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ONE MOM RECENTLY WROTE; In my pre-kid life, I never imagined that someday I’d be a stay-at-home mom — hey, I didn’t go to grad school to spend my days changing diapers. But when I held my first baby, Mathilda, I had a complete change of heart. As soon as we locked eyes, all those career and financial worries faded. They didn’t disappear, but they certainly became secondary.

I have tons of friends with similar experiences. They’re not clones — today’s stay-at-home mom (SAHM) may be a tattooed rock singer, the CEO of her own company or a green-living activist — but they all have something in common: a deep desire to be there for every moment of their babies’ lives — the good, the bad and the unbelievably messy. If you’re considering life as a SAHM, both sweet rewards and tough challenges await. Read on for insight and advice from experts and moms who’ve been in the trenches.

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