*This post was originally published on Mommy on Purpose.
I Had No Idea What to Expect as a New Stay-at-Home Parent
When I first decided to become a stay-at-home mom, I imagined a relaxing vacation every day. Sure, my baby would need me, but I would have plenty of time to exercise, pursue hobbies, and unwind while she took long, regular naps. Instead, I felt overwhelmed and depressed, lost my identity, and struggled to take regular showers for the first 4-5 months.
Why aren’t there readily available resources for new stay-at-home parents? They desperately need to know what to expect. They need someone to assure them that what they’re feeling is totally normal and that they’re not alone!
That’s exactly what I’m sending out into the internet today.
7 Crucial Tips For New Stay-at-Home Parents
Are you a new stay-at-home parent? Here are the essential facts you need to know!
- First, it will take a lot more time and attention than you’re anticipating. I imagined myself enjoying an hour-long daily workout, writing a novel, and refinishing antique furniture with all of my free time. And some days, I can fit in all of those things while my toddler happily entertains herself. Other days, she’s extra clingy or ornery. On those days, she requires my full attention the entire day unless I want to find her bathing her stuffed animals in the bathroom sink or drawing me a picture…on my favorite vase. Not that that’s happened to me. Ahem.
- Second, don’t jam-pack your schedule. I originally believed that if I stayed home with my child, I needed to fill our calendar to account for our time and prove my value in my new role. But I quickly learned that overscheduling your child can lead to their overwhelm and resulting meltdown or, even worse, their expectation of exciting plans every day. Days with no plans allow your kids free time to exercise their imaginations, but tend to draaaaag. So what’s the best solution? I try to alternate days. We’ll stay home on Monday, go to music class on Tuesday, home again Wednesday, story time on Thursday. Everyone benefits from balance.
- Third, keep your home picked up. Studies have found that dirty or cluttered homes contribute to diminished physical health, increased depression and fatigue, higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and worsened focus. When you’re no longer leaving your home for 8-10 hours a day, maintaining an uplifting home environment becomes extremely important to your well-being.
- Fourth, make the effort to feel presentable at least several days a week. The college I attended required students to wear business casual attire to classes, chapels, and even meals in the dining hall. Most people hated it, and I admit, it seemed silly to me at first. But I quickly realized that when I put forth the extra effort to dress nicely, I enjoyed a feel-good boost of motivation the entire day. You don’t have to spend hours styling your hair, or wear makeup if that’s not your thing. But make an effort to feel good about yourself at least several days a week. You deserve the self-care. Bonus: you’ll be ready and able to adapt to any change of plans on short notice.
- Fifth, make regular time for yourself away from the kids. Maintaining an identity outside of my role as a stay-at-home parent has boosted my self-esteem and helped to combat depression. Once your kids become used to you meeting all of their needs through the workweek, they’ll often look to you over your spouse to meet their needs on nights and weekends as well. Give yourself regular breaks and resist the urge to feel bad about it.
- Sixth, you may struggle for a while. You might fight depression. Maybe you’ll learn that your personality isn’t a good fit for staying home all day, or that you don’t enjoy it as much as you expected. You may discover that a large part of your identity was tied to your job title, and that you’ve lost your sense of purpose. Expect and allow for these kinds of discoveries. You don’t know what you don’t know. And once you learn what’s it’s really like to stay home, it will take time to adjust and find out what works for you.
- And finally, it’s okay to renegotiate roles and responsibilities with your spouse after you’ve experienced a little of your new role. Before I became a stay-at-home mom, I assumed that I would do all cooking, cleaning, household management, and errands, plus manage finances. Once I started, I quickly realized that was way too much to take on with a newborn. After you’ve been in the role for a few months, have a chat with your spouse about how it’s going and if any changes need to be implemented.
Wrap It Up
Two years into this gig, I feel as if I’ve finally found that sweet spot. I’ve embraced my role as a stay-at-home mom, but have also reestablished and maintained my identity as an individual. I’m so grateful. But I might have gotten here a heck of a lot faster with a little advice.
Becoming a new stay-at-home parent will take a lot more time and attention than you expect. Don’t jam-pack your schedule. Keep your home picked up, and make the effort to feel presentable at least several days a week. Make regular time for yourself away from the kids. You may struggle for a while, or need to renegotiate responsibilities with your spouse, and that’s totally okay!
Staying at home is my most challenging job to date, but it’s also the most rewarding.
You’re about to begin the most important job of your life. You’ve got this! And we’ve got your back!
P.S. Jam-packed schedule pushing healthy eating out of the picture? Sign up for our newsletter and receive The Busy People’s Guide to Healthy Eating on the Go for free! It’s the perfect resource to help you form a totally doable healthy eating plan, for when you’re away from home, running errands, on trips, or just trying to survive the week. Sign up here today!
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