April 27th, 2016

How Not to Burn Out as a Stay at Home Mom

How Not to Burn Out as a Stay at Home Mom

As discussed in the previous article, it’s easy to burn out as a stay at home mom. It’s not the easy job many people think it is, at least not all the time. We all have good days and bad days. Being a stay at home mom can go from the best job in the world to sheer drudgery in a short time, often in the same day.

1. Teach your kids to help

Teaching your kids to help out around the house is not always fun. It often makes the jobs take longer, and it takes kids a long time to learn to do the jobs as well as you’d like them done.

Kids are generally very willing to do some jobs, and very unwilling to do others. I encourage you to teach them to do both types. It’s a huge help to not be the only person in the house dealing with dishes, laundry, cooking and so forth.

Of course, your spouse/significant other should also be doing a share. Being a stay at home mom doesn’t mean you have to take care of it all, day and night, 7 days a week. Come to an agreement about responsibilities so that one parent isn’t taking the bulk of the load when both are home and available.

2. Don’t put your kids in more activities than you can handle

It’s not just parents who decide that kids go in a lot of activities. Sometimes kids want to do it all… soccer, ballet, baseball, karate, art, music lessons… the list goes on. It gets worse when you have more than one child, especially if their interests are different. You can do a lot of truly exhausting and time consuming running around if you aren’t careful.

There’s a balance to be struck between what you want your kids to do, what they want to do, and what you realistically have the time and/or money to do. All of it matters.

I suggest first taking into consideration what activities your child wants to do and deciding if it’s reasonable given the time and money required. My oldest, for example, wanted to join the local swim team, but after reviewing the cost and time commitments, we agreed that it wasn’t going to happen. I have since heard from other parents that you tend to get nickel and dimed a lot for swim team stuff, over and above the monthly fees, so I’m glad we didn’t join.

If there’s still room for more activities, next consider what you would like your child to do. I don’t suggest putting your child into something they’re strongly against without good reason, but sometimes it makes sense to tell your kids that they will try out a sport or a musical instrument, and decide together which is the most interesting, and how long they have to try it. There are good reasons for children to get involved in sports or music for a time, even if they don’t see it.

3. Learn to say no

Schools need volunteers, there’s no disputing that. In fact, I encourage you to volunteer at your children’s school when you have the time. I volunteer at my kids’ school one day a week for about an hour and a half, plus occasional field trips or special events.

I’ve even done walking field trips with classes that none of my kids were in just because I knew the teacher and she was short on volunteers. She asked me if I could go along the morning of the field trip because she knew I was flexible. We walked the classes to a local coffee shop so they could see their art displayed (the kids were allowed to buy a snack or a drink if they had money), then walk back. This took the place of my gym workout, so the time spent wasn’t a big deal, but really helped the teacher out. All together it was about 5 miles of walking, because I went with both of her classes.

If I hadn’t had the time, I would have declined and she would have understood. Most people will, although some will pressure you to volunteer when you don’t want to or shouldn’t. You have to learn to say no and mean it. That’s not easy if you’re used to helping out, but important when you realize you’ve been doing too much.

You may also need to learn to say no when friends or family ask for help and it’s not a time that you can do it. Do things for others when it’s reasonable but don’t demand the impossible from yourself.

4. Have fun with friends

One way you can make time for yourself is to go out and have fun with your friends once in a while. Not only is it good for you to have a social life, it’s good for your family to see you have a social life.

5. Get enough sleep

It’s easy to skimp on sleep. There’s so much to get done throughout the day, and it can be easier to get things done when everyone else is asleep. Early mornings and late nights add up, and leave you exhausted.

If you have to stay up late or get up early to get things done as a stay at home mom, you may need to have your husband and/or kids help out more. It is not all your job and you shouldn’t feel as though it’s all up to you. The other people in your family can help as appropriate by age and other obligations.

6. Do things away from home

I don’t mean just grocery shopping, although sometimes grocery shopping is a fair break. It’s not a great one. You should do more than that away from home.

Getting away from home doesn’t have to be without your family. It’s good for all of you to do things elsewhere. Head out to a park or museum, go for a hike, do something fun. A part of enjoying your time as a parent is doing things as a family as well as on your own.

