How to be a stay-at-home mom without losing your marbles
We stay-at-home moms know we are blessed to be home with our littles, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t faced with the challenge of not just surviving—but actually thriving—while surrounded by cracker crumbs and matchbox cars and laundry that multiplies every single time your back is turned.
Every working mom has challenges, but today I want to look at the challenge of staying sane as the stay-at-home variety of working mom.
After 17 years in the workforce I was so excited to switch gears and stay home when I started to have babies. Now three-and-a-half years on I can easily say that staying home with my kids is the best and hardest job I’ve ever had. It’s physically exhausting, mentally challenging, emotionally taxing, and can be very lonely at times. Things have gotten easier since that first year of shock and transition, but a large part of that has come as a result of putting most of these practices into place. I’m a far better mom because I’ve learned how to better take care of myself and manage my days.
I hope these tips will inspire and encourage you in your own season of being home with your children. May you be empowered, dear mama, as you build practices into your days to help you keep your sanity during the ‘little years’.
Readers tips for staying sane on the job:
1. Find some outlets that don’t have to do with being a mom.
Queenie from the PLANET pink: For me, sanity relies A LOT on having outlets that help to define me outside of being a mama. The first time I was a SAHM I was shocked to discover that it didn’t really fulfill me the way I expected it to. I loved it of course, but I soon realized that although being a mama and staying home with my kids is one of the most important parts of me (and certainly consumes the most time), it is not the only part. If that was all I was, you would see my sanity drowning in the laundry and dishes. So I’ve actively been seeking creative outlets that I enjoy. Some of them do revolve around being a mother (like blogging for example), but not all of them do, like church and my childbirth educator certification. But put them all together and you get a well-rounded me who is happy with where I am in life.
Sarah from Four Leaf Photography: I worked full time until my oldest was 1 and then went to part time and then quit when #2 was born. It was really hard so I always tell people considering it to make sure they get a hobby. Literally. If it weren’t for my photography I wouldn’t have gotten through the first year. Play dates are good but when you’re used to being challenged mentally everyday at work, you need something to keep that going.
2. Create some structure for your day.
Cameron from Ingenue Mom: I found that having some sort of structure to my day really helped me. That’s one of the reasons why we chose to do more of a routine with Isis. It kept me sane & allowed me to be a better mom. If I knew “okay, she’s going to take a nap next & I’m going to do dishes & laundry” then it helped me break up my day.
3. Get out of the house.
Livy from Making Over Mum: Getting outside lots and lots! I start to go a little stir crazy if I go to many days without an outing!
Teaching Tiny Tots said: I found that taking an outing almost every day really helped especially since we had just moved to a new city. It was a little intimidating in a large city with newborn twins but also fun to explore as well. We received a great deal of attention and it was nice to talk to new people.
4. Take time for yourself and connect with girlfriends.
Michele from Misadventures of An Army Momma With Two Under 2: Be sure you get time to yourself, whether that’s all by yourself or with a bunch of girlfriends. You need to keep being yourself and not just the mom with the kids!
5. If you work from home, try alternating blocks of time to work and play.
Kerry from Nesting with Niall: I initially thought that working from home was a dream come true – I could avoid the costs of day care and spend more time with my baby. What I didn’t realize was that working from home means ignoring the baby who is sitting next to you with the puppy dog eyes begging to play with you. I’ve found that I have to switch gears every hour. I’ll work for an hour and then play with Niall for an hour. It’s just not fair to leave him sitting there, bored and unstimulated, for long periods of time. It’s also a nice break for me to get outside for a nice little walk/playtime.
6. Get active and do some exercise.
Jhen of From Here to Eternity: I love to do those Dancing With the Stars workout DVDs to keep my body moving and learn and little dance moves!
Mandy from It’s a Beautiful Life: I stay sane by keeping busy! My baby boy and I get our and about quite a bit. And when we’re home – we’re playing together. When he’s napping, I’m blogging!
