Being a stay at home mom can be one of the most rewarding times of our lives. It can also be the hardest. While being the domestic caretaker of little ones includes being smothered in kisses day and day out, it also equals the possibility of cabin fever and the potential to lose yourself. As a stay at home mama, I have found that there are a few ways to keep my sanity in check when I’m home with my little guy. Baby B, not so much a baby anymore, is a button-pushing toddler who knows just how to get under my skin. His naptime (and bedtime, for that matter) when from easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy to hour-long struggles to help him fade into sleep. Getting housework done went from being super easy (just put the baby in the portable play yard and go!) to juggling a toddler vying for attention while vacuuming. I have done an entire sink of dishes with him handing onto my legs. Also, I swear half my day is spent with this 30-pound kid on my hip. But keeping your sanity in check and getting things done is a necessity. Read on to see the tricks I have learned to make my days easier while balancing housework and raising my son!
This is Baby B. Don’t let the cuteness fool you – he can be quite the handful!
Take time for you.
How, you may ask, can a stay at home parent take time for themselves? Simple – find a time that works with your families schedule to do something for yourself. If you have always wanted to try yoga but haven’t been able to find the time after becoming a mom, wake up half an hour before the kids and get in a quick session. Waking up a bit earlier may seem like a chore, but doing something for yourself, and something that you’re passionate about, will make it worth the effort. Dying the read the book that has been burning a hole in your bag for the last 6 months? You know, the one you carry everywhere in hopes an opportunity will pop up for you to read a chapter? (oh, that’s just me?) Well, read it! Take 20 minutes every evening, while in bed, to read. Or set a goal to read 5 pages every day. These small milestones allow for a brief time for you to do something for you. Our days are completely dedicated to our little ones, why not take a half hour (or less) to do something for us?
2. Teach your kids how to help with housework.
Depending on their ages, your kids may be able to help with the daily chores! And they may actually LIKE helping with the chores!! Baby B, who just turned 2, LOVES to “help mama”. That’s what he says when he ‘helps’ me do laundry. Every time I open the door to our laundry room, he runs over yelling ‘HELP mama! Help MAMA!”. Not only is it the cutest thing, but he is learning how to assist me around the house. He is learning to be a good little helper. Also, I know exactly what he is doing when I’m getting some housecleaning done. I am not worrying about what that sound was or what he is getting into while I’m tucked in our laundry room and he’s out of my sight. In our particular situation, I put the basket full of clothes in front of our washer. Baby B lifts the clothes, one item at a time, into the washer. When it’s full, I finish up with the detergent. If clothes need to go into the dryer, I hand Baby B the wet items and put them into the dryer, one at a time. When we’re done, he shuts the dryer for me. Afterward, he gets a huge high-five for helping mama do the laundry!
3. Integrate your kids into your daily routine.
Need to get in a workout but don’t have time while the kids are napping? Are you already busy before the kids wake up, and can’t work out at night? Whatever your scenario is, work your kids into your ideal daily routine! As a workout, I currently take it slow and do some stretching/light yoga. Baby B is right next to me while I’m doing it. He doesn’t yet understand what I’m doing, but he gets that mommy is “detching” (his cute two-year-old version of stretching). I also used to jog here and there, with Baby B in his jogging stroller. I have since stopped jogging (should really get back into that…) but still integrate Baby B into my workouts.
I feel like parents, myself included, always try to do things around their kids. Sometimes, things are just easier that way. But is it always realistic? Maybe not. Learning how to include your kid(s) into YOUR daily routine is the way to go. Create an ideal schedule for yourself that includes what you want your day to look like, and give including your kids a shot. It may not work out perfectly, but hey, at least you are learning how to do things with your kids, instead of constantly putting whatever it is off because you can’t find the kid-free time.
4. Have set mealtimes and naptimes.
Is this fool proof? No. But I have found that having set naptimes and mealtimes to be more beneficial with little kids. I am not one to be incredibly strict about naptimes and routines, but having a general routine to stick to can greatly help out any parent. Find out what your child responds to when they are getting ready for bed. Do they enjoy a few books to help them relax? How about some of their favorite songs sung by their favorite person in the world? Some warm almond milk to calm their tummies? Whatever it is, if it works for them, do it. Set aside the time to help them relax so getting them to sleep is an easier process for you. Also, setting naptimes and bedtimes let’s their little bodies know when it is time to rest. Of course, there will be days when naptime will be a bit later, or bedtime will be askew because of that trip to grandma’s, and that’s okay! Having a general schedule helps you – and them – will only makes the day-to-day easier.
In terms of mealtimes, have an idea of when your child’s eating routine. For example, right now, Baby B eats all of his meals at the dining room table and has finger-food snacks available pretty much all day. When he sits down at the table, he knows it is a mealtime and that he will have more food to eat. He knows he has to sit there and concentrate on eat, as opposed to walking around and picking at a plate of fruit. This let’s him know the difference between snacks and meals. I initially set this rule of thumb for my family because we got into a REALLY bad habit of letting Baby B walk around and eat his meals. He would pick up some food then get distracted by his toys. He had too many insufficient meals, would be hungry between meals, and it became frustrating. He wanted his “snack foods” (generally healthy, but not necessarily balanced and complete nutrition) more often than not. Now, he knows when it is time to sit down with mommy (and daddy) and focus on eating.