7. Get away from your electronics

It’s easy to be overly attached to your smartphone or computer, but it’s not a good thing. Neither is watching too much television. Take time every day away from your electronics, especially close to bedtime. The light from electronic screens can make it harder to get to sleep.

If you are using your electronics at night, take a look at f.lux, which is a free program that changes the lighting on your computer screen. I really like it. I can’t promise that it will make it easier to sleep, but I like it on my computer.

8. Make time for yourself

Take time regularly to do things you enjoy, whether at home or out of the house. Read, work on a hobby, get out to the gym, whatever works for you. Not only is it a break for you from being on as “Mom” all the time, it shows your children that being a mom doesn’t have to mean losing yourself, and that’s good for them too. You deserve to be a priority.

9. Make time for your spouse/significant other

How long has it been since the two of you have been on a date? I know my husband and I often go too long without getting out alone together. It’s very easy to skimp on time for each other.

You don’t have to be fancy about this. You don’t even have to get out of the house, although I think it helps quite a bit. But if money and/or time are tight, find things to do at home together. You can watch a movie, which gives you the option of going out to the theater, grabbing a rental, or watching something you own or something playing on TV. You have have a special meal at a restaurant or something special together after the kids are in bed.

Doing things around the house together can be good too. My husband and I have a lot of fun just walking around the front and back yard of our new house, planning out how we’re going to change the landscaping to suit our needs and California’s drought.

10. Relax

Sometimes just kicking back and doing nothing is good. Really good. Maybe in a nice bath.

11. Consider getting a work at home job

I am a huge fan of at home moms and dads having a work at home job. The work I’ve done at home has helped keep our family afloat. If I didn’t work at home, we would not have been able to buy the house we are now in. I earn more than my husband now, so I definitely consider it worthwhile.

Not only does working at home give you more financial stability in a crisis, it’s a good example for your kids. It’s a lovely thing to be able to say that you trust your spouse to provide for your family, but too many families get hammered by realities which cannot be prevented. Death, disability, divorce, unemployment… I’ve written about these before but it bears repeating. Working at home is a way to protect your family financially while being there for them.

Having a work at home job will increase some stresses, of course, but I think the benefits are well worth it, especially if your family would otherwise be in a financial crisis.

Doing all of this won’t mean that you never feel burnt out; we all go through frustrating times in life. But it will help you to deal better with the challenges of being a stay at home mom. Don’t expect to be happy all of the time; that’s just not realistic. If you take care of yourself as well as your family, odds are you’ll enjoy your time raising your kids overall.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

April 26th, 2016

How to Burn Out as a Stay at Home Mom

How to Burn Out as a Stay at Home Mom

Are you a stay at home mom who doesn’t have enough to complain about because things are going too smoothly? Not to worry, you too can burn yourself out on the whole stay at home mom thing with a little excessive effort. Are you on the path to complete and utter exhaustion, frustration and burnout?

1. Do everything for your kids.

Don’t worry about teaching your kids how to do things for themselves or how to help around the house. If it needs doing, you do it. It’s all out of love, right? Kids don’t need chores, don’t need to clean up after themselves, do laundry or even cut their own meat as they get older. You can do that for them. They need the free time more than you do.

2. Put your kids in tons of activities.

I mean tons. You have the time to run them all over town, don’t you? They need their activities. Let them explore every interest. Who knows, one of those activities might help them get into college or even lead to a career! What do your time and the expense matter?

3. Be the volunteer everyone can rely upon.

School needs a volunteer? You’re right there. Church needs a volunteer? You’re right there. Someone in your extended family needs help? You got it. If someone needs you to do something, you say yes, rarely no, even when it’s inconvenient or someone else would be more suited to the job.

4. Never make time for yourself.

Your quiet time is when you go to the bathroom… assuming the kids don’t come running through the door – again. Or maybe when you go grocery shopping without the kids. Doesn’t that feel wonderful sometimes?

Real time for yourself? Who has time for that when caring for a family?

5. Distance yourself from your friends.

Making time for your friends would mean making time for yourself, and that’s just not happening, is it? You have more important things to do, and your friends just need to understand that.

6. Skimp on sleep.

Late nights and early mornings are just routine when you’re a mom, aren’t they? You have so much to get done, and a lot of it is easier to do when everyone else is asleep. You’ll get caught up someday.