And some of my own tips for staying sane on the job:
7. Spend time playing with your child.
Obviously the baby needs to be fed. The laundry needs to be done. The floor needs to be swept. Those tasks come with the territory of being a SAHM (or any mom for that matter). But I find that if I don’t spend deliberate time every day playing with my kids, I end up getting really stressed (and bored) with all the chores and maintenance of day-to-day housekeeping and toddler wrangling. I need to get down on the floor, sing some songs, stack some blocks, play dinosaurs, do some crafts or coloring, play a simple board game, or do some physical play like hide and seek. And I don’t just mean playing when they get cranky and begin demanding attention, but taking time to play with them while they are already happy so we can simply enjoy each other. On especially stressful days, playing with my kids is my saving grace. It gives me a chance to laugh and enjoy the moment, and it always brings things back into perspective, helping me remember why I decided to stay home in the first place.
8. Have blocks of time allocated for work that needs undivided attention.
I am a project-oriented person. When I was single there were many times where I would start a project at work and be so into it that I would burn the midnight oil just because I was on a roll and didn’t want to stop. As a SAHM with littles, I’ve learned that I have to try to do everything in short increments and–like it or not–always be prepared for an interruption or a change of plans. I miss having long blocks of time to just “get stuff done”. About once a month on a Saturday I take a “work” day to do all sorts of things that require the kind of focus that stopping and starting just won’t allow. My husband takes care of the kids from morning until night – every naptime, diaper change, cooking, housework… all of it. He loves the change of pace he gets and I lock myself in the office and work without interruption! I love being able to look forward to these long days and can usually accomplish in a day what would otherwise take me an entire week of stopping and starting and working in the margins.
9. Spend time thinking about the “why’s” of parenting and not just the “how’s”.
When Levi (my first born) was a baby I realized that I was constantly online and reading books about how to take care of him – things about breastfeeding, preparing baby food, helping him sleep, developmental stages, etc. If I wasn’t taking care of him I was reading and thinking about how to take care of him. Not good! The thing is, I really enjoy reading about parenting and development so in a sense it was fun for me… but I realized I needed to find some balance. I began incorporating other books that helped spur me to thing about the why’s of parenting and also deliberately began reading books about my own spiritual development. It helped me to gain perspective and become a better person, not just better parent. (For some great books to help you think about the “why’s” I recommend Loving Your Kids on Purpose and Sacred Parenting. Both are excellent.)
10. Debrief with your husband/partner/support person.
When Ryan comes home from work I try not to bombard him with the details of my day before he has a chance to set his keys down… but he knows that if I don’t debrief and report how my day went to another adult at some point during the evening, I will most likely implode. Sharing some of what happened through the day is validating for me and helpful for me in making the transition from “mom mode” to “wife and friend” mode.
11. Be deliberate to not always be multi-tasking.
If you’re like me, then time is precious and there’s never enough of it! I’m constantly multi-tasking, whether it’s checking emails on my phone while I nurse my son, making a phone call while taking them on a walk, or doing the dishes while eating lunch. At times it’s a must and helps me to stay on top of things, but at other times it just means I’m spreading myself too thin and doing an average job at a bunch of things rather than a good job at a few things. One thing I’ve especially had to put boundaries around is how I’m using my phone.
12. Get showered and dressed and ready for the day each morning.
It’s so tempting to spend all day looking like I just rolled out of bed, but I’ve found that just by getting up and showered and (sometimes) putting on a little make-up, I move through my day much more easily. When I’m showered and dressed and looking fresh, I feel good physically and my mind actually feels sharper.
13. Find a moms group or play group that you enjoy.
Play groups are for moms! Before I had a child I used to think play groups sounded so boring… but now I get it! I love getting together with other moms who have children similar in age to mine… for adult conversation, swapping tips and stories about the kids, and just getting out of the house in general.
Dear friends, I’ve brushed this post up from the archives after thinking a lot lately and wondering if I’m doing the stay-at-home mom thing well. I hope you’ve found these tips helpful. How do you stay sane as a stay-at-home mom? Can you relate to any of these? Do you have any tips that you’d like to add? And the real question: do you ever feel like you’re losing your marbles??
Love Adriel x