I remember it vividly. My husband kissed us good-bye, and as the door closed behind him, I stood there half-smiling/half-terrified with a toddler weaving figure-eights between my legs and a fussing infant in my arms. Rain tapped on the windows. I heard his car engine start and pull away. And at that moment it happened. At that moment, I officially became a stay-at-home mom. The letters SAHM stamped on my forehead.
I looked at the clock: 8:32am. Now what? Panic. What am I going to do all day with an infant and a two year old all by myself? I fumbled through the closet with my free hand to grab the play dough bin. Okay….I got this….I can do this….(insert jovial wink and smile). When I was teaching I managed a classroom of 25 kids, I should certainly be able to manage two, right? At 8:54 he was done playing with play dough. Wait, what?? Three hours until lunch, four hours until nap time, 11 hours until my husband returns home from work (if I’m lucky). Holy crap. I need a plan. A survival plan.
Three years and another kid later, I have a handle on this SAHM thing, but it wasn’t always this way. What do SAHMs do all day? We work our asses off, dressing, cooking, feeding, cuddling, playing, comforting, rocking, changing, disciplining, cleaning, correcting, laundering, teaching, driving, encouraging, supervising and sometimes we even squeeze a meal in for ourselves…. standing up most likely. This job is no joke. It’s grueling. It’s lonely. It’s never-ending. But most of all, it’s special. In an effort to make the most of my days at home with the kids, I’ve figured out a few things that work. Here are 8 survival tips for stay at home moms:
1. Make a plan the night before. Don’t wake up and think, “Oh, I wonder what we should do today?” When you have a kid hanging on your leg whining for breakfast, while the other one needs a diaper change, and the other one NEEDS you to change the channel, you don’t have time to figure out the local happenings and/or who is around for a playdate. Do it the night before when they are sleeping.
2. Get out of the house. If you stay home all day you will go insane. Your kids will go insane and your house will be insanely messy. Even if you just go outside, GET OUT of your house. Get fresh air; see fresh faces. And yes, the supermarket counts. And so does Target. God bless the person who invented car-carts.
3. If it’s free, you should be there. Be “in the know” of local, free activities. Locate every playground within a 10 mile radius of your home. Oh, and libraries……Libraries are my new best friend. I never thought I’d say that. Storytime = one hour of your day that you don’t have to do anything except take videos of your kid singing “The Wheels on the Bus ” and make sure the snotty kid sitting next to you doesn’t snot on your kid… or you.
4. Don’t be afraid to give out your number. That’s right. Pick up other moms. Trust me, they are dying to be picked up. A stay-at-home mom can never have too many mom friends. You know that blonde at the playground? Or the brunette at your mommy-and-me class? Or what about the red-head who lives in your neighborhood?…..Yep. They all want to be picked up and they all want to be your friend. So call them and say, “Hey, so I was thinking our kids could have a playdate if you’re interested??” Translation: I was hoping you are able to come over with your kid to distract my kid from me for a hot second so I can have an ounce of adult conversation. Yes, you will likely talk about nap schedules, and your kids’ eating habits, and midnight wakings, but it’s okay. She is an adult capable of speaking in full sentences, she can wipe her own nose, and get her own drinks. Mommy friends are essential.
5. Exercise. I don’t exercise to be skinny or to be in shape or whatever. I exercise because it is the only time in my day that I can complete a thought without interruption. I don’t get to exercise every day. In fact, I have to pay a babysitter if I want to workout during the week, but it is worth every penny. No exercise = no time to think = trouble sleeping = stressed out mommy = unhappy kids = bad. No babysitter? Stick your kids in the jogger or do a yoga video during nap time. In the words of Tim Gunn, “Make it work.”
6. Do something for yourself once per week (at least). Being a SAHM is as full time as jobs can get. There are no sick days, there are no lunch breaks, there are no 4pm latte excursions….unless you happen to be driving and pass a Starbucks drive-thru. After you settle the who-gets-what-cakepop-debacle, turn the music up, breathe deep and enjoy that much-needed espresso. Need more? Leave your kids with your husband, the grandparents, an aunt, or a babysitter and go get a manicure and don’t feel bad about it even for a second. Your kids will be fine and they need a break from you as much as you need a break from them.
7. Break the rules. YOU are the boss. Whatever YOU say goes. So your kids want to wear pj’s all day? Fine by me (and less laundry). Skip school and go to a kid museum? Why the heck not! Ditch the nap to meet friends for ice cream? Of course! How many people at the supermarket tell you, “They grow up so fast….(big sigh)….” These are WISE people! Listen to them. Break the rules (once in a while) and live in the moment.
8. Make the time you spend with your kids count. Being a SAHM is a special thing, but eventually it will expire. Eventually you will either go back to work or your kids will be all grown up. Be a kid again. Get on the floor and play. Go outside and run around silly. Put on some music and dance. When possible, try not to worry about the cooking and cleaning. Try…..I know this is hard. This is really hard for me. But whenever I let go of those things and focus on enjoying my kids, you know, “let loose” a little, I never regret it.