Being a stay at home mom isn’t for everyone, but it’s something I knew I always wanted to be (with various side hustles like blogging, the Army Reserve and Beautycounter to keep me sane lol). I grew up with an Army officer father and a mom who stayed at home for 13 years before she went back to teaching elementary school. I always appreciated and valued having my mom at home and I’m grateful for the opportunity to be one for my own children now. But I’ll be honest, some days I think that I don’t have enough patience to be one. My kids are crazy energetic (I know all kids are, but Jack’s behavior and developmental delays make things tricky sometimes) and I often struggle to keep them engaged and not fighting. It wasn’t an easy decision to become one, but it’s a decision we made as a family and I know that despite my shortcomings this is exactly where I’m supposed to be right now. I’m far from perfect but here are some stay at home mom (SAHM) tips that help keep me sane!
1. It’s Ok to feel like you need a Break. We go to the YMCA frequently and it’s not always because I need a workout. Sometimes the main reason we go is because I need a break. I’ll take advantage of the full 2 hours of free childcare and will workout for an hour (or less) and then work on my computer for the second hour. Or sometimes just sit there in silence and eat a snack haha. It’s ok to need some alone time and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it!
2. Take Care of Yourself. Whether it’s working out or getting your nails done, don’t neglect yourself! You’ll feel better about yourself if you take care of your body and your needs, and you’ll be able to better to take care of your children if you’re happy and well cared for too. I quit pretty much all personal care appointments after I left the Active Duty Army (and the income that came with it) but recently I’ve realized that sometimes a pedicure and an hour of feeling pampered is what I need. I always come back refreshed and ready to be a more engaged mom. Working out is my go-to self care ritual though, and I never ever feel bad or guilty about it because I know that I’m a better mom when I exercise and care for my body.
3. Follow Instagram Accounts for Good Activity Ideas. busytoddler is my favorite these days, and I’ll often modify the activities to fit what we have on hand (and how much mess I can tolerate at the moment). Ice Smash, Ice Bin, Pom Pom Soup and Dollar Store Sensory are a few of the ones that we’ve tried and enjoyed. (I hate messes so tend to choose the tidier ones that both of my kids can do.)
4. Find Your Tribe. It can be t0ugh to make mom friends, and truthfully I’ve always struggled with making female friends in general. I think that because I grew up with a brother and then went to West Point which was mostly men and then had a career in the male-dominant Army I’ve always felt more comfortable with the guys. That changed once I because a mom though because I realized that I needed female friends who were going through similar experiences. But how does one make friends as an adult??? It can be so so hard. The best thing to do is to get outside and doing something. I’ve met some of my best friends through mom workout groups. It’s a great way to find those women who may have a similar interest as you. Another good place is a playground or beach. Don’t be afraid to go up to talk to another mom, especially if you see that your kids are playing together well. That mom is probably looking for a friend too, so throw your insecurities out the window and go say hi! Also check out different meet-up activity groups (like hiking with kids in your area) or play groups on facebook! I’ve learned that by finally getting over my shyness and insecurities I’ve been able to get to know so many more women who are in the same phase of life that I’m in! It’s been refreshing to let go!
5. Get out of the House. It’s so easy to stay indoors but I’ve realized that my kids do better when we actually leave the house and go do something. When we’re home they start playing too rough or taking toys from each other or messing with things they shouldn’t and I have to resort to turning Paw Patrol or PBS Kids on. No shame in that, and it happens pretty frequently in the Vail household, but simply getting outside can work wonders. (Although yes, we still deal with our fair share of meltdowns out in public too.) We go on a lot of walks, try to get to the playground often, go hiking, go swimming, go to the splash pad at the mall, go to the zoo, visit the children’s museum…all things that take effort but they end up being a great choice for all of us. Back when we lived in Maryland the library system had great activities for kids of all ages, and that was another fun thing for us to do. Here in Hawaii things aren’t quite as great at our local libraries, but it’s certainly something worth checking out in your neighborhood if you haven’t already!
6. Accept the Mess. One of the things that really struck a chord with me when I read Joanna Gaines’s book Homebody was the part where she talked about mess. Here is what Joanna said on page 55:
“I longed for [my living room] to look perfect around the clock, so I spent many hours a day tidying up couch pillows and immediately picking up any messes my children made, sometimes while they were still making them. And then one day, I looked around our living room that I had so carefully assembled and realized it didn’t look anything like our family. Not one of us was represented in this space that was supposed to be central to us living life together. On top of that, I had spent so much of my time cleaning up any trace of my kids that this room had become a place they didn’t even feel comfortable in. It was then that I realized I had let the pursuit of perfection inform how I designed this space instead of the people who were actually supposed to be enjoying life in it. This was a pivotal moment for me as a designer.”
Once I accepted that things will get messy (like the Paw Patrol toys all over my living room and the play-doh that I hate but my kids love and will actually both play with for longer than 20 minutes) I started to enjoy things a whole lot more. We now clean up at the end of the day (or sometimes before naps too) and I’ve learned to let go and not be so tightly wound. Life is so much more enjoyable now! This doesn’t mean your home needs to look like a daycare (ours certainly doesn’t), but by making family friendly decor choices (like an ottoman instead of a fancy coffee table, and nice looking storage bins to conceal toys when they’re not in use) everyone feels happy in the space we use the most.
7. Trade Babysitting Time with a Friend. This can feel like an imposition at first, but it makes so much sense when you think about it! The person who drops off the kids gets to save money on a sitter (they’re typically $15 an hour here in Hawaii which can add up so fast!) and the person left to watch the kids normally gets to sit back and relax a tiny bit because the kids are all (hopefully) playing together. My friend and I actually did this yesterday when she had to run her husband’s work computer to him that he forgot at home. Instead of taking her kids with her on an unnecessary car ride, I went over to her house (which provided a change of scenery and new toys for my kids) and they all got to play together! It worked out so well, so find a friend that you think this could work with and trade off from time to time!
8. Share the Load with Your Spouse. I’m thankful every day that I made a good choice in a spouse. He’s almost always the one who cleans up all the toys at night, cleans the kitchen, does the laundry…all the things that I often neglect to do (or start doing and then get distracted) and it is so nice to not feel like I have to do everything. He also takes the kids on walks or runs when he’s not working simply to give me a break so I can rest (I’m currently 18 weeks pregnant) or get things done (like blog or work on a random organizing project I decide to take on haha). We both try to do our fair share and there is never any resentment because someone isn’t doing enough. If your spouse doesn’t naturally do this, don’t be afraid to have a conversation with them about it! Households work so much better when everyone pitches in.
Have any more tips? Please leave them on the comments below! I’m always looking for ways to make things more enjoyable (and less stressful) for everyone in our house, so if you have some great ideas I’d absolutely love to hear them!