A recent Gallup poll concluded that stay-at-home moms were significantly less likely than working moms to consider their lives "thriving" and experienced higher rates of depression. Even so, millions of mothers are choosing to put their careers on hold and stay home with their children.
From Boardroom to Baby shatters the stereotypes associated with "staying home" and empowers new moms to blaze their own unique paths through motherhood and beyond.
Along with a thoughtful map and modern-day tools to help moms carve out meaning and purpose in their new roles, From Boardroom to Baby offers:
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Choosing to Stay Home: Calculating Circumstance + Values + Self
"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us."
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
Mothers are made over time; built from the ground up, brick by brick, composed of a million different magical moments, sound bites of laughter, fear, tears, and a love that knows no limit. The existence gradually sinks into our souls and settles into our bones, starting from the second we see two pink lines on a pregnancy test. It continues to spread through our veins and heartbeat, until it consumes our very being. Somewhere along the journey it reaches our brain where we finally comprehend it entirely: I'm a mother. I've created life.
This moment of realization is different for every mom. One woman may feel the weight of this role as soon as she finds out she's pregnant. For another woman, it's the moment her baby is placed on her chest after delivery. And for many, it takes months after having a baby to feel connected to the title "Mom."
Regardless of when it reaches our brain, we can all recognize the magnitude of the revelation when it hits us: This is the most important role of our lives. The biggest responsibility. All of our deepest fears and brightest accomplishments live within this existence. And we're forever changed. A shift in thoughts, priorities, and lifestyle takes over at our very core and our decisions are made with new perspective and a new sense of accountability.
* * *
I jolted upright at the faintest sight of dawn creeping through the bedroom blinds and jumped out of bed with an adrenaline kick stemming from not wanting to go another second on this earth without knowing my fate; was I or wasn't I? The signs were there — I had stopped the little pink pill more than a month ago, my usually very-regular period was missing in action, and I had convinced myself that my jeans were fitting much tighter than normal.
I grabbed the pregnancy test from my bathroom drawer and unfolded the direction booklet, studying the step-by-step diagrams while examining the white plastic stick. My late-night googling session the evening prior had informed me that the most accurate pregnancy results were obtained from a morning urine sample, when it was most concentrated. I had no room in my brain for a faulty test or a wish-washy result. I needed results and I needed them now! I held the stick in my urine stream for exactly five seconds and prepared to wait the three agonizing minutes for the science of it all to calculate. But after a quick 30 seconds there they were — the two pink lines that changed my life — clear as day: I was pregnant.
I floated on cloud nine back to our bed and gently nudged my husband — poor chap fast asleep and not prepared for the early-morning revelation that awaited him. His eyes fluttered open and focused on the stick I held just inches from his face. A giant smile spread across his face and we hugged in disbelief. We did it! We made a baby!
Throughout the next hour or so, we smiled and cried and said "Oh my god!" way too many times. We briefly discussed the logistics of calling my ob-gyn and scheduling an appointment. We agreed not to tell anyone but our parents for the time being. It was all so exciting!
And then we continued life as usual. We got dressed, ate breakfast, poured coffee, went to work, and made small talk with coworkers at the water cooler, all while harboring our gigantic secret. Then we fought rush-hour traffic on our way back home that afternoon, cooked dinner, talked about our future as a family of three, watched our favorite TV show, and crawled into bed. A full 24-hours with business-as-usual. On the surface, we appeared to be the same — unchanged by the news. But even on that first day, still filled with routine from our pre-baby life, I felt the start of a shift within.
Throughout the next few months, two pink lines turned into a blob on an ultrasound picture with a rapid heartbeat. The blob turned into a tiny alien baby with phalanges. The tiny alien baby turned into a larger, kicking (possibly kangaroo), baby in utero.
Nine months felt like 18 while we prepared (as well as first-time parents can) and waited for our tiny human to grace us with her presence. The nursery design, curated on Pinterest and executed through careful paint colors, wallpaper, and furniture arranging, was complete. Baby girl clothes were prewashed and organized by size and then color hanging neatly on soft pink mini-hangers in the closet. Swaddles, diapers, wipes, and lotions, along with more confusing things like NoseFridas and snot suction bulbs filled our wicker baskets lined with white linen and perfectly tied bows. A new breast pump along with foreign and intimidating tubes and flanges were ready and waiting for my first go at extracting milk. The car seat was installed in the back of our new SUV (which we bought after a tearful goodbye to my unpractical sporty sedan) and was double-checked by a local fireman to confirm every buckle and harness was in place. We were overly prepared and my Type A personality proudly checked all of the boxes on my detailed "Prep for Baby" list.
But there was one question that still loomed over us, one big box left unchecked: childcare. Would it be me or would it be some stranger who would take care of our new baby while I returned to work after maternity leave? Some days, I would make the decision to return to work; how could I let go of my dream job after working hard to reach that level? Other days I would decide to stay home; how could I leave my precious new baby?
