Q&A: going back to work full-time after being SAHM

Alicia writes:

"After 3 years of being a SAHM it is necessary for me to get back into
the workplace because of financial reasons. What can I do to make the
transition easier on my son and on me? My husband and I are separated,
and I do not even want to think about how I will miss my son on the
weekends he is with his dad after I have worked all week without seeing
him for more than a few hours each day. Granted, I am *kinda* looking
forward to getting back to my career and using a different part of my
brain, I'm just apprehensive about the time away from my son, trusting
someone else to influence and teach and nurture him, and dealing with
the anticipated "mommy guilt"

I hear you. I felt enormously guilty when I went back to work when my kids were 5 and almost-2, but it was time. And the readers really pulled me through going back.

The first thing I want to say is that I think this is a great time to go back. Age 3 can be seriously frustrating for SAH parents, because the kids go through all the independence and separation stuff right around the middle of the year, and for some kids it can be like one long 6-12-month tantrum. If you've read the Ames & Ilg book Your Three-Year-Old: Friend or Enemy, you know that they observed this as normal. In fact, their number on recommendation was to get a babysitter, which still cracks me up every time I think about it.

But you're coming in to this time when he may clash with you constantly. So going back to work and leaving him with other kids to play with all day so your time with him is more focused can be a good thing. If you're lucky, things will be peaceful and lovey when you're home with him after the initial adjustment period. (If you're not, he may act out even more when he's with you and he hits the real center of the 3.5-year cranky stage. But that's another post entirely.) And, he's old enough that he can understand that moms and dads work, and that his work is to play with his friends at childcare (or the babysitter if you're having a babysitter who comes to you).

My advice is, if possible, to find a job that you like. I know, easier said than done, but I've experienced it myself and have noticed it time after time among the regular commenters that the ones who are happy about being working moms and who see the bad things about not being at home as just the price they pay (as opposed to being really tied up about it) are the ones who really enjoy what they do. Especially if you feel a sense of mission about it. I couldn't be happier about what I do and the company I work for and how we are changing things in a substantive way for kids who might otherwise be disengaging from school. And that makes it so much easier to leave my little guys in the morning. Those of you who also love your jobs are probably nodding right now. (I've also been on the opposite end of things. Remember when I quit my job to freelance? A huge part of that was because I just could not stand to leave my kids to do work I thought didn't mean anything to anyone, least of all me. I bet lots of others of you are nodding and maybe crying right now agreeing with that statement. If so, I'm sorry, and I hope the right thing for you falls into your lap.)

The other key is to find childcare that you're happy with. Because of the way the economy of childcare works in NYC, I've had babysitters/nannies, not center-based daycare. And we've had some amazing, amazing nannies and a couple of mediocre ones and one really bad one who let me wonder for several hours where my children were (not acceptable). So you might not find the exact right situation for you straight out of the box. But if you know what your priorities are, you'll be able to find good care that you're satisfied with.

If you've got a job you like and childcare you're happy with, everything else will fall into place, although you'll still feel like Lucy in the Candy Factory for awhile. The thing that helps me most, when I remember to do it, is to plan out my outfits for the week, dinners for the week, and kids' clothes for the week on Sundays. Then I don't have to think so much when the pressure's on.

Readers, what say you? About any of this. Tips and tricks? What's really important about working? How hard it can be to work? Having a three-year-old?

35 thoughts on “Q&A: going back to work full-time after being SAHM”

