Develop a schedule or routine for your children
Set aside time for yourself
Build a SAHM network
Don’t compare yourself to other moms
Perfection in parenting is an oxymoron (Let it go, sister)
Find an outlet
It’s been two and half years into my SAHM journey, and there are certainly days that I feel like I’m killing it at running the house and raising two awesome human beings. Some days, not so much! I have moments where I lose my cool and yell at my children, and feel a strong urge to lock them in a closet for an hour while I sip on a margarita (in case you’re wondering- this has never happened!). I sometimes have mommy fantasies about ways I can get some free time– like catching a mild illness that knocks me out for a day or two and forces my husband to take the day off while I sleep it off; or perhaps getting a flat tire or locking my keys in the car in the mall parking lot, so I am forced to shop for an extra hour while I wait for help to arrive.
If you’re reading this and judging me for wanting to be away from my children when I wasn’t forced to become a SAHM in the first place, you are either: 1. Not a parent and/or 2. Most definitely not a stay at home parent. They don’t call it the hardest job in the world for nothing! I love my daughters more than life itself but I literally give up every ounce of my soul to them on the daily- which leaves nothing to give to anyone else (myself included). Everyday I wake up feeling so grateful that I get to watch every one of their milestones and witness how they become amazing little people each day, but that same gratefulness drains the life out of me.
Leading up to Lily’s arrival, I was not ready to commit to becoming a stay at home mom. It was never something I had always dreamed of, but after our first son Harry was stillborn, I just couldn’t see how I could go back to work while someone else cared for my child. I figured the 1:1 ratio would make it impossible to fail, but I was so wrong. I have never been so overwhelmed in my whole life. I’d like to think I’m a serious multi-tasker and do my best work while under pressure, but this was a different of type stress. As a stay-at home-mom, you’re 100% responsible for the life of another human being, making sure they’re clean, fed, stimulated, developing properly- just to name a few. All this while loaning out your body (even more so if you’re breastfeeding), operating on minimal sleep and no personal space or time, isolated from having other meaningful social interactions AND keeping the house from turning into an episode of Hoarders—it’s a combination that can drive the most prepared SAHM crazy.
If any of this sounds familiar and you need some reassurance that you’re not the only parent that feels this way, here are some valuable lessons/tips that I have learned along the way and that can hopefully help you:
- Develop a schedule/routine for your kids-
I wish I had done this sooner. As a first-time parent, I thought my child would set her own schedule and that it would work for me. Well, it didn’t! Everyday she napped, ate and played at different times and intervals. Not knowing what time I had a break while she napped (or for how long) or when she would eat and how much, was driving me insane.
An appropriate schedule depends on your child’s age so I encourage you to do your research and talk to your pediatrician to determine what is best for you and your child.
Lots of sleep is essential for your child’s brain development and to balance their energy levels so do a lot of research on how to get them to sleep longer and often.
- Set aside time for yourself everyday (while kids nap)-
This means time that you do something that makes YOU happy- it shouldn’t include cleaning, prepping meals or doing laundry. Read, watch a show, meditate, do yoga or a workout, take a long hot shower, literally anything that makes you feel like your old self. She’s still in there and you can’t neglect her.
- Set aside time for yourself every week (while your partner watches the kids)-
My husband and I have an agreement that we each get at least 5 consecutive hours per week to ourselves. For us, what has worked is we split up Saturdays into 2 shifts- 6a-11a and then 11a-4p, alternating morning/afternoon every week. During this time I try mostly to focus on doing non-family related things- such as getting a massage, reading a book, writing for my blog, or sitting on the beach by myself. It’s a weekly reminder that I am my own person, I am more than just a mom and a wife. This time alone motivates me and reinvigorates me for the week ahead.
- Build a SAHM network-
Having a network of mommies that feel your pain is key, especially if they have children the same age as yours. Find people that you can get advice from- on everything from brands of products they use, their approach on feeding, activities to do with your kiddos; to sharing recipes or cooking shortcuts; or venting about your significant others. A good tip is to allow yourself to be vulnerable (aka be real, don’t fake that you have your s*** together), but be careful with spreading too much negativity. Moms already have enough whinny humans in their life, don’t be one of them!
- Don’t compare yourself to other moms-
Be the mom YOU want to be, don’t strive to do what other moms are doing. Initially I would beat myself up for not being able to balance all my responsibilities like other moms I knew. Well, you don’t know all the details of their situation– they could have lots of help, or order pizza for dinner every night or let their kids watch tv more than you do. None which I am judging, but they do make parenting a lot easier.
