Wednesday, May 22, 2013

How to Survive the Stay at Home Mom (or Dad) Experience

  22 Things You Should Know About Being a SAHM
 
Before I had children, I had a romantic view of what kind of parent I would be. I fantasized about peaceful days of organized bliss. I imagined my children engaged in stimulating activities created for the purpose of developing their brains and fine motor skills. Our home would be clean and full of beautiful things - something out of a Martha Stewart Living magazine. I just knew that I would get up early and have all my housecleaning done before my little darlings woke up so I would be able to devote all of my attention to them. I’d finally have time to try new recipes and maybe even take up scrapbooking. I couldn’t wait until they were old enough to go on field trips and playdates. And I always wore something white and elegant in my fantasies. Funny right?

 
 
 
Finding a way to be home with one’s own child(ren) is a noble and worthy endeavor. I wouldn’t trade my job for any other in the world. I’m so glad I’m with my kiddos every day. But nothing prepared me for the stark contrast between the fantasy and the reality. If it is your heart’s desire to stay at home with your children, you should know the following - 
  1. Your children will teach you who you really are.Think you are a patient person? You can bet that they will test your patience in ways you never thought possible. Do you fancy yourself to be a levelheaded individual? You might not feel so even after cleaning ink off of your walls for the hundredth time. Of course you don’t have to be a stay at home mom to be tested. But being with your kids 24/7 is like going through a crash course in parenting with no lunch breaks.
  2. You won’t even come close to being the mom you imagined you would be. Whatever your expectations are of yourself, let go of them now. The sooner you do, the better off you will be. I’m referring to all those picture perfect, fairytale expectations you have. Trust me, you WILL choose sleeping in until your kids wake up over the whole "getting up early to do housework" thing. I’ll tell you why in the next point. Just remember that it’s good to have goals but you have to decide how realistic they are. 
  3. You will feel like you are caught up in your own Groundhog Day movie. Remember the movie with Bill Murray in which he plays a weather forecaster who gets caught in a time loop causing him to repeat the same day over and over again? Well, you’re going to feel like you are repeating the same hourly session OVER and OVER again. Especially if you have held a job with projects that actually had a completion date or goal, or really anything at all in which you got tangible results, you need to know that you will NOT have the satisfaction of completion. Not sure what I mean? You will by the time that you’ve changed four hundred diapers. You’ll really understand when you’ve gotten up early to get all of your housework done by 7:00 a.m. only to find that by 9:00 a.m. the house looks like a tornado whipped through it followed by a herd of cattle.
  4. A good day is one in which everyone was fed, changed, safe and loved. You might feel like you are a slacker if you don’t accomplish anything else but you must remember that your primary job (and a very important one at that) is to take care of your children. A good guideline is this: If it doesn’t nourish their minds, bodies or spirit they won’t suffer if you don’t get to it. You will figure out what your "it" is. I can promise you that your children won’t care whether or not their birthday cake was homemade. They’ll only remember that they had one and that you sang the loudest.
  5. You should always allow extra time for setbacks.  One of the hardest things for me when I became a mom was to remember to add a few minutes to my projected time. Somehow it was easy to get out of the scheduled time concept when I quit my office job. Inevitably someone will poop their pants, be hungry, or break something right as you are leaving. It is closely related to the law of gravity. 
  6. If you aren’t careful, you could turn into the crazy lady still wearing her pjs in the afternoon. Get dressed first thing in the morning. If you wore makeup when you had a job outside of the home, put makeup on every day. And for goodness sake, put on some shoes! (Okay, I hate wearing shoes so I’m a little inconsistent with this one) I’m just saying that paying attention to your personal hygiene will be good for your attitude.
  7. Don’t get caught up in television shows or social media. You are staying home to do one of the world’s most important jobs. Don’t turn into a couch potato. There is nothing wrong with taking a break or two (you don’t get many breaks as a stay at home parent) however, try to make the things that you watch and participate in positive.
  8. Find a positive hobby or activity that gives you a sense of creativity. Your job won’t be difficult all of the time; in fact, you might feel a little guilty on the good days. Either way you’ll need something that allows you to use different parts of your brain once in a while. It’s nice to have something you do that isn’t completely about your children. If you only focus on your children, you might find yourself feeling resentful. Which is not cool for your children or your partner.
  9. Not everyone will appreciate the work that you do. In fact, you might be surprised at how little those around you realize what your day’s work entails. Don’t take it personally. It’s one of those "walk a mile in my shoes" kind of things. Don’t spend a bunch of energy defending yourself or explaining how important your job is. However, if the negativity comes from your partner you might want to re-examine what you are spending your time on. Your partner’s view counts whether you like it or not because chances are that your partner is financially supporting the family in order for you to stay home with the children. As they should, your partner has some say in the way your home is being kept and especially in the way your children are being raised. Try to get to the bottom of your partner’s negativity. Your partner might simply not understand how much energy and care you are putting in at your job as a stay at home parent. Or perhaps your partner is feeling jealous of the extra time that you have with your children. Try to figure out what is bothering your partner and address the issue. If you aren’t treating your position as an important one, you might not be pulling your load. Be honest with yourself. If you can say that you are doing your best, invite your partner to spend a day or two alone with the children. Sometimes walking a mile in someone else’s shoes gives a better understanding than words ever could.
