the second challenge is finding a way to keep your sanity, day in and day out.
Staying at home with your children can be one of the most rewarding and important jobs that you will ever have. But, when you haven’t showered in two days, you have peanut butter and jelly stuck in your hair, and you’re negotiating with a toddler on why she needs to wear pants while you’re changing the baby’s diaper, it’s very easy to lose perspective – and your mind. So, we’ve got a few tips and recommendations on how to keep sane as a stay-at-home-mom:
Get the #%*@ out of there: The acronym, SAHM, says it all. You are home a lot and it can drive you bonkers. So, make sure you’re working some outside time into your week. It doesn’t have to be a Mary Poppins Day in the Park, but just a little face-to-face time with fresh air and the American public can make a world of difference. Set a schedule; pick a day – even if it’s just doing what I liked to call “drive through errands,” such as the bank, the post office, Starbucks or the dry cleaners. Or, make it a fun outing for both you and your little ones. One of my favorites used to be the library whether it was for Story Time, a puppet show or just time for the littles to toddle among the books while I checked out the latest chick lit. The mall can be another great place for moms and kids to get a change of scenery. While your children are in the stroller, you can “mall walk,” window-shop and maybe stop for a soft pretzel as a treat. These outings don’t have to cost a lot of money, they don’t have to have six different enrichment components – they just need to connect you with the outside world and remind you that it’s still there – and so is your sanity.
Healthy Habits = Happiness: I can remember showing up at my neighborhood pool with our twin 2 year olds and our 3 year old, and I was shocked to see other moms sporting bikinis and looking buff. Granted, my first 3 years of motherhood had been a blur, but what had happened to the good old days of baby weight, chunky thighs and soft midsections? Apparently, I was out of the loop when it came to the Crossfit craze in my neighborhood – and if truth be told, not all my baby weight is completely gone. A challenge of being a SAHM is that you are at home and the lure of the pantry, the refrigerator and yes, sometimes the couch, is alive and real. It may take a little time, but try to create an environment that will not only lead to healthy habits for yourself but also your children. Keep healthy snacks around and easily accessible so that you reach for some carrots and ranch dressing rather than that second bagel. Take some happiness in the fact that you have easy access to water (and a bathroom) so you’re not sucking down soft drinks or frappachinos all day long. And – while this is probably the hardest task of all – find a way to be active and exercise. It’s very difficult to carve time out of an already sleep-deprived schedule, but the energy and high you get from exercise beats anything you can buy over the counter. Whether you get up early before your spouse, look into a local gym (with childcare) or just get out in the neighborhood with the stroller and your walking shoes, feeling good about yourself physically runs hand-in-hand with having a healthy mental outlook. No one’s asking you to bench press a boulder, but your health is more important than ever – not just for your sanity but for your family.
It’s all about you – well, sometimes: Actually, being a mom at home is rarely about you, which is why it’s important to find something that IS about you. Be it a book club, a Sunday School class, a Mother’s Morning Out, tennis team, Date Night or even just some other moms who get together regularly, you need to discover a social outlet that you enjoy. It doesn’t have to be educational or in any way edifying – it simply needs to give you a break, help you connect with grownups and recharge. Finding this outlet can be a challenging task, especially if you’re the first or the only one in your circle to embark on the SAHM journey. But, ask around, check with your library, your church, your neighborhood HOA or when it doubt, Google it.
Create some consistency: Easier said than done, I know, but the basic point here is to give your life as a SAHM some structure. It doesn’t need to regimented and it needs a certain amount of flexibility, but have a plan, know what you need to do each week and develop a way to do it. Having a routine can also make stressful activities, like taking three kids to the grocery store easier to manage. In our house, Grocery Day was also “free cookie from the bakery” day, and I knew that after managing kids, unpacking the car and getting everything put, we were all entitled to some much needed TV and sit-on-the-couch time – and early naps! Preschool and carpool days may also be the days that you hit the gym or the library or the park – after all, you’re already up and out. If you’re still in the infant stages, your routine may involve Shower Days, Laundry Days and a set nap and feeding schedule. Whatever you need to do each week, having a routine helps us know what comes next – and that can be a real sanity saver.
It Takes a Village: It doesn’t matter if your baby is 18 days or 18 years old, we all need help sometime. So, don’t be afraid to ask. It may be your husband, your mother, your babysitter or your neighbor. Anyone who knows anything about kids will totally understand, and if they don’t, then note to self: don’t ask them again! It may be because you or your little one is sick, it may be because your husband’s on a two-week business trip, or you just need a break – whatever the reason, know that it’s OK, you’re not alone and it doesn’t make you a bad mom. We often make our kids take a Time Out when they’re melting down, and every so often, Mommy needs a Time Out too. So, call for reinforcements when you need them – you’ll appreciate the break and you’ll be a better mom for it.
It takes a concerted effort to keep your marbles, especially when those around you are . . . well, kids. Motherhood can reduce the smartest, most organized, accomplished and patient woman to a quivering, sobbing puddle of tears and hysterics. Erma Bombeck, the mother of all mothers, once said, “Insanity is hereditary. You catch it from your kids.”
Use these tips to help keep your sanity on track and when in doubt, just remember you’re in a good company of other SAHMs, just like you, struggling to keep it all together. Because sometimes, the best thing about feeling a bit crazy is knowing that you’re not alone in the asylum!