As a child, I wanted to be all kinds of things: a writer, an artist, a judge, an actress, a dancer, and a mermaid. While I had a plethora of things to be, there was always one thing I knew I didn’t want to be: a stay-at-home mom. Or, in the parlance of my youth, a housewife.
Having quit her job as a teacher when I was born, my mom was a housewife. And as much as I loved her, I did not want to follow in her footsteps. After all, it didn’t seem like any fun; my mother in particular didn’t seem to enjoy herself. I didn’t want to dedicate my days to cleaning, cooking, or shopping. Well, maybe I could handle the shopping. But mainly, I didn’t want my life and my identity to be usurped by my children. I wanted to be fun and do exciting, creative things — how did taking care of kids allow for that?
After college, I moved to NYC. I did fun, exciting, creative things. And then I got married, had a baby, and became a stay-at-home mom. Why? Like many women, it was in part due to the high cost of childcare.
Over the last 5 ½ years, I’ve learned that yes, there are wonderful advantages to staying home with your children, but it has been much harder, lonelier, and more exhausting that I could have ever imagined. That being said, there are little (and big) ways I make the most of it each day …
1) Make your bed
I never understood why my mom used to have me make my bed. After all, I was just going to sleep in it later that day, messing it up again. But, as I have admitted often in the last few years, my mom was right. Making your bed is a quick way to make your room, and thus your house, pulled together and neat. If you can’t find your floor under books, papers, and toys and your dresser is covered in clothes, at least making your bed will create a calm focal point. And, you’ll feel like you’ve accomplished something first thing in the morning.
I’m really bad at this one. So bad that I’m not going to admit how often I shower, lest you shun me. But, showering regularly or at least semi-regularly will help for a few reasons. It will get you clean obviously, but there’s something about showering that helps you to mentally start your day. Plus, you have to change out of your pajamas when you shower, forcing you to get dressed if you might otherwise be inclined not to.
3) Make plans
If I don’t have plans, I’ll usually let the whole morning get away from me. I find that if I decide the night before that I’ll go to the park or Target or just somewhere, it gets me motivated to get dressed and out the door in the morning.
4) Talk to other moms
If you’ve got a kid vaguely close in age to one of my kids, watch out — I’m going to come chat you up. I ask moms to meet me for playdates or to friend me on Facebook. I ask moms about activities in the area. I talk to people all the time because there are a lot of other women in my same situation. So why don’t we hang out? I’ve made some great friends already in my new town because I use a trip to the library or Trader Joe’s as an excuse to talk to people.
5) Take classes
Taking classes is a great activity for your child, but it also hits two other important points on my list: it’s a plan and while you’re there, you’ll meet other stay-at-home moms. Many areas have music and gym classes for little ones, but if the expense is too much, check out your local library. We love the free toddler reading days at our library — my son has a great time and I’ve already made a friend there! A little asking around or online sleuthing will help you find reasonable (or even free!) classes for kids of any age.
6) Reset the kitchen
I don’t clean my house every day, but I do reset the kitchen. Every evening, my husband and I do the dishes, wipe down the counters, and sweep the floor (usually for the fourth or fifth time that day). The few times we’ve gone to bed without doing our kitchen clean up, I’ve really regretted it. The dishes get out of control, the toddler tries to eat all the crap and dust off the floor, and my big kid wants every food bag or items that he can see.
7) Have the kids help clean
If you’ve taken any baby classes, you know the insipid “clean up” song. I sing that song a lot. The kids know they need to clean up their mess before they take out another toy (although knowing it and doing it are two separate things). Both boys put laundry in the hampers and my older son is responsible for cleaning his room. I’m not going to raise boys who expect people to clean up after them.
8) Utilize Pinterest
I know Pinterest can be incredibly daunting, especially if you’re not a crafty person. But, there are tons of activities you can find for any age child and appropriate for any skill level. Can you use masking tape? Great! You can find a tutorial on making a race track. Do you have a toilet paper roll? Excellent! Use it as a stamp for paint. Sure, if you’re not vigilant, you can get sucked into the vortex, but if you can use it, Pinterest really is a great tool.
9) Keep boxes
You know the cliché of kids liking boxes more than they like toys? Well, clichés exist for a reason — in this case it’s because it’s absolutely true. My boys drive boxes, use them to fly to the moon, and cover them in drawings and stickers. Again, even if you’re not the artistic type, you can hand them a box of markers and a box and voila! Instant art project.
10 ) When in doubt, be silly
This is the most important piece of advice in my parenting arsenal. A little bit of silliness has saved me from tantrums, meltdowns and freak outs. If I feel myself start to get frustrated, I’ll stop and make a funny face. Just a brief laugh from my son will help us turn in a new direction. I’ll do anything I can think of — change lyrics to a song, wear a shoe on my head, ask the cat for advice — if it brings a smile to my sons’ faces, I know I’m doing the right thing.More On