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You have likely worked all your adult life, earning a living, trying to plan for the future and doing the best you can. Now, you have a baby and this small person has changed everything in your world. You may find that many of the things you were once sure of are now in question.
Having a child changes your life in ways that you are not able to anticipate. And, whether you planned ahead of time to become a stay-at-home parent, circumstances changed, or you what you thought you wanted is now different, making the leap into stay-at-home parenthood can be much more difficult than people expect. This is true for women and even more so for men.
Whatever your reason, if you now find yourself in the position of being a stay-at-home parent there are a number of things to keep in mind in order to be successful. Below are just seven.
1. You Will Be Tired
Being a stay-at-home mom or dad is not a sleeping-in, relax in the afternoon kind of thing. In fact, most of the stay-at-home parents I have met are up earlier than much of the family and keep moving all day long. Taking care of a child is both emotionally and physically exhausting. Not to mention the other duties that typically falls on the parent at home. Duties like handling bills, housekeeping, grocery shopping and meal planning are generally a large part of the position. These duties, along with the primary one of caring for another human being, do not have a start and stop time. You are not clocking in at 8:00 AM and out at 5:00 PM. You are now 24/7 and that means you will be tired.
Understand that and take the opportunities for rest. It is not always easy to sleep when your child sleeps, but you certainly can try. Accept help when it is offered and take the opportunity to recharge. As time goes on the schedule changes and exhaustion lessens.
2. You Might Feel Lonely
You are not alone. But, you might feel like you are. It is a strange feeling to be alone with a child all day. Even with the company of family, and friends in similar situations, loneliness is a normal feeling. The change from being an independent person, interacting in an adult world, to being the primary care-giver to a child is a big one. Your world just got very small.
There are many groups out there dedicated to giving stay-at-home parents a social outlet and support. Joining one (or two or three) is a good opportunity for both you and your child to make new friends. Even as babies, socialization is important and assists in development.
3. You Are Not Lazy
Just because you haven’t showered in two days does not make you lazy. Babies and their schedules can be tough. Learning how to manage a new schedule and the many new responsibilities may leave you feeling pretty rough around the edges. As much as you want to maintain everything, there are some things that will fall through the cracks. You will get it all together eventually, don’t worry.
And do not allow yourself to be bothered by those that make insensitive comments about how lucky you are not to have to go anywhere, or do anything. They have clearly never taken on what you have. Pay attention to those who recognize how difficult this transition can be and care to ask how you are doing.
4. You Do Not Have to Justify Yourself
You do not have to explain to anyone why you have chosen to be a stay-at-home parent. The way your family is handling finances, or the fact that you have put a career on hold is no one’s business but yours. It is a natural inclination to want to explain to people why you made this choice (particularly true for men staying home), but the choice was yours to make and no one else will fully understand.
5. Yes, You DO Have a Job
When people ask you if you work the answer should always be, YES. You do have a job. It may not come with a paycheck, but it is a job nonetheless. And a hard one at that. As mentioned above, you have likely taken on more than just parenting duties. Managing the finer points of a household, and raising a child is a great deal of work. Often it entails more work than any other job you will have done before.
6. Watch Your Self-Esteem
When you have gone all your life being measured by grades, career markers, money or peer recognition, suddenly being measured by diaper changes and feeding successes can be a shocker. Your abilities and intellect have not changed because you are raising a child instead of going into an office, just your focus. It may help to remind yourself that the metric you are living up to now is creating happiness and success in another human being.
7. Your Relationship with Your Partner will Change (some)
There is an inevitable shift when one partner provides financially while the other cares for the family. Discuss this openly. Each of you is providing a crucial component to your household and life, so the respect should be equitable. It will feel different though. Regular communication as you each become comfortable in your new roles is key to success.
Whether you are a dad or a mom, becoming a stay-at-home parent is a huge transition for most. And, no one does it perfectly. Allow yourself an adjustment period, and know that as your child grows so do you. Remind yourself that it is okay to be uncomfortable in your new role. There is no instruction manual, so whatever you are doing that is working is probably right.
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