I struggled with working mommy angst for Katie's first three years of life. The day I quit my job, I very literally jumped for joy walking through the parking lot. Never again was I going to miss a milestone in my daughters' life. I would be there for every first, every field trip, every party. It was going to be so awesome, so perfect. I would be there, for everything.
With a three year old.
It didn't take long for the novelty of staying in my pajamas until noon to wear off. Frankly, I didn't know what to do with her - or myself - all day. Staying at home was so completely different and I found myself lost and floundering. I was used to constant adult interaction at work, then a frenetic pace trying to get dinner and housework and quality interaction with my husband and child when I got home. What I had been squeezing into 2 hours, I now had 10 hours to to do.
I was bored. And lonely.
My entire adult life, I had relied on my job as my social network. Friendships were formed based on mutual like or dislike of the workplace, and cemented over drinks after work. When I stopped working, I no longer had much in common with those people, and phone calls became more strained and less frequent. "So, we're getting ready for this big meeting on Monday and trying to get the TPS reports ready." "Oh, yeah? Well you should have seen the POOP my kid had today! Hahahaha!"
Eventually, they stopped calling.
I felt like I lost my identity. I went from being someone who was kind of important to someone who was a slave to a toddler. My boss went from being a tyrannical 60 year old man to a tyrannical 3 year old girl. At least the man didn't require me to fix his lunch or wipe his butt. I was "just a mom." At the same time, I didn't know how to break into those mommy circles. Those women at the park with their well packed diaper bags and monogrammed lunch boxes and conversations about consignment sales and girls night out. I wanted to be one of them, but I just didn't know how.
Then I met G. She invited me to a church playgroup event. And another one, and another one. She kept calling me and introducing me to everyone she knew. She'd always say things like "Come with me" and "Meet me", always making me feel like I was there with her, not someone who just wandered in by myself. She made me part of the group. The women she introduced me to in those first few months are today, 7 years later, my best friends.
Like any major change, going from working mom to stay at home mom is not an easy transition. Even after meeting G, it took considerable effort on my part. Every mom knows the challenges of just getting out of the door with a kid, and how sometimes it's just easier to stay at home. Getting everyone dressed, fed, changed, snacks packed, strollers, jackets...the endless list of items required for travel with a young child. But I had to do it, or I'd spend my days in the basement playroom playing Candyland and eating fruit snacks.
My best advice to moms making the switch - meet other moms. Whether it be through a MOPS organization or a church playgroup, hanging by the pool or at library storytime. Search out events and go, even when you don't think you want to. Invest in personal calling cards and hand them out liberally. Embrace being "just a mom", and recognize all the rewards that come with it. And if you're a seasoned stay at home mom and you see a woman at the park looking lonely and lost, go introduce yourself. You might be just the friend she needs.
2 weeks ago