communicate to him when you are feeling insecure, so he is aware. But don’t expect him to validate you. I’m not saying that he SHOULDN’T validate you- I’m just saying don’t EXPECT it. You wouldn’t be staying home if he didn’t agree that it was worthwhile and important for your children, you need to trust that he is supporting you and let that be enough. Anything EXTRA is icing on the cake. I communicated to my husband that I needed a few more thank you’s from time to time, and he stepped up to the challenge and is amazing at remembering to notice when the house is clean now, or when I have worked hard to make an especially nice meal. But when he doesn’t notice, I try not to let it make me feel like my effort was wasted! Mostly, it’s important to establish habits that help you develop a healthy relationship with yourself and, if you are religious, with God. For me, those things are
- Exercise, like a workout video you can do from home if your children are still small
- Cuddle time with my kids- no schedule just talking and usually laughing
- Studying my scriptures
- Reading a good book (usually with children crawling all over me while they were small, but now they curl up and read next to me)
- Getting up each day, changing clothes, and fixing up my hair and face- just for me
- Going for walks with my husband and asking about his day while I tell him about mine, balancing the negative with the good and not to “one up” the other.
- Letting some things go, and warning my husband in advance. I’ll send him a text that says- WARNING the house didn’t get clean today, try to understand that before you come home to chaos. He’s much less likely to be frustrated when he’s prepared in advance
- Join a Mommies group, or a book club, or something where you are getting out and spending time with other women. Especially other stay at home mom’s. They get it, better than anyone else!
- I’d love any tips on what helps you! Leave a comment with your favorite “me -time” activity.
I saw this video a few years ago for the first time and loved it! I laughed, I cried, and I wanted to be a better person after watching it. I wanted to be the reason people smile. Recently I re-watched the video and loved it just as much. I recommend you watch it, it’s well worth the 15 minutes you will spend. Trust me. Basically the message is that we need to validate each other, love each other, and lift each other up. And it’s a beautiful message indeed. Everyone needs someone to “validate” them from time to time, and its lovely when they DO. We should all strive to be the person helping other people smile. But as Moms, we are frequently on the other side of the equation. When you are the person who NEEDS validation, and there is no one around who is willing/able to give it? Where do you find it? You have to find it within yourself. That is my challenge to you!