Tuesday, April 20, 2010

If I Knew Then What I Know Now

As they say, hindsight is 20/20, and that’s what this story is all about. Basically, it’s what I would teach myself—if I could go back in time. You see, two years ago I made the giant leap of faith to quit my well-paying, well-liked job to be home with my kids. It’s been a roller-coaster of emotions and finances, as well as coming to grips with a new identity.

I hope you’re not like me. I hope that you’ve stumbled across this blog well before making a similar leap. I hope that this will prepare you for the journey, but if you have already jumped head first into stay-at-home(ish) motherhood—there’s something here for you too.

#1 Start Living NOW Like You Will Then

If you’re a two-income household aiming to become a one-income household this is key. Start right now. If you don’t have a budget, make one now. However, use only one income. Write your budget, make your plans, figure out how to live NOW on what you will make then. Take what you currently make, and toss it into a savings account. You’re going to have to get tough and be creative. It’s going to take a lot of extra time while you get organized. Clip coupons, start meal planning, and find ways to tighten the spending now.

A wise friend once said to me that the US government should put a SAHM in charge of balancing the national budget. They’re the best at managing money—only spending what they have and no more.

#2 Find What Works For You

Understand quickly that the way your friends do things—manage their budget, raise their children, run their household—isn’t necessarily they way YOU should do your things. You are not them. Their kids are not your kids.

When I first came home I had no idea what to do. My identity for so long had been a working gal. Even after my first was born, I was still a head-strong working mom—and proud of it! Upon leaving my full-time corporate job I pumped friends for information on how to do this SAHM thing. I am a middle-child, perfectionist, trying-to-please everyone, A-type personality—and darn it, I wanted to get this right. It didn’t take long before I was feeling like a failure trying to live up to standards that didn’t exist, except for in my head.

It’s taken a lot of trial and error, but our family is finding ways of doing everything—schooling, budgeting, cleaning, working—that works for US. So, give yourself a bit of slack, as well as time for learning and growth. Don’t forget that there is an adjustment period too. You and your family will need a bit of time to adjust to mom being home.

#3 This Is A Job

Being home/the primary care-giver is more difficult than a typical full-time job. Your work hours are long. You are not financially compensated. Your clients demand much from you. Your outfits aren’t always as cute, and usually end up covered in either food or other stickiness. Getting out of bed will be just as difficult as before.

How you approach your day is key. You are now the COO of your household. You manage all household and family operations. Get up, showered, and dressed—preparing for a day of work just as before (except you’ll most likely be wearing yoga pants rather than a suit). Use your time just before bed to plan out your day. There are lots of great mom blogs out there that have easy, printable to-do lists and organization forms. Find what works for you. The key here is to take your SAHM job just as seriously as when you were working. If you’re a WAHM you’ve got double-duties. You’re wearing two hats, and will need to devise a way to have balance.

It is a hard job, but it's the best job you will ever have. Two years later, many trials later, I am so thankful we made this leap. Hopefully, with this information you'll be able to avoid many of the mistakes I made, making your leap a leap of joy.