5. Get. Out. Of. The. House.
Need I say more?
If you have been cooped up inside the house for any period of time, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It is so easy to become drained just by seeing the same scene day in and day out. If you have a backyard and can get the kids out there to blow off some steam, great! If you can get them interacting with other kids, even better!
Keep an “outside bag” or “playground bag” handy at all times. We currently use one of those reusable shopping totes. Fill it with all of the good things that can be brought outside or the to park for your kids to play with. Include chalk, kick balls, baseballs, a baseball T, little cars or action figures, a bottle of bubbles and a bubble maker. The possibilities are endless! Whatever your child likes to do, bring it along. Keep the bag in a spot close to the door for easy access. Don’t forget to throw in a little baggie of snacks, too!
While climbing on the gym at a playground and playing kick ball in the background is fun for any child, but all kids need socialization. As a stay at home parent, getting your kids around other kids is an easy task. Libraries offer story times, community centers have weekly play groups, and you can set up your own play dates with other parents. Join local parenting groups (Facebook has a ton) and put it out there that you have a kiddo looking for some friends. I have been lucky enough to meet other parents this way, and Baby B currently attends a monthly play group with a few other toddlers!
A change of scenery not only benefits your child, it benefits you, as well. Breaking the monotony is such an important part of staying sane as a stay at home parent. It can be as simple as taking a walk to the local park or coordinating a whole playgroup with local parents and their similarly aged children!
6. Diffuse essential oils.
I have been such a believer in aroma therapy for years. Even if you don’t believe in the energizing power of orange essential oil, it just smells good. Nothing puts you in a better mood than your home smelling amazing. Prefer cozier smells? Essential oils come in all different scents with a multitude of benefits for each one. The only requirement here is to make sure you are purchasing high quality essential oils (since your family will be breathing them in) and do your due diligence and research essential oil safety. Some EO’s are not good for pets, so if you have fur babies running around, be cautious about which you choose. Young children should also not have essential oils applied directly on them. While I use essential oils for everything from non-toxic cleaning products to calming my dogs, aromatherapy is one of the easiest ways to reap the benefits. Smelling pleasant scents is directly linked to a better mood. To begin utilizing essential oils to uplift your life, find a reasonably priced diffuser online and start making your home smell amazing in no time!
7. Open the curtains and windows.
This tip goes hand in hand with a few of the other tips above. If you want to be happy spending time in your home every day and want to maintain your sanity, get some fresh air and sunlight! Even if aren’t going outside, you can reap the benefits and vitamin D. First thing in the morning, swing open the curtains and open some windows (weather permitting, of course). Breathe in the fresh air, revel in the natural light. Most importantly, don’t sit in a cave all day. Don’t act like a vampire when you have a million things on your to-do list. Become inspired by the chirps of the birds, listen to the airplanes flying overhead, and encourage your kids to do the same.
8. Make it fun.
Let’s face it: being a stay at home parent can be hard. Not only ‘there is so much to do and so little time’ hard, but also ‘my kids are driving me up the wall‘ hard. In reality, being home can be difficult for them, too. Not getting outside or getting the socialization they need can be tough. Sometimes, your kid wants to see Grandmom more than they want to see you (it happens to the best of us). Then there are the chores. So. Many. Chores. Kids everywhere are told to “hold on” while mommy gets the floor swept or the dogs groomed. They are instructed to wait, wait, wait. So why not make the quality time you have together fun? Turn on some music and act like a silly person. Get down on your child’s level and play dolls with them. Try to understand them. Try to soak up every second you have together. Let them remember the times mommy dressed up as Superwoman and you made cookies together for when daddy came home. Yes, a mess will be made. Yes, that is more cleaning for you to do. But like every parent before you has said, it goes by so quickly. This is not a misnomer about parenthood, it is the truth. The nights are long but the years go by fast. Make every second count. You will never regret that time you made mud pies with your children instead of doing the dishes. When your baby turns into an adult that loves 80’s music, you will sure not regret those afternoons spent belting out songs into a hairbrush.
9. Take a breather.
When all else fails, stop and breathe. Don’t do anything. Sit. Relax. Meditate. Read a book, if you’d like. Put paying that bill off until after dinner so you can have a second of silence before the baby, who fought so hard to fall asleep, wakes up. It’s okay. Don’t feel like mom’s aren’t allowed to rest. It is a rarity, but it can be done. Sit on the couch for a few minutes and watch that terrible reality TV show. Give your brain a break, you deserve it.
10. Enlist help.
When taking a break isn’t in the cards, as it so rarely is, ask for help (and don’t feel ashamed to do so!) When your partner comes home, ask them to help with dinner. Ask them to watch your children while you make dinner. Ask them to be an equal in the household. You worked all day, didn’t you? Maybe you didn’t leave the house and go to an office, but you are drained and your patience has been tested, like you’ve been working a stressful job for the past 8 hours. Ask your partner to handle the dishes after dinner. Ask them to help with the laundry that has been piling up.
Asking for help is something we, as stay at home parents, dislike doing. We feel we must be Supermom and do everything, all the time. Our partners must come home to a hot meal, to a clean home. While this is ideal, it isn’t always the reality. We have hard days, too. We struggle, too. We are exhausted, too.
These 10 tips have greatly improved my life has a stay at home parent. What are your tips to staying sane while home with little ones all day??