  1. Moxie is 100% correct about the importance of liking your child care arrangement. That is probably the #1 reason I am a happy working mom.I have always been a WOHM (with a 3 month maternity leave both times), so I can’t speak to the fear of the unknown that you’re probably facing. I do remember wondering how in the world I’d handle everything when I was getting ready to go back the first time. All I can say is that you do figure out solutions once you have to, even if you can’t imagine how you’re going to do it.
    My practical advice for making the days easier:
    1. Decide on your work schedule and stick to it. I am obsessive about my to do list, partly because that’s just the kind of person I am and partly because it helps me keep track of what MUST be done before I walk out the door each night. I am ruthless about prioritizing so that I can leave on time. If I am more than 15 minutes late leaving, traffic to day care and then home from day care gets horrific, and I can be close to an hour late getting home, so I am very motivated to leave on time! This also buys me a little bit of fun time after work- or it did before baby #2 came along, but that was yesterday’s post.
    2. Figure out the likely pain points in your morning and evening routines and start instituting things to make them better. One of the big things for me is to have a menu plan so that I don’t stand in the middle of my kitchen in my brain dead post-work state wondering what to cook for dinner. I write out my plan for the week every Sunday. (Can you tell that I am a planner by nature?) If cooking from scratch is important to you, Cooking Light has some excellent 15-20 minute recipes. There are also some convenience foods out there that aren’t full of junk and I use those without feeling bad about it.
    3. Which brings me to…. Ditch the guilt. OK, that is too flippant. I do feel guilty about things sometimes, but I try to acknowledge it and then let it go, because rationally, I have NOTHING to feel guilty about. My kids are thriving. Mothers have always worked. Go read the instructions for making soap if you don’t believe me. My job is a piece of cake compared to what women used to do.
    4. Along those lines… you’ve probably been doing some things around the house as a SAHM that you won’t have time to do now. Figure out where you can loosen your standards, what you can outsource (i.e., pay someone else to do), and what you need to do yourself. Give yourself some time to figure this out- I’m still working on the optimal arrangement! But don’t feel bad about outsourcing when you can afford to do that.
    Good luck. In a few months or so, your new routine will be second nature!

  2. Thanks for this. Our savings for my SAH years are running out and I loathe the idea of going back now but the “right” job has appeared. It is a year too early for me but I pined when it was filled last time when my youngest was a baby, and I can’t count on it opening again. And I am in agony at the thought of putting my kids in day care after so many years at home. Nothing is wrong with day care–obviously–it’s just going to be such a change for my guys, who are school aged now. The one in particular comes home and just crashes into the comfort of home and I know it will be a struggle for him to have more time in the day where he has non-home rule-following, etc. So I am sorry I didn’t go back earlier in some ways, and wishing I could stay home longer in others. Your post is very helpful, as is Cloud’s, and I look forward very much to the rest.

  3. The transition is hard. But I agree with Moxie, if you like your job it is worth it. And being comfortable with your child care choice is sooo important. I just went back to work after a year Maternity leave. I can’t speak to the challenges of a three year old yet, but in terms of going back to work here are a few things to be prepared for:1) Getting sick. Maybe this won’t be as much of a factor with a 3 year old or if you go with a nanny who comes to you, but since I went back to work 3 weeks ago, my daughter and I have been on a constant sick rotation. Even in a small day home, she is exposed to other kids and germs that she is not used to. She gets sick, then I get sick…. wash, rinse, repeat.
    2) Exhaustion. Yes, staying at home is hard and exhausting. But I would say it is more emotionally exhausting then physically. Going back to work is physically exhausting because all of a sudden you have to get up earlier to get ready before kid wakes up and you have a ton of things (like dinner making and lunch for the next day making, laundry, ect.) that you used to do during nap time, that now have to happen after you get home. Be prepared to be a bit tired. Stock up on coffee.
    3) Cranky kid. I am sure not all kids are like this, but mine is pretty go about going to the Day home. But the first week or so it obviously was a bit stressful for her. Instead of her being a pill at the day home, she would hold in all that stress when she was there and then when she was home and safe with Mommy she would release all that stress in the form of tantrums, crying and clingy-ness. Thankfully, that seemed to pass pretty quickly.
    But all these things are temporary and it will get better. (I think/hope)

  4. And maybe some of you could speak to how to find a really great childcare situation. We have a morning preschool situation that we are really happy with (and where baby brother will go in the fall), but have really struck out with three nannies in a row. Not sure if it’s us or them, but I’m dreading putting my kids through another (seemingly great but actually) mediocre or worse child care experience.

