How to transition from stay-at-home parent to working parent?
April 17, 2015 6:45 PM   Subscribe

I am a 35-year old woman with 7 and 3 year old kids. I've been a full-time parent for 7 years, and am heading back to a full-time job next week. How have you dealt with this transition?

I'm very anxious about this for a few reasons. First, my kids have never experienced me working and I'm not sure how they'll react. Second, I'm having separation anxiety over leaving them, even though the oldest is in 1st grade. Third, I'm concerned that my husband won't help me pick up the domestic load at home, all the things I do now that he doesn't notice. Finally, my MIL is going to be the sitter, and while I'm grateful, I'm concerned that it might be too much for her, especially over the summer.
I'm probably overthinking all this, but I'd love to hear your experiences with transitioning back to work after an extended period away.
posted by percor to Work & Money (6 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
It took us about 6 months to really get the hang of it so be patient and open to trying different things.

I would firstly find some paid options for childcare, especially over the summer. The kids will enjoy being with other kids and your MIL will appreciate the break. It's also good to have some contingencies in place for when MIL is sick or whatever.

Have a conversation with your husband about housework and outsource what you can. Batch cook. Online shop everything you can.

I can tell you all the stuff we did but I think you need reassurance rather than practical tips. The kids will be fine. You will be fine. We found that we spent more quality time together after going back to work; more conversations at the dinner table, more interest in making the most of a sunny Saturday, more energy for getting stuff done on weekends. And I liked having a life outside of being a mother. I liked getting dressed up every morning, I liked having lunch with new people and meeting people for a drink after work. I even liked my morning commute, being part of society again :) And yes, the second income made lots of things better/easier/possible. Enjoy those rewards.

Be kind to yourself and don't worry if you're eating take away for dinner more often at first or the kids forget their homework sometimes. Everything can be a positive experience for the whole family.

Good luck.
posted by stellathon at 7:18 PM on April 17, 2015 [8 favorites]

I went back to full time work somewhere other than home a few months ago, after over a decade of looking after kids, part time work, studying and work from home. It took me six months to decently adjust. My kids are a bit older than yours now, but I guess when they were your kids' age, I was starting to look seriously at transitioning back to more paid work, I would say it's a good time to start.
posted by singingfish at 7:43 PM on April 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you don't have one already, use some of this new income to get a cleaning service. Don't try to do housework on the weekends. If you can get a housekeeper that helps with the laundry, even better.

It's going to be fine. Don't worry or be surprised if you wind up getting takeout or eating less from-scratch than you're used to. My family eats store-bought frozen meatballs pretty regularly these days...
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:07 PM on April 17, 2015 [4 favorites]

For the summer, would it be possible to enroll the kids in a day camp for a few weeks? A local Rec Department or school might have some good summer programs that would give your Mother in Law a bit of a break--even if only for part of the day or part of the week. Even signing up for swimming lessons or the like would give her some free time while they're attending those.

It might also be helpful for you and the kids to plan some special family outings or family time (the ever popular game night?) so that you have scheduled time with each other to look forward to and bond during.
posted by carrioncomfort at 7:31 AM on April 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

Third, I'm concerned that my husband won't help me pick up the domestic load at home, all the things I do now that he doesn't notice.

Have you talked with him about this? You guys can't read each other's minds. He needs to know all the things that have to happen to keep the household running. Yes, he's a grown ass man who should know all these things. But he doesn't or doesn't think about them because you've been doing them in silence. So if you want things to change, you'll need to ask him/tell him. Sit down together and agree on a list of things that need to be done. Figure out how to divide them up fairly. You are both working and raising kids and going to be tired. Maybe you'll need to pare things down to essentials for a while.

I think we all have things we don't notice about our household. My husband doesn't think about cleaning the sink strainer things when he does a load of dishes. I don't think about all the crap he has piled on the living room table. Neither of you will be able to make the other care about stuff you don't care about. Find a way to agree on things that must be done period. Then if it is important to you that a thing must be done, explain to him why it's important (even if it's simply "ugh the gross sink trap skeeves me out") and ask for help getting it done.

Good luck with the transition! Everyone will turn out just fine.
posted by Beti at 8:08 AM on April 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

I went back to work after 7 years as a stay-at-home Mother, too. My kids were also 7 and 3. It was hard and the hardest part lasted about a year, but I didn't have any family to help. My youngest went into full-time daycare and my oldest into after-care at school run by the YMCA and we live in a community of mostly at-home Moms. My oldest used to twist the knife a fair amount about how he was one of the only kids who didn't have a mom at home, etc. I let him have his feelings, told him they were normal and that I had to work for the family and it was a good thing for me and for us. My youngest adjusted more easily but I still hear about it (how everyone else has a mom at home, yada yada) from time to time, even six years later.

I will say that seeing me work has been good for my kids in lots of ways. They are proud of me, they respect that I have a career. I still do the bulk of the domestic stuff, but my Husband works longer hours, so it's OK. I also have a cleaning service come in once a month to do all the bathrooms, floors, kitchen and dusting and it is a lifesaver. I do get bitter on Sundays sometimes as I plug away at laundry, shopping, etc., but ultimately I am a bit of a control freak and don't loosen up the reigns on those chores easily. I cook three times a week, that's my limit. My repertoire isn't what it used to be, either, but who cares?

I agree about finding some extra stuff for the Summer. There are tons of camps and activities in most places and it would be nice for your MIL to get a break.

Good luck! I hope you find fulfillment in being a working mom. It changes things, but lots of them for the better once you get over the rough start.
posted by crazy sniffable at 1:05 PM on April 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

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