I had a reader ask me what I do to stay sane as a stay at home mom (SAHM). What a great topic!
I think one of the hardest things about having your first baby is that sudden, total isolation you experience. You go from interacting with people at work or school to being home alone all day with a person who doesn't even smile at you, much less talk to you. Getting out isn't easy to do. You either have to pack up a ton of stuff or try to leave with someone like Dad home with the baby, which we all know results in mom stressing the entire time she is gone. And if you are a breastfeeding mother...well...that makes leaving even harder.
These feelings of isolation are common to all mothers, no matter what your parenting style. When Brayden was born, I didn't start following Babywise fully until he was about 9 weeks. I didn't start trying to implement any sort of "pattern" to his day until he was about 4 or o5 weeks. Shooting for a schedule/routine happened more around 7 or 8 weeks. And I felt isolated.
For me, he was my hardest baby to adjust to simply because I had no one to talk to for most of the day. We had just moved to a new neighborhood when Brayden was about 2 weeks old. I knew no one. My parents lived 1.5 hours away. I was the first among my close friends to have a baby, so they were all still working and living lives as usual. My husband was in school and working--gone from before 7 AM until after 8 PM Monday through Saturday...I was alone. When my girls were born, life was much different. I was amazed at even what a difference a little talking two year old could do for my day.
Okay, reminiscing over (but if you are enjoying the ramblings of having a new baby being hard, see the post "A New Baby Is Hard"). Becoming a SAHM is an adjustment. As a SAHM, "There are moments of great joy and incredible fulfillment, but there are also moments of a sense of inadequacy, monotony, and frustration. Mothers may feel they receive little or no appreciation for the choice they have made. Sometimes even husbands seem to have no idea of the demands upon their wives.” source
How do we do this job and maintain who we are, who we want to be, and our sanity? Like all topics involved with parenting, I don't think this is something one post on a blog can cover (if this topic is of interest to you, please be sure to read Motherhood: Some Uplifting Words). But hopefully I can give you some ideas, and hopefully you readers will be able to share your own ideas of how you stay sane.
- Maintain Hobbies: Before you had children, you had interests. Did you like to read? Did you like to sew? Scrapbook? Sing? Run? What is it that made you you. Do what you can to maintain these hobbies and interests. I know it is really hard to work these things in as you adjust to a newborn, but sometime around 3-6 months, you should be able to start getting a little bit of hobby time in there. Some babies are really easy newborns and allow you to jump in sooner.
- Start Hobbies: It is never too late to pick up a new hobby. A few months ago, I started to crochet. Now I crochet like crazy. A year ago, I started to run. I wouldn't call myself a runner, but it isn't something I shudder at anymore :). I have plans to take a Master Gardner class and a Photography class with friends in the future. You can always learn new things. Youtube is amazing. You can learn anything off of youtube :)
- Stay Connected: Stay connected to your friends and family. Call people on the phone. Send emails. Stay updated on blogs, etc. Don't cut yourself off.
- Social Networking: Some people might enjoy social networking through various sites. Perhaps Facebook would be your fun. Maybe you would enjoy a Yahoo! group or a site like Babycenter.com. On sites like these, you can find moms who have similar parenting philosophies, moms who sew, moms who are your same religion, moms who have suffered loss, moms with babies born in the same month as yours...you can connect with people who have similar interests to yours.
- Mommy and Me Classes: Some moms really enjoy things like Mommy and Me classes. Maybe swimming lessons would be your answer. A lot of times, these classes are more for mom's sanity than baby's overall improvement, but a happy mom is a better mom :)
- Play Groups: Do you have a good friend or group of friends you could have play groups with? When Brayden was a baby, my friend Kelli and I got together almost weekly for a play day. It was fun for our boys and fun for us. You could also organize something simple and weekly like a day at the park each week. My church does a day at the park every week where moms who want to come, bring a lunch, and visit while the kids play at the park.
- Go Outside: There is something about fresh air and sunshine that helps bring you back to reality sometimes. One of the only things that got Brayden and me through our long days was a daily walk.
- Get Out: Get out of the house sometimes. You know how going grocery shopping is an "out" for moms? Sad but true. Leaving your house reminds you that the world is bigger than your house and that your "problems" aren't so earth shattering after all.
- Exercise: Get some sort of exercise. Tracy Hogg recommends going for walks each day postpartum. I can see why. You get the benefit of fresh air, getting out, and getting your blood flowing. As you can, you can start adding exercise to your day. I remember one night after McKenna was born (she was about three months old), I was feeling overwhelmed and kind of panicky. I ended up going for a run, and when I came back home, I was totally fine. No more worries.
- Serve Others: One of the best ways to forget your own problems is to serve others. Volunteer how and where you can. This can be as simple as bringing a neighbor extra treats. Serve others, but don't think you need to become superwoman who does everything for everyone. As a mom with young children, you have limitations. But you can still serve some even with young children.
- Entertain Friends: Have friends over. You will have fun and you will worry about something other than your children.
- Enjoy the Moment: Enjoy each day for what its. The time you have as a parent of young children is so short in comparison to your entire life. Something I hear consistently from older people is that they wish they had spent more time with their children. Does it get monotonous? Yes. Is it thrilling? Not always. But it is such a short tick on your timeline of life. While trying to maintain sanity, don't go so far that you look past these children you are staying home to raise.
- Focus on What Matters: If you are feeling overwhelmed, cut out the things that are not necessary. You would be amazed what you can cut out of your life and the world keeps on functioning.
- Read Books: Reading books is a great way to stimulate the mind.
- Read Newspapers: Stay current with local, national, and world events.
- Have Date Nights: Go out with your husband on date nights. I think once a week is ideal, though admittedly much easier said than done. If you can't leave your house for a date night, you can be creative with date nights at home after the kids are in bed. Remember the importance of marriage and keep your relationship alive.
- Develop Traditions: Develop traditions that you can all look forward to. Maybe you will decorate for holidays. Maybe you will go to a parade every Fourth of July. Traditions are fun things to look forward to.
- Teach Your Children: Spend time each day teaching your children. For older toddlers and up, you can have fun daily learning activities. You can bake cookies and do art projects.
- Play With Your Children: Take the time to play with your children. You will develop fond memories as well as a relationship. Today I played baseball with my children after lunch and was amazed at their abilities.
- Have Family Activities: Do fun things as a family. Fly kites. Go camping. Go swimming. Go sledding. Plant a garden together. There are so many fun things to do together as a family. Make this time period fun.
- Keep a Journal: Keep a journal of your joys and trials as a mother. You can write a private journal, type it in word, video tape yourself, or even blog about it.
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