Celebrating a Year of Professional Mom-ing

I missed a MAJOR milestone recently, thanks to the holiday hustle. 

I've been a Stay at Home Mom for a YEAR now!  

Pretty sure this means it's time to sit down with my boss (ME) for my annual review. Fingers crossed for a Big Fat Raise! Or at least a pedicure and an hour alone at Target, right? 

For a little context, I've always dreamed of being able to work from home. I love being in my house while accomplishing work. Before I had Iris, I ran my own wedding planning biz for five years in addition to working full-time as a career counselor at the local university of which I am an alum. For a while, I hoped to make weddings my full-time gig so I could realize my dream of working from home since my role at the university didn't offer work-from-home flexibility.  

But I ended up giving up the wedding business when I was pregnant with Iris because I knew I wouldn't be able to juggle working and mom-ing and weddings, especially given the night and weekend work that weddings require. With Josh's career in banking, I wanted our work schedules to match so we could spend evenings and weekends together. 

So the dream of working from home was alive and well long before we started a family. I definitely wanted to be able to stay home once I had kids, though I confess that I am not someone who has longed for children all my life. Finding Mr. Right was my priority, but I never really yearned for kids. In fact, I didn't grow up spending much time with little ones, which gave me a nice, healthy fear of them. 

Since I didn't always know that starting a family was something I wanted, I didn't put much thought into what it would be like to stay at home with children. I knew it was a goal though because my mom stayed home with me and my brother and we liked that arrangement a lot. 

After Josh and I had Iris I went back to work for six months, always with the hope that I could stay home with her and not miss out on watching her grow up. She stayed home with a carefully constructed rotation of three caregivers, including my mother in law who commuted every other week to watch Iris. 

Often during lunch time runs to Target (usually for pumping-related items that I'd left at home, too far away to go back for), I saw moms pushing their babies and toddlers around the store and found myself longing to be a "Target Mom." My dream came into focus: Iris nestled in a cute shopping cart cover and me with a Starbucks cup in my hand while we perused the Dollar Spot section. My red bulls-eye heaven. 

At that time, we had a mortgage on our house AND on the condo we lived in that Josh bought before we were married. It had been on the market for nearly two years with no sign of an offer, so financially speaking, being able to stay at home seemed an impossible glimmer waaaay off in the distance. Because of that, I didn't let myself get too romantically involved with the idea, not wanting to pine for something that wasn't likely to happen.  

...And then, God cleared the path so quickly that it made my head spin. The condo sold AND the tripod of childcare that we had carefully constructed for Iris fell apart all at once.  

Suddenly, the dream of staying home, which we had discussed time and time again over the months, became a reality. 

Just like that, I was able to give my two-week notice. I would start staying home right around Christmas when the current semester ended. I wouldn't be back for the spring semester to see all the plans that I had to put into place for it come to fruition. 

While I was incredibly grateful to realize my dream of staying home with Iris, I felt guilty for not being around at my job during a busy semester. That's just how I'm wired, wishing I could do all the things all the time and feeling bad when I cause anyone to be inconvenienced. But I reasoned that as busy as the university was every semester, there was never a "good" time to exit. Even my boss agreed that staying home would be the best move for Iris, though he clearly had his doubts about my personal fulfillment being home all the time. As director of the career center, he knew my MBTI type and that it is one that thrives on working with others.  

I confess that I had my doubts too. Some very common worries plagued my thoughts: 

How would I like no longer having my own income?

Would I get an allowance? Was that weird? 

What if I wanted to go back to work later on? Would my skills be irrelevant? 

Would I feel isolated and lonely? 

Would I make mom friends? Would I even like them? What about my current friends? Would we lose touch? 

Was my disposition cut out for being home all the time? 

Seriously, about that money stuff though... ?

But none of that even mattered, because THIS became my reality... 

Yeeeah, no. SAHM life isn't one long play date or pool party. Here's my honest look at what this year has been like for me and Iris. 

This was us on Day One. 

Just look at Iris's face. She may be sporting her proud warrior expression, but that teeny tiny fist gives her away. She's white-knuckling it, questioning the hands she's been left in and quite possibly plotting how to properly haze me.  

And there's my face, complete deer in the headlights with all my vulnerability on display, obviously praying she'll go easy on me and already sweating it that I didn't wake up two hours before Iris did to exercise, eat a healthy breakfast, run a load of laundry, and take a shower.  

I did NOT want to spend Day One of my New Job in my pajamas. But lo, if SAHM life issued work ID cards, my new badge would show me in the $3 tee I bought at Walmart a million years ago with an ink stain on the sleeve. 

