Navigating the Unexpected Journey from Working Mom to Stay Home Mom

We may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post.

It has been a bit since I last posted. Aside from just spending some quiet time with my family over the holidays, I honestly was having some major writers’ block. I have about 78 drafts started but none completed, so I set out to do what any sane person who was stuck would do, and I signed up to be featured by a certain date on another blog! I had to write about my topic because I promised someone else I would get the job done! I’m excited to share that I’m going to be a regular contributor over at FemNet, a page that was started by some incredibly impressive younger women and who have begun to branch out to women over 30.  You know, us wise old souls! LOL!

In all honesty, what these girls are putting out there is definitely amazing, heartfelt content and should be read! They wanted the perspective of a mom who has been through some life changes, so I volunteered to write about my biggest change of late, transitioning from Working Mom to Stay at Home Mom and how hard it was! Since my readers are a bit different than those over at FemNet, I decided to take that article and tweak it just a bit for you, bring in the input of some of my blogger friends, and add a little more content as well: 

Getting ready to backpack through Europe with no plans of a husband or kids in my future!

If you had asked me 20 years ago where my life would be right now, I would have, without hesitation, stated that I would be heading up some top tier legal team, living in a swanky high rise, and would have a closet even the ladies of Sex and the City would envy. If asked, I would have told you there was no way I would be a stay at home mom or volunteering on the PTA. That, I felt, was beneath me.

If I could smack my 16-year-old self upside the head right now, I would, and tell her that one of the most important things you can learn in life is to never say never!

College graduation with my grandparents!

I did finish college in 4 years but was very burned out from 21 hours a semester. I decided to put law school off “just for a year or two” and entered the world of Corporate America. I worked a temp job for a little bit before finding myself stumbling into a career in New Home Sales. To say that it was as thrilling as what I envisioned my legal career would have been would be a joke, but for a while it was fun. After a few years, I was pulling in six figures and knew there was no way I could go do anything else (without going back to school) and make that kind of money. Plus, career track aside, I did have a pretty killer closet.

First job out of college. Literally days before meeting my now husband… And it should be noted that my parents did show up to my office to take my picture!

Life did its thing, time kept going, and I found myself married with two boys. I kept working 50+ hours a week through my first 10 years of motherhood. In our industry, we were told that our sacrifice of time and weekends away from our families, of constantly working while on vacation, was appreciated and was the reason why we were paid the amount that we were. It was a necessary sacrifice we were told, and I believed, to support our families in the way we were. I did get two weekdays off, so while I could not attend weekend events, I still managed to become an officer in our PTA and volunteered at the school at least one, if not 2 days a week.

Facebook post
I have more posts like this on my Facebook page than I can count! All saying “Thanks Mimi & Pa for going in my place.” I’m so lucky to have involved parents who would stand in for me.

I tried to push to the back of my mind that a nanny had been the one to witness my 2nd son’s first steps and first words. We’ve been so blessed with amazing nannies for our kiddos over the years, but the fact still remains that it hurt everytime she would text to say something else exciting just happened and I’d missed it. I ignored the fact that I missed every single soccer game one season because I was in a new community and really trying to make it work; and that work would soon pay off, I just knew it. And it did all pay off, until one day it didn’t.  

One day it was all over. One day I was being let go for what I was told was performance, even though I had never had trouble with my numbers until that time. I suddenly realized that my requests for support had fallen on deaf ears for months for the purpose of getting to the point where I now stood.

My world turned upside down six months ago. I had never been in trouble at work, never on anyone’s radar, or so I thought. I had never been spoken to about my performance or anything and yet I still found myself at home one afternoon in utter shock of what had just happened.

Once the shock wore off, I began to take a good, hard look around and really didn’t like what I saw. I saw two boys who were 10 and 6 that had grown much too used to mom not being present at everything. They were ok with me missing school performances and sports events! Our 10-year-old has ADHD and was just barely getting through school, without me noticing! I looked in the mirror and saw a shell of the woman I had planned to be. I saw a woman who was exhausted from trying for so long to keep it all together, who had been clinging to the idea of keeping up with everyone around me in both work and home life, and the candle had definitely been burning at both ends!

Grapefest 2018
First picture of have of myself after loosing my job. I see someone trying to have a good time while looking completely exhausted, overwhelmed, and definitely not like that girl looked at her first job! Where did she go???

