How to stay sane as a stay-at-home mom
Now is the time when we all start organizing our stuff, buying new supplies, and preparing for another fresh start: a new school year. I always get ambitious about how much better this new, upcoming season will be. This time will be different, I tell myself.
Turns out big overhaul projects never stick and usually leave me feeling worse. But small, incremental change – baby steps and small wins – add up much faster than I’d ever guess.
You can set up your day and your week so that you enjoy your life at home – not simply survive, but thrive at home.
A number of years ago when I was sleep-deprived and completely at a loss about how to move forward in all that needed to be done, a friend wrote me some encouragement and a phrase she used has always stuck with me: Build a livable life.
What does that even mean? A livable life will look different for each of us, but it starts by taking a step back and realizing what we’re doing that’s not helping and actually making the effort to do the things that will help us calm the crazy, clear the clutter, and move forward.
With so many details and a lot of needy people, staying home can feel crazy-making sometimes. One day, I sat down and made a list (because that’s what I do) of the things I can do to help keep myself out of crazy-land.
You’ve probably already heard these tips. They’re not new or earth-shattering. I’m just here to remind you that they really do help. They really do work.
1. Have a creative hobby.
God is a maker, and we are little sub-makers. Being creative is human. Having a creative outlet helps us feel connected and whole. Knitting, baking, sewing, sketching, painting, gardening, writing, decorating: finding a way to make beauty is actually a very important outlet that we need.
The book Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer develops this very well, giving plenty of ideas and examples. I also have a short interview with Jennifer Fulwiler of Conversion Diary about how and why to make time for creativity.
2. Keep a regular prayer time.
“Prayer is the most important part of the thankfulness God requires of us,” teaches the Heidelberg Catechism. We need to stay in step with God through prayer, as He requires: “Pray without ceasing.” We make this optional and skip it to our own detriment. God’s peace surrounds us when we pray with thanksgiving, the Bible teaches.
If we don’t have peace and we don’t pray about it, we shouldn’t be surprised by it.
3. Lock the bathroom door.
Three minutes of solitude really isn’t too much to ask. Little fingers might still peak underneath the door and wails might still be audible, but a few minutes “cloistered” away is not unreasonable. In fact, it’s a good way to teach the children that moms are people, too, who require at least some dignity and respect.
4. Dress respectfully.
Speaking of dignity and respect, I find it helps when I dress it. I have nothing against cute yoga pants, but there’s a world of difference between cute yoga pants and ratty old sweats. When I regularly dress sloppily, it doesn’t take long before I feel as crummy inside as I look outside. Taking a few minutes in the morning to do my hair, apply mascara, and put on clothes I wouldn’t be embarrassed to go out in not only lifts my own mood, but also teaches through my actions and appearance that home and motherhood are worth respecting and honoring.
My current summer favorite is a knee-length skirt with a yoga-pant waistband I found at Costco. It looks dressy and nice, but is cool and comfortable. With a blouse it’s fancy, and with a tee or tank it’s casual and breezy.
5. Get up & have a morning routine before the kids are up.
I know, I know. It’s really hard. I don’t deny it. But, I don’t think you can deny that starting off the day with a little quiet and space makes for a better start and a smoother day than one where we hit the ground running.
I’ve learned that if I don’t get up before the kids, exercise and prayer time simply won’t happen, so I have to prioritize getting up in the morning if I want to prioritize my own health and sanity.
What small steps do you take that help you stay calm and maybe even cheerful through the day to day?
Mystie, at what time do you go to bed at night? I have been tinkering with my schedule during the summer holidays. I get up at 6:30 and with the kids going to bed late in the summer, that gives me an hour, sometimes an hour and a half alone time….and its heavenly :) But when school starts and we all get up at 7 AM, I might need to get up at 5:30 or 6:00 and that means I need to go to bed at….9:30 or 10:00 PM? I’m NOT an evening person, but if I want to see my husband sometime, I can’t go to sleep too early. And I imagine that someone with older teens will have it even more difficult to go to bed that early.
I’m probably missing something, because I read posts about moms getting up early all the time, but I can’t see how it works. For now I have planned prayer time before the kids get up and exercise after school is done, but I don’t know if that’s going to work.
No, I don’t think you’re missing anything. You’re doing the math and the adjusting and that’s good. Amount of sleep is important. My husband gets off work early and needs more sleep than I do, so we do usually go to bed before 10. I’ve found between 7-8 hours is good for me, and then I sleep an extra hour or two on Saturdays and Sundays.
In my 20s, I’d just keep getting up at 5 even if I had a really late night. Now I adjust my wake up time if I’m going to bed past 10. If I have half an hour before the kids are up, I can still get outside for 10 minutes of fresh air and walk and pray, 10 minutes to plan the day, and 10 minutes or so to get dressed or putter around. It’s not my ideal, but it’s better than rolling groggily out of bed to the calls of “Mom! Mom!” :)
I find the “dressing” part challenging because we raise and keep farm animals. At any given time I have the “these can get dirty/torn/stained and it’s OK” clothes, and the “I need to leave the house clothes”. My son recognizes the difference (and has since he was about 5) so I know that what you say is true, but I am down to only 2 pairs of shorts that I can wear away from home because I had on “better” clothes when something happened that I needed to go take care of and my clothes were ruined (sometimes immediately and sometimes just thru repetition). Got any tips for helping my clothes last longer so that I can dress a little nicer at home, but not be so concerned about what might happen to them if I have to run out to help animals?
Kelly, that makes it trickier! I know the typical response to “I don’t want to get my clothes dirty” is to wear an apron, but I imagine that would often get in the way. Maybe reverse it and have a cute apron for inside that comes off before going out? :)
Even just taking an extra couple minutes to brush one’s hair and not wear it back in a basic ponytail all the time (I’m prone to that) can help with that feeling of dignity.
Taking into account our own specific circumstances and adapting from what might be “ideal” is an even more important ingredient to staying sane than what one wears. :)
I have clothes that are just for barn chores. I did have the issue last year that by the end of summer all my barn shorts were torn, so this year I switched to denim. I had resisted that because I like yoga-type shorts for chores, but I just found stretchier denim, which has worked better than I expected. It clings, so it doesn’t get caught on fencing like looser clothing, but it looks cuter than yoga shorts so I’m not embarrassed answering the front door if I need to. :)
My uniform is basically my cuffed denim shorts and a black tank top. When I come in from chores, I change. I might wear the same barn clothes for four or five days, except when something horrible happens…
I guess I just don’t like changing clothes multiple times a day. Plus, anything that clings or is too heavy (hot) is a no go in the summers here! The heat nearly kills me as it is, my clothing has to be loose and light.
I don’t like changing either, but I can’t figure out how else to do it. I don’t want to wear nice clothes for my chores, but I don’t want to look dumpy all day every day, either. So I change twice, actually, because milking is twice a day…Goodness! It’s been a while since I thought about how often I change!
I totally understand the desire for loose clothing, but I am just so clumsy that I was always getting caught up on things and then tearing my clothes. But you are right that it is hotter to wear tighter clothes. Of course, my milking shed is over 100 degrees for at least three months of the year, so at that point it sort of doesn’t matter…I’m going to sweat no matter what. :)