From Cube to Farm: Surviving and Thriving as a Stay-at-Home Mom

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Guest post written by Heather Bryant

Once upon a time I used to wear a suit to work.

Each morning I would plod through a labyrinth of cubicles to my lowly station where I would sit for hours on end with a headset on.

From time to time I was required to leave my little den of technology to convene with the other cube dwellers in a boardroom where presentations would drone on for hours.  During these meetings I would frequently catch myself daydreaming out the window – fervently planning my exodus …

The Dream

I had visions of an idyllic little farm – a 100 year old farm house up on a hill with verdant valleys of fields surrounding it.  In my vision I wore long white dresses and beautiful, happy children played around my feet as I tended dozens of well-maintained beds of every kind of vegetable and herb imaginable.

Chickens would run around the yard and my little ones would help pick eggs while I baked bread from scratch.  The goats would play with the kids and we would drink fresh, raw milk.   I would make goat milk soap in my spare time.  Each evening I would greet my husband at the door – looking stunning, of course – with a big wet kiss, dinner on the table and someplace for him to rest his weary feet.

Life would be Perfect.

The Reality

Then I had a baby.  She wouldn’t sleep and she nursed All. The. Time.  I was fat and tired.  I had no time to do anything but take care of her.  And then, eight short weeks later, I had to go back to work.

I was determined to continue to breastfeed and would rush over to the daycare every couple of hours to nurse her.  When I walked into the daycare she often was on the floor red-faced and screaming.

I cried all the way from the daycare to the office – every time.  I would show up to my job disheveled – with cheeks tear-streaked, shirt mis-buttoned, breasts leaking through insufficient pads.  The baby still wasn’t sleeping through the night and I was exhausted.  I couldn’t concentrate on even the simplest of tasks.

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The Escape

One day I just snapped.  I couldn’t take it any longer.  I quit.

I left behind the only adult existence I knew and threw myself into this endeavor of stay-at-home motherhood.  And, boy, was I surprised.  I was totally unprepared for the world that awaited me.

Now I was still exhausted and floundering as a first time mother, but I had no one to talk to during the day and not even a second of privacy – not even in the bathroom.  We hadn’t bought our farm yet so I was stuck in a house that wasn’t Perfect and I began to drown in depression.  Except I didn’t realize it was postpartum depression because – for me – PPD expressed itself as rage.  I was angry with myself, my husband and the world at large.

I also had postpartum OCD and was terrified of germs.  I was constantly scrubbing my hands and wiping my daughter with hand sanitizer.  I washed all her toys repeatedly and was afraid to take her out of the house lest she get sick.  As she got older she, too, became afraid of dirt and bugs because I was so obsessive.  (This has since been rectified – you can check out my post of RocketGirl digging in the mud last month.)

I was scared, lonely and angry.  I had no idea what I was doing or what I was meant to do.  Why couldn’t I figure this out?  This was supposed to be easy.

Know Thyself

In hindsight, I realize I had a lot more problems than just adjusting to motherhood.  My biggest problem was that I didn’t know myself very well.

I wanted to be a mother and a wife – more than anything.  That wasn’t the problem.  What I didn’t realize was what kind of mother and what kind of wife.

The first thing that I had to do was discover Jesus for myself.  Once He was introduced into my life my whole world changed.

Now this was a long, turbulent process, as you probably already know if you are reading this blog.  When you hand your life over to Christ it isn’t just all suddenly peaches and roses.  You have to let your old, selfish self die.

And I had always been a stubborn one.  It took two hard years of ego-wrestling and denial to come to the cross.  Then I had to take a long, hard look in the mirror at who I really was and who He wanted me to be.

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The Survival Manual

I thrive on order and research.  I learn by writing and teaching others.  These are the qualities that made me really good at my job.  So, after I got my priorities in order, I began to research.  I read book after book (from the library, of course, because I was learning to budget) and subscribed to a dozen homemaking blogs, including one of my favorites – Keeper of the Home!

eBookProfileAfter a year of trial and (mostly) error plus endless hours of research, I finally felt like I had a handle on things so I started compiling all the copious notes I had taken.  When I put them all into a format that was useable I realized that I had nearly made myself a survival manual!

