Every time a friend decides to stay home with her new baby, I take her a meal and ask, “How are you doing?” Sometimes, like me, she loves it right away. But more often, she’ll tell me, “Honestly? This is not as easy as I thought! I don’t know if I’m cut out for this full-time mom business!” As we talk, I find that quite often, this is the first time that she’s been out of the adult world, and it’s a jarring change from law firm to MOPS group.
Get a group of moms together, and you’re likely going to hear a lot of talk about poop, blood, mucus, rashes, and temper tantrums. I’m sure to a newbie or an outsider, it could start to feel like the Twilight Zone. We throw around terms like “ferberizing” or “AP” and don’t even realize that for someone who hasn’t yet researched sleep training or parenting styles, it’s a foreign language. It takes time to learn the lingo (and the plethora of philosophies out there—each with proponents who will try to convince you that if you don’t raise your child their way, the kid will be suicidal, maladjusted, uncontrolled, or contract cancer).
I’m also wondering if we as modern women have a sense of overconfidence (maybe a tiny bit of arrogance?) that of course we can just stay home and run a house and care for children and be good at it, without studying or practicing. Like if we’re smart, we should be able to figure it out all at once. There aren’t many other career paths where we make that assumption, right? We wouldn’t expect that any smart person could jump into a kindergarten class, or practice law, or medicine, or whatever, without preparation, and feel successful right off the bat.
How did previous generations adjust to full-time motherhood? I’d venture to guess that in the days before how-to mothering books, women had a lot more hands-on experience or observation of the field before entering it themselves. They watched their mothers, their neighbors, and their friends. Back when most women worked in the home, perhaps some aspects of mothering were just in the common lexicon? Or maybe when staying at home was the norm, motherhood was treated more like a vocation and less like something even a dog could do?
When woman come home full-time, there may be culture shock, just as we experience with any big life change. I adored my first post-college job as a teacher, but even that had a steep learning curve. I expected the lesson planning, classroom management problems, and grading…I didn’t expect to be hit by the combined germs of the seventy-odd students I taught over the course of the week. With all my experience with kids, I was confident about becoming a mom…I just didn’t expect that it would take my firstborn three and a half months to figure out how to latch on properly to breastfeed. Either T or I cried every single nursing session for those first three and a half months. No amount of babysitting could have prepared me for that. I’d venture to guess that most worthwhile jobs are hard at first, in ways we didn’t anticipate.
I say this to encourage moms who are feeling like a fish out of water to give full-time mommyhood as much of a chance as they’d give any new job. I’m not going to say that it’s not still overwhelming at times, but I have found that I gain confidence after figuring out each new challenge. And I’d like to encourage those of us who are comfortable in our vocation to really come alongside the new moms we meet and to listen, answer questions when asked, and invite them into our homes to observe how we do things. Let’s be honest about the struggles we had in adjusting–struggles we can laugh at now that we’re beyond the newbie stage. Let’s not smugly sit by and watch our friends flounder, forgetting that those newborn cries sound incredibly loud to someone who hasn’t heard two year old shrieks yet.
Was staying home with your kids easy from the get-go? Why or why not?