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.

Julia White is a Denver mom of two and a former clinical social worker. When she became a stay-at-home mom, she created a website dedicated to helping women find other moms and playgroups within their community. With over 18,000 members, the site offers "busy and often sleep deprived moms and their children a relatively easy and convenient way to widen their circle of friends." Search your neighborhood for an already established playgroup, or start one of your own by logging onto www.mommysavers.com.

Take full advantage of naptime. As soon as the clock strikes morning nap, the pacifier is in place, and my son falls asleep, I make a mad dash to freedom. Naptime is the perfect time for checking email, making phone calls, clutching coffee, and catching your breath. For mothers with infants, this is also the time to refuel for the rest of the day. These few precious intervals throughout the day are a treasure - take advantage!

Engage in adult conversation. It's difficult to leave a challenging job in which you communicated with other professionals daily and jump into a life in which the only other adults you see throughout the day are at the checkout line or the playground. It helps to find a balance family time and time for yourself. Take a class (either on-line or in person) in something that has always interested you. Join a book club. Take advantage of free lectures at a local college or walk with a friend a few mornings a week. Don't neglect your drive for self-improvement.

Find time to exercise. Everyone knows that exercise makes you feel stronger and happier, and as a mom these are two important qualities. Many gyms offer child care services while you work out - meet the staff, inspect the facilities, and hit the Precor. Or, if you enjoy jogging, consider purchasing a jogging stroller and take advantage of the bonus calories you.ll burn by pushing your child. Many yoga studios offer 'Mommy & Me' yoga, another great way to work that body after baby and keep yourself feeling strong.

Pursue an additional project. Terre Mueller, a Davenport, Iowa mother of four, says that she wanted to "keep my house, play with my children, and be a 'Betty Crocker'." However, a few months after quitting her teaching job, she decided to join her husband as co-coach of a local gymnastics team. "I didn't enjoy being 'mother earth'. I need to be needed by other people, not just my kids." She was able to take her children with her to the gym and feels that working part-time gave her the best of both worlds.

Most families sacrifice a second income when one partner decides to stay at home with the children, so finding a way to make some extra spending money not only relieves financial stress, but may also turn into something that you find fulfilling. If you find that you long to contribute in ways other than motherhood, sit down to determine your strengths and your passions and make them marketable.

Learn to balance your new life. Veronica Norman, 28, former event manager, suggests that stay-at-home mothers prioritize and maintain balance in their new way of life. She found that overextending herself left both she and her baby exhausted. "I learned to limit the amount that we go out so that Kylie and I both get the rest we need. Some of my best memories will be of the two of us taking our daily afternoon nap in 'the big person bed'!"

As you navigate your new role as mother and grow accustomed to your new at-home occupation, double check your priorities. While you're pregnant, write down the motives that will keep you home. Revisit these. Remind yourself of the reasons why you took this job.

Getting used to the new role of stay-at-home mom is challenging. But in the long run, most find that the period of adjustment passes quickly and in the end, their new life is more than fulfilling. According to Tess Saunders, 48, the transition was difficult, especially in the beginning as she got to know her independent child. "We did not develop any kind of schedule, no matter how much advice I got and how hard I tried. I felt like I gave up my freedom. But, I love Sarah and don't regret for one minute that I stayed home with her." Tess's only daughter just started high school.

There must be a moment that you look up from your morning coffee and realize that all of the kids are off at school. That's a whole new adjustment.

Leslie Klipsch is a stay-at-home mom and freelance writer. Before joining the ranks of motherhood, she taught high school English. She, her husband, and their eight-month-old son live in Chicago.

Copyright © Leslie Klipsch. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.