I have always been a working mom.
Until I suddenly wasn’t working.
Balancing the needs and activities of a young son and a demanding job was always tricky. Some days I felt like Supermom, and others I felt like the smartest woman at work. But usually not both on the same day.
When I found myself suddenly not working 50 hours a week, I had no idea what to do with myself.
But as my family eased into this new normal and found our rhythm, I figured out a few things:
1. Quality time — all the time — is a fairy tale.
Because my routine always revolved around my career, I had no idea how to schedule days that didn’t involve work.
It was easier in the summer; we had free days for outings and kept busy with swim meets, tennis matches, and meeting up with other moms also looking for ways to occupy their kids.
Once school and the rainy days began, it was more of a challenge. Where before I squeezed homework, dinner, bath, and quality time into a couple of hours, now we have lots of time after school. My son always want to do something or go somewhere.
I have to remind him it’s not a nonstop party just because I’m home with him. Sometimes we paint pictures, play games, and go outside, and other times we just need to chill. Sometimes that involves my Kindle and his Xbox, and there is nothing wrong with that!
2. I am just not a good housekeeper.
I always blamed my dirty floors and cluttered countertops on my ridiculously busy schedule and the fact that I didn’t want to waste what little family time we had on cleaning the house. But even though I have a lot more time now, I still don’t spend much of it dusting.
I really should be scrubbing the toilet right now instead of writing this…
Nah! I receive no joy from making my stainless steel shine, and I don’t see that changing.
3. This cooking thing is so overrated.
When I was working, I was always scrambling to pick my son up (usually about 30 seconds before the afterschool program closed), then rushing home to make a healthy dinner everyone would eat as fast as possible (or stopping at Papa Murphy’s) before running to sports practice. We were lucky to be done with dinner by 8.
Now, I have time to grocery shop in the morning, plan meals, and experiment with recipes. I impressed my family by making my first-ever apple pie — no, I did not make the crust, are you joking? — but realized that spending hours in the kitchen is not my thing.
Plus, when you put time and effort into making homemade chicken tetrazzini and your kid still asks for a hot dog, the thrill is gone. Next!
4. I now understand why SAHMs put their kids to bed so early.
I have friends who routinely put their kids to bed at 7:30 or 8.
I always thought it was ridiculous, because if I did that, I would hardly ever see my son.
We’re still kind of a late-night gang around here, but I understand the need for a little downtime in the evening after bedtime. I don’t get that time, but I do now!
5. I have to get out of the house.
I always dreamed of one day alone in my house — just one day. Now, I am sick of being home with only the dog for company.
I enjoy the uninterrupted time to write and focus on my burgeoning freelance and consulting career, but getting out — whether walking the dog, lunching with friends, or meeting with clients at coffee shops — keeps me sane.
6. Beware of the dangers of day-drinking.
I love being able to meet my friends who don’t work for lunch during the school day, especially when it involves a nice glass of chardonnay.
But just because I don’t have to head back to work doesn’t mean the drinks can keep coming, as I learned after a couple of foggy afternoons.
I still have to get home (safely, I must add) and be a mom.
7. It’s a lot easier to get to know other moms.
When you’re dropping your kid at the curb in front of the school and picking him up at daycare, it’s pretty hard to get to other parents.
Now I meet the bus, chat with the other moms outside, and volunteer to see what goes on inside those school walls.
Plus, it’s nice to be the one receiving a text asking me to pick up another kid when her mom is running late, instead of always being the one asking for help.
8. I pay closer attention to our budget.
When you’re no longer bringing home the same bacon, you can’t bring home the same bacon.
9. My kid and I can annoy each other.
Yes, it is a joy to spend so much time with my son. We have always been close and he consistently cracks me up.
But we have also gotten on each other’s nerves like never before. When our time together was limited, I never wanted a cross word.
Now I recognize that it’s normal to get a little sick of each other once in a while — and that’s OK.
10. I actually like this SAHM business.
There is no perfect situation.
My friends and I always debate the pros of cons of working. But this formerly-ambitious-but-continually-exhausted career woman is pleasantly surprised to find myself enjoying the SAHM situation.
I may go back to a full-time job — I might find something perfect or have no choice financially — but I’ll be sure it’s something that fits into my life, rather than fitting my life in around my job.