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.
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.