At East Valley Moms, our contributors are working moms, work at home moms, stay at home moms , part time work moms, and everything in between. We’re here to tell you – each journey is hard in different ways, but each is amazing in different ways, too.
Some of us have sat in different roles as our kids have grown in age and number. No matter where you are in your journey, chances are, we have a mom on board who has been there and done that and lived to tell the tale. Read on for the stories of three of our contributors, Cara, Lindsay, and Megan, who are at different stages of a stay at home mom story.
Cara, Lindsay, & Megan
Meet the Moms:
Cara, mom of two in elementary school, former stay at home mom, currently a full time in-office working mom.
Lindsay, mom of two, one in elementary school and one preschooler, former in-office working mom, currently a stay at home mom with a part-time online job.
Megan, mom of two, one preschooler and one toddler, former full time working mom (hybrid in-office and in-home), newly a stay at home mom.
What was your job prior to becoming a SAHM?
Cara: I worked for Banner Health in various positions over my 5 years there, the last one being a Case Management Assistant at Banner University Medical Center in Downtown Phoenix.
Lindsay: I was an attorney, practicing in family law before transitioning to education law before ultimately leaving the practice entirely.
Megan: I was the accountant for a large church in Chandler, managing a $9M+ budget.
What is/was your favorite part of being a SAHM/what are you most looking forward to about being a SAHM?
Cara: Looking back, my favorite part was the slow mornings we often had. There was something special about not having to wake up and rush out the door anywhere. I think during my time as a SAHM, I might have said naptime, but looking back, those slow mornings are what I miss the most. Now in the full swing of 40+ hour work weeks, school and sports, I’d give anything to not have a jammed packed agenda every day.
Lindsay: The pace and flexibility. There is a sense of rigidity and near-panic that accompanies full time work with kids – especially if you have the kind of job I did where my calendar was not always controlled by just me and the needs of others had to come before my own. Especially with a husband who traveled extensively for work and a heavy court calendar, a kid sick day could be a child care disaster. As a stay at home parent, we can roll with life’s punches. Snuggles can last those extra few minutes, homework is a little more relaxed, and my kids have the opportunity to participate in activities that I may not have had the time or ability to get them to.
Megan: I’m a week in, and so far I have loved being able to take my mornings slower. We still have to get out of the house for morning obligations most days, but if I’m not 100% dressed and ready for the day, it’s ok because I can go back and finish getting dressed. Or I’m not frantically trying to get the dishwasher loaded before we leave because I can come back and do it later. But I’m looking forward to more unplanned time just hanging out with my kids and not trying to cram all the “fun” things into my time off.
What is/was/will be the most challenging thing?
Cara: I think the most challenging thing was the feelings of not contributing and being the default parent for nearly everything. The feeling of not contributing was all on me. I am lucky to have a very supportive spouse that recognized my job for those years was the kids. I think after working in some capacity since the age of 12, it was difficult for me to accept my new role and feel worthy. I would say I am still the default parent, but now my husband and I share a lot of the tasks for kids and around the home, which takes a lot off my plate.
Lindsay: Like Cara, I have also felt “odd” about not contributing financially to our family since I always had. My husband has never made me feel this way – this was an entirely internal struggle. When I took on my part-time online job about 10 months into my stay at home mom journey, that shifted a bit because I could have some defined income that was “my contribution.” I also struggled at first with finding my own identity as a stay at home mom. I wasn’t a lawyer anymore and didn’t have that definition anymore. Writing for East Valley Moms, which I started doing nearly right away after starting to stay home, gave me a creative outlet I craved.
Megan: Our household income will definitely take a hit with me staying home, so I will have to get used to being much more conscious and intentional about my “convenience” spending on things like convenience foods, Instacart, meal prep services, house cleaner, etc. But my previous job was literally budgeting and squeezing a dollar out of a dime; I got this!
How did you make sure/how do you plan to make sure you have adult connection while living a kid-centric life?
Cara: EVM was huge for this and my husband often pushed me to have time away whenever possible. I was the first to have kids in my friend group, so anything I did with them was kid-free. In my experience, little breaks were super helpful. Target after bedtime, nail appointments or Barre3 on a Saturday morning and even taking an hour to read a book or watch a show during nap time kept my cup full in a way that did not require a sitter or too much planning.
Lindsay: My oldest, best friends don’t live in Arizona so I can sometimes feel very isolated. We are constantly texting but it’s not quite the same as having routine happy hours or dinners. My husband is fantastic about taking over the kids whenever I do get to be with my friends either here in town or on a weekend away. EVM was a lifeline but also just throwing myself into my kids’ activities and being the mom who was open to chatting with other parents has opened up new friendships which I treasure. Having part time work lets me use my brain in the ways I used to as a lawyer and lately, my husband and I have been better about holding bedtime boundaries to allow us more time to connect daily.
Megan: I make sure to be involved in my own cup-filling activities such as my MOPS group and Bible Study, both of which provide childcare so that I can have uninterrupted face-to-face time with my own friends. We also have a group chat of all the moms on our street, so I’m just one “Who wants to do something in 10 minutes?!” message away from human interaction at any point!
What made you decide to become a SAHM?
Cara: I worked full time for most of my daughter’s first year of life and we did the daycare shuffle every day. I hated dropping her off early and then picking her up only to get home and rush into dinner and bedtime routines. I wanted to be home with her so badly, but we were not in a place financially to be a single income family. Right before she turned one, my husband got a promotion that moved us to Tucson. This gave us the opportunity to really step back and look at our lives and build something new. We were able to (with a lot of sacrifices) make it work on one income once we moved. 6 weeks after the move I was pregnant with our son and at that point, any salary I would have had would not have covered 2 kids under 2 in daycare. So we continued to make it work. Financially, it probably wasn’t the smartest decision for us, but at the time we did the best we could. We had one car, we didn’t go on vacations, birthdays and Christmases were small. Looking back, I don’t have a single regret, so despite some financial setbacks, I know we made the right decision.
