Last month in part 1 of Thriving (Not Just Surviving) as a SAHM, I shared a few things that have helped me transition from a busy working professional to a SAHM. Many of these tips focused on how to maintain your identity and sense of self during this very selfless time in your life. Although it didn’t set in right away when I became a SAHM, one thing became abundantly clear about 6 months into it: the days can be especially long. And lonely. Especially those long winter days. Today I am going to share a few more tips and tricks that have helped me maintain my sanity as a SAHM over the past three+ years!
1) Pinterest is Your Pal: Confession time: I spend way too much time on Pinterest. I absolutely love it. I use it to spark my creativity in my photography hobby, to search out new recipes and meal plans, and most importantly for ideas of things to do with my kiddos! I have found some amazing ideas and craft projects that have seriously saved my sanity at various moments throughout the week. For example, if we are all going a little cooky in the house one day I will run a quick search or glance at my pinterest board for a new and fun activity for my boys. There is some awesome material out there and keeping it organized and easily accessible on pinterest is just awesome!
2) Screen Time is Ok: I was one of those new moms that was confident my children would not watch much TV. I limited it like crazy in the beginning and secretly would judge others whom I determined where allowing too much screen time for their children. Then I had a second baby and everything changed. I needed the TV and iPad a bit more than I liked to help me keep my two year old in one place while I was nursing the baby 8+ times a day. Slowly more screen time crept onto the scene and I became increasingly uncomfortable with it and would CONSTANTLY beat myself up about it. Until about 6 months ago when I decided to let it go. I don’t want to sound like a broken record but being home is hard. If I need to throw on a Baby Einstein video on youtube for 20 minutes for my own sanity and the kids are happy then so be it. I try hard to be conscious of what we are watching on the TV or iPad and limit the use to a few short intervals of time during the day but I am done stressing over it.
3) Find at Least One SAHM to Be Your BFF: I truly adore all of the wonderful friendships I have made over the past three years since becoming a mom and I believe having at least one fellow-SAHM as your BFF is absolutely crucial to your sanity. Here is why. Particularly in your early days with a newborn, it is wonderful to have a friend in a similar situation who is ready and available to help you brainstorm and answer questions (or vent) whenever you are having a particular difficult moment (or day). Likewise, it is awesome to have a friend to call at a moment’s notice to let them know you are stopping over at their house (kids in tow) in your pajamas for a cup of coffee just because you need to get out of the house. The key to finding that perfect SAHM BFF is that you need to have someone with whom you feel completely comfortable having over no matter the condition of your house or the fact that your floors haven’t been mopped in weeks because that will be the reality many days.
4) Figure Out the Division of Labor: Another trend I saw quickly emerging as I journeyed into the world of being a SAHM was that I was quickly feeling like the maid. I was home all day – I could just pick up after everyone, right? Not so much. And I certainly do not want my children growing up with this vision of me either. This feeling was quickly robbing me of my contentment as a mom and causing a little bit of resentment with my husband. So before it got out of control I sat my husband down and expressed my concerns. He was completely understanding and we brainstormed a system that we thought would work for us. It was basically a list of household duties and chores and who would be responsible for what. It really helped us get on the same page and it allowed me to feel like both of us were pitching in instead of me feeling like it was completely one-sided.
5) Don’t Clean All Day: I have another confession to make: I am a type-A, OCD clean-freak. Pre-kids I maintained an immaculate house and actually enjoyed cleaning. Yes, you read that right – I enjoyed cleaning. This standard is simply unobtainable with young kids and this has been a really hard truth for me to grapple with. And being home for so many hours during the day I feel like I am constantly staring at all the things there are to do in my house. The bathrooms, the floors, the never-ending piles of laundry. At first it was making me mad. And unhappy. So here is the system I have adopted that seems to work well for me. It allows me to be present and spend time with the kids throughout the day while still feeling like there is some bit of order and cleanliness in my house. During breakfast when the boys are eating and enjoying a little morning TV, I pick something to clean. I give myself about an hour and I just start cleaning. Set the timer if you need to. When your time expires that’s it. I’m done with the major cleaning for the day. Of course there are still dishes and general tidying up that takes place during the course of the day. But I try very hard to move on to books with the kids, crafting, playing, whatever the day entails. This system allows me to stay on top of my cleaning without being completely consumed with it. Is my house super clean? Not even close. But I can sleep at night knowing it is “clean enough.”
