Let me start by saying that I’ve always hated the working mom vs stay at home mom debate. I recently underwent a working mom to stay at home mom transition, and it has opened my eyes more to both sides. I’m here to share with you how it’s going and what I’ve learned from this shift.
To start, a little bit about me: I had been a working mom for 15 years before an eye-opening realization with my fourth child that I wanted to spend more individual time with her. Our family had previously been a stay at home dad family, which worked wonderfully for years.
My deep desire to try the stay at home mom gig with our last child resulted in quite the orchestration of flip-flopping roles with my husband. It’s now over 6 months in, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the time I’m getting to spend with our toddler.
I’ve also had a number of realizations from the working mom to stay at home mom transition that I wanted to share in case others are looking to make this change.
Lessons From My Working Mom to Stay at Home Mom Transition
The Working Mom vs Stay at Home Mom Debate Is Meaningless
My personal switch in roles only reaffirmed what I’d previously felt—that any animosity from one type of mother towards another is just pointless. Both roles are hard in their own ways, and both roles can be rewarding in their own ways.
It’s two different sides of the same coin. We’re all mothers who work our butts off, just in different ways.
Around 30% of US mothers with children under age 18 don’t participate in the workforce, and higher rates of nonparticipation are found among families with younger children and married women.
My mother was a working mom, and I always admired her independence and drive. That may have influenced some of my decisions for my own style of motherhood. Finances of course can also play a big role, and some women may not have a choice when it comes to being a working mom or stay at home mom.
A lot comes down to the circumstances we’re in at the time. All of this goes to support the notion that judging one another is completely senseless.
Being a Stay at Home Mom Is Hard
The biggest thing I’ve learned is that being a stay at home mom is harder than I ever expected. I always wondered what my husband was doing all day and why the house wasn’t picked up or dishes done when he stayed home with our kids.
I tried my best to be understanding, but I don’t think you can fully understand until you experience being a stay at home parent for yourself.
Boy am I eating some crow now.
I am finding it practically impossible to get anything meaningful done around the house with a toddler in tow. Our little one demands constant attention, and the whole point of me being a stay at home mom was to give this to her.
This means chores take a backseat, and I may not even get to pick up after some of the things we’re doing. It’s just the nature of having a little Tasmanian devil on my hands. I feel really bad for ever judging my husband in this regard.
Nap time flies by, and I’m either tired out or working a few hours on some part-time work I had to retain due to our family finances.
I realized that staying home with a small child is hard in a number of other ways…
Adult Interaction Is So Important
As an introvert, I didn’t expect how much the lack of interaction with other adults would affect me. I mean, I love some alone time. The problem is, as a stay at home mom, you don’t get alone time. You get alone time with your child or children.
One-on-one time with your child is great in measured doses but can start to make you go a little batty if you don’t get some adult interaction mixed in. This was one of my other big realizations from the working mom to stay at home mom transition.
I remember when my husband was a stay at home dad, he would practically pounce on me as soon as I came home from work and word vomit everything on his mind. He was desperate for another adult to talk to.
I totally get it now. I’ve found it essential to mix mommy groups and playdates into our daily routine for my own sanity–even if that sometimes means pushing my own boundaries as an introverted mom.
Of course, when the coronavirus pandemic hit, my whole plan for adult interaction went topsy turvy. Now I’m doing the best I can being cooped up with toddler. Even texting or video messaging a friend can help, or taking a lunch break with my husband.
This brings me to a related realization…
The Boredom Can Be Intense
I was used to a flurry of activity during the day at work—meeting deadlines, doing complex problem-solving, leading meetings, and more. Now my toddler wants to read the same three books over and over again. We play blocks and Play Doh together, but that only kills so much time.
It can feel like the clock is ticking by so slowly. This makes me feel guilty, because I fought hard to have this time with her. I wanted to cherish every moment.
I tried Pinterest inspiration for toddler activities, some working better than others. Other days my mind can just get numb from going through the same motions.
Of course, I’m sure the pandemic has heightened these feelings. A country in lockdown wasn’t part of the plan when I made the working mom to stay at home mom transition.
Still, I think it’s a matter of getting used to a different pace and sometimes limited set of activities. I’ve had to shift my mindset to have fun in the moment, and it’s helped me be a more spontaneous mom when I’m able to do this.
It can help to get creative and even a little goofy, though getting a change of scenery and adult interaction definitely help the most.
In the early days of my transition, the boredom was the one thing that made me question whether I’d made the right decision stepping back from my career. It took some getting used to, along with some concerted effort to mix things up.
The Bright Sides
Being there for my daughter’s firsts has been priceless. I taught her how to splash in puddles. I was there for her first sentence. These moments make any struggles from the working mom to stay at home mom transition worthwhile.
I love soaking up her laughter throughout the day and witnessing her little personality blossom. I’ve also found that my older children benefit from more of my availability—in particular, my teenager. Though my time is often focused on my toddler, my school-age kids are getting extra of my time and attention as well.
I have more mental energy to devote to keeping track of their school activities. We actually turned in some field trip money on time (before they all got canceled due to the pandemic). I get to be the first one to ask about their day. I can take them for donuts once a week before school starts.
