Janica and her fiancé Kyle had a plan. Janica would work at a corporate retail office in New Jersey while Kyle forged an engineering career in Pennsylvania. While apart, they would plan their dream wedding and the life that would follow. They gave themselves three years to climb career ladders before stepping off to have children. But that plan was tossed out the window when they found out they were pregnant. They later jumped the broom, jumped in the car and jumped into a new life with a new baby girl in Pittsburgh. Because Kyle’s demanding job meant long hours at the office and no relatives were within a 100-mile radius, the couple decided that Janica would stay home and care for their daughter. Soon, she soon discovered it was the best (unplanned) decision they ever made. I caught up with Janica, who became a stay-at-home mother by accident but chooses to keep that title.
What was your initial reaction to the pregnancy?
We cried, we laughed, but most importantly, my husband prayed for us. He asked God to keep us, to guide us through this transition and to show us the way. Those months apart as we figured everything out were some of the hardest months of my life. The days were filled with arguments and disagreements. I even cancelled the wedding twice! It was far from a fairytale, but Kyle made it clear we were going to be a family. And at seven months pregnant, I walked down the aisle and married my best friend. I thank God for my husband daily. Never did I think our lives could have been enriched anymore, but as soon as Kyle handed our daughter to me, I knew that this is what love is about. Love shouldn’t have to follow an outline. It shouldn’t be condensed into a cookie cutter design that we have to follow to receive it. Love is what we make of it. I’ve never been one to follow directions anyway!
Sometimes people expect stay-at-home mothers to justify their existence. For instance, they expect you to do “more,” like run a business or spearhead a charitable event. DId you feel the need to have another purpose besides being a mom?
No! I am a mom, wife, cook, house cleaner, errand runner, personal assistant, chauffeur, organizer, party planner and more! Society tries to paint this picture that I sit at home reading Vogue magazines, sipping fresh brewed coffee while my daughter sleeps peacefully in the other room. This is far from the truth. This is a full-time job where you don’t receive personal days, sick time or vacation leave. I am on the clock non-stop. It’s a title I took on with pride, and its one of the most rewarding positions I’ve ever had!
How have you become comfortable/confident with staying at home?
Each month when my daughter gets older, I look in the mirror, and I say job well done. Coming from the corporate world where feedback and direction is given in abundance, I now had a job where my little employer couldn’t speak. But I learned that every smile is a positive review. Every time her eyes light up with excitement, I completed a task to perfection. I use these small successes to push me through the rough days when it felt like I just couldn’t get it right. So since she can’t talk, I remind myself that I am a good mom.
What is the best thing about being a mom? What is the most challenging?
The best thing about being a Mom is that I get to be Kendal’s mom! She has shown me what a purpose filled life looks like. I am in awe of this little person who has changed me in ways I thought were not possible. She has slowed my life down so that I can actually relish in the moment instead of trying to push my way to meet the marks in life we strive for. I am an only child, and I never babysitted before, so this was a huge undertaking. Information has been a challenge for me also. I either absorb too much or not enough. But mostly too much. From the Internet to children’s books to grandparents and family and friends, I was overloaded with advice. But time goes on, I’ve learned how to narrow down what and whom to listen to. I now trust myself to seek out the answers and I firmly stand with all my decisions.
Being new to the area, how do you build a support system?
With prayer! Lol! I reached out to a girlfriend who is also a SAHM who leaves in a different state than her family, and she gave me advice on how to connect with moms in my area. I joined Mocha Moms, Mommy MeetUp, Gymboree and bought a membership to every museum, zoo and Mommy, and Me class I could find. I asked God to introduce me to other women with similar interested and values.
Do you plan to hire a babysitter? Are you nervous about leaving your child with someone you don’t know?
I am planning on hiring a babysitter. I have been lucky enough to have an elderly neighbor who considers herself Kendal’s Pittsburgh Grandma and a friend’s niece who both offered to watch my daughter. I’m not nervous, because I have built great relationships with both individuals and I know Kendal will be in good hands.
How do you and your husband get in quality time together as new parents?
I have to thank God for the Megabus! My mom visits twice sometimes three times a month which gives us time to catch up and reconnect with each other. We get a chance to focus on our relationship outside of our daughter. In between the visits, we sneak in quality time in rides in the car, during nap time and text messages are like little love letters that never end. We also go to the movies. We’ve just swapped the theater for a drive-in!
What’s the best advice you have received as a first time mom? What advice would you give to other parents?
That grandparents love the grandchild too. A dear girlfriend had to remind me of that. It wasn’t until recently that I came to grips with this. My mother and mother-in-law have been the most important women I have. At first, I was so reluctant to take advice from them, because they hadn’t had a newborn in over 30+ years and times had truly changed. Gone were the days of giving the baby water at an early age, table food at four months or putting the baby on their belly at night. Then I had to acknowledge the fact that between the two of them, they’ve raised four children, received master degrees, experienced successful careers. They are different as night and day, but there lays the success. I get the best of two worlds to help me raise the most important person in all of our lives. I thank them dearly for that. Sometimes the advice may seem overbearing or intrusive, but know that deep down the advice is coming from a place of love and they’ve been in your shoes.
How do you stay busy/active?
I have a set schedule each week that keeps Kendal and I pretty busy. My husband travels during the week, so I try to get out the house as much as possible. We have weekly play dates, Gymboree classes, Mommy and Me Yoga, Library Story Hour, and weekly trips to the park and museums. It may seem like a lot, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s a piece of my support system.
Why is it important for all moms to have me time? How do you find time for yourself?
It’s extremely important. When I first had my daughter, I would run around the kitchen preparing meals that would make the cooks on the Food Network jealous. Cleaning from Dusk til dawn, reading books, arranging play dates, and making certain that my husband had all he needed made me happy. But I never stopped and asked, “What does Janica need?” I thank God I came to my senses. Kendal goes to school (daycare) one day a week for five hours, and during that time, I reconnect with myself. I get to spend time with me. Because we live away from our family and friends I am non-stop so those five hours my seem like nothing time wise but its my version of two weeks of vacation with pay!
How has your life changed as a new mom? What do you miss? What wouldn’t you trade in to go back to your previous life?
I don’t freak out as much as I used to. I was extremely high-strung and a bit anal before I had my daughter. I would never admit that before. I would just say I was passionate and determined to get it done right, the way I saw fit. I laugh at myself now. I now know that it all will work out. My faith has never been as strong as it is now. I pray and talk to God constantly about everything. I do sometimes miss the pick up and go of my yester-years. I definitely took for granted running inside the gas station for a bottle water. It’s not that easy anymore. Or hanging out with my girlfriends laughing over endless glasses of wine. But I wouldn’t trade it for the songs I sing to Kendal with her trying to sing along, or her kisses that are filled with love juice or the excitement she has when we read her favorite book. Yeah, Baby Eisenstein trumps Pinot Noir now.
Do you home school your daughter? What learning activities do you engage in?
Yes. I have several apps on my iPad that we review, a library of books in her room, So Your Baby Can Read DVDs and every developmental toy the Pediatrics of America and Parent Magazine endorses. But with all of that being said, the best lessons are the ones we learn as we go about our day. I teach her about the seasons as we take our walk in the park, colors and numbers at the grocery store, and the alphabet as we sit in traffic.
Janica has no plans to return to work anytime soon unless the right opportunity presents itself. Meanwhile she plans to cherish every moment she spends with her daughter at home.
Hey BMWK family — Are you raising a family away from your relatives? How do you build a support system? Are you contemplating becoming a stay-at-home parent?
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