- Perfection in parenting is an oxymoron (Let it go, sister)-
I am a type-A personality so this one is pretty hard for me to accept. If you don’t accept this, I guarantee that you will burnout more often than you should. My advice would be to assess everything on your plate in a given moment, then prioritize what is most important. Keeping your babies happy and alive is always most important, so if laundry doesn’t get done, your living room is a mess and its 6p and you still have to make dinner when everyone is especially clingy—let it go sister! Pick up the phone, order a pizza, pick an activity that will keep the kiddos happy and get to the chores at another point (or recruit your husband to help when he gets home from work).
- Plan Ahead-
I’m a planner so I probably plan more than the average person, but it makes things run much smoother when you do, and saves you time that you can reinvest in yourself or in accomplishing other things on your to do list.
I do it religiously every week– sometimes for the whole week or I split the week in halves (for example- planning Sun-Tues & Wed-Sat). I generally aim to cook 5 nights per week, making enough to have leftovers for another meal. For the most part, leftovers will be paired with other things (same chicken & rice with a different veggie) or repurposed completely into another meal (Pasta sauce w pasta one night, pizza the next) because we don’t like repeats in our house. This helps prevent monotony and feeling stuck on what to make each time. For the record, I even plan which days I will not feel like cooking and those will be the leftover/take out nights—such as days my husband is away or I have a busy day with no time to meal prep.
Sometimes we have leftover potluck night where all the leftover goodies are reheated in their containers and served buffet style on the table.
I try to do this on Sundays or on days I have nanny help (for me its Wednesdays). Depending on what meals I have planned for the week, I will either prepare, cook and store in the fridge OR I will prep (clean, cut, marinade, etc) all the ingredients, making it much faster to prepare closer food to meal time. My goal is always to have dinner ready in under 15 minutes because my kids are currently too young to entertain themselves while I’m cooking. I always have mac n cheese and frozen pizzas in case of an emergency (when things didn’t go according to plan!)
Most of this gets done when the girls are napping.
I do laundry twice per week (usually on Mondays and Fridays) but I try not to do it all week long- I like when things have a beginning and an end.
We are fortunate enough to have a house cleaner, so I just try to keep up in between cleanings. I clean the floors 1-2 per week.
Our dishwasher is run every night and emptied in the morning, right after I’m done making breakfast. I try to dedicate a couple of minutes after each meal, thereafter, to clean up and put all the dishes in the dishwasher. The last thing I need at the end of the night is to tackle a giant mountain of dishes when my energy is non-existent.
- Accept help-
We have a nanny that comes for a whole day each week. We don’t have any family within 3000 miles of us, and my husband travels a lot for work—so this is the best way for me to get a break to run my errands and keep my sanity. We also have a few babysitters we can call on short notice that help here and there when I’m feeling overwhelmed or need extra support (ex. Sick child). It’s important for me to remind you that you’re 100% not a bad mom for allowing other people to care for your children. If anything, you’re setting yourself up to be the mom you want to be by not cornering yourself into a meltdown.
Some other forms of “help” I often use are:
- Instacart- grocery delivery service
- Amazon– for literally everything from lightbulbs to shoes (also mostly easy returns!)
- House cleaner- bc I’d rather pay $80 every other week than spend a whole day away from my family cleaning the house.
- Mom-sitting bartering- make an agreement with a mom you trust to watch your kids along with hers for a certain period of time, in exchange you return the favor.
- Find an outlet-
Do it when you feel like exploding. I am often alone with my kids when I do, so that’s when I turn on the tv and give them every toy under the sun, so they are entertained for at least 10 minutes; while I take a few deep breaths, maybe do some yoga stretches or close my eyes and remind myself why I’m doing this in the first place. Remind yourself it will not always be this hard, and that you GOT this!
I try to plan my playdates in advance, so I have something to look forward to, especially when its been a tough day/week. Don’t over-schedule yourself because that can be overwhelming too. I aim for no more than 1-2 playdates per week. If you are a mom that likes to be out & about, you can sometimes come across other families that have a similar schedule as you, so get those mommy’s digits and plan for another encounter. Take full advantage of any adult human interaction you come across.
- Date Nights/Days
Suffice to say, you must keep the romance going and nurture your relationship with your significant other. You will have children for a LONG time so don’t use the kid excuse because that will damage your relationship. Surprise! I like to schedule these out too, as non-romantic that sounds. If you don’t, you run the risk of not “dating” your significant other for months and months which is even more non-romantic!