Whether being a stay at home mom is something you’ve always wanted or it made the most sense for your family- we all want to make it the best experience it can be. So, how do we become a happy stay at home mom? Making a big change in your life can be difficult! And mom-ing 24/7 is a lot of time! If you are reading this, I bet you just made a huge decision for your family and yourself… and it wasn’t easy. I know it wasn’t for us.
This has been a typical scenario at my house. I love making crafts with my kids and taking them on adventures to try new activities. I was a teacher and a counselor for most of my career. The creative, crafty, teaching part of being with my kids is definitely my forte. Housework on the other hand is my arch nemesis. There have been days when I know that I should do some serious cleaning. Then I look at my dishwasher-nah. Then at my kitchen and contemplate cleaning it. Or how about that basket of clean laundry that everyone has been picking through to find their clothes? But ugh! So boring.
Instead I’d look at my toddler and say, “So, do you want to make orange slime?!” How could I turn down that enthusiastic “Yes”!? I mean I wouldn’t want to disappoint him?! (Orange is key since that’s his favorite color).
We’d have a great time. Then we’d make an even bigger mess that needed to be cleaned up. By the time we are done, we have to make and eat lunch, then reading and naps for both the baby and toddler– so no time to clean! They sometimes nap at the same time, but really I’m lucky if I get an hour alone. Before you know it, the day is over. I end up feeling guilty that I didn’t accomplish enough, even though I’d spent quality time with my kids and did a lot with them- our house looked like a tornado went through it and it makes us feel crazy!
This is a little of my backstory…. After working in education full time for 10 years, we decided that it was best that I stay home with our 6 month old baby and 2 year old toddler. You can read how we came to that decision here. There were conversations and plans we put in place to make the transition. There were also some unexpected reactions to the news that I was quitting my job. The preparation was only the first step. We’ve had some interesting disagreements about money that have taught us a lot! Living and breathing it brings a whole other set of revelations. I’ve been home for 4 months, and making the transition has already taught me a lot. About what did not work in making this change and what has worked.
Be Kind to Yourself
I always talk to my sister at the end of the day while she drives home from work (it used to be both of our commute times). During my first month at home, I felt like I was just barely making it through the days. She would often tell me that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. It’s a catch 22- the feeling that I need to do more is what keeps me motivated but it can also make me feel guilty on days that I think I didn’t do “enough”. Not every day will be great, and this is a job that you never leave from. It doesn’t help anyone in your family to hold on to negative feelings about yourself just because you had a bad day or even a bad moment.
I have a 2 and ½ year old- he decided that his toy fish wanted to go swimming in his potty. It was disgusting! I had explained to him that fishes prefer clean water and not pee, because that’s gross. He did it anyway. I was particularly worn out at that point in the day and didn’t react in a very positive way. Then I felt bad, because I know he’s still learning and figuring out his boundaries. We all make mistakes. We will continue to make them, so just learn, forgive and move on.
Don’t Commit to a Plan Right Away
Do not create this perfect schedule right away and try to follow it. You will lose your mind. As you gain experience and try different ways of mastering the days, you will organically develop a routine that works best for you. Remember that this is something new and you are in charge of how the day is going to go. You may have read someone else’s schedule, printed it out and tried to follow it to a “T”.
I tried to get up at 5am and it doesn’t work for me. Maybe one day I’ll learn and know that is the only way to really successfully tackle the day, but I am naturally a night owl and get a lot done after the rest of the family has gone to sleep. This is what works for me right now. I can’t automatically think that I will be a terrible mom because everyone says I should get up at 5am to be happy. Everything will not work out the same for you. There’s a lot that goes into creating the perfect schedule for YOU. Nothing is set in stone. You can try different variations of schedules until you settle into something that works for your home. I tried different times to leave the house based on when both my babies were well rested and finally found our golden hours. It took some trial and error first.
Develop a Schedule
You know my story about the orange slime? Those situations (yes it happened more than once) really affirmed that I needed a schedule. There has to be time blocks dedicated to the things that I don’t naturally like to do. We have been following a schedule all of our lives- in school, at work etc. It’s important to maintain that order in this job as well and create a schedule.
All of you that just cringed at the last statement- hear me out! It can be as relaxed or structured as you want, but just having one is key. Raising your kids, building your home and taking care of yourself is a FULL TIME job! The only difference is that you are your own boss- you decide what needs to get done and when. There are many advantages to that, but without structure things can quickly fall apart. You could just wing it, but trust me- your days will fly by with nothing accomplished. I went to this blog because I liked her editorial calendar (blog planning) and ended up using her simple weekly calendar as well. It’s hanging in my kitchen and is so helpful!
Communicate with Your Spouse
We had A LOT of conversations before making this change for our family. And we continued to have them after. We knew there would be some growing pains and there have been. Mainly our hurdles have been money related. As you can imagine, it’s really hard cutting back half of your income and starting a new stricter budget. I’ll write another post in more detail on the challenges we have faced tackling a new budget, but the main way we have overcome and figured out how to go forward is consistently talking to each other.
There was one Sunday after a hard week where we sat down for almost 4 hours looking over our budget and actually sharing everything that was frustrating. We analyzed what we could do to actually meet it. Sounds terrible right?! Definitely not the type of Sunday I look forward to! Afterward, we were on the same page more and it was easier to face this new goal. Totally worth the stressful afternoon to get there!
Make Time for Yourself
A few days ago, my 9 month old baby Ellis was sick. He had a really bad cold that had kept him up almost all night the night before. So the ONLY thing he wanted was for me to hold him. He was upset and groggy and I pretty much had to rock him and comfort him the entire day. My husband worked from home in the afternoon and could hear the day’s events.
When he saw me at the end of the day and I had drool and snot all over my shirt, he goes “I can take over. You should go for a walk and get some air. Maybe change your shirt first.” It was amazing! I went to Target though and ran errands. I would say that running errands shouldn’t be the norm for your “me time”! Even though I got our toilet paper and other things, I took a really long time trying on some clothes and I bought an expensive, deliciously smelling candle. So it was enjoyable.
Make time for your hobbies and things you like to do. Things that I consistently fit in my weeks are working out in a fun way and writing on this blog. They give me balance, energy and happiness to keep tackling each day. I wasn’t making time for those things when I was working because I was so stressed and overwhelmed. Looking back I should have made more time for myself then as well.
Visit with Friends
All of my good friends work during the week. So having a network has been difficult. I talk to other moms at the classes where I take the boys to, but that’s not the same. Recently I joined a Chicago Stay at Home Mom meetup group. Yes, I am online dating to find new mom friends. LOL. If I don’t put myself out there, I’ll never meet anyone! Just like meeting my husband, he didn’t come knocking on my door. If you don’t know other moms, try new ways to meet more people. As a naturally introverted person, this isn’t always easy for me either.
It’s also important that I visit with my friends some weekends on my own. You’re going to miss adult conversations…A LOT. It’s important to have connections with other adults and form friendships with others that are in similar situations as yourself. Nobody will truly understand what you are going through as much as other moms.
In the end, you can be extremely happy and fulfilled in your new role. Regardless of what it is and how you got there. By taking care of yourself with time and kind self love. Know that things will not always work the way you envision- you learn from it and keep it moving. You will never have this time again! I haven’t met a mom that said, “I wish I had spent less time with my kids”. Before you know it, the kids will be in school and those days with them will be gone. Let’s just enjoy this crazy ride called motherhood.
What are your tips for transitioning to a stay at home mom?