7. Spend as much time as possible on your electronic devices.

If you’re not doing stuff for your family, you’re on your smartphone. Those apps aren’t going to play themselves, and how better to keep in contact with friends than texting? It’s a mental break. Your smartphone is never far from you.

8. Never go on a date with your spouse/significant other.

Who has time to maintain your other relationships when you have kids? They always need something, and sitters are so expensive. You’ll make time for that someday, but now? How?

9. Focus on having a perfect home.

You’re home all day, so of course your home should be perfect. If the kids make a mess, it needs to be cleaned up fast. There are no excuses for a messy home.

10. Worry about things that are out of your control.

Are your kids eating enough? What if your spouse loses his or her job? Then there’s who will win the next election, wondering what will break next in the house… there’s so much you can worry about and so little to be done about some of it..

Seriously, moms, try not to overdo all the things people expect of stay at home moms. You deserve time for yourself. Doing things for your kids, putting them in activities, volunteering and so forth have their place, but put limits on these things and make sure to take time to take care of yourself. You really don’t want to burn out on what can be a generally good time of your life.

Tomorrow, we’ll discuss how not to burn out as a stay at home mom. For now, can you think of more things that leave you feeling burned out as a SAHM?

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

May 19th, 2015

Stay at Home Parents – What’s Your Safety Net?

Stay at Home Parents - What's Your Safety Net?

There are good reasons to choose to be a stay at home parent, especially when the kids are little. Some choose to stay home with the kids until they’re all grown. It’s a good thing to do for your kids when your family’s situation allows it, but you should be aware of the risks. Life rarely goes as smoothly as we’d like, and that’s why every stay at home parent should have a safety net. Here are some options to consider.

Life Insurance

Having at least some life insurance on both parents is a generally good plan, regardless of who works or doesn’t. But if one parent has no income coming in, life insurance can be a way to ensure that in the event the working parent dies, they’ll get some money, which gives them some time to get things going again.

Don’t just buy a minimal policy if you can help it. Think about how much financial help your family would need if either parent dies while the children are still growing up. What is the financial value of each parent? How many years will you need that value to continue? What about medical bills and funeral costs?

Find a good insurance professional and talk about what kind of life insurance coverage your family should have. Be sure you understand the different kinds of life insurance. Get coverage on both parents, regardless of who earns an income. Stay at home moms and dads contribute significantly to the family in ways other than by earning an income. Money from an insurance policy can help the family deal with those issues after an at home parent dies.

Of course, life insurance only handles one of the potential problems that can arise for the family. It won’t help at all in many other situations. If divorce, disability or unemployment are causing financial issues, it won’t help at all.

Several Months’ Savings

Saving up several months’ income is another way to be ready for those problems life loves to throw at you unexpectedly. Having enough money to live on while you get things figured out for a few months is a huge help.

Saving up a lot of money may not be easy, depending on how close your expenses are to your income, but if you can manage it, do so. Living off savings is far better than using credit cards and having to pay them off later, believe me!

This should not be the same as your retirement fund if you can help it. By the way, you should have a retirement fund for yourself too, even if you have no other personal income.

Your Own Retirement Plan

Just because you’re a stay at home parent doesn’t mean you don’t need to contribute to a retirement plan for yourself. Whether you go back to work when the kids are older or not, contributing a retirement plan for yourself is very important. A lack of income means you aren’t contributing to Social Security, and that effects the benefits you would get when you’re older. There are a variety of plans you or your spouse can contribute toward for your retirement. Talk to a professional to learn more.

Up To Date Professional Skills

If you had to work outside the home, what would you do? What kind of work have you done in the past?

Make sure that you keep up on any qualifications for work you’ve done in the past, or work on qualifications for work you’d like to do. If you have to go back into the workforce because that’s the only way you can support your family, do what you can to make it the job you’d like, not just the first one to come along when you’re in a crisis.

Be very careful when choosing an online college or vocational program. Many programs are not worth what they cost. Others are excellent. You want a program whose graduates find appropriate work after graduation. If too many graduates have trouble finding employment related to their training, that’s not a good sign.

You can also read up on what’s happening in your industry. Read trade journals when you have the time. You can also consider joining a professional association. This can help you to keep in contact with people in your industry, which may become valuable if you go back to work, as well as help you be aware of changes in the industry.

Earn Income From Home

Of course, you can always do your best to earn income from home, as I and so many others do. There are many ways to do this, from working for an employer to working for yourself.