Can you actually have it all? Not the way I was doing it!

I confessed to my husband that I hated my job and hated what it had turned me into, and while it would be easy for me to panic and rush right out to another builder and get another job selling homes, I really felt like I could no longer do that and be true to myself. I received a settlement from my previous company, and it was enough to buy me some time to try to figure out who I was and what I really wanted to be doing.  Nothing like trying to figure it all out at 36, a decade into marriage and motherhood!

We realized that it was becoming more and more important that we have a parent at home for our kids. Our oldest was about to hit that age where he would be too old for a nanny but too young to really stay home, and he really needed a lot more homework help than a nanny could provide. Our youngest has always been a mama’s boy and would fight for my attention when I was around. It was clear that my absence was affecting his behavior more than we realized. We also knew our relationship wasn’t as strong as it could be because of my career. We started dating around the same time I started working in New Home Sales, so my husband has been around since the beginning. He’s very used to being like a single dad on the weekends and working in creative times for date nights, but it has always been hard for us just to sit and catch up when one of us is constantly exhausted from working all day. In our 10+ years of marriage, we never had the same day off together unless one of us had taken a vacation day.

The boys have had fun helping me set up my blog! They love editing pictures the most!

The choice seemed simple. I was going to stay home for a few months and try to come up with a side hustle that would help offset the lost income. I wouldn’t need to make as much money if I was at home because, when we looked at the budget, work was actually costing me upwards of $2500 a month (gas, tolls, clothes, networking lunches, childcare, evenings out, random gifts for the family out of guilt). I had visions of family dinners, and family game nights going through my head! I was, at one point, very successful in my field, and could manage entire communities.

How hard could this be???  Again, can I smack my past self?

So much laundry!!!

The transition from Working Mom to Stay at Home Mom was anything but simple. I’m six months in and have yet to find my groove! If I’m working on my blog or my side hustles too much, my house is a disaster! We’re talking laundry everywhere, dishes overflowing in the sink, a smell you can’t quite find, and filthy floors! What’s worse is that most of the mess is my fault! When I was working, and no one was home during the day, the house was never so bad! I’d do a quick pick up at night and in the morning before I left for the day and it would mostly stay manageable. Now, I grab my coffee, walk over to the computer and think I’ll work on the mess later only to find that school pick up sneaks up on me (3:00 is a whole lot earlier than the 7:00 closing time at work) and then I’m quickly sucked into homework and activities. Once we get home from practice, it’s time to start dinner, and the laundry just has to wait for tomorrow.

stay at home mom
Is it time for a drink yet?!?!?!

I reached out to some of my new friends in the Parent Twitter world to see if I was the only crazy one struggling (did you know this exists??? If not do yourself a favor and find it! Just search with hashtags like #momsqud or #parenting and you’ll find it. Or just follow my account). The response to my tweet was overwhelming, and I wanted to share some of what these amazing people shared with me!

On the topic of losing your financial freedom:

Cait Emerson shared that the hardest part for her was loosing her financial freedom! I couldn’t agree more with her! For so long I was the primary breadwinner in our household and going from that to being dependent on my husband to bring home all of our income has really made me an anxious mess. There is a pair of shoes I’ve been stalking on Amazon that before I would have purchased without hesitation but now haven’t been able to hit the buy now button! Not that Matt would ever have an issue with me purchasing something for myself but I simply cannot get past the mental block of spending money on myself when I’m not bringing it in! Cait further wrote on her blog that she wouldn’t trade any of her choices for the world and that she really has had the dream job all along!

some days you fail
Some days you can try so hard and still manage to feel like you failed at everything and those days are the hardest!

Finding a purpose while failing every single day!

My friend over at Socially Momkward said “I’m having a hard time finding “purpose” in household chores. I love my child but I’m not a school teacher and sitting and playing is SO hard. The transition has been rough! But every day I learn more about myself. ” Girl, YES!

She wrote more on her blog about finding purpose and worth in those every day tasks. It can be so incredibly defeating to clean the entire house only to have it destroyed within seconds. We, as moms, fail every single day and it can completely gut you! For years at work I would go day after day with win after win and feel so amazing about myself! To fail at something each and every day has been rough, and quite the humbling experience!