By 8am I was already falling short of my expectations as a SAHM. 

But at least Iris and I matched. That's something.  

How far I've come in a year. 

Whether you've stayed home, dreamed of staying home, hate the idea of staying home, or just wonder what it's like to stay home, here's what I know a year later. 

It's helpful to like being at home a LOT.
I love being at my house. Some of my best and most productive working days were the rare occasions when my boss let me work from home because I had no social distractions, no meetings, no interruptions AND could tackle my work while simultaneously running my dishwasher and washing a load of towels. 

I LOVE the whirring sound of the dishwasher and washing machine. Though the work is repetitive because the dishes and laundry will never permanently be completed, the sound of these machines doing their thing has always filled me with a sense of progress and comfort. 

Another thing I love about being home is this:  I've pinpointed that my natural rhythm each day is to wake up with lots of energy that needs to immediately be channeled into work and projects or I lose momentum fast. 

During the years that I worked outside of the home, the daily process of getting ready for and driving to work (about 2 hours from shower to office door) was long enough that I would find my biorhythms had tanked by the time I hit the parking lot. 

But at home, I roll out of bed and get straight to my work while my energy levels are still soaring, and that makes for a more productive day. Rarely do I sit down most of the day in order to maintain my forward momentum... because once I sit down at night for our family Bible study, it is extremely unlikely that I'll get back up again. At that point my personal on switch gets flipped to off for the day. Josh usually scrapes my sleeping form off the couch around midnight to move to the bed, often still in the clothes I wore that day. :) 

Being comfortable with mess is also helpful. 
Mom truth: It's actually a somewhat helpless feeling for me to be at home, seeing all the housework accumulate. 

Can I get chores done? Yes, absolutely. I run the dishwasher and do loads of laundry and vacuum while Iris follows me around or plays independently within sight, but some tasks require my full concentration or are better done without a toddler underfoot (say mopping the kitchen floor, dusting the furniture because I don't want Iris to get hand prints on the fresh work or have product residue on her hands), and these tasks have to be deferred to nap time or after Iris goes to bed (when I am physically, mentally, and emotionally spent). 

Mom, how come our floors don't look like this? 

Transition times are especially challenging, for example, when Iris goes from meal time to play time without understanding that Mom needs a window to wash the dishes and sweep the floor to keep any mess from piling up. Thankfully, Iris is getting to an age where she can help with housework and enjoys the atta girl's that come from being a helper so we can now make those tasks part of our fun rather than me having to postpone work until the end of the day when I'm too tired to do another thing.

Nap time is Sacred Time. 
You may be scratching your head wondering why I don't just do the housework while Iris naps. :) I had Grand Ideas about nap time too when I first started staying home. 

Nap time offers a 60-90 minute opportunity to do a couple of things, and each day I choose whichever of these is most important: 

-Shower (rarely does this win out)
-Exercise (also sort of rare)
-EAT (9/10 times this is my choice because I don't get to eat much food during Iris's meal times. Whatever I have on my plate, she naturally wants so I usually need to eat something more once she's tucked in to sleep, especially now that I am expecting Baby #2)
-Chores (usually one or two things get knocked out here if I am super focused)
-Prep dinner (like toss something in the crock pot)
-Text or message back friends and family who I've not been able to reply to in several hours/days/weeks/months. 
-Actually return a phone call that will not be peppered with the words, "Don't lick that!"
-Spend a little time on the internet or social media (I've been wanting to look up some new chicken recipes! Been meaning to research baby monitors that have the option for multiple cameras. Need to reply to messages and comments on IG)
-Nap........ tempting but I shouldn't... maybe for just 10 minutes? NOPE. Do not do it. 
-Just stare at the wall. Seriously. The mental and emotional energy required to Mom all day long necessitates some glassy-eyed gazing while converting oxygen into carbon dioxide. 

Dressing for the job isn't glamorous if you like clothes. 
The change in wardrobe has been one of the tougher obstacles for me to overcome because of how much I love clothing, fashion and style. I've navigated this change by continuing to write about style and share the latest finds at my favorite stores, which provides me with a fun and creative outlet for my passion for style and offers a pleasant change of pace from my daily rotation of... let's call it lounge wear, shall we? I admit that I do not resemble anyone with a shred of style in my mismatched tank tops and leggings with unwashed hair to boot. 

