It’s been a hot-button topic for a long time: whether or not to go back to work after having a baby. For many women, it’s a decision they begin to mull over as soon as they become pregnant. Deciding between putting their career on hold while caring for their family, and finding suitable childcare so they can return to the office can be challenging.
Even for those women who ultimately stay home, this decision does not come without its hurdles. This piece highlights a handful of mothers who chose to care for their family full time, the struggles they faced and how they overcame them, and their advice for others about to embark on this life-changing decision.
A Personal Choice
Determining whether or not you’ll stay home with your child is not always a clear-cut choice. For Robin Jimenez of
To manage the long hours while her husband is at work, Jimenez signed up for a baby music class, which turned into an informal support group. “Facebook also became a big help,” she adds, as she was able to join an online support group. And with a sister-in-law who had a similar-aged baby, Jimenez could connect with a fellow mom in real time.
For those who don’t live close to family, finding mom friends can be a daunting task, especially if you never expected to stay at home in the first place. “I always envisioned myself as a working mom, but once I became pregnant, I started to doubt that feeling,” says Alexis Roggeman of
With family more than a five hours’ drive away and no friends with kids, Roggeman was forced to get out of house and begin connecting with other new moms. “I went to the local library program for babies, walked the malls, hit the local exercise places…all with baby in tow,” she recalls. “Eventually I formed a great group of moms with babies around the same age, and we began to plan play dates, etc.”
But the real kicker came when Roggeman moved from the east coast to
Finding like-minded women is a huge plus for new moms, and a big draw for members of groups like the MOMS Club (www.momsclub.org) , an international support group for moms at home. With over 75,000 members in roughly 1,500 chapters, the club has garnered quite a following. “The need to connect with other at-home mothers is universal,” says founder and chairman Mary James.
James finds the club adds an element that random trips to the library and park just don’t accomplish. “With the MOMS Club, you’re all there to meet other at-home moms, so you have that automatic ‘in,’ ” she adds. Aside from play groups, the club offers outings for moms and kids, speakers, community service projects and activity groups that speak to different interests, from scrapbooking to belly dancing.
But activities aside, it’s the social aspect that draws new moms to groups like the MOMS Club. “The thing I hear over and over is how the club saved their lives…[that] they were so lonely before they joined, and all I can think is ‘Wow, some things never change because that’s exactly how I felt!’,” says James.
Taking it One Day at a Time
If there’s one thing any at-home parent who can agree upon, it’s the need to figure out how to manage their new routine. Such was the premise of Jennifer Koontz’s book, When Your Centerpiece is Made of Play-Doh and the Dog Has Eaten Your Crayons: A Mother’s Perspective on Parenting (2012). As inspiration for her writing, the former educator and attorney drew upon real-world observations in parenting after adopting her baby daughter. “The major theme of the book is that we all go through shades of the same problems, and we are all trying to make it through the day,” she surmises.
Koontz’s own decision to become an at-home parent was partly fueled by her own mother’s illness, which prompted her to get started on the adoption process. “My mother was a full-time mom and it made a tremendous difference in my childhood,” she recalls. “I will always remember how special it was for me to know she’d be waiting for me when I got off the bus in the afternoon. She sat with me and listened to the events of m day; it made me feel very important.
“Though I am a teacher and a lawyer, I am first and foremost a wife and mother,” adds the author of the forthcoming book Forget Regret, which is due out in April. “When people ask me, ‘Do you work?,’ I reply, ‘All parents work. I just don’t get a paycheck right now.'” For those women on the fence about whether or not to stay home, Koontz advises them to go for it. “If their financial situation permits, it is a wonderful choice to make. Being present with for the small things in our children’s lives is a gift.”
However, plowing into full-time parenthood comes with a caveat: be sure to take time out and get involved in groups with other adults. “Full-time parenthood can be isolating at times,” muses Koontz. “It can also leave us feeling underappreciated. The more we take care of ourselves, the better parents we will be.”