A friend of mine is transitioning from being a full-time stay-at-home mom – yes, I despise that term, but it’s handy sometimes to use annoying, conventional terms – more on that later – and she asked me for some advice.
“What should I know? Do you have any tips?”
I’m actually quite selfishly sad that this friend is working outside the home more and more. A year ago, I was the one with the full-time job; six months ago, I quit work and she started doing some part-time hours. Now we’ve completely reversed our positions on the spectrum. We’re like two repelling magnets…
Anyway, back to the tips: Here’s some, of the top of my head, but they seem completely inadequate to me, so I’m hoping my Dear Readers (if you haven’t all abandoned me in disgust) will pipe in with some gems (as you usually do! you guys rock!) to supplement my meager offering:
1) Don’t feel guilty. This may seem obvious, but guilt is insidious; It’s an invasive species, native to parenting. It’s not a question of if you feel guilt as a parent, it’s a question of when and what will you do about it once you’ve noticed it creeping in the undergrowth.
When you go to work as a parent, whether two months after the baby is born or two years, there will come a day when your child rolls over or recites the quadratic equation or something and you will miss it and because you are working, the guilt of having not been there will wrap around the fact that you are working.
Now, if you missed Junior rolling over because you were out having coffee by yourself you would blame your need for private time; if you were washing the dishes, you’d feel guilt about being too anal with housework.
The trick is to know that this kind of guilt would come no matter what; it will latch onto whatever is around and make you think that it’s the activity/choice that’s the problem, when really, the root of this guilt is deeper. It’s about the sense of inadequacy that you, however much you love your child, cannot prevent that child from suffering, cannot totally fulfill her every need, cannot, as much as you long to, Do it All.
It is a good thing that we cannot Do it All. But our instincts, perhaps to help the species survive or something, wants us to. Enter the Guilt.
Yes, the guilt will come, and what can you do? Recognize it; acknowledge it’s presence; then forgive yourself and let it go.
As a working mother, you will be tempted to feel a lot of guilt; others may even try to slap you with it out of some deep problem of their own (probably that coworker/coparent/doodoo head in the grocery line has abandonment issues) and it’s important to get in the habit of weeding it out right away.
You are not a bad parent because you are working outside the home.
Your children will not be screwed up because you are doing so.
Believe it or not – you may not want to believe it! – your child may even flourish under the kind care of someone other than you. And the time you do spend with your children may be even more quality than it would be if you all were stuck together 24/7.
2) Build into your day 10-minute stretches of transitional time when going from work to home and home to work. When you get to work, or on your way, take a few minutes to have coffee, write in your journal, enjoy the clouds, before you dive into work mode. Before walking into the chaotic house, take a walk,have a drink at the local pub.
Yes, I said it! There’s a reason why men go to pubs after work before going home; it’s because it’s nice to have some downtime between the demands of home and work. What I don’t understand is why women just fly from one to the other, race between the two, frantically. I know – we have time constraints and responsibilities; and I’m not advocating a nightly post-work sloshing. But thinking about building in snatches of time for yourself, time to be, between the demanding and intense hours of performing and serving and meeting the needs of customers, clients, and kids will make you a better worker and a better mother and a better person. It just will.
3) Find a way to stay organized that you will use, and then use it.
4) By lots of the kinds of things in advance so you don’t have to go to the store all the time (unless that’s your time alone; then please, intentionally underprepare all you want). Pantyhose, wipes, pain medication… stock up in advance.
Okay, that’s all I can think of. Stay tuned for tips on going the other way… and please, add your two cents / two dollars / pearls of wisdom!