Whether you’re taking a two-year pause, hanging up your work hat indefinitely, or working a flex job during naps—staying at home can come with just as many feelings of guilt, identity struggles, and stress as going back to the office. And what’s harder: “There’s this antiquated narrative around stay-at-home moms—that they’re bored and now growing anymore,” says Neha Ruch, founder of Mother Untitled and a Stanford MBA taking her own pause to lean into motherhood. “We need to shift the conversation to be more about the growth and creativity that’s possible in this time.” Here’s how to continue to feel connected and own your new status.
Realize nothing is carved in stone
Choosing to focus on your family doesn’t mean you’re out of the work world forever or you’ll become unemployable. It also doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind in six months. The only person who gets to decide your path is you. Don’t forget: “Life is a long game, and your career is a long game,” says Ruch.
Continue to network
While it’s great to stay in touch with old colleagues, this is an incredible time to build new connections and make coffee dates. “Seek out environments that aren’t just fulfilling for your children, but places where you can unlock relationships. I’ve met some of my closest, most creative friends at play spaces and preschool pickup,” says Ruch. You’ll find there are just as many smart, high-achieving and interesting women leaning into mom life as you.
Find ‘work’ that fits into your schedule
Whether it’s volunteering, teaching an evening class, taking on freelance projects during naps, learning a new language, or working on a passion project after hours, there are limitless opportunities to grow and feel relevant and connected when the eat, play, nap routine has you itching for more, says Ruch.
One of the best ways to get replicate that satisfying feeling you used to get from checking off to-dos at the office is establishing organization and routine into your days as a mom. Whether it’s Sunday meal prep, music class on Tuesdays, or a set nap schedule that allows you to hop on the computer and answer emails at a specific time each day, feeling in control of your week, and having activities that get you and the baby out of the house, will help you feel productive. (But let’s be honest: just getting baby fed is productive.)
Get help—and let go of the guilt that comes with it
“We need to give permission to women in this grey space to get the help they need,” says Ruch. Whether it’s a mother’s helper who can take on laundry and meals so you can spend quality time with your kids, or a sitter so you can leave the house for two hours to take a class, being able to delegate the massive load of responsibility that comes with staying at home is so helpful. Just because you’re in the house doesn’t mean you need to do it all.
Don’t apologize for your choice or feel the need to explain what stay-at-home moms do to those who’ve never had to take a stab at the toughest job on the planet. Do your best to own it. “Confidence is contagious—other women will respond to that,” says Ruch. Bring the same positive mindset and energy to this new job as you did to your old one—it’s the most important one out there.