  5. 1. I can’t tell which is more important – having someplace you trust for your kids or having a job you enjoy. It is so difficult to leave someone you love to go do something just for the insurance benefits. Likewise, if you feel that the care your kids are recieving is just the tiniest bit questionable….so listen to your gut.2. If your kids are starting at a center after being home with you their whole lives, they may get a series of colds/bugs/etc as their immune systems get acclimated to the place. The first year is the toughest and it gets better exponentially. Also, I think if the kid is still at a real licky age (1-2) it’s going to be worse than at age 3 or 4. Even if their first exposure to a group setting is Kindergarten, you’ll get hit with it to some extent.
    3. When one of the kids is (are?) home sick, my husband and I “take turns” by one taking the morning shift and one taking the afternoon. Or if it looks like a multi-day illness we take turns by day.
    4. Having a menu (even if it’s grocery store rotisserie chicken on the menu) is a lifesaver. Google Calendar is almost the best thing ever – I have a dinner calendar, one for DH, one for me, one for my girl scout troop, one for my 7 year old, and one for the 16 year old. I’m considering making one for the little kid (2), but haven’t yet. She just doesn’t have that many engagements yet. 🙂
    5. It’s OK if it takes a while (a few months) for your child to adapt to daycare/babysitter. The good – if the care providers say that in 10 minutes or so, he’s busy playing. Be careful of – if the care providers say that he’s having trouble adjusting. Find out if there’s a way to sneak around and observe him with out him seeing you (saying good by once is hard, saying it twice might just do you in). I went “back to work” when my 7 year old was 20 months old – dropping her off felt counter-intuitive. It was a good center, and she eventually adapted.

  6. Oh, yes, @Kathleen- how could I forget that awful first cold/flu season? My first child started day care right at the start and I don’t think I’ve ever spent so much time sick. (Kathleen, the second cold/flu season was orders of magnitude better.)So definitely, add “figure out a plan for illness” to my list of tips. I just found out about an “anytime nanny” service here in San Diego that will provide short-notice child care- it might be worth looking for something similar in your area.
    I imagine this is much harder when you are separated from your partner. Hubby and I rotate who stays home with the sick kid. We also both work in jobs that can be done remotely, and do a lot of work from home when someone is sick.
    I swear by vitamin D as a way to keep everyone’s immune systems functioning well, and by Culturelle (a probiotic) as a way to speed up recovery from tummy bugs. Both were recommended by my pediatrician.

  7. @CG – for finding a good childcare situation – I used the state inspection reports as a starting place.I’m not sure about nannies/baby sitters, but in home places that are big enough to be regulated and centers all have inspection reports online. You can go through them to see what kinds of stuff they have trouble with, how quickly it was remediated, and what extra accreditations they have. Start with your state web site and DHS or DCF whatever organization is responsible for child welfare.

  8. Hi – it sounds like Alice is just starting to find a job and so maybe you could help the transition by putting your son into part time care while you look to get him and you used to being away from each other and a new routine.Also, take advantage of the single mom thing. I’m sure you soooo miss your son on the weekends he’s with his dad but maybe on those weekends make some meals and freeze them. Then you could have easy weekday dinners when things are busy and also so you will have some play time with your son when you get home (rather than making dinner). Make sure to have quality time with your son and let things go a little more than you are probably used to now.
    I think there was an earlier post on Moxie about spending the first 15-20 minutes with your child when you get home. That first burst of time can make it such a smoother evening and actually makes it easier to then go change your clothes, putter, etc.
    I’ve worked outside the home since my boys were 6 weeks so I didn’t have to deal with transitioning from SAM to WOH. I think your situation will actually be harder since there is more of an emotional connection between your son and you. Maybe find some good books – like the Kissing Hand or others along a similar nature to start reading now and starting the dialogue.
    And, yes, plan on using your vacation days for sick days the first year. It’s just the way it will most likely be. But then it gets easier… seriously.

