There’s a recurring sentiment online concerning stay-at-home motherhood; a rumor that giving up your career to stay home is a waste of professional expertise and experience. Staying home after working an 8-5 for five, seven, or ten years is a transition. But contrary to theory, full-time work and full-time motherhood have much more in common than meets the eye. In fact, my seven years working a desk gave me an edge as I moved to full-time home management. Of course there are other obvious benefits: I don’t have to clock in, commute, drink office coffee, or have meetings about meetings about… meetings. But I digress.
For women in the throes of deciding “stay home or not to stay home?”, I want to offer this balanced perspective for consideration. Your career won’t be wasted if you eventually stay home. In fact, the following five workplace buzzwords are equally applicable in the kitchen and nursery.
On the job, I learned to juggle multiple roles and responsibilities. I’ve worked for a newspaper, a doctor’s office, a kitchen design company, and most recently, the largest Christian college in the nation. On any given day I’d have multiple projects, lists, or Excel sheets to produce. I had to learn to tightly manage my time in order to meet my superior’s expectations.
This was a big learning curve for me since I’m a serial procrastinator. I was often terrified for my quarterly review. But the accountability of the workplace taught me to identify my weak points and problem areas, then find solutions for those issues. I still use this principle to establish my daily routine. Because I had a tendency to forget or put off my duties, I started writing everything down. I scheduled my workouts, meals, coffee dates, projects, and meetings. And I still do.
These days, instead of writing down my departing flight number I write down which laundry I’ll do today, what workout I have planned, and what room needs to be cleaned. I plan my meals around the week’s events, scheduling crockpot meals for the days I know I’ll be crunched for time. I space out get-togethers with friends with enough time to still get the day’s laundry and cleaning done so I don’t fall behind – all thanks to years of lunch meetings and project reports.
Equally valuable in the kitchen as in the cubicle, innovation is like invention: it’s inspired by necessity. The innovative mind is always looking for something to improve. During my time in higher education, I noticed a need for specific counsel for homeschooled students, who often had complicated transcripts and detailed questions. I did some research and developed a pitch for my directors, asking them to create a homeschool counselor position to meet this need. After months of pitching and meeting and more research, the position was created and I had my dream job.
Was it a waste of time, now that I’m home? Definitely not! That experience trained my mind to look for areas of improvement in my home, marriage, and parenting. I’ve learned how to research the most cost- and time-efficient methods for each area of responsibility, freeing me up to do the things I love. And while I only have one child, these methodologies are in place to make my future transitions to two, three, and four kids less stressful in the long run.
In most industries, it’s all about who you know. The more well-connected you are, the more opportunities open up in the trajectory of your career. But if you’re an ambivert like myself, the initial “How are you?” is the hardest part. But years of mixers, holiday parties, and awkward departmental meetings taught me I was paying a lot more attention to myself than the people around me were. All I needed to do was get over myself, say hi, and ask questions; it was all downhill from there.
Learning to forget myself in a public setting has helped me immensely in making new friends. While my initial self-consciousness still exists, the office taught me to get beyond these feelings and take that first step into conversation. In a new city and stage of life, I’ve been blessed to meet many wonderful moms who’ve made these conversations easy to have – but I likely would have made this much more difficult if I’d let self-consciousness get in the way.
When I worked at the newspaper, there were days we had three separate advertising deadlines for three separate publications. Every day we had new deadlines; they never went away. The paper had to go out, and we had to get the ads in it. I thank the newspaper (and the amazing manager I had) for teaching me to embrace deadlines as a source of motivation.
With limited hours to complete a task, I was far less likely to put it off. These days I don’t have a page editor hounding me at 3 PM, but I still give myself deadlines for work and chores. For my recent e-book, I gave myself two weeks to write and format the project. With only two weeks available, I was forced to utilize my scheduling and innovation habits for maximum efficiency, and met my deadline with a few hours to spare.
For moms who transition from work to home, one of the biggest struggles can be the sense of stagnation. Staying home takes out of the “game”: you’re no longer adding to your resume, climbing the ladder, or shooting for that next promotion. For Type-A women this can be emotionally debilitating – I speak from experience. For ten years I had something to work for; I was always shooting for that next big thing. Though I wanted to be at home, I felt as if I’d “arrived” and had nowhere else to go.
Instead of lounging in yoga pants and mourning my loss over Netflix dramas, I arranged my own “promotions”. I set fitness and health goals – planning to run a 5k in the spring (promotion to “runner status”!). I set writing goals – planning to produce an ebook (promotion to “author” – in my own head, at least).
This is especially effective for difficult and unsavory tasks. For me, breastfeeding has been the most challenging aspect of motherhood. With low supply since the beginning, I haven’t enjoyed it for a single minute. But breastfeeding is, in a sense, my “job” as Adeline’s mom, so I took the necessary steps to feed her appropriately – and promised myself a “promotion” if I made it to six months: a necklace I’ve had my eye on. In a sense, it’s a reward system. And it works.
My work life has spilled into motherhood in more ways than these – from Josh and my monthly goal-setting sessions, to how we organize our files, to our Excel sheets for workout progress and budget goals. Many of the principles used in the office are instrumental in creating the calm, collected home I desire to achieve.
So if you’re on the fence about staying home because you fear your skills will be wasted – fear not! Staying home requires as much work as the office and is equally valuable. Put to work what your work taught you and see your home transformed by it.