Before I was a stay-at-home mom, I worked full time. I always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom and daydreamed about quiet, cozy days snuggled up on the couch together reading books to my children. When the opportunity came for me to quit my job and stay home with my then 3-year-old Sadie and newborn Noah I was ecstatic. It was my dream come true to get to spend every day with those awesome kids of mine. I did think maybe I should take up a few hobbies, sure that I would have more free time than I would know what to do with – if you are or have ever been a stay-at-home mom, I’ll wait while you have a good laugh at that! No, too much free time has never been an issue. More like, where do I get some of this “free time” you speak of? It’s exhausting, challenging, and can leave you feeling like no matter how hard you try, no matter how much you do in a day – it’s never enough. I’ve been there my friends! I’ve been staying home with my kids full time for 6 years, and homeschooling them for 5. I know what it’s like to feel like you’re just trying to survive this time, when I think a lot of us went into this role wanting it to be so much more than survival. I know I did, and I still do! I’ve put together my own list of ways to not just survive, but thrive in your role as a stay-at-home mom.
Disclaimer: This is just my list! I know all things related to parenting can become controversial very quickly, and I’m not here to tell you this is what I think you should do. This is what works for me, and maybe it could work for you too. Or maybe you’re wired a little differently than me and what I need is the opposite of what you need – that’s okay too.
1. Get Dressed
This one is HUGE for me. If I don’t take a shower, get dressed, and usually put on a little makeup in the morning I don’t feel productive or good about myself throughout the day. I know this one may not apply to everyone and so many moms live in their yoga pants and operate just fine -but if you’re anything like me, a daily shower and wearing something you feel good about yourself in will make a big difference for your state of mind and productivity level. I know this isn’t always an easy task, but some ways I’ve found to make it work through different baby and kid stages are:
- Getting up early enough to get myself ready for the day before my husband leaves for work
- Setting baby in a bouncy seat/swing/exercauser in the bathroom doorway and playing peekaboo or talking to them to keep them entertained while I shower
- Letting them watch a few minutes of TV while I get myself ready
Once I discovered how much better I felt taking care of myself each morning, I realized I needed to get creative and do what I could to make it happen.
2. Have a routine.
Another thing I’ve found helpful is sticking to some kind of a routine during the day. I don’t know about you, but my day is pretty much structured however I want to structure it. No one is standing over my shoulder making sure I do laundry, or clean out the litter box, or not spend half the day on my phone. I have to use some self discipline to keep my home running the way I really desire it to be. Often times I go with the flow and find myself not exactly proud of the way I spent my day. I truly need structure to feel good about the way I spend my time. One way I’ve found that helps me do this, is to have set “markers” in my day that keep me on track. For example, I strive to always do all of the dishes and wipe down the counters after lunch every day. This little “rule” I’ve set for myself becomes a habit and eventually it feels like that is just happening on autopilot. Another example is I always make my bed as soon as I’m dressed, before I go downstairs – and as a homeschool mom, I’ve decided that our school day starts at 8. This keeps us focused and on track first thing in the morning and also helps us to usually be done with school by lunch! Building some structure into your day can make a big difference.
3. Do A Little Everyday
We’ve all been there. The baby isn’t sleeping, we’ve been rushing from one activity to the next, life gets in the way and nobody is keeping up on the house. The dishes are piling up, the counters are covered in clutter, and please don’t mention Laundry Mountain. It just happens! It’s so much easier to climb back out (or not get buried to begin with) if I just do a little everyday. My goal is to empty and load the dishwasher and do one load of laundry every single day. I never feel like doing those things, I don’t enjoy those tasks one bit – but keeping up on them daily keeps them from becoming an overwhelming time consuming chore.
4. Leave the House. Also, Stay Home.
This one is all about balance. There are many stay-at-home moms who spend much of their time at home and find themselves feeling isolated and bored. I can’t do it. I go stir crazy! When Sadie was a baby I was super intimidated to take her anywhere by myself. I was 21 and she was colicky and screamed every time we got in the car – so we stayed home a lot. Those days felt so long and lonely. I loved my baby girl and we had fun together, but I remember feeling crushed if my husband called and said he was stuck at work and would be an hour later than normal. I needed adult interaction and a change of scenery. Things got better when we started venturing out. I would take her to the park, the children’s museum, story time at the library. Our local parks and recreation department even offered inexpensive classes like toddler gym and ballet. Getting out of the house saved my sanity.