Don’t just look at how someone else is earning money from home, however. They’re doing what works for them. Look at what you can do. Other people can be an inspiration, but you’re more likely to succeed if you work things in your own way.

Do not expect earning an income from home to be easy. It rarely is. You have to figure out how you’re going to earn money and make it happen, while managing your at home life. It can involve using some kind of child care if your work requires more focus than you can manage with your children around. Alternatively, it may involve early or late hours, and less time for sleep.

Earning an income from home is my personal safety net because it doesn’t rely on how my husband is doing. If (god forbid) something happens to him, I’m still earning a living. My income has helped keep us afloat in the past.

Build a Support Network

If all else fails, or even if all else is working pretty well, make sure to have a good personal and professional support network. Your support network can help you get through tough times and may even help you find what you need to improve things, whether that’s a new job, the right doctor or something else. They might be there as a shoulder to cry on or bring a meal over to help you out.

Maintain or build your professional network on LinkedIn. Connect with former employers and coworkers. Look for relevant professional groups to join. Participate.

Keep in contact with friends and family in person as well as online. Getting some time with your parents, siblings, friends and so forth is important. You need time to be yourself, not just a mom or dad 24/7. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and so forth have their place and you should take advantage of your preferred social networks, but for most people there’s still nothing like getting together in person and having fun.

Also network with your fellow at home moms and dads. Many of them will have had professional careers too. You may be able to help each other keep up with your former careers, even if they were entirely different. You can always compare how you each keep up with things.

Talk About What If Something Happens To You

Don’t just consider what happens if something happens to your spouse or significant other. What if something happens to you? I promise, it will be a significant impact to your family, and something you should plan for.

Go beyond the life insurance mentioned before. Stay at home parents can become disabled too… how would you handle that as a family? Is your health insurance good enough to cope with that, and what about long term disability? It may not hurt to look at the costs of long term care insurance for the stay at home mom or dad. If you aren’t earning an income, you may not be able to get disability insurance, which is meant to replace the income you earned by working. Long term care insurance will ensure that you receive care if you need it for a long time, so your family doesn’t have that strain.

If disability insurance is what you want, you have to have an income. If you’re working now, look into an independent disability insurance policy. Pay attention to the terms, especially how long you need to have worked before quitting for the insurance to be effective. Make sure your policy will continue as long as you pay the premiums – the coverage is based on your paycheck when you were working, even if you later quit. This will probably be more expensive than disability coverage provided by an employer, but coverage from an employer only helps while you have that job.

You don’t need to limit yourself to just one of these, of course. The more things you do to protect yourself, the better off you are if things go wrong.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

September 10th, 2014

Will You Be Able to Get Back Into the Job Market After Being a Stay at Home Mom?

Will You Be Able to Get Back Into the Job Market After Being a Stay at Home Mom?

The time comes for most stay at home moms that they consider getting back into the job market. Maybe it’s because the kids have gotten older and can go to daycare or to school, or maybe the family’s situation has changed and you need the income. Or maybe you’ve decided the change is the right thing for you. Whatever your reason, you should have a plan for how you’ll get back into the job market after being a stay at home mom.

What Do You Want To Do?

Knowing what you’d like to do after being a stay at home mom will help you get there. You might want to go back to your old job or career, or you might want to build your skills to get into something new.

Having a goal allows you to focus on the important parts of getting back into the job market. A goal helps you know what you need to work on to improve your chances of finding a job after the gap caused by staying at home.

How Will You Get There?

What will it take to make you a good candidate for whatever job or career you’d like to have after staying at home? Do you need to update your skills? Are there entirely new skills you need to acquire?

The time you’ve spent at home can be used to build the skills you’ll need later. You can attend classes at a local community college or online – just make sure you make good choices with your education. Too many online colleges are a complete ripoff. It’s possible to find a good one, but you need to really do your research before you spend any money or time on it.

In some industries, freelancing is a viable way to keep working while staying at home. It also keeps you using your skills and makes it easier to keep your skills current. I’m not saying finding freelance work is easy – it may not be – but it can be worth the effort to keep up your skills.

Have You Really Looked at the Difficulties You’ll Face?

Sadly, it can be incredibly difficult for a stay at home mom to get back into the workforce. The gap in employment can be a huge deal, especially if the industry you’d like to be in has changed a lot in the intervening years.