It’s really the accumulation of these little moments that brings me the most joy. It’s not that I didn’t have those as a working mom—I just find I have greater opportunities to witness them throughout the week.
I’ve also enjoyed letting go of my work stress. I was one who had difficulty “turning off” when coming home from the office, and sometimes things would linger on my mind. This further robbed time from my family.
Being the primary breadwinner also came with a lot of pressure. I started to feel drained and even trapped a lot of the time.
I would be lying to say I don’t sometimes miss my work. I had a rewarding career with bosses and team members I liked. Thoughts have crossed my mind as to whether I was committing career suicide. I was on an upward trajectory into leadership.
I sometimes hear of exciting and interesting projects that are continuing in my absence. It can make me wonder.
But I know, deep down, that I made the right decision for me right now. It’s only a limited time that I will get to be home with my little ones before they are more independent. I am thankful that we could make things work so I could have this opportunity.
As I mentioned, I’m also working a small number of hours from home each week, so the working mom to stay at home mom transition doesn’t always have to be all or nothing.
I think it must be normal to miss some aspects of your career if you had one you liked before leaving. I’ll take it as a good sign for when I want or need to go back one day.
Make sure you also have hobbies and personal activities outside being a mom so you don’t get into a stay at home mom rut.
If you feel you are really missing some kind of work aside from your role as mom, you might consider a small side hustle or something like freelancing—just make sure you don’t overcommit. Give yourself time to settle into your role as stay at home mom first, if possible.
Overall, my working mom to stay at home mom transition has had some surprises for me. I’m still working on getting into a groove as a stay at home mom. Six months in, it still feels a little bit like I’m an imposter trying to figure things out.
I still haven’t signed up for the PTA—shhhhh! And I feel like a newbie in the mommy groups.
Don’t get me wrong, the time with my daughter is so special. I think it’s just a learning curve of new experiences and routines for me after having been a working mom for so long. I could certainly learn from some veteran stay at home moms!
I think having my husband and I each play the role of working parent and stay at home parent at some time has given us such greater appreciation for each other. We understand the challenges, stresses, and benefits of each situation.
I should also note that there’s nothing wrong if you realize being a stay at home mom is not for you. I wasn’t sure it would be my cup of tea when I started this journey–even as much as I wanted it.
The good thing is, work will be there waiting if you change your mind. You will still be a great mom either way.
Can you relate to any of these feelings or are you considering a transition of your own?
Saturday 22nd of October 2022
Hi, I am soon going to be transitioning from a working mom to a stay at home mom. This will be my second carier break. The first was when my son was born and lasted 4 years. I had to join back the workforce due to financial constraints and for the last 8 years. Although I had good bosses, colleagues and received opportunities to achieve more than I could ever imagined as a teenager and young graduate. However, there was always an ache of missing my child, spending time with him, nurturing him that never left me. I can completely relate to when you say that you could not switch off even post coming back home and how that ate into your quality time with your family, I had my jaw dropped. I thought I was the only one.
Well all said and done, everything got too much for me, the work pressure, the mother's guilt of not being able to actively be part of my son's growing up years, especially as he is entering his teens.
I have made a choice and do have a knawing feeling that it's not going to be an easy one. But with just 4-5 years left with my son before he spreads his wings off to college and beyond, I want to be able to contribute as much as I can to his life.
Saturday 23rd of October 2021
This was so nice to read and I'm going to share it with my husband just to help give him some perspective too. I have been home with our first child since she was born almost 4 months ago, and the plan, what's best for us, is for me to remain home for the foreseeable future and work a few hours per week (like you do). I never anticipated taking on this role but here we are. It's definitely some of the most meaningful moments I've ever had, almost daily, but also so challenging to deal with the different pace, lack of adult interaction, learning how and when to try to get other things done!
Sunday 1st of August 2021
Reading this helped me a lot. I may have to make the transition, and I am REALLY having a hard time with it. The feelings of embarassment and being inadequant are there. Ive been a teacher for 10 years and my career has been what I have for myself. Can I ask what you do for a part time job? I am going to be in need of one and am not sure what to do. Thank you.
Wednesday 3rd of February 2021
I truly appreciate your raw honesty about this transition. Looking at taking this plunge in the fall, after having my third 3 weeks ago. I will have one in kinder, one in preschool and a newborn. The idea of working fulltime and juggling all these littles/getting them to where they need to go, just doesn't seem feasible. Staying home just seems like a slower, more favorable option right now. If you have suggestions as far as a loose routine/schedule you followed with your little, please share!
Thursday 4th of February 2021
That totally makes sense. Honestly our "schedule" has gotten totally thrown off by COVID so we're just doing the best we can right now! It's even harder not getting out much, but we try to have lots of play & reading time in the morning, and a walk when we can. We have quiet time/nap in the afternoon.
Tuesday 26th of January 2021
thanks for writing this. our family is going to move overseas and will require me to take the switch. I had thought about it before but finances didnt allow. this time, my husband's promotion and work rotation is a new adventure we have been dreaming of. but still it's an unknown world (with a completely new language to learn too!)... if you have any other tips for me, please do send! Cheers :)
Tuesday 26th of January 2021
I'm so glad it was helpful! Sounds like you have a great adventure ahead of you. I definitely recommend having a hobby or personal outlet of your own. I hope you enjoy your time.