At-home mothering in our time is a very demanding and complex profession that requires strength, determination and flexibility. The at-home mother of today is often a dynamic, multifaceted professional who is not only caring wholeheartedly for the needs of her children but also pursuing her own interests, possibly earning an income from home and taking care of herself physically and emotionally.
The decisions you make about parenting and motherhood have such deep and lasting influences on the life and character of your children and can bring such dramatic changes in your lifestyle that they need to be made carefully and consciously. For some the decision to be an at-home mother is not difficult. It is something that they know is either exactly right for them or completely wrong. For others it may be a decision in which they must weigh all the factors and options to determine their highest priorities. In either case it is important to consider all sides of the related issues and look carefully into how at-home motherhood may effect your life.
As with any important decision within a committed relationship, it is vital that there is clear communication between you and your husband or partner. Working together to design a strategy for success and communicating about the key issues of parenting and at-home mothering can help to provide a smooth transition and to avoid any unnecessary strain. This is the time to be honest about what you want and what kind of lifestyle at home you feel will work best for you to create the greatest happiness and comfort level for yourself, your husband and your children. Consider the following ten points together.
Priorities, Goals and Plans
A valuable step in the transition to at-home motherhood is to take the time to discuss together and write out your priorities, goals and plans. Here are some important areas to discuss:
What are your priorities individually and as a family? Talk about what is most important in your lives and how you feel about these things. Is it important to have them all at once or can some be postponed while pursuing others? This is a great time to narrow in on how you really feel about parenting. Express your concerns and fears and explore how you feel about how you were raised. What do you like and dislike about different parenting styles you have had exposure to? This process is valuable for many reasons. Clear communication can help to avoid repeating any negative patterns and help you discover what is really important to you and your parenting style.
This process can help the whole family adjust to the necessary lifestyle changes more easily. If you are choosing to make your children the priority now, it is easier to put other decisions in the context of that goal. For example, cutting back on expenses to live on one income can feel like a rewarding accomplishment rather than a burden if it is seen as a means to achieving a greater goal.
Being clear about these issues can give you a reference point for all other goals and plans which can reduce difficulties when challenges arise. Discussing your feelings and outlining your priorities together offers a basis for explaining your choices to family and friends, and will make it easier to gain their support.
United We Stand
Another very important issue related to communication and establishing your priorities together is whether or not you both truly share in your desire to stay at home with your children. It is not enough for your partner to simply agree to your desire to stay at home. It must be a mutual commitment in which you both make the necessary adjustments and lifestyle changes required. If only one person is committed to this lifestyle it can pose a tremendous stress on both people and on the relationship. The husband may resent that he is solely responsible for earning the family income and the mother at-home may feel frustrated and unsupported. If your partner is not completely committed to this decision, carefully and honestly express your feelings about your desire to be at home and consider his objections. Find workable solutions to make him feel more comfortable. It is crucial that you work together to make at-home motherhood comfortable for the whole family.
The next important issues to address are the needs of your children, your needs as a mother at home and as an individual, and the needs of your husband as a man and a father.
Leaving Your Job
If you are currently working outside the home, can your family live on your husband’s income? To help answer this important question, determine how much your actual take-home pay is after subtracting taxes, child care, commuting costs, wardrobe, meals out, and extras like office parties and gifts. Also remember that your husband’s income may be taxed at a higher rate if your combined income puts you in a higher income bracket. You may be surprised how little is left over. Some women find that it actually costs them money to go to work!
If you do come out ahead, and need this additional income, consider the following questions: Can you work from home to earn this true amount? Is there a part or all of your job that you can negotiate to bring home? Can you use the skills you have to start your own home business? Can you "earn" all or part of the income you need by saving on your current expenses?