Just two weeks before my due date, I vowed to wait and see. I couldn't possibly make such a large decision without first understanding what I anticipated to be complicated feelings after birthing a tiny human.
A couple weeks later, as I gently rocked my newborn back to sleep while rubbing her tiny back, I could feel my priorities shifting completely in one direction; I was spellbound in love. I knew I couldn't return to my job and leave her for 10-plus hours every day.
My husband and I did our due diligence while making the final decision and all signs pointed to me staying home: We had no immediate family nearby to help with childcare and the thought of leaving my new baby with a stranger for the majority of each day felt like having the wind knocked out of me. We were stable enough financially to live off of one income, although we'd have to tighten and cut back spending in some areas. And having both been raised by stay-at-home moms, we found real value in that lifestyle.
So I answered my looming childcare question with a final decision: "I'll stay home." And we checked that last box off the list.
Although I was physically prepared for my new role, confirmed through checked boxes and an organized nursery, I didn't expect the emotional transition that ensued as I embarked down my new path. I mistook my willingness to put my career on hold for complete understanding of my new position.
Blindsided by the change of pace and the pesky feelings that rocked my self-esteem, I had a startling revelation: I had forgotten to consider how much my sense of "self" was founded on my work life.
It's the question that crosses every new mother's mind: Should I leave my baby to return to work, or do I stay home with my child and pivot off my career course? The question itself is complicated because it's laced with emotion and guilt. It feels unnatural to leave your baby, but if you enjoy your work and career, it feels unnatural to leave that life you've built for yourself. So how do you organize and prioritize your feelings and thoughts into something that makes sense? How do you ask yourself the right questions and reflect on your answers in a meaningful way?
"The rest of this chapter lays out wonderful questions to ask in order to come closer to making this big decision. Notice your self-talk as you navigate these questions and your answers. Often we will hear in our heads what we 'should' or 'should not' do, and then we can feel shame or guilt when we want to push against these 'shoulds' and 'should nots.' Try replacing the should/should nots with the words 'I want' or 'I don't want' and notice how that feels. Does that bring you any more clarity? Also, notice the feelings that come up with the questions. Do some resonate more than others? Are you noticing fear, excitement, joy, guilt? All of the above? With loving-kindness, explore these feelings and thoughts a little deeper. Are they attached to an 'old story' you have about yourself or parenting? Are these stories true? What do they tell you? Remember to breathe and take a break if you feel stuck or overwhelmed." — Karen Simms, mental health counselor
Circumstance + values + self
Considering circumstance + values + self is a helpful starting point when making the decision to stay home or return to work after having a baby. By diving in and exploring each of these factors separately, weighing the contents of each, and then looking at them combined, you'll likely catch a glimpse of where your heart and priorities lie. However, if you're looking for a clear-cut answer or a perfectly calculated equation that results in a definite answer, you won't find it here. Life is not always black and white; it's filled with uncertain gray areas and surprising colors — much too complicated to draw finite conclusions from a simple exercise.
But as you stand at this fork in the road and organize your thoughts into these three components, one path may start to appeal to you more than the others, revealing a natural course that seems to better fit your life: your personal circumstances, values, and self.
Possibly the easiest part of the equation, considering your circumstances, is simply acknowledging your realities. There's little room for interpretation when you crunch the numbers and evaluate if you can live off one income. Of course you can get creative and decide to cut back in your spending or consolidate in order to make it work off of one income, but you probably already have a pretty good idea about what sort of financial support you'll need to run your household.
You also know for certain whether you have trusted friends or family in town that may be able to help with day-care if you return to work. And if you don't, you can research cost-effective and trust-worthy daycare or nanny options in your area.
"As I did not have any retired relatives capable of watching my new baby, I also looked at the cost of childcare in my state, realizing that after daycare costs I'd bring home barely anything for the full work week I'd spend away from my little one." — Marisa Svalstedt
Exercise: Identifying circumstances
After compiling some of the facts of your personal situation, you'll be able to clearly list your realities in this exercise. Consider the following and make a list with your answers:
Crunch the numbers. Can you live off one income?
What do you need to give up or cut back on in order to make the numbers work?
How will life change for you and your family if you make less money every year? (Less family vacations, less dinner out, and so on.)
Do you have any close friends or family in the area who could help with childcare?
Research daycares, interview nannies, and other childcare options. Do you trust the options you have in your area? Do any seem like a good fit?
Write down the pros and cons of each childcare option.
How many hours per week did you work pre-baby? How much overtime?
Is there flexibility in your role to work less or part time?
Is there flexibility in your role to work remotely or flex-hours?
How far is the commute to your office? What is traffic like during travel times to/from work?
Calculate how many hours in total you'd be away from your child/children each day. Is the amount of time away something you're comfortable with?
Does your job require travel? If so, how many days per week/month/year?
Who will help care for your child during your travel time?
