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5 Things I Wish I Knew About Being a Stay-at-Home Mom

Deep down, I always imagined myself as a stay-at-home mom, but I have to admit, even though I knew it was in the cards for me, there are still sometimes when I look around and think, Am I really the one responsible for all of these kids?

Being a stay-at-home mom has a way of surprising even the most prepared among us. And yet, if I could, I would travel back in time to my 21-year-old first-time pregnant self and warn her about what she would discover about being a stay-at-home mom for the next decade of her life. This is what I would tell her:

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1. Some days, I would treat is as a job.

Look, we can call parenting just part of life, and in many ways, it absolutely is. Every parent, even those who work outside of the home, are full-time parents, obviously. But when you're the one at-home 24/7, there are aspects of the gig that will resemble a job. Namely, showing up and doing work that you don't always feel like doing.

Maybe it doesn't make sense, but applying myself to the "job" of stay-at-home motherhood just like I have any other job during my life usually works on the days I'm just not feeling it. Following a recipe for success—like 1. Getting dressed 2. Showing up with a smile on my face 3. Following some sort of schedule and 4. Building in a break when I need—can go a long way for me.

2. And on other days, it's anything but.

That being said, for me, one of the best parts about being a stay-at-home mom is precisely that it's not a job. Schedules, routines and a "clocking in" mentality might help on a lot of days, but on the others?

Sleeping in on the rare moments the kids do, proclaiming "pajama day," having a guilt-free movie afternoon or packing up the kids for ice cream just because we feel like it are the days when I throw all aspects of my "job" to the wind. And I love every second of it.

3. Staying home is not at all about baking and crafts.

Not only does every mother have different skills, but my kids could literally care less.

I'm going to sound pretty dumb here, but I honestly thought that to be a "good" stay-at-home mom, I needed to do weekly crafts and baking time (who wants to learn fractions?) with my kids. In my mind, it was like a prerequisite qualification or something. And in the beginning of my motherhood career, I absolutely stressed if my daughter hadn't done something creative or baking-related every week.

Good grief, I was such a loser. These days, I know completely better. Not only does every mother have different skills, but my kids could literally care less, let alone remember, if I instigate a "fun" craft for them to attempt and then throw away 10 seconds later.

4. It's really not natural.

I've said it before and I'll say it again—the thought of one individual staying home 24/7, completely isolated with young children is not only insane, it's an actual form of torture, especially if you're a mother suffering from any kind of depression in the first place. I sincerely didn't take the risk of isolation and the resulting mental problems seriously enough in the beginning of being a stay-at-home mom.

5. Spouses may never really understand.

I'm the Monday and he's like the fun weekend, you know?

I'm fully aware that any struggle with staying home is a privileged struggle, because very few parents have an actual choice to stay home with their children. But I don't think it does anyone any favors to gloss over how hard it can be to be a stay-at-home parent either. And sometimes, the person that I most want to vent to or commiserate with, the one person who loves my children as much as I do, is also the person who can't quite understand what my day is like either. That was a rude awakening to me, and even when the other parent "takes over," it never feels quite like the same. My husband's time with the kids is more like a "day off" for both of them, while I'm the constant, steady routine. I'm the Monday and he's like the fun weekend, you know?

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When it comes right down to it, it's probably for the best that I went into being a stay-at-home mom with no real preconceived notions of what I was getting myself into.

But, these days, I have to admit that I am really, really grateful for on-the-job training.

What surprised you the most about becoming a stay-at-home mom, besides how true the stereotypes really are?

Image via j&j brusie photography

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