Changing Careers, One Diaper at a Time

by Leslie Klipsch

Stay-at-Home Mom's Survival Tips

You will be lonely. Your co-workers will vanish and your new boss will be demanding but speak a language that is completely foreign to you. You will work day and night, get dirty, and be confronted with unpleasant smells. The transition to stay-at-home mom is difficult. This your training manual.

Changing diapers, cleaning up drool, and enduring piercing cries is far less glamorous than hailing cabs, wearing heels, and expensing lunches. Nonetheless, nearly 11 million children under the age of 15 are being raised by stay-at-home moms. Women are giving birth and staying put; giving up a careers and second incomes to witness every first that their child encounters. As women sit in their offices, cubicles or classrooms, still pregnant and daydreaming about their new life with babe, are they prepared for what is in store? Probably not.

When my husband and I were expecting our first child, we decided that I would quit my job as a high school English teacher and stay at home full-time with the baby. I had visions of watching Oprah every morning with a cup of coffee in my hand and a bundle of babe in my lap. I saw myself dressed in my pre-pregnancy best. I envisioned my child next to me in the kitchen, sitting happily in his infant chair, cooing and batting at the toys dangling in front of him while I made lunch. What I didn't expect was to go days without showering, to order in every other night, and to only clean when I knew someone was coming over. The truth is, I found that I worked harder at home taking care of one baby boy than I had teaching nearly 100 teenagers each day.

Annie Allan, 27, former construction coordinator turned stay-at-home mom, was shocked as well. Before giving birth to her first baby she thought she would have time to work on the dozens of projects she had always wanted to pursue. "It was a complete shock when I realized that Nora required 98% of my waking energy. As a result, the adjustment was really difficult for me."

There is no internship or employee orientation that can prepare you for the job of staying at home with your baby. However, the following tips from veteran moms may help you begin your journey into stay-at-home motherhood.

Shower and get dressed. When Tess Saunders, Tomah, Wisconsin, looked down at herself at four o'clock one afternoon, she found that she was still in her robe and had not yet brushed her teeth. She realized something needed to change. From that point on, she vowed to put on clean clothes each morning. After that resolution, she found her new role much more satisfactory.

If you were used to getting ready to go to work each morning when you were employed outside of the home, it is a good idea to continue that habit. Take a shower. Put on a little make-up. Get up and ready for the day just as you would have if you were going to leave the house for work. What you are doing now is just as important as what you did before, so you need to look the part.

Get out of the house with your baby. Just because you have newly branded yourself 'stay-at-home' mom, doesn't mean you always have to stay at home. For starters, take the babe on a daily walk around the neighborhood. If you're ambitious and your child sleeps well in a stroller, go to your favorite coffee shop during naptime. Take a book, 'people watch.' Or, scour the city for places that are kid friendly. Enroll your child in a class that is developmentally appropriate. Head to the park.

Annie Allan, Chicago, found that this helped. "Life got easier when I started admitting that I wasn't having the greatest time staying at home with Norah. I began to seek out moms in my same situation. I attended La Leche, joined a parenting organization, and started hanging out at park. Since then, it.s become much less stressful."

Network with other stay-at-home moms and dads in your neighborhood. One of the best ways to transition into your new life is to get in touch with others like yourself. Many cities have parenting associations already established for this very reason. In Chicago, the Northside Parents Network serves over 1,750 families.