Lindsay: It came down to several things. I hated how much time it felt like my kids were away from us. Even when I cut down to three days in the office and Mondays/Fridays at home, I craved more time with my kids. My husband accepted a promotion that would have included even more travel – including international travel – and with the way my schedule operated, I had real concerns about how I’d manage it all sometimes on my own. Finally, and maybe most importantly, we were having real challenges with my older daughter’s behavior. The frantic pace of our life was just too much for her and we needed a slow-down. Three months into our new life, COVID hit, and I honestly don’t know how we would have dealt with it if I hadn’t been at home.
Megan: Since becoming a mom, I have just slowly over time felt the stronger pull to want to be home. I was able to keep work and home separate for the first few years, but my duties at work have since changed a bit, and it became increasingly more difficult to compartmentalize work from home. I had started bringing more and more work into my home (both actual tangible work and the mental load) and it was decreasing my capacity to parent well. I finally had to make a choice, and when it comes to my family, it was no contest!
Did you/do you have a specific return-to-work plan?
Cara: I did not. I was about to start nursing school when I got pregnant with my daughter, so for a while we thought I’d finish school, but the last 2 years really made me second guess a career in healthcare. I got my feet wet with reentering the workforce part-time at the kids’ school. That was perfect, but didn’t pay well. Then I was offered a really great full time opportunity as a nanny and that gave me the best of both worlds: essentially a SAHM, but with a paycheck. It was like having another kid from 8-5. That ended and I was able to get another full time job right away. We didn’t have a plan, but somehow it all seemed to fall into place. Now I am back in the office full time and my husband works from home. It’s been a weird plot twist with him being the parent that is home all day.
Lindsay: Not yet. I’m enjoying this time and the fact that I don’t have to have a plan right now. I am still in touch with my old work family and I hope that door remains open when the time is right.
Megan: I don’t know what the future holds. When my kids are older and in school full-time, I may feel capable of working outside the home again. But my personality is the “all-in” type, and I can’t just “have a job.” I either do it to my fullest capacity or not at all, and that’s how I parent, as well. I’m just not sure how I’ll parent all-in and work all-in at the same time. Maybe when I’m an empty nester? Who knows?!
What is/was a typical day like for you as a SAHM? Do you stick to a specific schedule or play things by ear?
Cara: I am very type A and found keeping a schedule worked best for us. I tried to get up before the kids most days until my oldest become an early riser, then I would try to be up for a few to spend time with her. Lunch and nap time was always around the same time and I tried to schedule appointments and activities in between or after nap time to avoid the witching hour as much as possible. Dinner was at the same time then that rolled into the bedtime routine. When we were at home I let the kids have a lot of free play and make the home into a space where they could do their own thing. I have to add that during this time I was battling some major medical issues, so the slowness of the days was a necessity for me.
Lindsay: Our days vary a bit with kids’ activities and part-time preschool. That said, I’m lucky that my kid who thrives on routine is in elementary school and has the same routine daily while my fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants kid is mostly home with me and we can really roll with changes and whatever we happen to be up for within the day. She’s just as happy staying home and playing as she is hitting up a children’s museum.
Megan: We have a weekly flow of regular activities and schedules, and 4 out of 5 mornings require us to be out the door for various things. But most afternoons are free and I’m very much looking forward to the empty hours when we can just go where the wind takes us and see what adventures we can fall into.
What is your best advice for other moms considering transitioning to being a SAHM or transitioning out of being a SAHM?
Cara: I always say if you can swing it, go for it. It is definitely not for everyone and we had some circumstances happen to make it possible for me to stay home, but I have absolutely no regrets about how we did anything. I will always cherish those 7ish years I got to be home with my kids.
My advice for anyone transitioning back to work after being a SAHM is give yourself grace. I thought once the kids started school, once I had a set schedule, etc, that things would calm down or be less busy and it just never happens that way. I had to let go of some control, ask for help and come to the realization that the 9-10 hours I had in the middle of the day were gone and it is absolutely impossible to fit everything that needs to be done into the few hours after work and on weekends. My house is not as clean, we eat out a little more often than I’d like and some days I feel like I never see my kids, but that’s just life right now. I savor the weekends and jump on any opportunity to have no plans. I can’t be everything to everyone. I do feel more fulfilled working outside the home and love my job. I get to be Cara for 8 hours a day, not mom or wife, and that is not something I realized I wanted after years of only being those things.
Lindsay: If you have the opportunity and you feel like you have a strong support system, go for it. Stay at home mom life is not easy. Yes, it makes certain activities and certain routines easier than if you included work outside the home, but in and of itself, stay at home parenting is real work and can be isolating and emotionally hard. Make sure your spouse or partner is really on board and will be someone who will understand your need for occasional or routine space from the family when you need to reset. You have to value your own identity enough not to lose it and having a spouse/partner and other family and friends to help you do that is critical. You are more than the person who does the laundry and makes sure the tiny humans stay alive.
Megan: Don’t let the money be your sole deciding factor! Any family CAN be a one-income family if you are willing to sacrifice and adjust your lifestyle accordingly. It’s a choice you have sole control over. If that desire to be home just won’t go away, rest assured that you CAN make it work financially. But on the flip side, don’t let anyone else’s opinion on your life dictate whether you choose to work or not; this, like most parenting decisions, is immensely personal and the calculus that goes into this choice is incredibly variable. No one’s context and circumstances will look exactly the same, so you just have to do what’s best for you and your family!