I have spent days in tears, not fully understanding why, because I just didn’t feel good about myself or what I was doing anymore.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d be in tears on my way to work knowing I’d disappointed my kid, again, by not being able to go to his game, or because I realized all the moms I knew were going to lunch and I wasn’t invited because I wasn’t around to be included.  But something was different about these tears. Before, I’d be alone in the car, and would be headed to the destination where I knew what I needed to do from 10-7. Fulfilling or not, I had a job that needed to be done and could block everything else out during that time and focus on that one thing. Now that I’m home, when I’m feeling lost, or less than, there isn’t something to do that will help me drive that feeling away. It doesn’t really matter what side of the working mom – stay home mom spectrum you fall on, the mom guilt will always be nipping at your heels.

Annabel at Just Sailing Along has been home for a little over a year now and has found the transition rough! In a recent post she talked about how you and your spouse both go into the lifestyle change with certain expectations: “I would be a better multitasker. I would handle the household more easily.   I would manage my time better.  I would potty train our daughter more smoothly.  She’d be speaking a lot more clearly by now.  She would have lots of friends.  This is what I thought, this is not what the reality is.  The reality is that life is hard, and sometimes even the people we love the most, are the ones we are the hardest on.”

Sometimes those we love the most can be the hardest on us.

Annabel, you’re speaking my language! I’ve been with my husband since 2005 and if we’re fighting, it’s probably about the same thing! He’s not a great communicator, his family never shared feelings, and I have two extremes where I either over communicate or bottle everything up. Most of what I have to gauge his feelings off of are his face, and if guys could have resting bitch face, Matt would! Now, more than ever, I see him come home from working a long day to a house that is still a mess, and while he doesn’t say a word, I can see the disappointment that he tries, poorly, to hide. I know he’s wondering what in the world I did all day. And in that moment, that’s when I’m the absolute hardest on myself. When I feel like I’ve disappointed someone I love, again, I can completely crumble.

Find mom friends to help with the transition!

Mama Bear Swears wrote that she went from being an Active Duty Officer to Stay Home Mom (Can we all just bow down to her now)! She shared that the hardest part was having no time off, and that her time off is her one weekend a month she spends at Reserve Duty! We all know Reserve Duty is no cake walk but I’m sure it does feel like a break from the constant Mom Duties! She said that once she found some other mom friends, the transition became much easier.

You never notice it until you have a major life change, but the bulk of your friendships are convenience based and formed either where you live, go to school, or go to work. I had my work friends, but I realized that we never actually did hang out or do anything together. We spoke during the day and attended work functions together but most of us would stick to the home on our days off and not speak or get together. We were all at different phases in our lives, and most of the women I worked with had already raised families, or at least had older kids than mine. So when my job went away, most of those friendships fizzled fast. I don’t blame any of those people for it.  If I didn’t have customers and construction to talk about with them, then we really don’t have anything in common anymore. I am so thankful for the handful that I did connect on an “outside of work level” with that still call and text.

mom friends
One of my favorite people on the planet is one of my newer mom friends. We’ve known each other for a long time, but just recently really got to be able to become good friends!

Luckily my time with the PTA also allowed me to finally, 10 years later than most, start to form a bond with other mom friends. I felt like the new kid in middle school at first and had to insert myself into committees and step up to help with people, but eventually, faster than I thought was possible, those women became my close friends. I had no idea how much was missing from my life by not really having very many mom friends. I knew it stung when they would get together and I couldn’t, but I never really knew how much these women support each other during the day. This time home has shown me that having people who are in the same place in life with you is one of the most important gifts you can give yourself. If I’m having a hard day at home, I have a wonderful group of people I can rely on to show me that I’m not the only one with dirty floors or a mountain of laundry and that I’m not the only one feeling guilty about spending the money I’m not bringing in. One of my favorite things in the world is a Marco Polo chat I have with 2 other moms and all we do is laugh at each other. Whether I’m burning chicken, or someone is just being awkward in general, we can bring each other back to that level playing field with a few laughs.

Some things we miss, but it’s still worth it!

