Making the Most of Being a Stay-At-Home Mom
If you or your partner decides to stay at home with your little one, we’ve got some tips and tricks to help you make the most of your day.
We talk here about a “stay-at-home mom,” but most of this applies to stay-at-home dads, too. Our ideas can also work whether you’re staying at home for a few weeks or months, or longer.
From creating a flexible schedule to coping with possible loneliness, read on for some life hacks that you might find useful as you navigate being a stay-at-home mom (or dad!).
Create a Flexible “Stay-At-Home Mom Schedule”
As a stay-at-home parent, it's a good idea to create a “big picture” schedule that revolves around your baby's sleep patterns.
First, getting regular sleep is essential to your baby's healthy development. Second, the time when your baby is sleeping is an ideal opportunity for you to knock off some of your “must-dos” and “nice-to-dos.” Sure, you can get things done while your baby is awake, too, but you might find multi-tasking at these times a little more difficult.
A schedule is great for your little one, too. Throughout his childhood he will thrive when having a daily routine. The older he gets, the more he'll be able to anticipate naptimes, mealtimes, and playtime.
Here are some things to consider when creating your stay-at-home mom time schedule:
Write out your schedule. Add the blocks of time when your little one will likely be napping, and plan out what you hope to do in some of those slots. It might help to keep your schedule visible so it's easier to reference.
Be flexible and allow yourself to follow the rhythm of each day. Your baby's sleep pattern may change from time to time, or something might crop up which means your schedule needs to change at the last minute. Use your schedule as a kind of guide, not as something you need to follow at all costs.
Identify the “must-dos” and the “nice-to-dos.” While your baby is napping, you might plan some “must-dos” like eating, grabbing a shower, or taking a nap yourself. You could have in mind some “nice-to-dos” like sweeping the kitchen, but know that it's OK for these to fall by the wayside. Once you've identified and scheduled what needs to get done, you might feel better about being spontaneous with your other free blocks of time.
Start the day off right. If you feel like waking up a bit earlier than your baby, perhaps you could have a coffee, get dressed, and think about your plans for the day to feel more mentally prepared. Having a morning ritual of some kind, whatever might work for you, can help you start your day on the right foot.
Prioritize yourself when you can. Speaking of “must-dos,” attending to yourself is important. Getting cleaned up and dressed each day to face the world can make a big difference.
Get enough sleep. In the first weeks of life, your newborn will sleep most of the time, but will most likely wake up frequently to be fed or changed, even during the night. At this point, sleep when you can — even nap throughout the day. Some recommend sleeping whenever your baby sleeps during the newborn stage as a way to feel more rested. Later on, your baby may be sleeping longer at night, allowing you to feel more rested. Keep in mind that being a stay-at-home mom can be exhausting, so it's OK to plan to take a nap during one of your little one's daytime naps, too, if that's what you feel like!
Have some consistency in your plans. You might feel more comfortable if you have some regular routines. For example, showering during your little one's morning nap, and doing meal prep and chores in the afternoon.
Factor in down time each day. There are always things to do as a stay-at-home mom, but trying to fill every minute of every day with an activity will cause a lot of stress. If you factor in down time, you have the option to fill that time with an activity if it feels right, or to enjoy doing absolutely nothing. For example, you might like to spend that time meditating, or watching your favorite series.
Your schedule is a fluid thing. As your little one's sleep patterns change, your schedule may need to be adjusted, too.
Get Out of the House
You might also like to add some of your baby's awake times to your schedule, too. For example, you might like to spend one of your baby's “awake blocks” outdoors.
Here are some ideas for what you could do with your little one to get out of the house a little:
Get some fresh air and see fresh faces. Even if you're just going outside for a walk around the block or sitting in the front yard, try to get out of the house. It might get boring and stressful if you stay at home for days on end, and you might find yourself getting cabin fever. Even when your baby is quite young, going to a nearby playground nearby is a great time to meet other stay-at-home parents in your area. Alternatively, you might like to make a routine of having your morning coffee at a nearby café. This way you get to take your baby for a walk while having some interaction with the friendly staff.
Take advantage of kid-friendly activities in your area. Online forums or your community center can help you find local child-friendly activities. Some might even be free!
Find strategies for making running errands easier. You might prefer to leave running errands to someone else, or plan to have your partner or another adult with you when you go shopping, but if you do have to run some errands with just your little one in tow, think about how you can make the process a little easier. For example, you might like to carry your baby in a carrier so your hands are free. If you're going out for just a short trip, you may decide to ditch the fully stocked diaper bag and just take basic essentials. If your child is older, you could play the quiet game or “I Spy With My Little Eye” to keep your little one occupied. You might also have the option of replacing some of your grocery store visits with a home delivery.
Being a stay-at-home mom is hard work and it can get lonely. There may be times when you feel down, overwhelmed, and utterly exhausted. Just know that there are things you can do to help yourself and that support is available. First and foremost, be gentle and kind with yourself as you would with your dear friends.
Here are some strategies for coping with some of the challenges of being a stay-at-home mom:
Consider setting up play dates. Other stay-at-home moms (and new parents and moms in general!) can feel isolated, just like you might from time to time. Join forces to get your children together for play time while you enjoy grown-up conversations where you can share the highs and lows of parenthood.