I published it this year as a book titled “ From Cube to Farm: Surviving & Thriving as a Stay-at-Home Mom.”  It goes into detail on my journey from a career in the cubicle to life as a stay-at-home mom on a farm in the mountains (which we did eventually achieve) and in it I offer a variety of techniques and worksheets to help other moms with this process of self-discovery and survival.

I am offering “Keeper of the Home” readers a $2 discount on the print version of the book using the code: AWLAEJB4 for the next week.  

How did you come to be a stay-at-home mom?  What was your #1 lesson learned?

About Farm Mom

Heather Bryant is the proud and loving wife of RockstarDad and the grateful mama of RocketGirl and BulldozerBaby.  Although she had a career at the intersection of finance and technology, Heather now stays home on a farm to raise her children full-time. Heather recently published her first book, “From Cube to Farm: Surviving and Thriving as a Stay-at-Home Mom.”  The book biographies her journey from the cubicle to the farm and is designed to help other women when they decide to pursue the career of motherhood as a full-time job.  Her website and blog are also dedicated to supporting and encouraging stay-at-home moms.

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Comments

  1. I admit I didn’t read all the comments but does anyone else feel this is incomplete? Maybe there is more on her blog??? But really, what did you learn? Or is this just a commercial? What changed your life around so you knew what you were doing? I struggled just like this but there are things that change and make it better. Esp. to the lady that is still there, feeling like she’s failing everyday and depressed because she isn’t where she thought she was when babies came along. I am going to write about this to help each lady. I want to help these women because that is such a hard and real place. If you are reading this and feel like the above, feel free to email me servant . rose at gmail . com I just felt this post was a bit lacking at the end with the title surviving and thriving, not ‘how I became’ one.

    • Hi Rose,
      I’m so sorry you feel this way. This was one of the first guest posts I had ever written. I felt so honored and blessed to be given the opportunity to write at “Keeper of the Home” and I tried faithfully to abide by the writing guidelines set here. I hope that my writing has helped the women who read my post, my blog and my book. I am sorry that they offered you no comfort.
      May God bless you and may Jesus provide the comfort and encouragement that my writing did not.
      WIth love and hope,
      Heather (aka Mom @ Cube2Farm)

  2. Dear Heather I love your post, thanks for sharing.
    I just had my second child and would love to be a stay at home mom. For my first child I was discussing it with my husband and now that we have two but he doesn’t agree with it. He is concerned that I may not find a job after staying at home for various years and that I will not be contributing to my 401k plan.

    Do you have any recommendation?

    Thanks,

    Alby

    • Thanks, Alby!
      That’s a tough question.
      First, it’s really important that you and your husband are on the same page. Not just for your marriage, but also in order to be successful as a full-time homemaker. WIthout daddy’s support, mommy might not get the break she needs in the evenings and on the weekends. And that wouldn’t be good for anyone.
      Second, I would recommend spending some time in prayer (alone and with hubby) on what you and your family’s needs are. Sometimes that means money to pay bills and sometimes that means mommy at home to take care of the kiddos and the household. In my case it was very clear to me that I needed the break from corporate America to be at home with my babies… for my health and my sanity. Lucky for us it ended up benefiting the whole family, including our marriage, and our relationship with God.
      Regarding the lapse in employment, I’m not so sure. I guess it depends on what you do for a living. If you are able to keep up your certifications, stay on top of continuing education credits, stay involved in communities/forums/committees, volunteer part-time or even do a little contract work on the side I think you could still brandish a pretty impressive resume. (Do you really even want to work for an employer who couldn’t respect that you wanted to stay home with your babies for a couple of years? If they can’t respect that, they probably aren’t going to be too understanding of taking days off when your kids are too sick to go to daycare or be in school. Just sayin.)
      Finally, I would go back to prayer. I realize that this probably isn’t the answer most people want to hear, but God is Good and He will guide you.
      I will be praying for you too, Alby.
      Best of luck!
      Heather

  3. JJsMommie says:

    Thanks for writing this article! The SAHMs I know never (or barely) experienced the corporate lifestyle, so it’s refreshing to read about someone who has made the transition. I was in the corporate world for 16 years before I gave birth to my son. Most of that time, I was not a Christian and thought children were a “burden,” but then later in life the Lord saved me and convicted me that children are a blessing!