"My former job was wonderful in many ways. But it was also incredibly demanding. More than 50-hour work weeks, global travel, meetings upon meetings, and endless scores of emails. My husband's job was no less demanding (traveling every other week for 80 percent of the year), so it wasn't far into our human-raising journey that we realized we had to recalibrate. We desperately needed more balance, more flexibility, and more moments to actually breathe and enjoy the crazy gift of parenting. Our life at home was evolving and, as a result, our approach to 'work' needed to evolve too." — Samantha Cronin
When I was pregnant with my firstborn, I wrote a list of hopes and dreams for my daughter and her life. It was important to me and my husband to lay the foundation for these values while she was young, before outside influences materialized. I still read this list often as it also acts as a parenting guide for me — a nice reminder of my larger parenting role beyond the daily duties of changing diapers, feedings, and cleaning.
My Hopes and Dreams for My Daughter
I hope you never forget your roots.
I hope you stay down-to-earth and never think the world owes you anything.
I hope that if you want something, you work hard to obtain it.
I hope you're not afraid to get dirty, go camping, and play sports with the boys.
I hope you appreciate the small things in life that money can't buy.
I hope you never take sunsets, beaches, and the ocean for granted.
I hope you don't take yourself or this life too seriously.
I hope you'll never judge anyone at first glance.
I hope you keep your balance — life will try to teeter-totter you in extreme directions.
I hope that if you end up regretting something, you find a way to fix it enough so you can find peace within yourself.
I hope that you make wishes on shooting stars, dandelions, and pennies tossed in fountains.
I hope you handle this life with grace, through the good times and bad.
I hope, when you are young, that you believe in fairy dust, magic wands, and all things make-believe.
I hope you keep your manners and poise — it's amazing how far they'll get you in life.
I hope you notice and appreciate nice gestures by others.
I hope you are optimistic and always look at the glass as half full.
I hope you keep a sense of class and dignity about you, always.
I hope you recognize natural beauty.
I hope you build a strong enough wall around your heart so you don't get taken advantage of, but weak enough so the right person will be able to tear it all down.
I hope you have a diva side (just to keep others on their toes).
I hope you have just enough edge to take the leap.
I hope you dance when it rains, laugh when you fall, and speak your mind when it counts.
I hope you have a fiery side, only when it's necessary.
I hope you chase your dreams.
I hope that you define your own success and then stop at nothing until it's obtained.
I hope that you never let anyone kill your spirit.
I hope you have confidence but not arrogance.
I hope you're not afraid to stand up for what you believe in.
I hope you know that you're as good as any boy, often better.
I hope you never settle.
"I had children so I could be a mother. To me, that meant raising them, passing on my morals and values, connecting with them, and spending time with them. — Beth Robinson
Exercise: Identifying values
Write down a list of values that are most important to you while raising a child. If it helps, write down your hopes and dreams for your child, revealing the values you want to instill in him or her.
It's important to note that you'll be able to accomplish these goals and instill these values whether you stay home or return to work. This exercise is simply to get you thinking about what's important to you on your journey through motherhood so you can determine how each path looks with these goals in mind.
"I felt a stirring in my heart to a greater call, to intimately shape this little being entrusted to us." — Amanda Ortega
This was the missing piece in my decision to stay home and the one factor that this book will explore in great depth: your "self" as a stay-at-home mom. Can you picture it? The external obstacles are widely discussed and usually expected: little sleep in the beginning, constant breastfeeding or bottle feedings, messes and tears. But it's hard to foresee the internal obstacles and know how to navigate the emotional journey this path holds. (I hope the chapters that follow will accomplish this).(Continues…)
Excerpted from "From Boardroom to Baby"
Copyright © 2017 Kristin M. Helms.
Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Introduction My Story 13
What to Expect from This Book 19
Section 1 A Leap of Faith
Chapter 1 Choosing to Stay Home: Calculating Circumstance + Values + self 25
Chapter 2 Eulogy for Your Career Self 43
Chapter 3 New Beginnings: Intentions, Goals, and Grace 53
Section 2 Navigating Through the Transition
Chapter 4 Changes in Relationships With Your Partner, Friends, and Family 69
Chapter 5 Molding the Mundanity and Chaos into Lessons, Love, and Life 81
Chapter 6 The Modern-Day Stay-at-Home Mom: Redefining the Role 93
Chapter 7 Find Your Mom Tribe 107
Chapter 8 Life Without Raises and Praise: Redefining Success 125
Chapter 9 Addressing Stigma and Society's View of Stay-at-Home Moms 137
Chapter 10 Feminism and Opting Out of Career 151
Section 3 More than Mom
Chapter 11 Boosting Confidence by Nurturing Body, Mind, Soul 161
Chapter 12 Redefining Your Sense of Self 175
Chapter 13 Nap Time Hero: Turning Your Passions into a Business 187
Chapter 14 Out of the Transition 201
Conclusion A Time to Thrive 207
About the Author 215