How To Stay Sane As a Stay At Home Mom

(Photos courtesy of Unsplash)

Staying home is a big decision for any woman. It’s hard to stay sane as a new stay at home mom. It doesn’t matter your background, although I think the more you’ve invested in your career the harder it is to give it up. Some women can’t stay home. It takes two incomes to make ends meet and there are some mothers who view staying home as giving up their independence. I’ve learned, it couldn’t be farther from the truth. You actually have to be extremely independent to be at home. It can be a very lonely road. There are no awards or commendations. No raises or promotions if you did an extra good job this year. And truly no sick days! I’ve learned it takes a very special person to do this and enjoy it.

When I first became a stay-at-home mom, I left a 50-hour a week job. It was a very stressful job full of confrontation and lawsuits. Moving from the corporate world to being at home was like shell shock but after lots of trial and error, I’ve learned what works for me. Here are some practical things that helped me stay sane when first started staying home. I hope they help you find your own way.

Create Routines and Schedules

My job was appointment based and so while I was working, I lived by a planner. When I quit my job, I threw it out. Who needs a planner at home, right? My first 6 months at home were awful. Let’s just say, I couldn’t get a handle on anything. I couldn’t keep up with chores. Laundry piled up. Dishes were stacked in the sink. I’d double booked myself or forgot appointments altogether. I felt unaccomplished and overwhelmed.

Then I discovered a Happy Planner. It’s a planner, except you can customize and decorate it. You may not be a planner person and that’s fine, but I will tell you that creating regular routines are good for both you and baby. You choose how stringent or relaxed you want it. Babies and toddlers do well on routines. It’s good for their circadian rythyms.  When they know what to expect, it reduces anxiety and tantrums. They feel secure and you can better manage responsibilities without feeling frazzled.

Leave The House Often

I get it. I know how awful it is to leave the house with an infant. You feel like your packing for a 2 month trip across Europe.  But the more often you go out, the more confident you’ll get doing it and eventually, it won’t even seem like such a big chore. This is key to staying sane as a stay at home mom. It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut. It’s easier to stay home, but I promise it will do both you and baby a world of good! You’ll feel like a prisoner in your own house if you don’t. I recommend one outing a day.

Meet your husband for lunch, visit parents or in-laws, or have breakfast with a friend. Take a walk with the stroller. It doesn’t even have to be outdoors. Walk a mall or shopping center. Target seems like stay-at-home mom hangout everywhere. You can stop at a coffee shop or schedule a play date with another mom. If you have shopping and errands to do, I recommend spacing them out one per day. You get a break from your house and one outing ensures it won’t be overwhelming. If it’s a very quick outing, make it easier on yourself by just bringing a diaper clutch. It’s scary at first, but over time it will become second nature.

Find Support With Other Moms

The most shocking thing about being a stay at home mom hit me at about six months. My phone stopped ringing. Maybe you’ll have a different experience than I did, but I was absolutely shocked by this. I was very quickly forgotten by friends and colleagues after a few months away from the workforce. I’m not blaming anyone.

When you have a baby, your life changes. It’s common to stop accepting invitations shortly after giving birth. After all, you’re not sleeping and you’re trying to find your feet. After a while, people stopped inviting me altogether. Severe post-partum depression compounded my loneliness. I didn’t have any friends in the same stage of life as me, but then I’m an older mom. Sadder still was that my poor husband, although supportive and attentive, was suddenly solely responsible for all my social and emotional needs. If you want to strain your marriage, this is a great way to do it. No one person can be your everything.

I needed friends. Not just any kind of friends. Friends who understood why it took me a couple of hours to leave the house and was still late. I needed friends who understood all the doubts and second guessing you do as a mom. Friends who force me to leave the house and have some fun. I needed mom friends. These days, if you don’t have any you know personally, you can find play date groups in Facebook groups, Meetup.com, churches, and local websites. I can’t tell you how my life changed when I made non-judgmental, supportive mom friends. I found out I wasn’t weird, inadequate or a failure.

Only in the last 50 to 60 years have women been in the workforce. Before that, all women were at home and had the support of other women at home. Your mom, sisters and neighbors were all at home too. They’d talk over the fence while they hung laundry on the line or did gardening. Women didn’t have to look far for support. Now women are divided between home and work. Those who choose to stay at home may feel alienated because we no longer have the support system we once did. But some awesome women out there have created mom and play date groups to help, so go join one!