    I remember being pregnant and crying on my way to work, wanting so desperately to be at home for my husband and child. After my son was born, my hubby and I thought it best that I quit, which I happily did. Of course, like you, I wasn’t prepared to be a stay-at-home mom. It was so easy to be in a cubicle, go to meetings, focus only on projects pertinent to your position, and then come home from the “corporate bubble.” Now multi-tasking took on a whole new dimension once I was at home with my son, striving to be more of a help meet to my husband, tackling errands, chores, homeschooling, and so much more. (And add freelancing to my mix.) I’m still adjusting, but I would not trade it for the corporate world.

    Thanks for sharing your story…it’s beautiful to read of a mother with a longing heart for her home and children while learning about herself in the process.

    • Thank you for your beautiful and encouraging words!
      Is good to know that there are other ladies out there willing to leave the cube farm for the joys of staying home!
      Good luck balancing WFH and homeschooling!
      God bless!

  4. Wow, that hit home. As the 30-something mom of four Manlings (ages 17-11) all I have ever wanted was to stay home with the boys. I’ve worked part-time most of my married life. (And went back to school in there too–pregnant with my youngest, of course! Why make it easy?) While my hubby and I worked so that we never had the boys in daycare, I ached to be home full time.

    After almost 18 years of marriage and motherhood I finally got my wish last November. I flat-out told my husband that if we didn’t do this now, I was going to lose it trying to do both. (And my office manager wanted me to give up homeschooling to be her full time assistant. No thank you.) I packed up my stuff and left the day before Thanksgiving. It hasn’t been nearly as easy an adjustment as I thought it would be. Some days I wonder what I was thinking. I worry about my “missing paycheck” all the time, which is annoying. I actually have nightmares about trying to find another job (eventually when the boys are older and moved out) and having to crawl back on my hands and knees to beg for my old job back ’cause I can’t find another. My depression creeps up on me from time to time, and I just wish I could get my brain together. I know part of my problem is because deep down I think I’m just not “doing anything”. Which is far from the truth.

    I wouldn’t trade any of it though. It took me too long to get to this point to want to lose it now. And I love being home with my guys. They have their moments (don’t we all?), but since they are my favorite people in the whole world I would much rather be here with them than anywhere else.

  5. When the daughter was born, staying at home felt great. Yes it was hard, yes it was isolating but I never really desired to return to work until she became a toddler. Then it was hard because the whining, arguing and blatant defiance wore me out. Then our son was born. So now i’m faced with a newborn and a difficult toddler. Until recently the newborn was fairly laid back and easy, but that has recently changed and when my husband goes off to work in the morning I find myself wishing we could change places. At least he gets a lunch break and uninterrupted bathroom breaks!

    • I hear you! Life is very hectic with two mobile littles. When I get to the point that I wish my hubby and I could switch places that I know I need to get myself out of the house and find some activities – for me and the kiddos! Hope you can find a group of supportive ladies somewhere close by to hang out with. Good luck!

  6. Hi, so interesting to read about your experience and how wonderful that you heard God’s voice and let him come into your life. I’ve been a stay-at-home Mom for over 7 years now with fours little girls and it’s been a struggle and a joy and of course a constant challenge. To be honest with you, I daydream about working in a cubicle, nothing sounds more relaxing and zen to me right now than sitting at a computer all day long :) But I know that my place is here for a little longer and that God is using me as an imperfect wife and mother.

  7. I can totally relate. I was a full-time active duty Marine when I started my family. I had 3 children in my four years of service. I became a full time stay-at-home mom with a 2 1/2 year old, barely 1 year old and a newborn. My two middle children share the same birth month. Making them only 12 months apart. Now I am currently pregnant with our fifth child after two miscarriages and I am not even 25. My kids range in ages of 5 1/2, 4, 3, and 20 months. Life is hectic but I know that God has chosen this path for me for a reason. It just seems right and ‘normal.’

  8. i had 2 boys in 16 months, went back to work, and cried… became a sahm to a 25 month old and a 10 month old when i hauled off and quit the fancy job. spent the summer learning who my children were. downsized the house, recovered from debt, survived ppd.

    yeah, i can relate. if not for my MOPS group, i would not have made it.

    now, i love my life. it’s crazy hard work. i’m exhausted. but i know this is what God called me to do.

    thanks for sharing.