On the other side of the spectrum is the mom who is always on the go. This one is closer to me these days now that my kids are older and the opportunities for activities are everywhere. We’ve done it all – soccer, homeschool co-op, basketball, church choir, swim lessons, piano lessons, singing lessons, play dates, park dates, field trips. I could go on but I’m getting stressed just thinking about it! I’m learning there are a lot of good things that I need to say no to. Sometimes I need to say no to a fun time or a good opportunity, so I can say yes to my mental health. I need home days in the mix to stay caught up on my kid’s schoolwork, the housework, and the laundry. I think my kid’s need quiet time at home too. Being constantly stimulated with kid-focused activities is probably not super healthy. I want them to be bored. I want them to learn how to entertain themselves. I want to give them room to create something, or read, or draw. I’m a big believer in intentionally staying home. (With a healthy dose of getting out of the house!)
5. Make Home Your Haven
Since you’re probably going to be spending more time at home, make your home a place you want to be. Paint that bathroom that you’ve always hated, buy a new lamp, pick up some flowers at the grocery store and put them on the kitchen table. You’ll enjoy being home more if you love your home. The cleanliness and amount of clutter in my home also contribute to my state of mind in a big way! Have you ever heard the quote “the state of your bed is the state of your head”? That is true for me! Even more important is the state of my kitchen! As much as I don’t enjoy the cleaning itself, I enjoy being in my home MUCH more when the cleaning has been done. It really is worth the reward of feeling good in my house.
6. Don’t Stop Growing
There are so many ways to keep growing as a stay-at-home mom. I get bored easily, so I’m always looking for a new goal. Find an encouraging podcast and listen to it while you fold laundry (it also helps the laundry to seem faster – bonus!). Start implementing new ideas. Scrap them if they don’t work for you, and try something different next week. Try a cleaning schedule, cook something new every night for a week, start a blog. Keep working on yourself and keep pushing to become a better wife/mom/friend/human being than you were yesterday.
7. Have Fun With Your Kids
You’re a stay at home mom, so I know you probably spend a lot of time with your kids. You probably feel like ALL you do is spend time with your kids! And while I’m sure that’s true, I know I have to be intentional about what kind of time I’m spending with them. I can easily spend my days assigning their spelling lessons, cooking their meals, folding their laundry, and breaking up their fights, without truly seeing them and enjoying their company. I have to make a decision to pause my to-do list and choose to sit down and play Mario Brothers for 30 minutes, or do a puzzle, or join them on the trampoline. Their faces light up, because this is what they really want. Just Mom, having fun with them. I don’t want to be so busy that I forget to have fun with my kids.
8. Have Company
NOTHING motivates me to get up, get dressed, and clean my house like knowing someone is coming over. That in itself is a good reason to invite a friend over sometimes! Not to mention the benefits of adult conversation and getting to catch up with a friend or maybe get to know someone better. It’s an extra bonus if the friend you invite over also has kids who can keep your kids entertained and give you time to actually talk. Or will at least understand the twenty thousand interruptions for a drink/snack/toddler needing you to take them potty.
9. Give Yourself Grace
I truly believe in the advice I’ve shared with you, and I have no doubt each one has helped me enjoy this stay at home mama life a little more – but every home runs differently and every season is different. If reading this made you feel defeated because something, everything on this list has been slipping right now and you just can’t make it happen – give yourself a big dose of grace. Sometimes we cook elaborate dinners, and sometimes we make cold sandwiches. Some days I get caught up on the laundry, do an art project with the kids, vacuum AND mop the floors, and the kitchen looks amazing. Other days the kids watch way too much TV and we get drive thru on the way to soccer practice. Let yourself be in the season you’re in. You’ll never “do it all” perfectly all the time, and that’s okay. Just keep trying to grow, and know that the season you’re in right now won’t be forever.