Some moms are encouraged to discover that staying at home with their children is everything they imagined. Being a full-time mom gives their life meaning and purpose. Their work is both satisfying and rewarding. Other moms are disappointed to discover that staying at home is not everything they thought it would be. The daily grind may leave them physically tired, socially isolated, and emotionally depleted. Of course, a good mom is not allowed to admit these feelings to herself or others because, after all, that would make her a bad mom, right? This strongly held belief is probably the biggest misunderstanding about the role and work of a stay-at-home mom.
Many people go through periods of job dissatisfaction. Does that mean that they are bad people and bad employees? Absolutely not! Career counseling is designed to help people identify their passions, sort through their values, and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Taking a moment to step back and regroup helps people avoid burnout and increase work-life satisfaction.
Perhaps these same principles hold the key to contentment for the stay-at-home mom. Unfortunately, I’ve never heard anyone attempt to apply career theory to the work of a stay-at-home mom. However, if staying at home is a legitamate career choice, then moms need to be thoughtful in their career decision-making process. If they decide to stay at home full-time, they need the freedom to consider how they will utilize their core values, passions, and skills in their new career role. Moms may know they value time with their kids but never have considered what they value about work.
People are most satisfied when their values are expressed in their work and life roles. People are motivated by intrinsic values as well as by certain types of work environments, social interactions, and tasks or activities. Some examples include the following:
- Intrinsic – independence, achievement, balance, respect, power, etc.
- Environment – flexibility vs. structure, relaxed vs. fast-paced, etc.
- Interactions – competition vs. teamwork, friendships vs. time alone, etc.
- Activities – risk-taking, learning, variety, challenge, creativity, helping, etc.
Complete a values sort activity to help you identify your core values in each of these areas. Then consider the type of work environment you have created as a stay-at-home mom. Moms who are most happy at home either have a natural fit between their values and their role or they have intentionally tailored their work role to align with their values.
One of my core values is achievement. I am most satisfied when I am able to use my talents and abilities to accomplish a task. This value may not be an obvious fit for a stay-at-home mom, but that doesn’t mean I cannot find ways to incorporate this value into my work. Projects and Parenting is the perfect avenue for moms like me who want to nurture their children and feel accomplished at the same time.
Job Tasks, Skills, & Passions
In the same way, people are more satisfied at work when their core skills and core passions align with their daily tasks. Take a moment to identify your core passions, skills, and job responsibilities as a stay-at-home mom. Use the diagrams below to place them in the correct category.
If you lack the skills to effectively deal with naps, tantrums, or play dates, you will likely experience frustration at work. Fortunately, most parenting and homemaking skills are acquired and can improve with practice and support. Even if you possess all the skills required to prepare a healthy lunch (and get your kids to eat it), that doesn’t mean you necessarily enjoy this tasks. If almost all of your job tasks fall outside your core motivation, you will get burned out and experience fatigue. If, like me, you have a lot of passions and skills that fall outside your daily tasks, you may get bored or go “stir-crazy,” as my husband likes to call it.
The goal is to find a way to create overlap so you prioritize the things that are life-giving and let go of the things aren’t. After reflecting on my core passions and skills, I decided to start cooking less and blogging more. My husband has been taking our daughter grocery shopping while the twins nap so I have some time to myself. I also send my daughter for pre-school at a neighbor’s house for a couple hours per week so that I have some “free time” during morning naps. Likewise, we eat out on the weekend and do quick and easy meals during the week. Sometimes we even prep meals in advance on the weekends so they are ready to go for later in the week.
Pie of Life
The Pie of Life Exercise is another career counseling tool to help people prioritize their time and identify what they may need to stop or start doing to increase satisfaction. For this exercise, think about your ideal life, the things that are important to you, and the ways you would like to spend your time and energy. Divide the first pie of life according to the amount of time you would like to devote to important people and/or areas in your life. Some examples may include: spouse, children, family, homemaking, friends, reading or learning, sewing, blogging or some other hobby, health or wellness, and personal or spiritual development. Make larger slices to represent areas that are more important to you. Next, think about your real life. Divide the second pie to represent how you currently spend your time.
Compare your real and ideal life to identify areas where you are spending too much time as well as areas you have neglected. For many stay-at-home moms, homemaking eats up more of the pie than they would prefer. The goal isn’t to try and do it all or to have all your areas divided equally, but to have your priorities reflect your reality. You may need to start setting boundaries, managing expectations, getting creative about time, and asking for help. If moms want to achieve balance, they may need to order groceries online, hire a cleaning service, pay for a sitter or let some of these tasks go.
I’ve heard a lot about work-life balance for the working mom, but I have never heard of anyone apply this principle to the work of a stay-at-home mom. People assume that moms automatically have work-life balance because work and life get jumbled together. However, the less clear the boundary between work and pleasure, the more difficult it can be to achieve balance. If moms are not careful, the demands of motherhood can start take over the joy of being a mom.
Fortunately, there are many creative ways to pursue balance by integrating hobbies, social life, and physical activity into the day through simple activities such as stroller strides, play dates, or a Mom’s Day Out. Then, in the evening, work together with your spouse to approach your bedtime routine as a fun family activity rather than a second job. If you get your kid’s to bed on time, you can spend time with your spouse, pursue a hobby, or meet up with a friend. Don’t be afraid to leave the dishes and clutter for your next day to-do list when you are re-energized and back on the clock.
Stop trying to do it all, and start doing the things you love. If you can’t understand what motivates you and makes you tick, how are you supposed to help your kids discover these things about themselves? Helping your kids discover their gifts and encouraging them to pursue their interests is one of our most important tasks as parents. Whether you like it or not, you are a career role model for your kids. Parents are one of the primary influences in their children’s career development and aspirations. No wonder daughters of working moms are more likely to complete higher levels of education, earn a higher salaries, and be the boss than daughters of stay-at-home moms. Yes, that bothers me, but I don’t believe that has to be the case.
Please check out other related posts and parenting assessments.