Also consider the other reasons why you go to work. Is your job important for your self-esteem and sense of independence? Think creatively about how you can maintain these important elements in your life after you stop working. If it is hard to determine how much your job effects how you feel about yourself now, make a note about it for the future. If you ever feel frustrated with your life as an at-home mother, or limited in your roles, find new ways to break out of the boundaries, and establish new avenues for greater self-esteem such as pursuing an interest, working from home, etc.
The Needs Of Your Child
This section fits closely with the work you have done investigating your highest priorities and goals as parents and individuals. Understanding the needs of your child as well as your own can help you strike the balance between giving and getting so that throughout the constant demand for your love and attention you can maintain your sense of self and not run out of the good stuff. Undeniably, children need a lot of undivided attention, constant approval and nourishing affection. They need to feel the total consistency, strength and flexibility of their parent's love. The old myth that if you give a baby too much attention they will be spoiled and totally dependent on you, is absolutely not true. The more you give them from the start, the more confident and secure they will be with themselves and others.
In addition to these permanent needs every child has immediate needs that change constantly. The different stages of childhood present different demands on the parents. It is helpful to be aware of the stages of your child’s needs and loosely plan your life around them. A very young baby, for instance, is easily portable and can be perfectly happy sleeping for hours in a Snugli or sling while you and your husband enjoy long walks or while you catch up on one of your personal interests. This stage quickly changes and you may find yourself waiting hours to finally get a chance to brush your teeth, take a shower or do anything that may require two hands. Take advantage of the opportunities that each stage offers as they present new ways to interact with your child and new opportunities to accomplish your desires.
A Mother's Needs For Survival and Success
Success as an at-home mother depends on your ability to stay balanced and happy throughout some very demanding times. If you are alert to your feelings you will discover what you need to stay happy in the midst of the giving years, that precious and intensely demanding time when your lap is the center of the universe. On this note, as it is true that your children need you the most, they also need you to be happy and comfortable and it is your responsibility to know what you need and to ask for it or find a way to get it.
What do you need? Do you need to have time to exercise, work on projects by yourself, socialize, or have an independent income? Do you need frequent expressions of appreciation for a job well done at home that you may miss from a job outside the home? In order to be happy at home you will most likely need a few of these things on a regular basis. Your husband will appreciate knowing how he can make you happy, support you and help you adjust to a new lifestyle. Successful at-home mothering is not about the super-mom, martyr who spends all of her time selflessly devoted to the needs of her family and feels frustrated and unappreciated. It is about being in touch with your goals and desires for yourself and your family, communicating and working as a team with your husband to find the balance that is best for both of you. Now more than ever it is crucial that you understand and respect your own needs as well as the needs of your spouse so that you can work smoothly together.
Although your husband may fully support your staying at home, what are his personal feelings about it? Is he concerned about being the sole breadwinner for the family? Is he concerned that you might change or that your relationship might change? What does he need from you? Does he need to be told often that he is doing a great job providing for the family? Does he need to see that you are doing your best to keep expenses within the family budget? Does he need time away from work to exercise and pursue other interests? Discuss these needs now to avoid pit falls later. Stay in touch with how things are going for him at work and be sensitive to the pressure he feels. Although you may be ready to hand the baby over and head for the bathtub as soon as he gets home, giving him a few minutes to unwind and ease into his role as a father can make a huge difference in the quality of his attention on the children.
You may find that because your time and attention is at home now, all the family members will be less stressed. Your home may become more comfortable and relaxed so everyone can face the challenges they have throughout the week more easily.
The next few points to discuss address how to work as a team and share the responsibility of parenting.
How will you share the child care duties with your husband? Sharing the child care duties may be automatic for couples who share the commitment to caring for their children as a top priority. The father will desire to spend as much time with his children as he can when away from work. It can be very helpful however, to consider regular hours when he will care for the children so that you can have a break. This could be for an hour or two in the evening or longer on the weekends. Having a set time can help you get through a long day easily if you know, instead of just hope, you'll have a break when he gets home. This is an issue that you may need to discuss and work on throughout the changing stages of childhood. The demands on you will change and so will your need for time to yourself. Also work to establish a network of support including extended family, baby-sitters, play groups and other at-home mothers in your area that can help out when your husband is not available. Sometimes all you need is a few minutes to yourself to let off some steam and reconnect with your highest priorities. Then you can return to your children and give them the best you’ve got.
