When Janet Coleman became pregnant with her son, it was a miracle, she says -- she and her husband had been trying for three years. Coleman felt lucky to be able to quit her job and put all her energy into taking care of the baby. "I was looking forward to being a stay-at-home mom. But after a few weeks my rose-colored glasses started to fog up," she says. "My son was colicky and cried nonstop. Day after day all I did was nurse, change diapers, and rock him. There were many days I felt alone and guilty. I wondered if there was something wrong with me -- why wasn't this stay-at-home mom floating on cloud nine?"
Like Coleman, many women have great expectations of what life will be like when they leave work to be home with their child. After making the switch, however, reality sets in: Staying home is a major adjustment.
"You're trading in one set of challenges for another," says Christine D'Amico, author of The Pregnant Woman's Companion (Attitude, 2002). At work, you may be dealing with deadlines and conflicts with coworkers, while at home you're coping with a crying baby, household chores, and never-ending family demands. Of course, you get to witness precious milestones as your infant learns to crawl, talk, and walk. You can also wear whatever you want and kiss workplace politics goodbye. Still, going from office to home is like stepping into a different life. It's equally -- if not more -- trying, in a totally new way.