  9. A lot of my points have been covered but here are some tips:The first couple of weeks will not foreshadow the whole thing. Both you and your kid will be extra tired. Be gentle on both of you. Don’t assume it will be like that forever.
    Meal plan: yes, and also use your crockpot/reheat stuff a LOT especially at the start. Until you get your feet under you, and your kid has adjusted, you probably want things basically ready to go for dinner so you can focus on the emotional/bonding work.
    Also, this is an area where you can lower the “fancy factor” without losing nutrition. For example, a crockpot vegetable soup or raw veggie platter + grilled cheese on whole-grain bread REALLY DOES have all the nutrition of a pasta primavera.
    Chores: IF you have time/energy now – declutter like crazy. Your child will have toys, art supplies, etc. at school – of course you want yours, esp. for sick days, but some can go. The less stuff you have to care for the bettter.
    Chore plan: I do a modified FlyLady plan where I have daily chores (swipe bathroom, dishes/kitchen, 10 minutes of tidying), weekly (clean bathroom, vaccuum, more tidy), and “rotation” which is each week I focus on ONE area on the weekend to really sort/tidy/clean/dust/etc. that area. But YMMV. Just have a plan. I don’t worry about being HGTV eligible.
    Caregivers: Remember that you are introducing MORE people into your kid’s life to love and care for him – not taking anyone away. Yes you do lose time, but you gain an ally.
    On the time note – for me, as a SAHP, I would burn out around dinner time. Now I don’t. So yes I lost daytime, but I gained a really cosy bedtime routine and I really enjoy that time. Also, I don’t miss trying to get my son to nap, getting him to eat lunch in a civilized manner, etc. What I’m saying is basically – you may not lose as much time as you think, overall.
    Make time for play and fun. For my son and I, we stop at a playground about twice a week between school and home. Sometimes I pack sandwiches. (Peanut butter keeps ok during a work day.) We have a “picnic” in front of the TV once a week and he watches a DVD (!!!) and I read trashy mysteries (!!!). Saturday we hit the library to get both. Little things.
    For morning routine, I have nothing ’cause my husband does that, but there are great tips in the archives here.

  10. Data points: Almost 22-month old. I’ve been back at work since he was 12 months.@Cloud, @Cathy & @Kathleen make really good points.
    I will second, third and fourth the meal planning, while also adding: Get yourself a slow cooker if you don’t already have one.
    We love to cook and have struggled adapting this part the most as we want to eat well and eat food we like, but it was getting to the point where we were regularly eating dinner at 9:30 or 10pm, which just wasn’t cutting it. It’s amazing to have dinner ready when you get home which leaves extra time to spend with your son. Not to mention lots of leftovers for lunches etc.
    Ditto on the sickness thing. I have taken more time this last year in sick leave than I ever have at my 8 previous years in this job. Have a few options in place…especially one option to cover you if you are so sick you can’t even take your son to daycare.
    One thing that helped me with the transition was to spend 15-20 mins quality time with my son when we arrive home each day. Though it’s not long, it’s amazing what that does to strengthen the bond and also to keep him busy after while I get his dinner ready, etc. I also take advantage of his early wake-up time to read books with him, etc. for 30 mins or so in the AM while I’m trying to wake up ;).
    Just as a data point: It took our guy about 4 weeks to adapt to the daycare centre he’s been at since 11 mos. And then probably another couple of months to really start liking it. Now he loves it. The part that was really hard for me was knowing if we’d made the right choice for him. But, he was young, and couldn’t talk to express his feelings about it. Anyhow, just trying to say that it could take some time. But as someone else said, trust your instincts. And ask questions. I asked a lot about his day at the beginning (and even to a certain degree now), and it really helped reassure me and also give me clues on where I needed to investigate things more thoroughly or change our system of handling something etc. I think that by asking questions and asking the educators’ perspective it went a long way to creating a relationship of trust regarding my son, and not one of accusation (which makes it difficult to get more information or to change something that’s not working).
    I can totally understand your worry about how much you will miss your son on weekends he is with his Dad. Though I don’t live this experience, I imagine that I would spend some of this time preparing some ultra-cool activities (outings, crafting, cooking etc.) for my kid that I don’t have time to prepare during the week or on weekends I have him. I suspect too that after a routine settles in and everyone has adjusted to the new normal, you’ll end up relishing (at least some of) the time you have to yourself.
    And, I’ll just add that after going back to work, I was SO much more efficient in my job. Mostly, as @Cloud mentioned, so that I could leave on time. And also because I don’t bring work home with me (literally, or in my head). Work is work and home is home. I was amazed at how much I could get done when I was that focused. As a parent you know there will not be any extra time to do stuff later so you make decisions at work and move on. For better or for worse. It never occured to me that becoming a parent and having a break/some perspective from work would make me better at my job, but it really has.
    Sending lots of encouragement your way @Alicia.

  11. Is it possible to work part-time instead of full time? Maybe align your hours with time that your kid is in preschool? Even a 30 or 35 hour schedule is pretty awesome and gives you a bit of extra time.What about arranging your schedule with his dad so that sometimes dad gets him during the week, and then you have some weekends with him?
    Good luck!