Working from home or part time may help matters, but they may not be a complete solution. You probably won’t have the skills or history that people who continued to work full time will have, yet you’ll have too many skills for many entry level positions.

I’m decidedly not against working at home or finding part time work to keep your skills up. I believe it puts you in a better position overall for a variety of reasons. If nothing else, they’re a way to keep money coming in until you find the work you really want. Sometimes they even turn out to provide enough money for your needs. In my own situation, for example, I earn more working at home than my husband does outside of it. At this point in my life, there’s no thought of returning to work outside the home.

But that’s not true for many stay at home moms or dads. If you aren’t ready for the difficulties you’ll face, they can be overwhelming at a time you really need to focus on bringing in an income.

Build Your Network

No matter the job experience you have, networking is often the key to a successful job hunt. Keep in at least occasional contact with former employers and coworkers. Use LinkedIn. Talk to people about your job hunt when you’re looking. You never know where that perfect job lead will come from.

Be Ready to Earn Less

It’s a sad fact that many stay at home moms earn less after returning to work than they did before they left. It’s a result of not having recent experience, and of course you’ve missed out on all the raises you would have gotten throughout the years if you had continued to work. It’s one of the tough realities of being a stay at home mom that many people don’t prepare for.

Don’t be too ready to earn less, of course. You shouldn’t feel as though you will absolutely earn less. If you see an opportunity for better earnings, go for it!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

April 21st, 2014

7 Ways to Exercise Without Paying For a Gym Membership

7 Ways to Exercise Without Paying For a Gym Membership

Spring is here and most places are warming up quite nicely. Too nicely here – we’ve had temperatures in the 90s some days. It’s too early for that! Of course, I’m in southern California, and we didn’t even have what we’d call a winter here, and even a wet winter here is mild by what other places get.

Spring is a great time to start working on your exercise routine. The weather is nice enough that you can work on it without a lot of excuses in the way. But a gym membership doesn’t fit into all budgets. Fortunately, you can get some great exercise without buying a membership.

1. Walking/running in your neighborhood.

My neighborhood is pretty nice for walking. We have sidewalks, and we’re surrounded by hills, so walking just about anywhere includes a lot of uphill and downhill, including some pretty tough hills, depending on which way you go.

All you need to walk for exercise is a good pair of shoes and a place to walk. Nice weather helps, but the determined can keep it up in less than ideal weather, so long as it’s not actually dangerous weather.

It can be kind of hard to keep motivated, which is why many people find a friend to walk with. You both get exercise, and it’s harder to come up with excuses to not do it. Push each other to keep going.

2. Bicycling.

Riding your bike is another good way to go for exercise. It’s also a nice way to run the occasional quick errand.

3. YouTube videos.

There are a lot of people who have put up exercise videos on YouTube for free. The challenge here is figuring out who’s putting up good quality instructions, and who has no idea what they’re doing. Take a look at the comments and number of subscribers for a first estimate of quality, but also look at how things progress on that channel. Is it easy to tell which are the more challenging workouts as you progress?

Remember, pretty much anyone can put up a video on YouTube. Not every exercise video will be a good choice to follow.

4. Workout DVDs and Blu-Ray.

Workout DVDs have quite a range in price, depending on how comprehensive a resource you’re looking for. You can pay a couple hundred dollars for some sets, or less than $10. It depends on the kind of workout you’re looking for. Once again, be careful and take your own physical limitations into consideration, and do your best to keep proper form so you don’t injure yourself.

5. Community/recreation center fitness classes.

Many community centers offer fitness classes at a reasonable price. Check in your area to see what’s available. Some even have pools and offer swimming classes or water exercise classes.

6. Join a community team.

Many communities have sports teams for adults. I know of soccer and baseball teams in my area for adults, although I’ve never joined them.

7. Home exercise equipment.

You can get all kinds of exercise equipment for your home if you like, from simple hand weights all the way to treadmills and elliptical machines for those who want something a little more like working out at the gym. Buying your own equipment can run from a few dollars into the thousands of dollars, and so may not save money over going to the gym for a very long time. But the nice part is that you don’t have to go anywhere to work out, and it’s all on your own schedule.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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Disclosure: Home with the Kids is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. I also review or mention products for which I may receive compensation from other sources. All opinions are my own.