Leaving your 9-5 daily grind once you have children can seem like the dream choice. You’ve probably spent years wishing you didn’t have to commute to work, thinking how lovely it would be to get all those jobs done around the house, staying on top of the chores and spending coffee breaks in a cafe whilst chatting with friends. Oh, how the imagination can run away with you! In reality being a stay at home Mum can be far more lonely, much harder work than any job you’ve ever had, you can feel as though some days you are living in Groundhog day and at times, it can leave you feeling isolated.
I’ve been at home for 4 years now and for me, it has been the best decision I could have made. However, I have seen other Mums attempt to move into this lifestyle and discover that it just isn’t for them. I think there are reasons as to why and how I manage and I thought I would write these down to help any of you who may be finding the transition a little tough on some days.
1.Sign up to classes
As soon as Jake was around 10 weeks old (when I could drive after my c-section) I began ringing up the Children’s Centre to find out which classes would be suitable for us. I signed up for baby massage, baby sensory and baby PEEP. Having these booked in meant I had to get myself out of the house and socialising with new people. I found some friends at one class which led to me joining a local playgroup which some of them already attended. Chatting to other parents will also have you learning about other classes and groups that are. Those that are drop-in and pay as you go will mean you can try a few out until you find one that works for you and your baby.
2. Find a routine
Once you have some classes booked in you can begin to plan your calendar/diary and get into a routine. Not only will this help you to deal with the change between working and being at home but it will benefit your child. Keeping to the schedule with activities will lead to a good routine with naps, meals and bedtime etc.
3. Make future plans
There is nothing worse than looking at your calendar or in your diary and seeing endless blank days. We all need something to look forward to and even if this means planning to meet a friend in over a month at least it will be something you can focus on.
4. Go swimming every week
I haven’t opted for swimming lessons as of yet but I have always made sure that I have taken Jake swimming almost every week since he was old enough. I got into a great routine of making this a Wednesday and I would go with my sister and the girl she nannied. It meant that both the children knew they had that activity to look forward to on that day each week and again, we had a routine in place.
5. Plan your chores
Chores can really get you down. I find it very hard to have an untidy house but with having children comes the mess and this is something I’ve had to adapt to. I used to clean my house fully once a week from top to bottom but when Jake arrived I had to learn how to balance the chores out over the week and not let this bother me. It can be very easy to choose to stay in all day and tackle it but by the end of that day you will most probably feel deflated and lonely. You have to practise walking away from some mess and get out of that front door. It will get done at some point it’s just that your happiness needs to come first. A cleaning rota can work wonders as can researching cleaning hacks to make your life easier or if you can afford it, get a cleaner!
6. Leave the guilt behind
You will feel guilty about everything, believe me. Guilty that the housework isn’t done, guilty that you have to stay in one day and you can’t get your child out, guilty that you are at home whilst hubby is at work, guilty for going out on a fun day out… the list goes on. If you allow this guilt to eat away at you, you will end up with a very unhealthy attitude to being a stay at home Mum.
7. Don’t expect every day to be the best
Being a stay at home Mum can be relentless. You may be up all night with a teething baby and still have to cope with them being grisly throughout the day. This may change your plans, it may make you emotional and stressed and can lead to a whole day of being in your pyjamas. You just need to bear in mind that not every day will be like this and get through those tough times the best you can.
8. Ask for help
This follows on nicely from the last point, do not be afraid to ask for help. If you need a break, you need a nap or a hand with the housework then find somebody who you know you can rely on to help you out. Family members are usually the first port of call but don’t be reluctant to ask a new Mum friend, after all, you are both in the same boat and you can always return the favour.
9. Make time for yourself
Don’t let being a Mum get in the way of you having a treat for yourself too. You still need to take time to feel like an adult and a woman- not just somebody’s Mummy. This could mean booking yourself in for a beauty treatment, going out for a child-free day with friends, finding time to indulge in a book or getting out for a walk. Whatever makes you feel happy, book it in!
10. Find a project
I like to keep busy and yes, a child can keep you busy enough but I also still need something in my life that stimulates my brain. I will often have ideas for improvements to be made around the house or garden and instead of paying somebody else to do this I like to plan in how I can do this myself. You may not be particularly artistic or creative but that shouldn’t stop you from having a go at something. Adult colouring books are a great way to keep your mind active but to also feel relaxed. You could take up knitting and see if you can master making a blanket or how about creating your own canvas images for your child’s room?
11. Get enough sleep
I can hear you laughing at this right now but if it is possible, get your sleep in. Sleep deprivation is the biggest contributing factor to feeling like crap. If you are tired you will tend to be more cranky, irritable, short-tempered, emotional, teary and no good to your child. If you can grab an early night or nap as your child does try and get into the habit of doing this. Days can begin to feel as though they merge into one another but with a good nights sleep you will feel more energised, positive and you will want to get out and about more.
I have exercised since Jake was 1 and it has been one of the best things for me. Exercise gives me time for myself, time to focus and time to socialise with other adults. It has a positive effect on my mood and can leave me feeling more awake and alert. I am a huge advocate of exercise being a great anti-depressant.
13. Purchase season tickets
I have had season tickets for our favourite attractions for the last couple of years. There are a few reasons for me doing this, 1. I will save money in the long run, 2. it gives me a destination to go to on any day of the week, 3. It is a meeting place for me and other Mums. It also gives us more options away from soft play, playgroups etc.
14. Plan activities that can be done in the home
There will be days when the weather is a bit rubbish, when you are both feeling a little run down or when you have to stay in for a delivery. Don’t let these days go to waste. Plan your day to keep both of you stimulated and to ensure that you have some fun. Arts and crafts are a big activity in our house. I am by no means an arty person but it is always fun to have a go at something you may have seen online and getting all the bits and bobs and glue out. We also have a good selection of paints, coloured paper, pens and pencils and crafting pieces. All of which can be picked up for a great price at shops like Home Bargains. Messy play can be easily achieved with so many items around the house and your child will love this!
Baking is also one of our top activities yet I always hated being in the kitchen before having a child. I have, however, discovered an enjoyment for making cakes and I want Jake to find the kitchen a place of fun. It doesn’t matter how the cakes turn out just as long as we can do this together. You will also find that your day will go by much quicker and won’t drag if you plan these type of activities in.
15. Join supportive online communities
There are so many online communities for parents and I think these are vital. In these groups you can ask any questions without being judged, you can help other parents who may be going through tough times and you will be reminded that actually, we are all in the same boat and are just trying our best each day. It can be amazing to find such support in strangers and can also save your sanity.
16. Look after yourself
It can be very easy to skip your own meal or forget to drink enough water when you are putting a little first but you will be doing yourself no favours by allowing your health to suffer. To feel at your best you need to eat sensibly and keep your energy levels up. I find carrying a bottle of water when I go out a great way to make sure I stay hydrated… it can be far too easy to try and survive on caffeine. Eat your meal with your child and snack on healthier choices rather than reaching for those sugary temptations. These tend to give you a quick high but will shortly be followed by a low.
Enjoy this time. It won’t last forever, they grow up so quickly and one day you will turn around and wonder where your baby has gone. I can look back at those early days so fondly and I often wish that I hadn’t got so stressed over the nap time battles or the housework or my tiredness because right now none of that matters but the memories do.
Do you have any other tips?