  12. SO much has been said already, but I had to chime in. My kids are currently almost 5 (wow, that sounds so weird) and 2.Before getting pregnant, I never thought I would SAH but it worked out and then I couldn’t imagine doing anything else for a while. WHen my son was born, I quit my so-so full-time job. When he was 6 months old, I went back to work part time and gradually increased my hours. Just two weeks ago, I finally went back to a full time job that I love.
    At times, I wish I spent more time with my kids, but I’m also really enjoying my job and life is easier because financially, things were very tight when I wasn’t working full time.
    We have gone the center-route. My husband is in the Army and we have used their accredited centers and I have mostly been very happy. The hardest part is when they get sick. I work very far from home and that also adds stress because my husband’s job is generally flexible, but sometimes absolutely isn’t and mine is the same way.
    I’m very happy to have my oldest in a center (they have a great pre-K program that I love) and I would like to stick with that for my son, particularly once he turns three. However, we are thinking hard about an au pair next year. It’s expensive but my husband will be deployed and I need an adult on call and a bit closer to home. Still, I really want my son to stay in the center environment because I think it’s really good for young children. In my dream world, I would stay home until my kids reach 6 months, then have an in-home caregiver until 18 months and then switch to a center.

  13. Wow. Amen sister.Can I give a quick plug? I love to cook. I love to feed my family at home (3.5 year old twins). But I hate meal planning. Until about a month ago I was in a rut and we ate the same 6 things week after week. I hated it, and I had basically stopped challenging my kids with new foods.
    Then someone linked to https://www.relishrelish.com/ . it is ~$7 a month and it helps you with meal planning and generates a shopping list. For me personally . . . this is the greatest thing since sliced bread. I can look at an online circular for my grocery store and use Relish to help me plan for the week. It is flexible enough (and has enough kid friendly options) that I can easily find meals that will work for us.
    wishing you the best in finding the right situation for you.

  14. I’m in nyc and have to use a nanny so I don’t know about vetting a daycare center, but I think some strategies are the same:–References. For whatever reason many people are reluctant to give bad references (even when they should). A good reference should be GREAT – if the former employer sounds at all doubtful or hesitant, major red flag.
    –Spy. The first couple of months my nanny worked for us I unexpectedly popped by home, asked friends to stop in at the park where she was taking my son, etc. Everyone reported that she was wonderful. And even though my nanny has been with us almost three years now I still ask SAH friends to check on her from time to time – because nannies can get burned out on their jobs and there’s no reason not to be careful.
    — Start the transition well before you go back to work – ideally a couple of weeks. At the very least, a few short trial days will give you time to organize and get both you and your son comfortable with the situation. Also, you’ll figure out what kinds of stuff you need to pack or have ready before you’re actually rushing out the door for work.
    — Get it ALL in writing. For a nanny, I highly recommend a nanny contract or written document that spells out expectations very clearly. In addition, the lines of communication between you and the provider should be wide open. Your nanny/daycare should be happy to listen to requests/feedback and react accordingly. You can test that out by giving feedback during the transition period and seeing what her reaction is.
    — Go with your gut. If you aren’t comfortable with any aspect of your child’s care, it’s a problem. Trust yourself.

  15. great points from @cloud, @kathleen and others. I’ll chime in on finding a good care situation – I went back to work when Mouse was 6 months and her placements since then have been:-Mr. C’s family leave until 8 mos
    -a 4-child home care until 18 mos
    -a center until 3 years
    -an interim nanny until preschool had a spot
    -an all day preschool from 3.1 until kindergarten started last fall
    -now school and after-school care on-site.
    These have all been great – I’ve been really happy with what we’ve been able to find. So here are my tips:
    -don’t try too hard to duplicate the benefits of being at home with you; instead, try to maximize the benefits of being out of home. So, look for a place where your baby will meet more different kinds of people and get exposed to more toys and more experiences, as opposed to making a nanny who will follow your home routine your first choice.
    -do consider what your child’s needs will be a year from now and either look for somewhere that will fit that as well, or think about moving them then. Transitions can be rough, but if they’re transitions to something better, they’re worth it.
    -listen, listen, listen to your gut. Yes, check references, recommendations, etc. But your gut will tell you when you’ve found a fit. If something has a million good references but you don’t feel right, don’t do it.
    -don’t apply to a ton of situations (especially for centers of preschools) – narrow them down to the ones that could fit. I’m not saying go with only your first choice (though now that I think about it that’s what I did) but applying to 20, many of which don’t really fit, won’t actually be better than applying to the 4 that do. This is probably mainly an issue in big cities where there are lots of options but lots of applicants.
    And yes, the hardest is sickness for us too. Nothing like being on a client conference call while walking a kid with explosive diarrhea to the bathroom and back while trying to keep them focused on a video.

