Becoming a Stay at Home Mom (SAHM) can be an interesting and sometimes difficult transition. Not so long ago, you might have had a “real job” meeting deadlines, accomplishing goals, finishing projects. Suddenly, your world consists of dirty laundry and messy diapers, 3-hour feedings and nap schedules, board books and squeaky toys, sleep deprivation and days between showering. If you’re lucky enough to have a free moment, you may look in the mirror and wonder what ever became of the woman who wore makeup daily and color coordinated her shoes with her purse.
Being a mother is truly the toughest job you may ever have. Your training is less than perfect and most of it happens on the job so you won’t know a mistake until you’ve made it. The one person who gives you regular feedback isn’t even able to walk yet, and her main form of communication is a high-pitched cry. The pay is horrible, yet you put in more hours than you ever have. Sound appealing? In reality, being a SAHM is also one of the most satisfying roles you will ever fill, and compared to other career opportunities, the window is only open for a short period of your life. A good day in Corporate America is nothing compared to a good day as a stay at home mom – when you are overcome with the beauty of your little baby, when you watch your child cry with glee over something as simple as a butterfly, when that sweet-smelling bundle of joy smiles at the sound of your voice. In that moment, everything is right in the world.
Of course, in between those moments, there are a lot of sleepless nights, messy kitchens, piles of laundry and fussy children. So, we’ve got our list of tips and tricks to provide the stay at home mom the help you need and preserve as much of your sanity as we can!
- Schedules are your friend: While your day will probably not include conference calls, meetings and project plans, having a schedule not only keeps your day on track, it helps you be productive and gives you light at the end of the tunnel. You might want to block out time for meals, playtime, naps, cleaning, shower time, and even some time in the outside world – trips to the grocery store, library, walks in the park and more. Having this time scheduled makes a long day go more quickly, allows you to maintain a feeling of productivity and even gives your little one some structure. You’re your own boss now and the CEO of your family, so don’t feel like you can’t work some flexibility into your routine, but days without a plan will leave most SAHMs feeling lost, lonely or non-productive. So, set a schedule that works for you and your family.
- It takes a village, so expand yours: In the working world, you called it your network; socially, it’s called your circle. As a mom at home, you want to develop a group of women who understand you and your current stage of life. This doesn’t mean kiss your other friends goodbye, but co-worker lunches and happy hours definitely happen less frequently once you leave the workplace. Supplement your circle with other SAHMs you meet through your neighborhood, your library, the park, the gym or other social outlets. As the old campfire song goes, “Make new friends, but keep the old.” One set may be great to join for a well-deserved night out on the town while the other group will understand what it feels like to spend 3 days in the same pair of yoga pants.
- Redefine your expectations: Once upon a time, you might have had well-defined performance metrics; a clear, surefire way to determine whether or not you were doing a good job. Well, that was then and this is now! Being a Stay at Home mom does not come with an instruction manual and it surely doesn’t come with a performance review. You may have a horrible time throughout dinner and then thoroughly enjoy bath and snuggle time with your child. Your day may be a hot mess of dirty diapers, dirty clothes and a dirty house but end with a smile and an “I wuv you” which erases all the bad. As a mom, your job is setting the rules, keeping the boundaries, ensuring that everyone is fed and watered and that no one is bleeding at the current moment. If at the end of the day, you can put your babies to bed and let them drift off to dreamland feeling safe and secure, you’re doing a great job! If a fussy baby cries (not soothes but cries) himself to sleep, you’re still doing A-OK. If your baby spent most of the afternoon crying because she’s teething, you’re still hired tomorrow. The good news is that it’s tough to get fired from your new role; the bad news is that is a tough role. What makes for a good day as a SAHM is a moving target; some days it may be that no one pooped themselves or that you got a shower; other days it may be potty-training success or a great playdate. Your best bet is to learn to roll with it.
- Make time for you: This sounds like something you read in books or on Mommy blogs but it’s true. If you have the luxury of babysitters or a flexible husband, take advantage of it by earmarking some time for you to get out of the house. If your situation doesn’t allow for real live freedom, create some. Read a book undisturbed for the hour while husband handles bath time. Go out for a morning or evening run; if you don’t have someone who can help with childcare, use your headphones and a jogging stroller to escape (but still be present). Find a neighborhood book club or make time to get out for a mani/pedi. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive, but don’t lose yourself in your efforts to be the perfect Stay at Home Mom.
- Let them say what they say: If I had a penny for all the ill-advised comments I’ve heard as a SAHM, I’d be a very rich woman. “It must be nice that you don’t work,” “You’re lucky you don’t have to get up in the morning,” “I have a real job,” “How long are you going to stay at home with your child?”, “Aren’t you wasting your education/experience/fill in the blank?”, “How much does your husband make?” and the list goes on. All too often, the SAHMs of the world get to hear remarks that probably sounded better before they were voiced out loud. Don’t let them make you doubt your choices. You and your spouse know that the decision to be a SAHM is not without thought and consideration. It takes budgeting, planning and yes, sacrifices – in much the same way that deciding to be a mom who works full time outside the house does. Observations like these often come from ignorance or even a bit of envy. Bask in the fact that your work is more important than ever, and in the open market you would easily make a lucrative salary. Be the classy one and let doubters know that your choice is best for your family (and know that you don’t need to justify your decision to any other mom).
- Enjoy the little things: Try as we might, our kids don’t stay young forever. If we’re doing a good job, they will be in our homes for 18-22 years and then off on their own. The diaper phase, while all-encompassing now, is just a blink of time. Running after a toddler is exhausting but will be a breeze compared to worrying about a teenager. Author Gretchen Rubin described motherhood best when she said, “The days are long but the years are short.” That is difficult to remember when your baby is colicky or your family has the stomach bug, when your toddler needs an attitude adjustment or your spouse asks about “what you did all day.” However, like everything else – good, bad and ugly – stay at home motherhood is just a phase. So, enjoy it. Relish the time you get to spend with your children. Have pancake picnics in the den, enjoy a pajama day occasionally, read books, sing to your baby, color, paint, and some days, just eat fun foods. Stay at home motherhood is not about creating Pinterest-perfect moments. It’s about taking care of your children, loving them, experiencing their lives – and at the end of the day, even if it’s just for a brief moment before you fall asleep, enjoying it.
The Baby Pibu Team