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Making the switch: Strateies for transitioning to at-home parenting

Many of today's women enjoy educational and career opportunities unknown to previous generations. When marriage and family enter the picture, today's mothers are fortunate to have a wide array of choices, including the increasingly popular option to forego or cut back on paid employment to care for and nurture their children.

Many of today's families are finding that having a mother at home is more affordable than they may have been led to believe. Parents wanting increased family time are closely examining the financial and intangible costs of having both parents employed on a full-time basis outside the home. Those families are aware of the growing body of evidence about the needs of all children for generous amounts of their parents' time. At-home mothers embrace a life enriched with numerous rewards and challenges. However, the transition can be dizzying. Over the years, Mothers at Home, the nation's oldest and one of the largest non-profit support organizations for at-home mothers, has collected the following strategies from mothers across the country for easing the transition:

ALLOW TIME FOR THE TRANSITION TO TAKE PLACE.
Once you give birth physically, you must also struggle with an emotional birth as you come to terms with the new realities in your life. Overnight, motherhood can thrust you into an entirely different world, so beware of making hasty judgments about your new life as a mother. As your priorities and lifestyle are rearranged, recognize the opportunity for change and new beginnings.

FIND TIME FOR YOURSELF AND YOUR MARRIAGE.
Leisure is not a luxury. Top performance requires balancing work and play, activity and rest. Pursue an outside activity, such as a class or hobby. Plan dates with your spouse on a regular basis. Something as simple as taking a walk or going on a picnic can bring new perspectives.

SEEK THE SUPPORT OF FAMILY AND FRIENDS.
To help overcome isolation and shore up self-esteem, join or start a mothers support group or playgroup. Read supportive books and publications. Have a good friend with whom you can share a concern, a laugh or advice. It is often helpful to have a mothering mentor as well as to be a mothering mentor -- sometimes it really takes another mother to understand.

SET REALISTIC GOALS.
Set daily, weekly or monthly goals for yourself. Unrealistic, inappropriate, or out-dated expectations can be a source of stress. Set personal and family priorities carefully. Flexibility is key. Learn to break chores or projects into pieces that can be completed in the little bits of time available to you. Make good use of concentrated blocks of time, such as when baby is napping, to do something that you are unable to do when your child is present.

EVALUATE YOUR DEFINITION OF SUCCESS.
Motherhood challenges. Assess your success by judging how well you have confirmed your child's sense of unique and valuable identity, or how well you have communicated that he or she is an integral and essential part of your family.

REFUTE THE NEGATIVE STEREOTYPES AND THE SUPERWOMAN MYTH.
The perception of mothers effortlessly balancing challenging and fulfilling careers with a complete and rewarding family life often belies the reality of day-to-day life. Refute the superwoman image. Realize that there are trade-offs to all work/family decisions, and make decisions based on personal and family priorities.

ADVOCATE FOR YOUR ROLE AS A MOTHER AND FOR YOUR CHILD.
Be proud of your work as an at-home mother. What job could be more important than taking care of the next generation? Write the media or your legislator when the work of at-home mothers is ignored, negatively portrayed or inaccurately presented. Advocate for family-friendly work practices, such as flexible work hours, part-time work, job-sharing, home-based work, and job-protected parental leave.

CELEBRATE YOUR DAYS.
Make time for and find inspiration. Celebrate the challenges and triumphs of being a mother at home. Look for ways to enjoy the little things and the fleeting moments that make up your days. Remember there are no perfect moms. While it won't matter in five years whether you vacuumed every week, it will matter that you spent time with your child/ren, discovering the world anew with each of them. Being there to immerse yourself in the intricate and delicate work of motherhood may well be the most important job that you will ever have.

 
 
 

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