I am a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM). It’s not necessarily what I pictured as a young girl…I honestly don’t even remember what I pictured, but this is where I have been for the past nine years as I birthed and raised three kids. And boy, did those nine years fly. I can picture myself back in the office like it was yesterday.
Some moms choose to stay at home because that was their life-long dream, a dream to raise their babies and volunteer at their schools and be a huge part of their days. Some became SAHMs because although they planned on staying in the workforce, once that first baby arrived, they couldn’t bear to be away from them. Others stayed home because the rising cost of childcare became more than their income and it just financially made sense. Some became SAHMs because their spouse travels often for work and handling EVERYTHING while they’re gone on top of a full-time job became too arduous. (Single parents and those who work full-time with a traveling spouse: you have no idea how endlessly I bow down to you.) I’d guess most moms become SAHMs due to a combination of these.
Whatever your reason, it’s all hard. It’s all busy. It’s all demanding. It’s all exhausting.
While my initial reason to be a SAHM was because I couldn’t stand to be away from my baby after she was born (although she was 18 months when I finally left the workforce), two additional kids and a traveling spouse became the bigger reason. Whether you’re just starting out as a SAHM and have babies and toddlers swirling around you, or you’ve been home for years and see your teenagers off to school before diving into all the chores and errands (while your spouse is jet-setting or driving to their next out-of-town business meeting), I hope these tips will help you out! And for the record: this all applies to stay-at-home-dads too! I see you!
- Build a village. We may think we can do it alone, but after a few too many 24/7s, a village is helpful. Whether it’s family, neighbors, or friends who treat your kids like their own, if they are willing to help, allow them. If you have to pay for help, don’t feel guilty about it. Even having a babysitter come over one day a week for a few hours so you can accomplish something is helpful and worth it.
- Call or FaceTime with the one traveling. Sometimes we skip a night, especially if my husband is only gone one night, but if it’s an extended trip, make sure both you and the kids see daddy’s (or mommy’s) face. My kids always love seeing what his hotel room looks like, even though they all look pretty much the same. They also like to see his view whether it’s the NYC skyline or the HVAC units on the roof.
- Have a planned menu (even if that means CFA). When I don’t have a plan, I tend to start cooking/ordering way too late, which sets me back for everything else that has to get done before bedtime. Even a post-it on the fridge with my dinner plan for each night helps me be prepared so we can eat at our normal time. It also lets me see if I need to buy any grocery items before it’s time to cook them.
- Use food options. Grocery pick-ups, meal delivery and online orders are okay. You’re not a bad parent if you don’t have a plate full of all the food groups and all the colors every single night. Be happy you live in a time where these are an option.
- Get outside. If the kids are driving you crazy and they’re running circles in the house and there’s no one to hand them off to, just go outside. Fresh air and nature do wonders for both mood and burning off energy. If I’m up for it, I’ll shoot some hoops or kick a soccer ball around with my kids. If I’m tired, I’ll sit outside and read a book while they play in the driveway. Just get outside to appease the kid zoomies.
- Don’t feel rushed. Let things stretch out a bit while you’re not on two adult schedules. When we’re both home, we stay pretty strict to our weekday schedule so we can have our time together at night, but when he’s gone, I give some leniency. Maybe that means more playtime in the bath or a stretched out dinner or getting to bed 30 minutes late.
- Stay on schedule. I realize that goes against what I just said, but what I mean is don’t let the leniency get out of control. Thirty minutes off schedule is easier to work with than two hours off schedule. This is your time to decompress. Take advantage of your alone time. I get overly ambitious when my hubby is gone and all the kids are in bed…so many possibilities!
- Find cheap or free events around town. If you’re at home with kids ages 0-4 or it’s summertime and dad is gone, you’ve got a lot of hours to fill to keep those kids entertained. I’m all for childhood boredom (it makes them creative), but you gotta get out sometimes. Use local resources (Knoxville Moms is a great one!) to find events in your area!
- Save the screens. We all read the reports on what screen time is doing to our kids’ brains. One thing I’m really proud of in raising my kids is my commitment to limited screen time. That does not mean I ban it; however, I would rather use it when I really need it. Save the TV and iPads for that hour when you need to make dinner or when you need 30 minutes of no more questions from your four-year-old.
- Let your spouse know you’re thinking of them. Whenever I see a funny meme, I save it and text one to my husband each morning he’s gone. It’s my little way of starting his day with a smile or a laugh and lets him know I’m thinking about him. Use your imagination and send some love in your own little way.
- Have fun. Find time to be silly and do fun stuff. Some SAHMs may be so stressed out and frazzled that they feel like their kids get the worst version of them and then get the best version of the traveler parent when they get back to town. Allow yourself to have fun moments with your kids so they don’t always deem one as the “fun parent.” You both can be!
- Get your rest. I always hated the saying “sleep when the baby sleeps” because we all know how impossible that usually is. However, I have had times in my life where my body needed sleep so badly that I couldn’t physically move forward. If you get to that point, rest. Many of us feel guilty as SAHMs when we’re found napping, but we’re also the ones usually getting up in the middle of the night for nightmares/bedwetting/feedings/etc. If your body needs rest, listen to it, especially when the other parent isn’t there to pick up the slack.
- Sick means stop. If you find yourself sick (fever, puking, can’t get off the couch level sick) and the other parent is out of town and your kids are at least four-years-old, let them manage themselves. When my three kids ranged from three to eight, I put the eight-year old in charge. They picked out their own dinner (who cares if it’s chips and cereal), they watched too much TV and they trashed the house, but they also put themselves to bed and my body rested knowing it’ll all work out fine. They may even be sweet and bring you a dinner of fruit cup and buttered bread. Now, if you’re sick and your kids are all three and under and you have no help, good luck. Been there, done that.
- Schedule time for yourself. Whether it’s a workout, lunch with a friend on the weekend or reading a book in silence, make sure your spouse allows you that time. When our job consists of 24/7 childcare (especially at ages when at least one kid is always home), you have to keep your sanity by carving out time to get away. Just remember to return the favor and let your partner have the same privilege. They’re working hard too.