  16. Oh man, that reminds me! Think in advance about your bag situation. You need a work bag, your child needs a “school” bag, and the things that are essential for each *need to “live” in the bag*, even if you have to duplicate them somewhere else.Nothing will monkey with you like moving stuff from bag to bag…or so you thought. It also helps generate routine – if you always throw an after-school kid snack for your kid into the same pocket of your bag, then you’ll remember.

  17. For care situations, first figure out what you want, what is practical, and what you can afford. Nanny-care where I live (for a quality person) is pretty expensive, but becomes reasonable when you have two or three kids compared to center-based care, but in-home care is cheaper still. And center care prices vary wildly (50-100% differences).I have major trust issues so I am not terribly comfortable with the idea of a stranger (who I would, of course, get to know) in my home, unsupervised with my child all day. I liked the idea of a center where the caregivers are never truly alone and where, if they are burning out, can ask someone to give them a break, a spell, etc. And, I also worried about what to do when teh nanny was sick, so a center that is open during snowstorms, floods, flu season, worked for me. But that’s me. I know plenty of other people who swear by in-home care because it seems like family to them. So, go with what you like.
    I start with a search of available places that are accredited so I went to the NAEYC center finder and put in my ZIP code.
    Then, I toured 3 or four places. One was disgustingly dirty, another was immaculately clean but it seemed like it was so clean the kids weren’t allowed to play for real and dirty, and another was brand-new, which was nice but I didn’t have a feel for their staff turnover or history or anything. So, I went with the one that was at least as clean as my house, that had been open for years, with low staff turnover, where most of the teachers had degrees in early childhood and had been in day care (that center or another) for 5+ years (some over 20 years!).
    And then I booked a trial day. I sent my kids while I went to the spa for a hair cut (my SAH locks needed a little WOH updating), a brow wax, and a massage. When I went back, the kids were fine (and the baby had taken a bottle!). This was Friday. Then, I went back to work on Wednesday so it would only be three days. Coincidentally, both times I went back to work on a wednesday before a holiday week, so the next work week was only four days as well, so that was a nice easing into the routine. Go to work the Wednesday before Memorial Day if you can swing it. Highly recommended.
    And sickness, meh. Have a plan because being new on the job, I doubt you’re going to be able or want to call off sick or ask to work from home so soon. My standards for sick child care are much lower than my standards for healthy child care. I let my mom keep a sick 5-year old and let him stay in jammies watching cartoons all day with White Castle hamburgers for lunch. I would not permit that on a regular basis. But I know he’s being cared for and is safe and it’s not that often. So, I let it slide. And hey, grandma is a ton of fun!

  18. The thing I have learned about being a WOHM is giving myself a margin for error (I think there was a previous Moxie post about that), and that includes making a backup plan for my backup plan. In San Diego we live by car, so I keep enough supplies in mine to live in there for a couple of days, and some backup cash in the glove box. I have a list of people I can call who would pick up/care for my daughter if it really came down to it.I use a home-based family daycare, and my DCP and I text message for the little stuff and talk via mobile phone for the big/timely stuff. It is so important to have good communication with your DCP (nanny, home-based or center). For a 3yo in any sort of group setting, I would think it would also be important to see who the future playmates would be, and maybe get a feel for how things go in the care setting by talking to a couple parents.
    And – if the OP gets to be at all choosy about jobs, I would pick one with better benefits for a slightly lower salary any day, esp if that included an on-site daycare, a flexible spending account, a back-up care provider, and/or a generous health care plan. Check out Google’s benefits sometime, it’s like a working mom’s dream.

  19. I’m going through the exact opposite right now. I’m leaving the workplace to be home with my son, which is, in my opinion almost equally as difficult. I don’t have a support system of SAHM’s built up, so that my son has playmates, and I’m dealing with a sense of loss of identity. Ultimately though, it will be the best thing. Espescially since our daycare is awful, terrible, horrid.I think you hit the nail on the head when you say find a caregiver that works for you and that you like.
    And most of all, Don’t Be Afraid To Let Them Go .. if you don’t like something, find another arrangement because if they do one thing wrong.. they’ll probably do another.. and another.

