Being a stay-at-home parent can be a lot of fun, and sometimes I almost feel guilty when I’m out playing with the kids at a park or building a blanket fort instead of working at an office. But, as rewarding as it can be, it’s often challenging. Sometimes it’s tough to take care of yourself with little ones demanding your constant attention, and sometimes you might just miss the structure of your old life and interaction with other adults. Lucky for you, after a few years of staying home full-time, I’ve got a few simple tricks up my sleeve that might help you keep your sanity.
1. Get Dressed & Ready for the Day. It took me awhile to figure this one out. Even though it’s tempting to sit around in your pajamas for the first half of the day—especially if you spent half the night rocking and/or nursing a restless infant—it really does make you feel more human to put on some real pants and brush your teeth first thing in the morning. If you’re like me you might need a few moments alone with your coffee first, and that’s fine. But if you get ready bright and early, you might just feel more energized to take on the day. Better yet, if you have the time to put on a little makeup and even do your hair, you will feel like a rockstar (Pro Tip: a little sea salt spray + wet hair = beach waves). Of course, sometimes that’s easier said than done, but brushed teeth and pants are a must.
2. Don’t Stay Home…at Least Not All Day. Just because you are a stay-at-home parent, doesn’t mean you should literally be home all day. Day after day, your home might just start to feel like a prison. Instead, try to plan at least one outing a day. Whether it’s taking your kiddos out for a walk at the park, storytime at the library, or even a trip to the grocery store, the change of scenery will work wonders for your mental health. Your kids will appreciate it too! Sometimes a fussy toddler or grumpy big kid just needs some fresh air and a little adventure in their day, just like us grown-ups.
3. Take Advantage of Nap & Quiet Times. Now, when I say this, I don’t mean take advantage of nap time by cleaning the whole house or scrubbing grout with a toothbrush. If it makes you feel better, spend a little time picking up or loading the dishwasher, but then spend a little time on yourself too. You probably took breaks when you worked in an office, and you need and deserve a break now that you are home too. After all, you are human. Have a cup of tea, do some yoga, or watch YouTube videos for 20 minutes—whatever helps you turn off your parent brain for a bit. Maybe you can even get back to that hobby you never seem to have time for anymore. And if your kids are too big for naps (or think they are, at least), make sure to have them do a little quiet time on their own so you both can recharge.
4. Stick to a Schedule. I’m not a very organized person, nor would anyone describe me as Type-A or anything along those lines. However, after doing this mom thing for a few years now, I have learned that we need to have some form of a daily schedule, especially during breaks from school when everyone is home all day. For us, we tend to do our outing in the morning since the 2-year-old naps in the afternoon. This makes our very basic schedule look something like this: breakfast, playtime, snack, outing, lunch, nap time, playtime, and finally TV time while mom makes dinner. It may sound simple, but I think we all like knowing what to expect at different times of the day. It makes it a lot easier to move on to the next activity if your little ones tend to drag their feet for certain things, like nap time.
5. Embrace the Fact That a Little Screen Time Is Okay. This is something you can use your own judgment on, but I personally don’t know how I would get any housework done or make dinner every night if my kids didn’t watch any TV. As I’m sure your doctor has told you by now, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time under age 2 and two hours or less a day for older children. So, you should do what you think is best for your family. But I would be lying if I said my kids didn’t get any screen time before age 2. When I start feeling a little mom-guilt over this, I try to remind myself that my parents didn’t limit my screen time at all, and I turned out pretty okay. For your older kids who are allowed to get a little screen time, try not to think of it as a negative thing. There are some awesome kids shows that are actually educational and teach kids about things like sharing and kindness. This is all my way of saying that if you need 20 minutes to clean the kitchen, don’t feel too guilty about allowing a little screen time to get it done.
6. Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself. Like any job, some days are great while others leave you on the couch with a pint of ice cream by the end of the night. Just remember that you are doing your best, and try not to compare yourself too much to other parents. When you feel good about what you are doing, your kids will too.