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I remember the first day I stayed home alone with my newborn. I had never been so scared before.
Not even on my toughest days at work, which sometimes included long days of travel and non-stop meetings, had I felt that level of exhaustion. Because I had recently been laid off, I knew that this would be the first of many days I would be home alone with a crying and helpless new human.
Whether it's by circumstance or by choice, transitioning from being a child-free working gal to a stay-at-home mother of a newborn was not easy.
Here are a few things I learned on my journey:
1. Admit you can't do it all
I know you kicked butt in your profession. I know you had it all figured out. I'm here to tell that none of it applies at home.
Your newborn doesn't care about your color-coded calendar or about your great powerpoint presentations. Seriously, forget that you think you know everything and take as much help as you can get. Yes, I know that you used to work 16 hour days. This is different.
Don't let anyone tell you that you aren't working. Don't let anyone question what you do all day.
A few months into baby life, my partner came home one day in the midst of what I used to call the "witching hour." It was about 6 p.m., the time my son would start to fuss and cry for about an hour. While I read that this is normal in newborns, I just thought I was a bad mom. So my partner came home one day and started suggesting things he thought I should try. I scoffed.
"Oh you think you are a big hero coming to save the day?"
I should have just given him the baby and taken a much-needed mental break.
Accept your mother and mother-in-law's offers to come help, have your partner take the baby after work for a while so you can do things normal humans do (like take a shower and check social media). Do not try to do more than you can bear. This is a marathon not a sprint.
2. Being at home is change of pace
Don't get it twisted: being at home isn't less work. It's just different kind of work.
Newborns have lots of adorable little onesies and burp cloths and teeny baby bottles or pump attachments that need to be washed constantly. I know back at work people were asking you what you were going to do while you were on "vacation" for four months. Or, if you knew you weren't returning to your job, people would say that it sounded so nice to "not have to work." Maybe you secretly agreed and thought that you would take on that gardening project or get back into blogging (all things that I thought BTW).
And maybe you will!
For me it took months to feel like I had gotten the hang of running the house and keeping the baby alive. There was time to explore who I was outside of my professional identity and adapt to my new identity as a mother.
3. Enjoy the good moments
Other parents will say, "enjoy every minute." I'm here to tell you, those parents are well-intentioned, but they are also lying. Not all minutes of parenting are enjoyable.
We love our babies every minute for sure, but some days are challenging. Some days are exhausting. Some days you have no idea what you are doing. You are also mourning the life you had before. This doesn't mean you don't love your new life. The good news is that the moments of exhausting and self-doubt are balanced by moments of sheer joy and elation. Because, let's face it, your newborn is amazing and the best little human you ever met.
Enjoy those moments—they are precious—but give yourself grace for the bad ones. It's OK. You are human.
Being a stay at home mother for a year was an unexpected event for me. But these lessons served me well when I went back to work.
4. Embrace the stillness
If this is your first time being out of the hustle and bustle of work, it might feel as if this is the first time you've every stood still. Enjoy it. Give yourself permission to watch Netflix while the baby naps. I know you will want to deep-clean the kitchen, because being home makes you notice those things. But resist the urge. Better yet, hire someone to do those things for you.
5. You still deserve a break
Don't let anyone tell you that you aren't working. Don't let anyone question what you do all day. There's a reason why childcare and nannies are so expensive—it's a lot of work to care for a child and a home. Yes, you enjoy the work of raising your children. Yes, you love your children. But you still need nights out with girlfriends the way you did before. You still need to keep up those things you did before that kept you sane.
Believe me you will have to fight for those things, because the urge to mother will be strong and it will be hard to pull away. But one of the most important lessons I've learned is that caring for ourselves is also an act of survival. You are also setting an example of self-care that will benefit your children. Staying balanced for our children is also a way to be good mothers.
Being a stay at home mother for a year was an unexpected event for me. But these lessons served me well when I went back to work. I had to adapt to a whole other routine, that of a mom working outside the home. I will never romanticize being a stay-at-home mom, but I am happy I was able to experience it.