Almost nine years ago, I left my office job to have my first child. Before that, I worked two jobs — as a secretary during the week and as a wedding photographer on the weekends. Since that point, I have raised three children, run a small part-time business from home, volunteered with advocacy groups or at my children’s schools, supported my husband’s career, and kept our household from drowning in laundry.
Being a stay-at-home parent is the hardest and best job in the world, and I would not change my years at home for anything. However, with all my children now in school, I decided to return to work outside of my home. Although I already had an extremely busy lifestyle, I wanted something just for myself, and I took the leap back into the workforce.
After the first few weeks of adjusting schedules for extracurricular activities, school drop-offs and pickups, and sleep, of course, we came into a calm at moments chaotic and at others, balanced.
After being a work-from-home/stay-at-home mom for so long, I thought that returning to work was going be to great for me but difficult for my family and home life. I was pleasantly surprised when (after the initial adjustment period) things were running extremely smoothly at home and some of the struggles we were dealing with were beginning to ease. From my relationship with my hubby to more self-care, to making more time to be together as a family — all were positively affected by me returning to the workforce.
Here are some surprising and great effects of returning to work after being a stay-at-home parent.
When I was staying at home full-time, I did the majority of the housework. I thought this was fair, as my husband worked outside the home; therefore, “home-based” work was my department. It was not until I returned to work that I realized home-based parent or not, the upkeep of a home for five people is too much for one person. Laundry, pets, yard work, shopping, home repairs — I spent years trying to do it all (not to mention raise three small children at the same time).
During the adjustment period of my return to work, my husband and I realized even sharing the housework was a lot. We had to become a true team if we were going to accomplish feeding everyone and keeping the house from falling apart. Our perspective of chores and house upkeep changed. We appreciated and did not take for granted when the other took up a normally shared household project so the other could catch up on sleep or work. We saw our home as truly ours and the responsibility to keep it as truly shared.
We Miss Family Time
Absence makes the heart grow fonder. This is the bittersweet part of returning to work. Now that I am working again, there is a bit of pass-the-kids-and-run-to-work game happening between my husband and I. We find ourselves not together as a full family unit as often as before. However, we are doing more family time when we are all together.
When I was at home, there was a lot of time we were together but not really engaging with each other. We miss each other and crave bedtime story time, family game nights, or trips to the park or zoo.
A Routine for Mom
As any mom will tell you, you become a part-time taxi service when you get to a point of parenthood. There is an entire market for day planners for the busy mamas out there. We keep schedules, practices, and appointments for the whole family and sometimes even help our mama friends out for theirs too. So our lives run on other people’s schedules and needs a lot of the time.
Since going back to work, even though I still manage many of those schedules, I get my own routine, and my family has to lean and bend and adjust for mama.
Rest and Self-Care
This was the most surprising of return-to-work gifts. I started to give myself permission to rest. If you are or have ever been a stay-at-home parent, you live at your “workplace.” I rarely gave myself permission to stop. There was always laundry to be done, something to be cleaned, and meals to be prepped. Now, there is a separation between “work mode” and “home mode,” and there are afternoons when all I do is sit and visit with my children. The laundry and mess no longer register in my head. I went into the world and felt productive there, and now I am home and my heart is at rest with my family.
If you are a stay-at-home parent, I commend you and honor what you are doing for your family. If you work inside or outside of the home, I honor what you are doing for your babies as well. I was surprised when I returned to work that it fits my family as well as it does. My advice to any mother is to follow what brings your heart peace and your family joy. You might be surprised where it leads you.