Over the summer I made an effort to put on cuter outfits, and I look forward to doing that again soon, but these days of expecting Baby #2, there's a lot of stretchy pants in rotation. Plus, so many days I end up with food on me between Iris's hands and doing lots of dishes so I save my nicer clothes for the rare days that I've got Something To Do. 

It is nice to not really NEED a lot of clothes, but when you love clothes, that can be a bit of a downer. Especially when you love great dresses but only have occasion to wear one for church. Ditto for blazers. These days I probably look pretty "extra" for all social occasions and errands simply because I am desperate for an opportunity to wear some of the favorite pieces in my closet.  

When it comes to adding new pieces to my wardrobe, I tend to shop resale and at the stores that give me free clothes or discounts for style blogging, which was my goal in launching my blog. I'm not ashamed to say that style and clothing rank in my top 5 values, and I knew that to continue enjoying them as a SAHM, I would have to be resourceful. The way that retail seems to run these days, I refuse to buy anything at full price because I know there will be a sale soon. I was stunned to hear myself tell my mom not to buy Iris two cute pairs of Osh Kosh overalls at full price because they would be 50% off a few weeks later. And they were. And we got both pairs for the price of one. And I felt mega proud. :) 

Personal services like hair coloring have been modified now that I stay home too. I've stretched my highlights from every 8 weeks to every 3 months, adding in lowlights to reduce obvious grow out (great timing for that shadow root trend to become a thing! Thank you!), and my haircuts happen just a few times a year to save money.  

The days are slippery. 
I straddle the fun and slightly wacky dichotomy of being a messy creative type with a big desire for structure and progress. The craving for structure stems from my being relaxed and flexible to a fault. Often I find the day has been frittered away without much progress, play, or significance unless I manage my time wisely. 

Structure proves again and again to be my friend. In fact, I use my day planner more at home than I probably did at work. The to do's are different and there are far fewer meetings on my dance card, but I live day in and day out juggling tasks, especially since I do freelance writing and blogging. Plus with Baby #2, there will be diapers and bottles to track and doctor's appointments to remember. (For more on the planner that I love for working moms and SAHMs alike, click HERE

The days are long. 
I've definitely had my share of days when I watch the clock for Josh to come home and relieve me for a little while. These are days when Iris ends up getting to watch a little more TV so I can hide in the kitchen and have a snack while I wonder how I can possibly summon the energy to fix something for dinner. Then I check my Hungry Howie's app to see if I've earned any free pizzas yet that Josh could just pick up on his way home.  

The days are short. 
Some days are such a whirlwind and blur that I can't believe it is already 4:30pm and I haven't even thought about dinner or moved the laundry from the washer to the dryer and oh yeah, I may have forgotten to give Iris a nap?? These are often days that we played hard or had errands to run outside of the house. 

Both working people and SAHMs experience this. Some weeks feel like they drag on forever (I've had quite a few where I could swear Thursday was Friday), and some speed right past you. 

The bond I have with Iris has grown exponentially. 
Even on days that are challenging, Iris is a joy to love and a joy to be around. Her sweet disposition and recent trend toward showing affection means that my emotional bank account is brimming with hugs and kisses and snuggles and even "I love you"s. 

Spending all day with Iris has made me the translator of her developing language. When she tells her Dada how her day went, I decipher her babble and help recover lost items called by her unique words because I speak fluent Iris. Moms who work can probably do this too. Nonetheless, I know that I am much more attuned to Iris and her needs and mannerisms than I was when my energy was divided between working and moming. (Don't feel guilty working mamas. You are teaching your child the value of meaningful work by being plugged into your career and passion.) 

Every day is not a walk in the playground. 
When I first shared that I was going to be staying home full-time, a couple of friends reached out and invited me to contact them any time that I needed to unload. "You'll have days when you NEED to vent," one Wise Mama said. Of course, at the time, while I could fathom that she was right, I had no clear idea what those days might look like. 

Now I know. Now I've lived the days when I feel tired, run down, sick, cranky, resentful of Josh for being able to take a hot shower. I've experienced the days of feeling like all I did was yell and snap at Iris. Days when I've been "touched out," something I scoffed at when I first heard the term until the day I lost my cool and yelled at Iris to Please. Stop. Tugging. On. Mommy's. Shirt. For. The. Love. 

