Transitioning Back to Work After Being a Stay-At-Home Mom

After slogging through three years of motherhood while teaching nearly full time, I was heartily ready for a break.  Last spring I took a year’s leave of absence to be with my children and experience stay-at-home motherhood.

I loved the intensity and importance of being with my kids full time, until one day, I didn’t.  Was it a dramatic episode?  Nope.  I simply reached a point where the endless cycle of laundry, meals, and playtime wore me out.  My brain felt rather mushy and creating daily structures and routines exhausted me.

Plus, although frugal living is a passion of mine, it felt a bit uncomfortable to have absolutely no spare room in our budget.  I longed for the occasional dinner out or swimming lessons for the kids.  If we stayed exactly on track and no emergencies came up, we still had to take a little out of our savings each month.

So, just a few weeks ago, I headed back into the classroom to teach high school Spanish a few days a week.  Our amazing daycare provider (who also happens to provide eco-friendly childcare options) had a spot available for my daughter and my son added a few hours to his day at preschool.  We braced for a horrid reentry, but everyone has slid into their new schedule incredibly smoothly.

What did we do that helped?

Plan ahead. We set up lunches, the diaper bag, breakfasts, and morning clothes the night before I’m going to work.  It makes the mornings flow so much more smoothly and helps the kids have an easy transition to childcare and school.

Split the work. My husband and I take turns doing all the preparation for the next morning and also share cleaning and shopping responsibilities.  The kids are learning how to clear their plates and empty the dishwasher as well.

Prepare your kids. We always discuss the next day’s plan with the kids so that they’re prepared for what’s coming.  We describe the transition and talk about their feelings of being sad to leave us,but happy to play with their friends.

After having the experience of working outside and inside the home, it’s clear to me that neither is easy.  Also, every mother has to make the choice that fits her personality and those choices may change as children grow.  Whatever we end up doing as moms, it’s worthwhile to consider our own happiness in the equation, since that impacts our job performance as parents so dramatically.  For now, I’m thrilled to be getting a bit of mental stimulation, while still being able to hang with my kids at home during the week.

Have you found a balance between your goals as a parent and your career aspirations?  Are you naturally inclined toward domestic life or are you happier at work?

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