    • WoW! 2 babies in 16 months! You are a superstar! :) Am so glad you were able to stay home and that you had MOPS; those ladies really helped me out tremendously. Glad you are loving life and God!

  9. Thanks for such a beautiful, real post! There’s a certain kind of happy tears you cry when someone shares something that lets know you haven’t gone crazy after all! Transitioning from the workplace to staying at home has been so hard for me. I’ve mourned it like a death. BUT I wouldn’t change anything about being with my two littles. Someone told me recently that my children are my ministry right now and it totally changed the way I’ve viewed being at home.

    • Thank you so much for your kind words! It means so much to know that writing about my experiences can help and encourage others.
      Am glad that you are happy as a SAHM! I totally agree that this new vocation is a ministry in and of itself.
      Best of luck to you! May God continue to bless you and your family!

  10. What a great testimony. :) Sidenote: our urban chickens finally laid an egg today!! Looking forward to many more to come…

  11. Thanks for sharing! When I found out I was pregnant with my son I was about to finish nursing school. It had been my dream to be a traveling nurse and make a career in healthcare. However, shortly after finding out about having my son I started to ask God to help me come to grips with making the right choice. The day my son was born I looked at my husband and told him I wanted to me a stay at home mama. And to my surprise he said we would make it happen. We have been blessed in so many ways since then! By staying at home I’ve learned about natural and organic ways to heal, eat, and live and have become such a better person and mother for it.

    • :) So glad that you were able to stay home and that you are thriving! It is wonderful to hear about other moms making the leap and enjoying the rewards of a life lived for God and our families.

  12. Loved this post and how you so vulnerably and honestly shared your heart and journey to SAHmotherhood! I look forward to being there one day myself and hope sincerely that I have friend to walk alongside me in the same kind of “real-ness” you showed in this post!

    • Thank you so much! Am so glad to have encouraged you. It is my fervent hope to encourage and support other women through my words and actions. I wish you all the best luck with your pursuits!

  13. Thank you so much for sharing your story! It is not always easy sharing our struggles with others.

    I became a stay-at-home mom after my first was 6 mos old. We now have 2 children, ages 8 and 3. When my 1st was born, I was lucky enough to have a 3 mo maternity leave. I went back to work solely for benefits. At first, a friend & mother-in-law shared in watching my son, but we had to find a sitter for him. We wanted someone to watch him in their home & got a recommendation. Well, that lasted a few weeks. Thru a series of events, I knew I needed to be home with my child. My husband & I made a promise that no matter what comes our way, I would remain home with our children. And trust me, alot has come our way. We have struggled quite a bit but we are committed to our promise to each other. And now, thru God leading us, we homeschool. We are, also, feeling led to lead a more simpler life. We want to be in the country and have a small homestead. That will take us time but we are setting the goals.

    I love hearing stories like yours as it gives me more encouragement that we can do it. Thank you!

    • Thank you!
      Glad that you, too, were able to stay home with your children! Would love to hear how homeschooling is going. It is something I am hoping to continue with my kiddos, but am struggling with home preschool :)
      We are encouraging each other. Best of luck to you. God bless!

  14. Beautiful post – thanks for sharing! I’m lucky to work from home – otherwise I don’t think I would have made it as a working mom!

    • That is awesome that you are able to work from home! It sounds like you might get the best of both worlds – intellectual stimulation and cuddle-time with the kiddos. I hope you get help with the kids while you are working; I know how tough it is to answer the phones when the baby is crying :)

  15. Thank you so much for sharing your story – I teared up a little:) I struggled with PPD and PPOCD after my first was born, and it was awful. While I was already a believer at that point, my biggest struggle was not being able to control things. Learning to trust the Lord and let go of my desire to control made the biggest change in my PPD (that, and switching to a real food diet, exercising 5 times a week and getting adequate sunlight. And a baby that slept through the night!).
    I switched to being a WAHM as soon as my first was born. Most days I think about how I can’t wait until I can quit my job and focus on homemaking more!