That money thing IS tricky. 
Every couple is different in how they approach money, and Josh is wonderfully practical and savvy about finances by his trade. But there is still a learning curve for giving up your own income. Some couples agree to consult each other on purchases over a certain dollar amount. Some do a set budget every month for discretionary spending, with no questions asked. We do the latter and it works well so far, but it is definitely an adjustment to experience a reduction in discretionary dollars. My new mantra is "every dollar counts." Because they all do, whether in spending or in saving.  There's a lot of telling myself that I don't need xyz. (My weaknesses are obviously clothes and fast food. When we venture out of the house for errands, I always want to hit up Chick-fil-A and I really can't afford to throw around my money on high-end fast food these days. When I do, it's a nice treat!)  

Gift-giving can be awkward with one income. Is Josh technically funding his own birthday, Christmas and Father's Day presents?? I've sidestepped this issue so far by taking on freelance writing work so that I receive a little income of my own that I can use any way that I want, namely for gift-giving that I can proudly say I paid for myself. This doesn't bother Josh the way it does me though.   

Socializing isn't that easy. 
Mom life is so busy that coordinating play dates and keeping up with friends (especially non-parent friends) is a lot like playing a game of Go Fish. "I've got Tuesday open at 3:30pm." "Ohhh, no, I have a seminar then. What else ya got?" "How about Friday at--wait, no, Iris naps then... after that we have a doctor's appointment... How about two weeks from tomorrow?" "No good. I'm in the Dominican then. I'll just text you when I get back and we can coordinate something." Womp, womp.

Again, this is the same struggle as many working moms. Coordinating play time with other moms and their kids means factoring in multiple people's schedules and nap times and meal times and school pick up times. It's no surprise that I haven't been out with friends much since I had Iris. And that I feel guilty when I ask if someone wants to come to my house for the convenience of being able to let Iris nap or play or so I can unload the dishwasher while we visit. That's mom life.

Meeting new mom friends isn't easy either and I admit that I haven't really connected with anyone in person this past year. I've seen the funny videos about how it's a lot like dating and I can see that is definitely the case.

Even if you can't get out and about, keeping up with friends, even if it is via social media is definitely helpful and necessary. I'm really thankful to have made friends with other moms who also blog and who are active on Instagram. But face to face coffee dates are essential too so I will try to keep those happening more in 2018. At least until Baby #2 comes along.

Another dose of truth here... I have cried to Josh several times this past year about how isolating it can be to stay home. I LOVE staying home with Iris, but the extrovert in me misses just those little social interactions that occur on the daily when you work outside of the home. Bumping into people in the hall, sitting down in the cafeteria to eat your bagged lunches together, even just pleasantries of saying hi and bye to coworkers each day. I wouldn't trade being a SAHM to go back to work, but a little pleasant chit chat, a story or a joke goes a long way toward filling the people-person's tank.

Also, if you like receiving recognition or praise for your hard work, it can be difficult to come by as a SAHM because who is there to tell you that you're doing a great job? I take Iris's affection and healthy development as the encouragement I need, but valuing praise and appreciation for my efforts has been an area where I have found myself missing out. This is a hard job and a little bit of encouragement goes a long way toward feeling appreciated.

This time with Iris is a gift. 
I couldn't stay at home with Iris without the sacrifices that Josh makes. Or the sacrifices that I make. Other SAHMs sent lots of encouragement when I shared that I was going to stay home. Even in the same breath that they told me I would want to pull out my hair, they all said how worthwhile it was to have the up close and personal experience of watching their children grow and develop. 

Every day Iris learns something new and I find myself bubbling over with animation and pride when I get to tell Josh or my mom what cute, clever or funny thing she did today. I used to feel like the expression "babies don't keep" was a bit trite, but I can see how quickly Iris has changed from a baby to when I began staying home with her at 9.5 months to now at 21 months. These days are all important and all the things: joyful, exhausting, messy, hilarious, heart-breaking, and packed with connections that mean more to me than all the new clothes and Chick-fil-A in the world. :) 

Now that I've got a year of SAHMurai life under my belt, I'm throwing myself for a loop de loop by bringing another baby into the mix. So the focus of these next few months will be savoring the time with Iris as an only child and trying to shush those natural worries about loving a second child as much as I love her, feeling guilty that my attention will again be divided, and wondering when I will ever have a moment to myself with two kids under my care. 

I'd love to hear your experiences staying home with your children or finding ways to connect with them while juggling work outside of the home. And I am always up for hearing about mom hacks that have made your life more efficient or joyful. 

Stylishly Yours (heavy on the ISH since I am in sweats), ;) 

1 comment :

  1. I have been saving this post to be able to sit down and actually read it through and I'm so glad!! This is so relateable to me! Staying at home is such a blessing and still challenging, too.

    We will HAVE to grab ice cream whenever we make it down to the beach again!