  10. There will be times when you want to run away. Trust me, you will think about it at least once or twice.
  11. There will be times when you think that your children are deliberately trying to drive you crazy. Trust me, they’re not. They are testing you to know what the boundaries are. As my wise hubby has said many times, children have nothing better to do all day long than to watch their parents to see what makes them tick. Don’t take it personally. All children do this.
  12. There will be times when you will feel like the worst parent in the world. Trust me, you’re not. Always remember that you can start over again tomorrow. I still cringe with guilt when I think about the time that my oldest son (then 4 years old) ripped out page after page from an antique book. I got so angry that I cut the foot off of his Barney doll. BAD MAMA!!! Ugh… I still feel ashamed and he is now 17 years old. Accept that you won’t ever be as good as you’d hoped. But understand that you’re doing better than you think you are.
  13. Nothing will ever prepare you for the overwhelming joy of witnessing those first steps, first words, and beautiful smiles. These things are more satisfying than any job review or pay raise. Never having to have your child’s day summarized for you by a childcare provider: PRICELESS!
  14. If you’re going to survive this career choice, you’ll need to not sweat the small stuff. The dust on top of the refrigerator bothering you? Don’t look at it. Did you not get all of the laundry done today? It’ll be there for you tomorrow.
  15. If you’re going to survive this career choice, you’ll need to view it as an important job. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that what you do doesn’t matter. You can make or break your family based on your approach to your position as SAHM. Yeah, that might seem contradictory to point number 14. It’s a fine line between slacker and obsessive compulsive control freak. Try to walk the line mama!
  16. Figure out how to how to cheat the system. You could walk around all day long cleaning up after Precious and have a clean house when Daddy O walks through the door at 5:30 p.m. Or you could use a broom to shovel a pathway through the day and spend an hour cleaning before hubby arrives home! See, same results, less effort. Think of ways to work smarter, not harder. Then you can devote your time to playing with your baby or mastering that perfect pie!
  17. Get out of the house once in a while. I am reclusive by nature so it’s easy for me to get lost in a week and not mind seeing only my children and hubby. But if you are a social person, make sure to set a play date with other SAHM’s once a week or so. It will be good for your morale!
  18. Listen to positive music. I’m not saying you must listen to inspirational or religious music. Pick a genre (try to stay away from screamo or speed metal) that you like and listen throughout the day. Your children and you will feel happier. 
  19. Get into the swing of things. I’m not a highly structured person but having a rhythm of the day helps me feel better. I would never schedule things by the hour but I do have a routine that gives me a sense of accomplishment throughout the day as I meet each milestone.
  20. Don’t fall into the trap of staying up late. The night is a bewitching temptress, especially during the hours after children have gone to bed. The house is quiet and you finally can think! Unfortunately, if you stay up too late, the children will tag team you the next day and you’ll be too weak and exhausted to defend yourself. Someday I’ll learn to follow this bit of advice.
  21. Don’t punish your partner for the frustrations you might feel as a SAHM. While there is nothing wrong with discussing your day and concerns with your significant other make certain that you’re not punishing your partner. I’ve heard SAHM’s say things like, "I’m with the baby all day long and he does nothing!" or "I’ve been here all day long and now it’s your turn to take care of her (for the night)". Unless you’re leaving for another job, it’s probably unfair to expect your partner to take over childcare completely while you relax for the entire evening. Sharing parenting during the hours you are both off work seems like a more equitable arrangement to me. Just think, you wouldn’t want your partner to come home and take his or her bad day at work out on you.
  22. And last but not least - don’t feel obligated to run errands for your mother-in-law just because you don’t have a real job. There will be some confused individuals who might think that your job as a SAHM isn’t really a job. Those same individuals might try to assign chores to you. There is nothing wrong with helping out a friend or family member who is tied up at their job. Just don’t let yourself be used. Remember that you do have a job. You aren’t obligated to run errands or anything else, especially if it isn’t your partner asking.  
If you have tips or thoughts to share about the SAHM experience we’d love to hear from you!  If you liked this article, be sure to subscribe before you leave our site.

2 comments:

  1. Hi Poppy Love this, you can write too, words every new mom should hear, peace

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Ruth! Have a wonderful weekend!

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