Surviving Your First Year as a Stay-at-Home Mom
Congratulations! You’ve taken the plunge into the zany SAHM (stay-at-home mom) pool. While expecting your baby, you may have envisioned days of doing exactly what you wanted to do while your baby snoozed away. By now, you probably have realized your tiny, new—permanent—houseguest is running the show. Now what?
I’ll never forget the time a family member asked me, “Are you bored yet?” Melissa Stanton, mother of three and author of The Stay-at-Home Survival Guide, says, “When a spouse comes home at the end of the work day, sees the breakfast dishes still in the sink and asks, ‘What did you do all day?’ it can be hard to answer. All you know is that although you never sat down or stopped ‘doing,’ you didn’t accomplish anything of substance. Every nose wiped, snack served, doctor appointment made and errand run prevents a SAHM from being able to, say, balance the checkbook, write the great American novel or just relax and be the lady of leisure many perceive SAHMs to be.”
Sure, you’ll have some spare time to work on long-neglected projects while Baby sleeps or plays—just not as much as you expected. After all, you’ll still need to handle about a million other things. “I definitely didn’t think I’d get behind on routine household tasks like closet cleaning. Instead, I hoped I’d be the proverbial housewife with the sparkling house since I was home all day. Instead, I could barely keep my head above water,” says Tresa Cope, the pregnant mom of two preschoolers.
Deal with the crazy-busy dilemma by accepting any offers of help that come your way. I’ve been known to cry tears of joy when someone drops off a new-baby meal at my place. And while you’re entertaining well-wishers, sneak off every now and then to do a dish or put a load of laundry in the dryer while they’re marveling over your child. If a friend starts to empty your dishwasher, don’t stop her!
“Because many of the tasks involved in motherhood and housekeeping are mundane, women can fall into the trap of being busy but bored,” Stanton says. “Stay-at-home motherhood is a job, and no one in the paid workforce is on duty 24/7. To fight boredom, loneliness and frustration, SAHM women need to get out of the house, without kids in tow.” So stock the diaper bag and grab a fellow new mom for a stroller walk around the neighborhood or mall to fit in some exercise with your social time. Indoor gyms, play areas in fast food restaurants and community centers where mommy groups meet to chat for “mommy playdates” are especially great for the winter months.
Speaking of mommy groups, Julie Dorset, mom of one, says, “What I think is most important is to find a group or club you can join, whether it’s MOPS International or just maybe your own group of friends or a Bible study at your church. I think any group is very important for the first year you stay home because it gives you somewhere to go, something to look forward to and other moms to relate to.” To find other moms with whom to connect either in person or online, visit Mothering.com, a popular website with thousands of members talking about a multitude of topics and issues important to moms. You always can find other moms who are parenting like you, and it’s nice to know you’re not alone while caring for this tiny bundle who can’t even speak yet.
Just because you spend all your days with a pint-size cutie doesn’t mean your brain has turned completely to mush. And if you just need to get it all out of your head, blogging has become a great way to connect with other moms while also using your brain during those late nights when you can’t sleep or during your baby’s nap time. Jill Smokler, author of the blog ScaryMommy.com, says, “I did find my blog to be a savior as far as keeping me connected to people.”
Nobody ever said your baby had to run the show entirely. If you’re normally an on-the-go type of person, keep that up. You can incorporate your baby into your day in many different ways, such as exercising with him, taking him on errands with you while you play your favorite kind of music or strapping him in a front pack or sling while you do household tasks.
“The puzzle, for many SAHMs, is how we can have so much to do and be so busy, yet feel bored—and frustrated about not getting anything done,” shares Stanton. If you’re sick of trying to do it all and seem to be getting nowhere, my advice is to surrender temporarily. I finally decided that I would sit and hold my son every time he fell asleep—and I’ve done it ever since with all my children! Instead of Girls Night Out, recharging to me meant sitting around with my son while reading a book, watching TV, journaling or even taking a little snooze for myself.
And don’t feel guilty about taking some time for yourself wherever you can grab it. This may mean running an errand alone, sitting in a coffee shop for an hour with a book or going out on the town with friends. If you’re short on cash, trade babysitting with a friend so you both can get out of the house. Everyone wins—for free!
This time of nonstop caring for an infant won’t last forever, so I’m giving you permission to cut yourself some slack. Nobody is putting pressure on you to lose the baby weight immediately or have an immaculate house, so enjoy yourself!
Books on Being a SAHM (like you have time to read!)
- Finding Your Way Home: How to Become a Successful Stay-at-Home Parent by Lucynda Koesters
- Domestically Challenged: A Working Mom's Survival Guide to Becoming a Stay-at-Home Mom (2nd Edition) by Alana Morales
- The Stay-at-Home Mom: For Women at Home and Those Who Want to Be by Donna Otto
- In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms by Laura Schlessinger
- The Stay-at-Home Survival Guide: Field-Tested Strategies for Staying Smart, Sane, and Connected While Caring for Your Kids by Melissa Stanton
Kerrie McLoughlin has been digging the SAHM gig with her five kids for 14 years. Visit her at TheKerrieShow.com.