I cringe when people say, “OH you are so lucky that you can afford to stay home!” I don’t know that many families make enough with one parent’s salary that the other can truly AFFORD to stay home. It’s not as if I sit at home with my perfectly manicured nails and perfectly styled cut and freshly dyed hair eating chocolates and wiping baby butts with dollar bills without a financial care in the world (confession- ok I do eat chocolate, some days A LOT of chocolate is required to get through my day).
If you are a stay at home parents (mom or dad) two things are probably true about your situation.
- You have had to give up something. The budget is tighter, you can’t buy some of the things that you want/need, you have put your job/schooling on hold, occasionally your personal appearance is lacking, and/or your social life has probably changed drastically (especially if this is your first baby/babies).
- You feel overwhelmed and under-appreciated (once a month, or once a week, or daily sometimes).
There was this great Mother’s Day ad where people applied for “the toughest job in the world” where they were told there were no breaks, no vacation days, and occasionally you were asked to eat your meals cold and while standing. Sounds like a lot to take on—being a SAHP (stay at home parent) isn’t easy. There’s really no way to prepare someone for what this entails — ESPECIALLY when you are starting a new job working for TWO little baby bosses. It can be daunting.
OK, here’s the disclaimer: It isn’t easy, it isn’t always fun and it isn’t for everyone. It isn’t the right choice for every family. You might not be able to function on one income alone (babies/kids like to have things like water and electricity, toys and diapers—not cheap x2). If you just can’t make it work with one income there is no shame in that. You may be the parent with the larger salary or benefits that allow your children to have good health insurance (and let’s be honest, they can get sick OFTEN x2), or will allow you to save for college so you choose to work— and that’s OK. Lastly, you may just not want to stay home. You love your children but you may also have a job that you love, you may have finally got to a position where you can provide the kind of life you want for your kids, or you may have a small nervous breakdown when you think of every day surrounded (and outnumbered!) by your children who are often poopy, dirty, fussy, teething, and clingy among other lovely phases! None of this means that you love your children any less.
Parents (and especially moms) we need to stop judging each other and support our fellow parents. There should be no shame in your choices to stay home or work, because it isn’t anyone else’s business. No one knows your financial situation, your relationships, the way your household functions, AND your heart. You need to make the choice that is best for YOUR family. (OK, off the soapbox for a bit.)
If you choose to stay home with the kiddos (and make the concessions required to do so) here are some thoughts on how to save your sanity and enjoy it…
Create a Do-able To-Do List
If you are a SAHP you are never off the clock. My “job” (as I see it) is to take care of the kids, but since I’m the one that is home most I do my best to run errands, grocery shop, do laundry, cook and clean either with the kids, or during times that they are napping and my hubby helps when he’s home. It is very easy to get overwhelmed by the list of things that need to get done (and let’s face it, cranky often follows overwhelmed). One way to help avoid this is the 5-3-1 to do list. You pick 1 big item that must get done during the day, then 3 smaller items (important but second priority), and then pick 5 quick easy tasks that you’d like to complete for the day.
Some days my 1 items are grocery shopping or paying bills and sometimes the most important thing that I need to get done is to sit for a whole nap time and read my book. My level 3 items are generally chores around the house or items that take some or energy (making dinner, scrubbing toilets, baby gym class, etc), and my 5 items are quicker, easier items (pay one bill, run the dishwasher, and sometimes it is watch one of my shows on DVR). My priorities change depending on how the day is going, how the night before went and how happy the kiddos are that day. Some days the top thing on my to do list is to take a nap myself because the girls didn’t sleep the night before. However you make your to do lists, make sure you build in some down time for yourself. If you go-go-go all the time, you will burn yourself out.
Take Time for You
So important that I’m going to say it again! You need to take time for yourself and build that into your day. If it means getting up a little early to make sure you shower, eat breakfast and can drink your coffee in peace that’s one way to do it. You can take one nap time a week and do something you enjoy, or you can pay a sitter and run errands kid free, or if you have family nearby arrange to have an afternoon at grandma’s a few times a month. Regardless of how you do this, it is important. You are no good to your kiddos if you are burned out, and there are no medals for refusing help and breaks. Take care of yourself so you can take care of your family. You are never off the clock, so you need to build in time for the things that you enjoy (not just the things you enjoy doing with the kiddos).
Wear real clothes (at least some of the time)
I love yoga pants as much as the next mama, but I feel so much better when I get dressed in real clothes. If I wear pajama-like clothes too often I tend to get sleepy, I don’t do as much, and I feel frumpy. Yes, there are days when getting dressed means trading my PJs for yoga capris and a comfy t-shirt, but most days I try to wear jeans and a cute top (big fan of fitted Target tees). For the most part I retired my nice work wardrobe from my days as a teacher (cute shoes, nice dresses, pretty necklaces and dangly earrings), and some days I really miss getting dressed up for work. So I really make an effort to get out of the yoga pants most days. Might be slightly shallow, but if I feel like I look cute then I feel better about myself, and my self-esteem gets a major boost. I get more done (and am a happier person).
Get Out of the House (as much as YOU can and YOU need)
When my twins were around 6 months, I asked at question on twin support group Facebook page, “How often do you get out of the house on your own with your twins?” At first I was happy to see other moms felt like this was a pretty daunting task. One or two moms responded that they didn’t go out much without help. A few more said twice a week or so (that’s where I was). But then a pretty large group of parents said that they go out every day, at least once to keep themselves sane. I tried to do this, thinking I might feel better about things, and I was SO overwhelmed. That was just too much for us. So my advice is to get out of the house at least once a week, and more if you need it or enjoy it. We signed up for a baby gym class when the girls were 9 months or so (once a week) and now that the girls are 17 months we go out 4 times a week or so. I’ve mastered the art of shopping with a stroller, and found ways to keep them occupied while running errands. I’ve figured out what time of day works best for us, and how long is too long to keep them out. Figure out what is helpful for you, and build that into your to do list.
It isn’t an easy job, but hopefully some of these tips can make being a SAHP a little easier.
p.s. Just remember that the best part of your job is that you have the cutest bosses in the whole world!
Stephanie Cleland is a high school teacher who traded in her teen students for adorable twin toddlers and now spends her days entertaining her 1 year old “twinadoes”. She married her college sweet heart, Kirk, and her hobbies include scrapbooking and other creative projects. She also is working on a blog ilovemytwinadoes.weebly.com.