Another key issue that you need to discuss as a couple is how household chores are divided. For most couples, the reason they choose for the mother, or father in some cases, to stay at home with the children is to give them more of your time and attention and to provide an enriching environment for them. It is very easy for household chores to take over all of the time you have at home if you are the only one responsible for them. This defeats the whole purpose of being at home with your children. You want to provide quantity as well as quality time. In many families today, the household chores are considered the responsibility of all the members of the family. This shouldn't change because you are at home more. Establish a system to share the housework so that you have the time to fulfill the goals you are setting together, like being available for your children.
Also keep in mind that letting down you standards of how clean it must be is very important during the most demanding times. It is obviously much more important for you to rest in the few weeks after giving birth than it is for all the dishes to be done and the laundry put away. Later on when your one-year-old takes a nap and you feel tired and frazzled, let the dishes wait till you have given yourself what you need to feel good again--a nap, a few chapters of a book--or let them go altogether. They'll eventually get done. Your needs and the needs of your children should come first.
Many women, particularly those who have worked outside the home for some time, feel it is important to maintain some financial independence. Having "money of their own" helps them feel more free to spend on themselves and offers a sense of financial security for the future. Working from home is one solution. Whether or not this is a reasonable option for you, it is important for many women to set up a system where the income that is brought in is considered family money. If you are both involved in deciding how the family income will be spent there is less of a feeling that you are spending "his" money. Perhaps have some specific amount reserved each month for both of you to spend just for yourselves. Some couples like to think of the work the father does as providing financial support and the work that the mother does at home as providing the equally important emotional support for the family.
Your relationship is obviously a top priority for the success of your family life and your children's happiness. Discuss what makes it go smoothly and how you can protect the bond you share when there are constant demands for your time, love and attention from your children. If your relationship is partially based on similar experiences in a work environment, you will need to find new ways to stay close while spending much of your time in different worlds. Stay in touch with each other’s lives as closely as possible. Many husbands like to call home to touch base and hear about how you and the children are doing. You can stay connected by encouraging him to talk about his day and listening with your full sensitive attention. In turn your husband will most likely enjoy your descriptions of what you and your children have been doing, and of the cute or amazing things they say or do, that you can relate to him. Express your need to also share your day, and to get his input on raising the children.
It is surprisingly easy to totally forget to spend quiet time together and reconnect as a couple, but it is very important. The small investment of finding a good babysitter and doing something fun together can be invaluable and will do everyone a lot of good. Getting too caught up in your roles and responsibilities as parents, caregivers and providers can take the joy and inspiration out of family life entirely. Remember who you are as individuals and what you love about each other outside of the roles you play. It is through the liveliness of your love for each other that your children are created and it is through the strength of that love and commitment to your shared priorities that they will thrive. Set up a routine for regular dates and special occasions together. Even if you can't go out to dinner or a movie, you can always find a way to celebrate each other and your marriage, at home. Don't forget to baby each other through the challenging times and constantly work on clear communication so that everyone's needs are met.
The joys and challenges of parenthood can be very transforming as they can reveal to us who we are and what we really want for ourselves and our children. It is a time that demands an incredible amount of flexibility in a marriage. Staying in touch with the priorities that you have established together now, will give you a structure of agreement to rely on throughout the constant changes of family life.
Every couple and their children will have their own set of concerns, needs and goals to discuss. Include all family members in your plans to structure the most rewarding lifestyle possible. The effort that you put into discussing these issues now, will be well worth it! By establishing your priorities together and designing a system to achieve your goals, you can create a loving environment that can last a lifetime and feel more rewarding than any other accomplishment.