6) Try to Leave the House Once a Day: When I first became a SAHM my sister-in-law (a veteran SAHM) told me she leaves the house every day. I remember tucking this tip into the back of my head but not giving it much weight. Fast forward three years and I now understand why it is so crucial. Yes there are plenty of days that leaving the house is not possible either because of the weather or sickness. I totally get that. But the days we leave and do “something” are better for all of us. The kids are happier and so am I. The change of scenery is good for all of us.
7) Social Media Use is Ok: Do you ever see those moms at the park or play center scrolling through their phones or texting? I always do and to be honest I used to judge this behavior. I have stopped looking and stopped caring. You know why? I am typically one of those moms as well. Sometimes when we are out and about or even when we are home, I am on Facebook or texting a friend about their day on my phone. And you know what? I am still a pretty awesome mom. I spend countless hours with my children and if I need a short social outlet to maintain my sanity that is totally okay. I used to have constant access to co-workers when I was working. It was great to discuss my day or just to chat about what they did over the weekend. I no longer have that interaction on a regular, as-needed basis so if a bit of social media helps me feel connected then I am totally okay with it. My kids are no worse off because of it and I am done feeling guilty about it or judging other moms who do it as well.
8) Meal Planning and Freezer Cooking: Did your newborn have a ‘witching hour’ during the early evenings? Mine did. And I don’t know about your kids but now my toddlers seem to have their own version of a “witching hour” between the hours of 4:00 pm and 6:00 pm. Everyone is so cranky and hungry that it is nearly impossible for me to cook dinner. So short of my husband and I doing take-out every single night I knew I had to come up with a plan. This is where meal planning and freezer cooking come into play. The idea is that you spend a day or two each month organizing your meal plans and cooking meals to freeze. I almost always have a freezer stocked full of meals I can pull out on a moments notice for dinner. It has seriously saved my sanity. It is the best feeling in the world knowing that dinner is taken care of each night. Here are my two favorites and a few other great recipes to get you started. When I making these, I buy the ingredients in bulk and make a ton of extra to fill the freezer.
1) BBQ Meatballs: Take 1 pound of ground beef or ground turkey and mix with 1/2 cup bread crumbs (I use gluten-free) and one egg. Salt and pepper to taste. Roll the meat into balls and dumb your favorite BBQ sauce over them. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until cooked through. My kids love these and when the meat goes on sale, I make a ton of the meatballs and freeze them by the dozen for a really easy meal option.
2) Salsa Chicken: Take two-four chicken breasts and dump a bottle of salsa and a half a packet of taco seasoning into the crock pot. Give it a quick stir and cook it on low for about 8 hours. At the end add a half a block of cream cheese and shred the chicken. Use this chicken for burrito bowls, roll into taco shells or make quesadillas. Just add some sour cream, corn, black beans, rice, and cheese and you have a very easy and yummy meal.
9) Daddy Dates: After a long week with the kids, I am ready to hand them over to daddy come Saturday morning. One thing that has worked especially well for us is to incorporate a daddy date on Saturday morning, usually for breakfast or to a special play center or park. It gives me a little “me time” in the house and my sons really looks forward to it.
10) Treat Yourself to a Few Mommy-Friendly Clothes: When I became a SAHM I went from wearing business suits and high heels 5 days a week to workout clothes and flip flops. I had nothing to wear that ever looked cute. Treat yourself to a few new staples that make you feel good about yourself. You deserve it. I have no absolutely idea when it comes to the latest styles and trends so one idea worth considering is soliciting some styling help through a site such as Stich Fix. You basically fill out a quick questionnaire and a personal styler will send you five items to try. You keep what you love, and send back the rest. I have had a few SAHM try it out and have LOVED their results. I haven’t personally tried it out yet but as soon as this latest pregnancy is complete I plan to try it out.
These are just a few things that have helped me maintain my sanity over the past three years. I will say that the challenges of being a SAHM were kicked in to high gear once baby #2 came along (and I can only imagine how things are going to change again when baby #3 comes this summer).
Do you have any tips that help you survive the sometimes long days at home as a SAHM? We would love to hear them?