There are so many articles out there about how challenging or isolating it can be to be a full time, stay at home parent. After two years at home with my son, Henry, I have plenty of material to write my own terrifying tale, but I want to share a different perspective. I genuinely love being a stay at home mom. I don’t plan to stay home forever, but at this moment in time, I wouldn’t trade my time with Henry for anything.
I knew that my decision to stay home was the right choice from the first moment I held Henry in my arms, but that doesn’t mean it was a seamless transition. It took me a while to embrace my SAHM (stay at home mom) status, to stop feeling the need to justify my choice to others, to build a community of fellow SAHMs in San Francisco and to figure out how I wanted to spend our days together. Now that I’ve found my rhythm as a SAHM, I want to share a few of the main things that have made this job easier and more enjoyable. If there are any mamas considering staying home or struggling with being at home, I hope these tips help you fall in love with this job as much as I have.
Establish daily routines
It can take a while to settle into a rhythm with an infant, but with a toddler, it is essential to have a predictable routine. Now that Henry’s talking, he likes to remind my husband and me about the routine. It’s so cute and funny to hear his little voice say, “Wake up daddy!” in the morning, “One more book,” before nap, or “Toothbrush, Mama,” before bath time. If you create a basic framework for your days, everyone will know what to expect and things will run much more smoothly.
Use a calendar and make concrete plans
It doesn’t matter whether you use Google calendar (like I do) or a traditional datebook, just find a system for making plans that works for you and stick to it. I like to loosely sketch out my plans for the upcoming week on Sundays so that I feel organized and ready to kick off the week. If we have plans to meet up with friends, it makes it a lot easier to get out of bed Monday morning! Obviously, with small children, you have to be flexible. No one wants to be overscheduled, rushing around town all day, every day. It takes practice to find a balance, but it’s worth it to plan ahead so you have fun things to look forward to throughout the week.
Get outside every day
We are so blessed with temperate weather in San Francisco! Grab those light layers and hit the playground, take a hike or stroll down the block to your local coffee shop or park. I truly believe that a little fresh air and sunshine can positively change the toughest of days. Henry (like most kids) is not fazed by rain, chilly fog or crazy wind, so I try to channel his intrepid spirit on days when I’d rather hole up indoors. One of the biggest perks of this job is that we’re not tied to a desk or an office, so take advantage of it!
Find a balance between self-care and mom-duties
A few months after Henry was born, I started to feel like I’d lost my sense of self. I sat down one day and made a list of things I love to do, things that make me feel sustained and happy, and committed to incorporating these things into my new job as much as possible. It’s not always perfect, but I’ve learned to prioritize myself in small ways, with a tiny person in tow. Choose a park near a coffee shop you love, or skip the laundry and do yoga while your little one naps. Plan one night a week to have exactly what you want for dinner, or strap your infant in the carrier and visit that new museum exhibition you’ve been dying to see. If you go to a music class in the morning, hit a trail you like in the afternoon, or meet up with friends at the playground so you can have some social time, too. As a SAHM, your job revolves around your child, but that doesn’t mean that every minute should be solely about their needs or enjoyment.
Build a strong mom network
When I first moved to SF, meeting new moms felt harder than dating– there’s not even any fun flirting involved! It can feel so awkward at first, but you have to practice putting yourself out there. Ask that mom you’ve been chatting with at the playground for her number, and then follow up and invite her do something fun next week. Initiate conversations with moms you see around your neighborhood, sign up for activities where you can meet children of the same age group, and use social media as a tool for making new connections. The secret is, it really only takes one – find one woman that you really click with, and you’ll be set. When I made one good friend, the pressure was off, and my community of moms continued to grow naturally over time.
I acknowledge that not everyone has the luxury of staying at home with their children, and not everyone wants to. However, if this is the job you’ve chosen, I think it’s important to remember that it is a real job. It’s ok to be proud of what you do and confident in the choice you’ve made for your family. I recently read this article, which features eight SAHMs from different cities around the country who share what the job title means to them. It resonated with me on so many levels and inspired this post, so check it out!