I love my kids, I do. In fact, I chose to work from home, and continue to to do so in order to be there for my kids as they grow up. But biggest truth about being a ‘Stay At Home Mom’ (SAHM) is that it is challenging.
And that is the truth for many moms today.
It can be lonely and society seems to have a lot of misconceptions about what a mother who spends time with her children at home should be doing with her time. If you’d asked me at this time, last year, if I enjoyed being home with my little children, I would have politely smiled and laughed.
This ‘Stay At Home Mom’ Gig Is Hard
Can we take a minute here to talk about moms as a whole, before I talk more about the challenges of being at home with small kids. I’ve been on all sides of the fence – I’ve worked outside the home, gone to school full time, worked at home, and I can honestly say that it’s all hard.
Everything we do as moms is scrutinized by society as a whole. Kids can derail a whole planned day because they have their own little personalities and you know, as frustrating as it is, that’s okay. It happens to all of us.
I’ve quoted my undergrad professor more times now than anyone else, but I’m going to say this to you – whether you work at home, work outside of the home, or the momming gig is your job – “Life is what happens between plans.”
Now that I got that out of the way, let’s talk about challenges that are unique to parents, who stay at home with their small children.
Staying At Home is Lonely
At first, it may be nice to be away from everyone. But eventually either the crying or being in same messy bun for the nth day in a row, or the incessant talking about the infinite nuances of Blippi are going to get to you. You’re going to long for adult interaction. You’re going to want to put on a cute outfit and get out.
Around this time last year, after watching the mayor lose her chicken for the hundredth time, I decided it was time to get out. I needed to talk to someone whose main interests weren’t what Cutie Marks each pony had!
Coincidentally, it also happened to be Girl Scouts cookie season, and I was a proud parent of a newly-minted cookie boss. Cookie booths became something I looked forward to because it meant I got to talk to an adult, who I wasn’t married to or writing content for.
You Have All the Time in the World Yet No Time at All
Again, this is one of those things where you suddenly have these long expanses of time where nothing is scheduled, especially if children are young and you don’t have them in any activities. This is a double-edged sword.
I went from being extremely busy with appointments and meetings and deadlines to busy in a very different way – and it was really hard to adjust to. When you don’t have an outside world imposing a schedule on you, it’s very easy to lose track of hours – even days.
Granted, I wear a lot of hats, so I still have lists and deadlines of things I need to do for various people and projects. But even working from home, it’s all-to-easy to lose track of everything and get caught in the busy trap.
I find that when I feel like I’m in the busy trap it’s because I’ve let go of routines and schedules. Even when you’re staying at home and managing the household, it’s important to have a schedule.
I’m not a great housekeeper. If there is anything else to do, I’d rather do that than deal with picking up toys and dusting baseboards.
Maybe if I weren’t trying to work full-time from home, while also keeping small people from burning a house down and making sure they’re fed and educated and cared for, I wouldn’t feel as pressured in this arena. But when people hear that a parent is a ‘Stay at Home Mom’ with kids, for some reason they also hear that there’s a full-time housekeeper in the home.
I feel even more pressure now to “do it all” myself and not outsource than I did when I was working outside the home.
I have a hard truth for you: Even if you stay at home, and you’re not trying to help bring in extra money in some way, shape, or form, nobody can do it all. You’re going to have to pick what’s important to you and focus on that.
In our home, there are 5-6 people living in it at any given time (as we have a college student who is home only during summer and for breaks). Despite the fact that my husband takes an equal share of the housework…the blame, when anyone feels that our house is a mess, gets put on me and it’s maddening.
So What Does One Do?
In addition to the tips above, get out of the house to volunteer or do things with others as much as you can, keep a schedule and routine, and pick the hills you want to die on.
In terms of priorities – there two big things you can do to overcome most of the other challenges you will face as a stay at home parent.
1. Make Self-Care a Priority
Yeah, I know you know this. You’ve heard the cliche example of putting your mask on before anyone else’s, but I promise you, it’s important. As a ‘Stay at Home Mom’, I got so caught up in taking care of everyone else and their needs and the house and my home business last year that I hit a wall at 100 miles an hour and slid down cartoon style.
I was still wearing maternity clothes and my youngest was going to be 2 in a few months. My hair was dry, breaking off, and a poof. Think Princess Diaries poof but with 5 different shades in there.
We all have to be a little selfish sometimes as uncomfortable as that may make us. If we do not, then we get spread too thin. T
here’s a reason my 2020 words of the year are “focus, prioritize, finish.” I was saying “yes” to far more projects than I was able to finish. Part of the reason for that wasn’t lack of time – it was lack of emotional energy. I was 100% drained because I was giving everyone else my energy and keeping little for myself.
It’s okay to go to sleep early and leave your husband in charge of the kids. It’s okay to decide “I hate cleaning, so I’m going to see what we can do about getting a housekeeper.”
It’s okay to have a sitter a couple times a week so you can go to the gym. I don’t care what you need to do to feel good and happy and like your bucket is filled – DO IT!
2. Stop Letting Others Dictate Your Self-Worth
There’s a constant battle between a ‘Stay at Home Mom’ and moms who work outside of the home. Compound that with in-laws, friends, Facebook people, various blog posts, etc.
And then on a particularly hard day where the toddler covered herself from head to toe in shredded wheat while you were in the bathroom, the preschooler destroyed the coloring books and spread torn paper everywhere, and the kindergartner flung herself on the floor screaming because someone changed the order her ponies were sitting in, you wind up in the closet in tears with a box of Thin Mints feeling like Worst Mom of the Year.
You know what?
It’s okay to not be perfect. It’s okay to cry with your child because she’s too afraid to use a public restroom. It’s okay to wish you could go on vacation for a week because you’ve got two kids who won’t stop fighting with each other. It’s even okay to go and hide for a minute and gather yourself. It’s okay that you didn’t finish the laundry today because your kids were just out of control and the only thing you could do was make sure they ate, didn’t kill each other, and that there would be dinner.
It doesn’t matter that you stay home.
Did I mention this ‘Stay At Home Mom’ gig is hard?
I love it, but it’s definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
You can read our article about how Working Mothers Balance Life and Home here …