Make Your Wellness a Priority

When my oldest son was about 8 months, I felt miserable. He was sleeping through the night, but I was still perpetually exhausted. If I’m being very honest, I had no joy either. I felt depleted in just about every way you can. That’s when I realized I wasn’t taking care of myself anymore. When you have a child, your focus goes from yourself to another person in an instant. That’s good, but don’t forget that you need to take care of yourself and you have to make it a priority. If you wait for it to happen organically, it won’t. Trust me. Don’t give yourself crumbs either. Make it a priority.

This means being deliberate and purposeful about making time for yourself, even if you have to pencil it in a planner. Talk to your partner and get them on board. Whether it’s exercise, a mom’s night out, or a long bubble bath, do things that bring you peace, restoration and fun. There are lots of ways to take care of yourself and I’ve written another post with a free printable if you need ideas. I used to think that “love thy neighbor as thyself” was just about another person. But it’s actually two commands in one. You can’t give what you don’t have and you can’t teach what you don’t know. Practicing regular self-love is about caring for yourself, so you can care for others.

Bloom Where You’re Planted

Attitude matters. When I was working, I went through a season of joylessness. I was working in insurance and was very unhappy that I wasn’t working in my field of study – psychology. But that’s when God revealed to me that I was using it, just not in the capacity that I had planned. Everyday I helped people recover when their house burned to the ground or was completely flooded. I was there when family members died. I was, in fact, doing the very thing for which I trained. Everything is a for a season, and it’s up to us to embrace the moment. To put it plainly, your happiness is up to you.

Some days you’ll have to dig deep to find it. It’s hard to remember there should be joy in this. It’s hard to remember why you’re doing this when the house is a mess, babies are fussy and toddlers are on the ground in a full blown fit. You’ll find yourself fantasizing about how perfect working was, even though it’s completely untrue. You had bad days there too. There will be days you need to adjust your attitude. Learn more about how to stay sane by Resetting Your Day as a Mom. Our kids grow up fast and these will one day be “the good old days.” The small things you do everyday are our children’s memories. Make it count, because their lives will be spent away from you longer than they were with you. Enjoy this season and bloom where you’re planted.


Give Yourself Grace

I saved this for last on purpose because it’s the last thing I want you to hear (or read, that is). We’re on our own journey. Your life should look like your own – no one else’s. It’s perfectly okay if you don’t homeschool and bake pies. It’s okay if your life isn’t Pinterest worthy. Trust me when I say Facebook, Instagram and other social media are full of moments that only make the highlight reel edit. It’s an illusion of perfection. Comparison will suck all the joy out of life. Don’t do it.

Don’t be hard on yourself. Give yourself grace for mistakes and learning. Make forgiving yourself a habit. Allow yourself to be human. Progress is more important than perfection. Just when you think you have the answers, children will change the questions and the learning begins again. Some days are going to be incredibly hard. Keeping little humans alive might be the only thing that gets done and that is perfectly okay.

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Resetting Your Day as a Mom

It had been 9 days. Nine days of snotty notes, phlegm filled coughs and clingy, whiny children. Worse still, I was sick and it was my fifth day battling this awful bug. All moms know there is no such thing as a sick day. Moms are expected to just chug some medicine and get right back to nursing others and extending comfort like any good nurse does. In the midst of all the coughing and sneezing, I had also managed to throw a birthday party for my husband.

By the time Monday rolled around, I was utterly exhausted and we were still sick. We hadn’t been out of the house in 9 days and let me tell you that cabin fever is a real thing. We were all sick of being sick and boy was it starting to affect my attitude.

From the moment my feet hit the floor, my toddler was under my feet following me around like a dog waiting for scraps to fall to the floor. I felt myself get irritated that I couldn’t even walk without feeling like I was going to trip over him. Normally pretty self-sufficient, he couldn’t suddenly couldn’t do anything for himself. His mood crescendoed with a full on melt down when it was time for me to feed little brother.

Then there was my infant who had already spent the better part of 5 days refusing to be put down and crying at every opportunity. The whining was so bad I felt like I could hear it even when he had stopped. Consistent baby cries are enough to make anyone feel like they’re going mad. I began to feel my blood boil. I just wanted to rest. The mess of the party was still looking at me and I had two babies that were requiring every ounce of energy I had. I literally wanted to walk out the door and run for the hills. And ugh, did my kids know it! I was downright grouchy. My words whipped around the room like a scorpion’s tail. It’s one of those moments you pray no one ever sees. It reminded me of something someone said to me once.

