I've been a stay-at-home mom for a little over four years now. I remember longing for the day when I would finally quit my full-time job and be able to stay at home with my babies. I envisioned rainbows and unicorns and each moment being freaking amazing and did not AT ALL prepare myself for the realities of this new gig.
Yes, it's crazy hard. Harder than when I worked full-time. But I also know I prefer this scenario over the one I previously lived. No, it's not for everyone. There's no judgement from me about what kind of mother you are. Each family's needs are different and they should do what works and what's best for them.
If you're considering staying at home full-time, here are some tips for you. They're sort of funny but sort of serious, too. It took me four years to really find my groove as a stay-at-home mom. Even still, I have days where I don't know what I'm doing or wish that I could trade places with my husband for a day. Nevertheless, I know this gig is good for us and will be over quite soon. I've survived by doing the following:
1. Get rid of your alarm clock. Turns out, small humans are excellent at waking you up. Especially when you have no where to be. And on the occasion your kids sleep in (READ: this never happens) you'll enjoy a few extra minutes of slumber.
2. Locate all of the drive-thru coffee shops near you. But seriously. With three small kids at home, even two-minute errands take an eternity. No way, Jose am I going to unload the zoo just to grab an iced coffee. Instead, drive-thru, baby! Second best part? I don't have to get all the way dressed.
3. Find your tribe. Stay-at-home mothers are prone to depression because of isolation and lack of support. It's so vital to your health and the rhythm of your family to find a tribe of people you can connect with once or twice a week.
4. Learn the beauty of shopping on a Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. Yes, it's not as great as shopping without children, but it's still life-changing. Target is nearly empty. The grocery store, too. Parking isn't an issue. And nearly everyone you run into (other SAHMs and retirees) is friendly. Score.
Whether you have one kid or 12, the days are LONG.
5. Invest in a timer. Whether you have one kid or 12, the days are LONG. I mean, seriously long. It helps so much to break up the day with little increments. 30 minutes of art time. 30 minutes of books. 30 minutes of free play. Etc. My kids have always responded really well with a timed activity. Heck, even resting with a timer is a great idea.
6. Find your "thing." Do you love photography? Running? Reading novels? Yoga? Making jewelry? Watching documentaries? Whatever your "thing" is, don't leave it behind. I know it can be hard to do all the things you love every single day, but you have to make time for yourself. YOU WILL NOT SURVIVE WITHOUT IT. Take my word for it.
7. Get a gym membership. #1: Free childcare. #2: Working out makes you feel good and gives you extra energy. When I don't work out, I am crazy exhausted which results in me being super grumpy with my kids. When I do work out? I get a tiny break from my army of small humans AND I feel better. Win-win.
8. Learn your city. There's no time like the present to really get to know the place where you live. When you have the majority of the day to explore, it's so much fun to learn all the nooks and crannies—fun events for kids, awesome parks and trails, local restaurants and food trucks, etc.
9. Have a back-up. The hardest part about staying home with kiddos is that you are literally with them 100% of the time. However, there will come a time when you need to visit your dentist or come down with the flu. When that happens, don't be a crazy person and do all that with kids in tow. Call a back-up babysitter. Ask a friend to watch your babies for an hour so you can get your yearly exam. Call your in-laws when you need to lay in bed all day to recover from that nasty virus.
10. Go all out. This time is precious and will be gone before you know it. Don't waste your days away by sitting at home, doing nothing. Get out of the house and live it up with your munchkins. Take them to see amazing things. Give them treats. Explore. Make art. Create a recipe. Visit your neighbors. I firmly believe that so much of who a kid becomes is shaped and molded during their very first years on earth. So make it count, mamas!