    • Oh, I am so sorry to hear about your struggle with PPD/OCD… I truly know how hard it is. Like you, I am constantly working on trusting the Lord.
      Thank you for your kind words. I pray that the Holy Spirit guides you and you are able to thrive as a mother, wife and believer :)

  16. Even though I freely chose to stay home, I had no idea how HARD it would be-physically exhausting(4 kids in 5 years) and isolating and monotonous. Even guilt for not bringing in a paycheck. It wasn’t until I accepted that motherhood was what I was called to do, to be my vocation, that I could embrace the joys that it brought. I (belatedly) realized the value in being home and started to thrive in my new role (albeit with a much humbled heart.) I started to take seriously the impact of raising children and of running a household. It’s not everyone’s calling to stay home, but it was mine. Yes, there are days when I want to quit and head out to an office to escape the bickering and the (never-ending) laundry and the “why can’t I’s….?”, but it is short lived. I keep my eye on the goal of raising Godly, confident, self-sufficient kids. I now proudly answer “I stay at home” when asked if I “work”.

    • Four kids in 5 years! Wow! You are my hero. I am struggling with two! Am glad to hear that you are still happy with being a SAHM and can be proud of your vocation. It is so encouraging to hear these stories so much like mine. Of other women who understand the exhaustion and isolation, but also the confidence and joy of living a life for the Lord. For our families. Thank you so much for your comment!

  17. Thanks for sharing your story and your heart, Heather! Hey–I think we recently “met” via e-mail! ;)

    Before staying at home, I worked in both journalism and teaching (I was an ESL teacher in a public school system). I was totally unprepared to be a stay-at-home mom. Really, I was totally unprepared to be a homemaker. I feel like my whole life I was groomed to excel in academics, go to college, excel there, and go out into the workforce. I feel like I still flounder every single day as a stay-at-home mom. It’s the hardest job I’ve ever had!!

    I always wanted to be a SAHM. My husband and I were working towards going on the mission field when our first was born, though, and he was finishing up seminary. We knew I still needed to work short-term to support us. So, when my now 4-year-old was just 6 weeks old, I went back to work. I HATED leaving her every day. I’m a huge breastfeeding advocate, but I teased that instead of bonding with my baby I was bonding with my pump. All I could think about was being with her!

    I didn’t really struggle so much with being a sahm until my second daughter was born. I really think I had PPD as well. It wasn’t diagnosed (my midwife said to take St. John’s Wort…which I never did :( and that I was just too busy), but I wasn’t myself. I was irritable and very, very overwhelmed with handling two kids 2 and under. (I didn’t cry or have the rage, though…but I really do think I had a form of it.) ANYWAY…I am PRAYING my upcoming transition to #3 will go better! I think what you wrote is key: Jesus! He’s been teaching me that we must come to the end of ourselves and surrender EVERYTHING to him–even motherhood, even staying at home! :)

    • Hey, Erin! Yes, we did “meet” this past week; I am so grateful to be in the company of so many wonderful, Christian women! You always seem to be so put together! It is reassuring to know that it isn’t just me who has struggled with the transition, PPD and life as a SAHM. It is even more encouraging knowing that you are surviving and thriving! :)
      Prayer is definitely key. I will keep you and your family in my prayers as you prepare for #3.
      Thanks for sharing your story and comments!

  18. Thank you for sharing your story, Heather. I, too, struggled with leaving a seriously great university job to obey God and be the stay-at-home mom that my family needed me to be. It was a struggle to go from career woman to stay-at-home mom but I am ever so happy that I did. Thankfully, I am now thriving as a stay-at-home homeschooling mom.

    • So glad that you were able to choose to be a SAHM and enjoy it! Would love to hear how homeschooling is working out for you. This is something I have been praying about a lot lately – whether or not I should continue homeschooling past preschool – and it is encouraging to hear how other moms choose this path. I don’t have an education background so I wonder if that will be too much of a challenge for me or not. I am glad it is working for you, though! Good luck and God bless! :)

  19. I recently became a stay at home mom once my daughter was born. She is almost 3 months old now. It was an adjustment for sure!! I realize now how HARD being a SAHM is and how different my day feels in general. I am so thankful and blessed to have this opportunity but I agree. . . I was not prepared for the crazy world that awaited me. Ha! Thanks for this great post.