Sarah over at the blog Corporate to Kids shared with me that “I miss adult chat, office banter, Christmas parties, hot coffee, work clothes and more.” How true is that? I used to complain about it, but not getting fancy for a Christmas Party this year did make me a little sad! Instead, I got to sport an ugly Christmas Sweater that I bought at Walmart which was almost as fun, haha! Sarah had a great idea on her blog where she said that she gathers up her fellow work from home moms in the London area and they have their own work Christmas party. They’re not dressed up on the same level (mostly because they don’t have the same amount of time to get ready with kids barging in) but they still have fun. She went on to say “But. I love the flexibility, the opportunity to write and no commute!” Yes to the no commute! I realized today that I haven’t filled up my car in over a month!

Amanda from MamasAHotMess, and one of the most supportive friends I have that’s I’ve never met, said “When my son was a baby & I decided to stay home, I had a constant sense of fear that something would happen to him or that he wasn’t getting the attention he needed.”

A good nanny is everything
When you’re blessed with someone who loves your kids the way you do, it’s everything!

I know the exact feeling she’s talking about. We’ve been blessed with some great nannies over the past 10 years who have loved our kids and who made going to work so much easier for me. Honestly, I think finding the right childcare is everything for a working mom. If you’re not comfortable with where your kids are, you can’t focus. I’ll never forget the day when our longest standing nanny, Miss Maegan (she was leaving us but had stayed on long enough to help transition to a new nanny) called me to say we had a problem with the new nanny. Tearfully she told me the girl we found was a nightmare! She had lied in her interview about a bunch of stuff, and was dropping all kinds of bad words around the kids to put it mildly. I wanted to die! How could I go on leaving my kids with someone likes this? How could we ever find someone else like Maegan? Someone was going to have to quit their job because I could not stomach leaving my kids with a monster!!! That entire next year we ended up kissing a lot of toads before we finally found someone who we could trust to stick around. It was one of the hardest years of my professional career!

So here we are… 6 months in!

Staying home has also meant an unexpected change in my kids. While they don’t notice it, the boys have made changes for the better during these six months. My oldest has improved his grades and is paying more attention in school, maybe because he knows I’m around and paying attention. We are able to spend time every day reviewing tests he may have struggled with and honing in on issues he may not understand. My youngest doesn’t fight for my attention nearly as much. He doesn’t go crazy when I’m spending time with his brother or talking to another adult. While he’s still my wild child, he has calmed down a ton, and will remember to use his manors when we’re around people which is not something he would do before!

Making the change from working mom to stay at home mom has not been easy but it absolutely has been a blessing I never imagined I would want. It’s as if I went from only taking yoga classes my whole life to deciding to start running marathons. Both would have me in good shape, and both are equally as hard, but marathons require a whole different set of skills that I wasn’t using before! Will I go back into the office? For the time being, I’d like to avoid it, but only time will tell if it is necessary or not.

It’s not easy, but every second has been worth it.

I can say that the entire experience has taught me to be careful of what you wrap your self-worth up in. Your job can be gone in a moment and if that’s the only place you find your value, you’ll be at a complete loss of what’s next, like I was. If you find your value in family and in the things that matter, that will last, you will never wonder who you really are. However, if you do make my same mistake, you may find that reinventing yourself can be a pretty amazing journey that you never dreamed you would be on.

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We may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post.

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  1. Sharapu | 9th Apr 19

    Junell!!! Yes! Yes! A thousand times yes! I feel like I just met my blogging bestie! THANK YOU for giving voice to all of the same struggles that I’ve been experiencing in my 4 months since leaving my job in corporate leadership. I love your writing, and your idea of asking other blogging moms to comment on their struggles (and gifting them the links!) is genius!!! Thank you for your vulnerable, yet entertaining style!

  2. Ruth Iaela-Pukahi | 20th Jan 19

    I once heard about a study of the top regrets people had after they had lived out the bulk of their life. Not one said, “I wish I had worked more.” Too many said, “I wish I had spent more time with my family or children.” I know the transition is hard, I’ve gone from working to stay at home mom and then back to working. There are pluses and minuses to both. I know when I became a stay at home mom I got bored so I joined MOMS club and other organizations to do with my kids but get adult time in for me too. I really miss the flexibility to go to the store and do errands when it is NOT busy. I especially miss always being able to be there for my children in all areas of their life. No matter what, enjoy every minute you can get. Our children grow way too fast!

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