Becoming an At Home Mom
Christine Sweeney, LICSW Program Manager, Parent Connection, BIDMC
JULY 21, 2016
Leaving paid employment and a career after having a baby is a decision that comes with its own adjustments. For some women, the decision is clear and there is no looking back or second guessing. For many, it’s not so cut and dry, and raises feelings of loss and anxiety in considering endless days with little structure and risk of opportunities lost should they try and return to their profession in the future.
Prior to having a baby, you may have invested considerable time and energy into building a career. The thought of walking away from a position you’ve worked hard to achieve, is not easy. Despite looking forward to time at home with baby and all the joys that come with that, it’s normal to question what kind of impact leaving, even temporarily will have on your career.
Many anticipate missing the social aspects of work, lunch with colleagues, stimulating adult conversations, even being able to dress and get out of the house, all the things that provide ways to reclaim that part of who we were before we became “Mom”. Some women experience feeling a sense of loss, particularly as it relates to a sense of identity and competence. Work outside the home provides the opportunity to accomplish a measurable task, within a given time frame, with clear feedback, scheduled time off, and a reward ---a paycheck!
Taking care of a newborn all day every day is hard work, where this is often no sense of beginning and end to the day. Forget about time off. In this new life there are no weekends, personal days or sick days when you need them.
There are so many rewards that come with being home full time, but just as working moms need to adjust to returning to work, there are things moms who will be leaving work can do to enhance the adjustment transitioning from work to home.
Here are some ideas:
- Find opportunities to meet and reach out to other new moms going through the same adjustment. Sometimes it just helps to be heard and understood, and it just takes one brave momma to state the reality that being at home is hard. Attend a new moms group, or head to your local playground or your library story time. Take active steps to plan something for your day. It will help to have some sense of structure and also guard against feelings of isolation commonly experienced if you are home alone all day with your baby.
- Don't expect to get everything done just because you are home. Babies march to the beat of their own drums, and will often derail any "to do list" you may have put together. It's not realistic to expect that in addition to caring for your baby, you will also be able to solely manage cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, post office and dry cleaning runs....and the list goes on.
- Communicate with your partner. If this is your first child, the balance of your home life changes dramatically. Old routines may no longer exist, and new ones are forming. You may find that you are jealous of your working partner, whose life has not changed nearly as dramatically as yours. Find a time to talk about issues and readjustments that need to be made outside the heat of the moment. These conversations are essential to combatting the cycle of "score keeping", where you're each struggling to prove who is working harder, a no win conversation that only leads down the road to resentment.
- Find time to be alone with your partner. Time with and for each other is important. It doesn't have to be a "date night". Just time when baby is sleeping or quiet and not demanding attention when you can really talk and listen to each other.
- Find time to be alone period. Needing time away from baby does not mean that you don't love him/her or that you are not a great mom. It is normal and healthy for moms to need a mental break from the constant thoughts of what does baby need, or what's coming next. We all need down time. Take it, and don't feel guilty about it. Take a walk, take a bubble bath, read a book or magazine that has nothing to do with babies or child development, find whatever you need to give you a well-deserved break.
Finally, remind yourself that you are doing the best you can at the moment. You are growing into this new identity as mom. Some days are great and some not so great. Hang in there, be flexible and above all, hold onto your sense of humor.