The Biggest Surprise About Going Back to Work After Being a Stay-at-Home Mom

I never planned to be a stay-at-home mom.

My own mother worked full-time and took her career seriously, smashing through glass ceilings in corporate America. All of my friends had moms who worked. I thought stay-at-home moms were a thing of the past.

But after my husband and I got married and we moved to a small town in North Carolina, I was surrounded by stay-at-home moms, and the idea began to intrigue me. When we found out I was pregnant a couple years later we decided to give it a try. We could see the benefits of having a parent at home with the children, and it felt like the right move for our family.

So for the past six years, I’ve been a stay-at-home mom. I’ve picked up writing jobs along the way, but always at my own leisure. I never wanted anything to take away from my main focus—my kids.

This year both of my children are in school full time. I’ve found myself with a lot more time on my hands, and our bank account has been begging for a boost. It was time for me to begin working outside the home again.

At the end of summer, just before school started, I was hired for an office job. I have great co-workers and a nice space to myself. I can’t say I’m passionate about the work, but it’s challenging me in new ways and the paycheck is nice.

Before starting my new job, I had a lot of fears about going back to work. I feared that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the work, or I wouldn’t be good at it. I feared that my kids would miss me, and that I’d miss them.

It’s definitely been an adjustment as I’ve had to change my expectations about how much of myself I can give. I can’t be as involved in my kid’s school as I was in the past, because I’m working now. Sometimes my kids have to go to after school care if I need to work late, and my husband and I have had to shift around household chores.

It hasn’t been easy, but the two people who have suffered the least in this transition are my kids.

I worried that since they were used to having me around, they wouldn’t know what to do without me. I worried they would wonder where I went and why they were suddenly spending less time with me. I have found, though, that they were more than ready to be away from their mom during the day. They love their school, teachers, and classmates. Sometimes they even ask me to go to after school care when there’s no need, simply so they can continue playing with the other children. I believe they have been raised with the security of knowing I’m there for them no matter what, so even when I’m not physically present, they know I’m never unreachable. Or maybe they were just bored of me and wanted to be with kids their own age for a change.

Either way, they’re fine.

My husband also hasn’t had to adjust much, except for picking up a few household chores. For the most part his life hasn’t changed, which means he’s happy that I’m working outside the home now—except for the occasional text he receives when I’m frustrated at work and need to vent.

It turns out I’m the one whose life has been rocked the most by this change. I went from being my own boss to having little authority over what my day looks like. I went from hanging out with my kids to hanging out with my co-workers. I went from having copious amounts of time to fold laundry, write articles, and help with homework, to jamming those tasks into the margins of my day.

I know this is normal life for most people, but I’m surprised by how much my life has actually changed. The transition has given me some questions to mull over: Who am I if I’m not a stay-at-home mom? What am I passionate about? What kind of career do I want to pursue? Is this the job for me, or do I want more?

What kind of life do I want to build and how can I make it happen?

In the meantime, I’m thankful that I have been provided with a pretty great job to help financially support my family. I’m also thankful that my kids have taken the changes in stride. It’s not easy driving away from them everyday to head into an office, but it’s the right next step for our family at this time.