Spend quality time with your partner. Just the two of you. If possible, hire a babysitter, or ask a friend or family member to care for your little one while you two do something fun together.
Stay in touch with loved ones. Reach out to family or close friends whenever you can, even if it's just for a quick phone call or texting session. You might feel “bad” that your friends haven't heard from you in a little while, but they'll understand that you've had your hands full. Even just a short chat with someone every few days or weeks will help you feel more connected.
Try online forums. Stay-at-home mom groups can be a great place to verbalize your stresses, give and get encouragement, and share parenting tips and ideas. It will help you to know that you are not alone in what you're going through, even if it might feel that way at times.
Hire help. This certainly isn't always possible, but if the option is there, consider paying others to help you. Perhaps you can hire a house cleaner to come in to do laundry a couple times a week, for example. Find a reliable babysitter or two that you can turn to in emergencies or for planned “me-time” such as excursions to the gym, date nights with your partner, or an occasional “ladies who lunch” event with your friends.
Seek help from a professional, like a therapist. Getting professional help can be useful whether you're just feeling a little down, or you suspect something more serious like depression. Keep in mind that what's called “postpartum depression” would typically happen sometime within a year after birth, but depression can occur at any time. Your healthcare provider can diagnose depression or postpartum depression, and can help you find a good therapist or counselor in your area.
Discover Some New (and Old) Hobbies
Being a stay-at-home mom is inexpressibly wonderful and valuable, but you're still also the other parts of you, too. Keeping a hobby or two can help you stay connected, and you may find it gives you more energy to do all that it takes to be a parent.
If you find that your interests have shifted, you might like to take this time to find some new hobbies. Take a bit of time to think about the things that make you feel joyful and excited.
Here are some hobbies that may be doable as a stay-at-home parent when your little one is asleep or, perhaps, when your partner is tending to your baby:
Photography. You're probably snapping pics of your little one all the time anyway, so how about learning more about the art of photography? You might find that online video tutorials can help you take even better portraits.
Gardening. Beautiful flowers, and fresh herbs and veggies for the kitchen? Maybe you could be the one growing them!
Knitting, sewing, crocheting, or needlepoint. Knitting isn't just for grandmothers. Activities like needlework can really help reduce stress by giving you some nice quiet time doing something repetitive. And you'll potentially have scarves and blankets for the whole family next winter!
Writing in a journal or a blog. Writing serves a lot of purposes. It helps you get your own thoughts down on paper, and by sharing them, you can potentially help others. If you're confident with your writing skills and interested in making extra income, consider writing e-books or getting serious about blogging.
Drawing or painting. Add to the artwork around the house that your toddler creates. If it's good, you might like to try selling your artwork online or at a local coffee shop or market. You might also find an art class you can attend for an hour or two a week.
Cooking or baking. Maybe you want to stretch your current cooking skills, or try baking that fancy cake from your favorite bakery. Grab a recipe book or two, and give a few ideas a go. You might even like to practice how to ice and decorate like a pro so that you can make your baby's first birthday cake with a theme.
Card making. You'll get to be creative and also have homemade birthday and holiday cards ready for when you need them. Plus, you'll have a basket of arts and crafts supplies ready at home for when your child is ready to get creative, too.
Taking a course. You might have had your eye on an online course or a short course at a local institution. If you feel you could commit a few hours a week to it, now could be a good time to skill up or just learn something new for fun.
Creating a keepsake of your time as a stay-at-home mom. Take lots of pictures and notes of this precious time together to gift your child when she's older. Here are some ideas of what memorable moments to watch out for in the first year. You could also create a blog or video to share with loved ones near and far, or create a collage or scrapbook as a personal keepsake.
Whether it be exercises with your baby, yoga in the living room, or excursions to the gym to lift some heavy weights, exercise might be one of the most beneficial things to do as a stay-at-home mom. If you can carve out the time a few times a week, here are just some of the benefits:
Post-pregnancy exercise is great for your all-round health and your general peace of mind.
It’s a little “me-time” to just think, or not think.
It’s a great chance to meet other moms if you join a fitness class, especially one that’s targeted at stay-at-home moms like you.
You can make your exercise time a bit of quality time with your little one by doing some “mommy-and-me” exercises.
In some cases, you can combine your little one’s exercise time with your own. For example, if your child’s taking swimming classes you could use that time to do some laps of your own.
Before starting to exercise again after giving birth, check with your healthcare provider about when it’s safer for you to get moving again.
Keeping It All in Perspective
Don’t be afraid to break the rules—even your own rules. If the rhythm of your day is leaning towards everybody wearing pajamas all day and having a dance-off in the kitchen instead of doing the dishes, or you feel like eating takeout for lunch AND dinner, go with it.
In the end, try to be in the moment because, yes, they really do grow up fast.
Find the rhythm of your own household, let the schedule be your friend. Be gentle and kind to yourself. Have fun.
Whether you’re staying home for a few weeks during your maternity leave, or you’re planning to stay home for several months or years, we hope some of these ideas help and inspire you. Being a stay-at-home mom can have its challenges, but it’s also a hugely rewarding experience. Enjoy it!
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