  20. Everyone’s given you great advice on how to juggle the demands of working and being a mom. So I won’t restate what has already been said. I want to touch on that part of your question about what you will do when your child is with Dad and how will you deal? I am newly separated too, and this was a big fear as well. I’m going to miss my kids so much when they are not with me. Try the following to help ease your mind: Get a close girlfriend to hang out with you that first night at your house. Don’t go out because you will come home alone to an empty house. Have her come to you. Make dinner, drink wine, talk trash about your ex, watch Gilmore Girls….whatever you want to do that you never seem to be able to do with your little one home. Join a gym and work your anger and aggression out on the treadmill. Go for walks and talk on the phone. Talk on the phone at home! For hours! Because no one is there to whine until you get off. Try to think about the things you miss about your single life before kids and implement some of those into your days/nights when your child is with Dad. It’s hard. I hate walking by my son’s room at 10:00 at night and seeing the door open, his bed empty. I miss him. But I’m slowly starting to embrace my time alone as well. I never had a partner in my marriage. I did 99% of the parenting, the feeding, the bedtime, 100% of the middle of the night stuff….so the job did not get harder, it actually got easier because I no longer had to waste precious energy being so resentful of my ex husband for being there and doing nothing to help.I wish you luck and love on this journey.

  21. I can’t really add anything new, but I want to touch on the guilt part. I am a happy working mom who recently made the decision to let go of the guilt that I had imposed upon myself. Finances make it so that I have to work, so I always thought I should “want” to stay home, like enjoying work made me a bad mom. But after a year and a half (my daughter is two) of being at work I realize that in many ways I am a better mom for it. Like Moxie said, I like my job and my childcare, which makes all the difference. So my advice is to make peace with the situation and try your best not to feel guilty.

  22. Thanks for this post, Moxie. I’m looking for work after a few years at home with the increasing realization that just really hate being home. I’d love to hear more comments on the whole process and issues!

  23. My advice is to use the time when your son is with his Dad to get really prepared for when he is with you. Get your laundry caught up, your house cleaned and organized, your meals planned, grocery shopping done, even do whatever cooking you can do ahead of time. Spend quality time with yourself (and hopefully a good therapist) to discover what could have been done differently in your marriage so you can one day pursue a new relationship with a full cup. But it totally sucks to have your kids with you and still have to run to the grocery because you have no idea what to cook for dinner – and then add a messy house and no clean clothes to the mix – and you can feel yourself sinking in the I’m The Worst Mother In The World Quicksand. One of the best things I see about being a divorced/separated Mom is that if you get organized, you can be 100% focused on your children when they are with you.

  24. Oh and Moxie? I would love to guest post sometime about meal preparation while working full-time. I worked full-time for 2.5 years of my daughter’s life and commuted 65 miles a day. Home-cooked meals were a priority for me and through much trial and error I came up with a system to cook healthy and fast meals to serve every night of the week. If I can help some other moms navigate that territory, it would be my pleasure.

  25. I’ve been mulling this over since yesterday…. I like what Mo and Julie mention, which is the idea of using the weekends when your son is with his Dad to really recharge and to also do prep that will free up the time you do have with your son… This seems like a great way to look at it, and a great way to enable you to be engaged with your son during your time together. As for the guilt…. clearly, Cloud should write the book on this, as she is so articulate on the topic. All I have to add is that now, being somewhat “on the other side” (kids are a little older) I do have the perspective that perhaps we as a culture should stop assigning value statements to the whole WOHM “vs” WAHM debate. Neither is, on it’s own, a moral good or a moral bad. I think we find ourselves in very dicey territory pretty quickly when we go down that road… the Mom who has to work 2 jobs is “bad”? The mom that married an individual that works in the financial industry (or what have you, married or partnered with someone who earns enough to enable her to stay home) is “good”? Clearly, this makes no sense at all, but when we step back, it becomes clear that these are the moral concepts underpinning our views. So, I say: working for money, working for not-money, any scenario simply is what it is and there are as many scenarios and possible configurations as there are people! Instead, if we must look, let’s look at how engaged we are with our children… how respectful we are of their needs, how cognizant we are of their unique selves, and how we choose to nurture those selves. Let’s respect each other’s choices, and accept that different people choose to live their lives differently than ours… Alicia, a long way of saying, you are a great Mom and the perfect mother for your child whatever your scenario is. As a side note, I also think there may be many benefits and good things that come from your new situation, that we just can’t see yet. Cut yourself a lot of slack, and try not to be influenced by cultural forces that may be working, without merit, to make you feel any guilt.