“If your pastor were to ring your doorbell right now, would your attitude change?”

Ugh! Of course it would. I don’t even think it would have to be my pastor. But the answer tells you that you are totally capable of changing your attitude. You are in total control of how you behave. If you could straiten up your attitude in a moment’s notice it tells you that this crabby, ornery mood is totally on you! That’s right – it’s up to you. Believe me when I say, I fail at this more than I care to admit. It is moments like this that douse me with buckets of mom guilt afterwards.

Have you ever noticed that whenever you are in a bad mood, you’re kids also seem to have the roughest, most emotionally charged day? That’s because you set the tone in your house. It’s true. I know that’s not what you want to hear, but girlfriend, it’s true. Your kids look to you to see how they should behave and they emulate what they see. If you are resistant and angry, they pick up on it. Worse, they mirror it.

The good news is that you can reset your attitude. It takes some determination, but more than anything it takes your will. You have to decide to change your attitude. Here are some things that have helped me in the past.

Take a Time Out

Stop. Just stop right in the middle of that fire-breathing sentence and pull yourself together. Listen to what you just said and how awful it sounded. Walk away from your kids for a second if you have to, but take a moment from spitting venom and cool down. It’s not easy to admit, but the truth is, toddlers aren’t the only ones who have meltdowns! If you need to, phone a friend. Sometimes distraction or talking with a supportive person is enough to change our attitude.

Breathe

Go strait up zen and breathe in and out meditation style. Listen to your breath. Let your heart rate fall. If you need to, talk to yourself. Pray. Mediate. It’s up to you. Because I’m a Christian, I often call out the enemy and rebuke him out loud. I recognize that I’m in a battle with an enemy who wants to steal my joy (John 10:10) and devour me (1 Peter 5:8). Compose yourself and decide not to act like that.

Gain Perspective

If there is one thing that I learned with my psychology degree, it’s that hurting people hurt other people. When we are hurting or depleted inside, it rears it’s ugly head in the form of lashing out. Normally there are rational explanations for our mood. Maybe we are running on a few hours of sleep. Maybe our kids aren’t feeling well. Maybe we’re just all a little tired of being cooped up in the house. It sometimes helps to get to the bottom of why we’re so moody. And if it’s your kids’ behavior that set you off, consider they are hurting or frustrated about something too. This is the place where reason and compassion meet. Gain some perspective and remember you control what happens next. You have a great life and you have so many things for which to be happy and grateful.

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”- Maya Angelou

Be Flexible

If you’re anything like me, you had grand plans for your day that suddenly feel like they have been hijacked. You must realize that that is a symptom of needing to be in control. Your plans. Your way. Things don’t always go the way we planned and we must accept that. Be willing to let housework go for a day. It’s never ending anyway. I promise you, there would be housework tomorrow even if you worked today. No load of laundry is as important as loving your child.

Reprioritize and remove unnecessary commitments. So many times our moodiness comes from a place of being overwhelmed and frustrated. Take a good hard look at what you have on your plate. Remove unnecessary things that are weighing you down and reorder what you do have, spreading them out into manageable chunks. Delegate tasks to your husband. Most people don’t help, because they don’t know they’re needed.

That brings us to the next crucial thing. Ask for help. That friend, parent, in-law, sibling or neighbor who always says, “let me know if you need something,” is the one you need to call. People don’t go around offering help if they don’t mean it. If they offer, it’s because they truly don’t mind. Swallow your pride and ask for help. No one is going to think any less of you. If you are truly struggling you need to call on the people that love you for help. Sometimes just having some support changes everything.

Extend Grace

This is the hard part. Letting it go. Once emotions are settled and the moment has passed, we are quick to feel guilt and condemn ourselves. Identifying regrets is a healthy way to stop ourselves from making the same mistake, but it can become unhealthy if we wallow in self-pity and condemn ourselves. That’s because over time, we believe what we say about ourselves. If you constantly tell yourself you’re a failure and a bad mother, you’ll start to believe it. Don’t give into that. Part of self-care and self-love is forgiving yourself. Allow yourself to be human, including making mistakes. This life is about progress, not perfection. Hold yourself accountable. Apologize if necessary. Commit to change. Move forward.

It is awful that are children see us at some of our worst moments. But even in our adult-sized tantrum we can show our children how to regain self-control. Don’t be hard on yourself, mama. You got this!