  26. Thanks, @Rudyinparis. But you’d need to coauthor that book, because I think you’re spot on about the moral judgment aspect.Having had one of those mornings where your toddler wants nothing to do with Daddy, she only wants Mommy, and your baby decides she needs to nurse every 45 minutes, and then you get to work and discover you don’t have your work keys, so you have to track down the facilities guy so that you can get the spare key to the lactation room, I think I need to add one more thing to my list of advice:
    Some days will suck. That doesn’t mean the overall arrangement sucks. (It might, but some days suck no matter what you do.)

  27. One very small thing that helps for me is having a snack as I leave work — I can be much more happy and patient with the kids if I’m not starving when I get home!And the first few weeks can be a rough psychological transition, but it does get easier — you’ll get into your routine.

  28. Regarding getting ready for your work days, do these things at night:-lay out your clothes (including underwear jewelry and shoes)
    -Diaper bag goes in car.
    -Lunches packed in fridge, ready to grab and go.
    -Shower at night and figure out a way to wear your hair that doesn’t require much styling time the next morning.
    I do these things because I don’t like to get up early. Some of my WOH mom friends get up an hour earlier than their kids to prepare for the day and that works for them.
    I love working and my son (also three) loves daycare. I think three year olds are really social, so I agree with Moxie that this is the perfect age for Alicia’s son’s transition. I hope everything works out for her.
    And Pamela, yes, that would be most helpful!

  29. One additional thought on the great menu planning ideas – I got this from a working mother of 3: Rather than making a one-week menu plan, make a *two week* menu plan, but do the shopping once a week on the weekend. Once you have the two week plan, repeat it, so instead of two weeks you actually have a month (we also work “take out” into at least one of those two-week nights). (And you won’t get sick of the same meals the way you would if you repeated the same week over and over.) You can keep the same two-week plan until you get sick of it – and this could last a couple of months, depending on the family’s level of toleration of sameness. A couple of months of not having to think about dinner is really amazing!

  30. Moxie and others have made so many wonderful suggestions…For the time when your son is at dad’s – what about a hobby, a post-poned dream? Maybe dancing or zumba, mediation or meditation, art classes or an instrument, soccer or volleyball and on and on. You already know time is so precious, why not make the most of it and come back to your son a happier, more relaxed, more fulfilled mom?
    At the least, you’ll be distracted enough to not miss him so terribly much. At the most, you’ll look forward to time for yourself!
    Good luck! Transitions are hard, but often (when the dust settles) wonderful. My almost-3-year-old loves his preschool. Just loves it. It gives him opportunities that my husband and I simply can’t.
    The only suggestion I have if you don’t have someone coming to your home is to double the time you think it should take to leave the house, so you don’t leave the house stressed, angry and dragging your son out the door (ah, 3yrolds! 😉
    – andrea

  31. If you end up using a provider out of the home/daycare center, be prepared for meltdowns when you pick up and/or emotional evenings. It’s common for kids to hold in all their frustrations from the day, and then let them go when the person they feel safest with (Mom) is back.My 1st grader still does this with me – when I pick him up from after-care, he often dissolves in the backseat of the car. He lets it go quickly though, while my 2 1/2 year old takes longer.
    It’s really difficult when you’re already exhausted from the day and trying to get dinner on the table. I like the suggestion of spending 15-20 min. one-on-one with the kids. I need to work on that myself!

  32. I personally support the right to same-sex marriage, but I’m a realist: I know that it will likely be a long, long time before the majority of states have decided to recognize same-sex marriages.However, it would be in everybody’s interest for all states to grant divorces to same-sex couples married in other states.
    From a purely economic perspective, letting same-sex couples divorce and move on with their lives would allow the individuals involved to pursue their careers with fewer distractions, and it would allow them to split up any jointly-owned property in an orderly fashion, which would, in turn, lead to them making productive use of it, or sell it. That has to be more economically efficient than tying the property up in a few years of legal disputes.

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