Even if you’ve always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, the reality of it can sometimes seem… disappointing. It’s a job with no positive feedback, no time. Off, and no peer companionship.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t thrive and find happiness when you’re home full time. You can, and you should.
1. Set goals
One thing that women miss when they leave their job is praise and a sense of accomplishment. When you do a good job at paid work, you often get a raise, a promotion, or at least a compliment. When you do well as a stay-at-home mom, you get… nothing.
Research shows that the key is happiness is the achievement of short-term goals. Not love, money, or power. So, let’s set some short-term goals.
Make them specific and actionable. This means you have to know when you’ve achieved them, and you have to be in control of how you achieve them.
When will you decide that you’ve “learned”? For example, the goal “learn to knit” is not specific. No, set something like “knit a dishcloth by summer.”
Similarly, don’t set a goal that you aren’t in specific control of. A goal like “win a sweater-knitting competition” is outside your control.
A better goal would be: make a fisherman’s sweater by Christmas that uses three kinds of yarn.
But don’t go writing things down to write things down. These goals have to be things you care about, that you really want, or else you’re wasting your time.
2. Create a routine for yourself
Another problem that stay-at-home moms face is boredom. Of course, they are busy and have a lot of responsibilities. But it’s easy to mismanage your time and not get a lot done during the day. It’s hard to be disciplined when no one is watching over you. It becomes all too easy to wake up, sit around, look at stuff on your phone, and put off what needs to be done.
The solution? Give yourself some much-needed structure.
Set up a morning routine, a weekly routine, and an evening routine.
These don’t have to be elaborate! Start small with a few commitments to yourself. Pick two or three of the following:
- Be awake by 6:30 every morning
- Pick a day of the week to make a freezer meal
- Tidy the house for fifteen minutes before going to bed
- Do a load of laundry every day
- Go grocery shopping and make a meal plan every Sunday
Once you see how productive you feel with a little more structure in your life, you’ll likely want to add more and more.
3. Create routines for your children
Now, of course, you aren’t the only one in the house who needs structure. There are all these little people. And they have a lot of needs and feelings that conflict with your own.
And if we’re trying to set routines and goals, we won’t get very far if the kids aren’t on some kind of routine.
Schedules for children often get a bad reputation for being restrictive. But they are not. Kids thrive with a little structure, just like adults do. Obviously, this is very personal, and I can’t give you the exact routine your family will do well on.
Here are some ideas:
- Set a wind-down routine of bath and a book for everyone under 8.
- Try an early afternoon quiet time. Non-nappers can read or play quietly
- Enforce a nightly clean up of all toys
- Start a Saturday night movie night as a reward for good behavior during the week.
4. Get fresh air and sunlight.
It’s easy to forget how much our surroundings affect our contentment. Being cooped up in a dark, stuffy, messy house is a recipe for misery.
If your house is naturally dark, don’t despair. Find the sunniest corner and set up a chair for yourself. Follow the sun around the house, spending the mornings in places that face east, and evenings in places that face west.
Get in the habit of opening your curtains every morning and on nice days, open the windows.
If none of this is possible, make sure you get out for some light and air. This doesn’t mean running out to go shopping. Just get outside, even if it seems like a pain.
5. Make home your happy place.
If you can’t be content being at home, you’ll always be a stressed-out mom. (Besides the fact that you’ll be spending all of your family’s money.) running from Target to Starbucks to the gym just because you can’t stand your own house is no way to live.
Motherhood for a stay-at-home mom can feel dark and lonely, and I know how tempting it is to dash out for a shopping trip. And there are some times when you should!
But at the same time, being home with your children is your life right now. You have to set up your home in a way that makes you happy.
The best way to do this;
- be busy
- find home-based hobbies
6. Get dressed every day
Your physical appearance has a huge effect on your mood. There is something deeply depressing about staying in your pajamas all day. I know it might seem relaxing, but it’s gross, and it will make you feel gross.
When you’re a stay-at-home mom with no set work hours, it’s tempting to start your day in your pajamas and then get dressed…later. But I highly encourage you to set a deadline time by which you have to be dressed.
If you can manage to do your hair and makeup, that’s even better.
But at the very least, be clean, presentable, and dressed. It’s good for your mood. Honestly.
7. Work hard
Have you ever gone shopping for furniture and noticed that some chairs are more comfortable than others? And after an hour or so of comparing, lounging, and being picky, only certain chairs seem good enough.
But if you walk around a city for five hours, it feels great to sit down on a concrete step.
In general, the more you lounge around and think about what you want, the unhappier you will be. If your baseline level of existence is doing nothing, you’ll need to be one level above that to be happy.
If your baseline level of existence is hard work, you’ll suddenly enjoy doing nothing. Relaxing with a cup of coffee, even with children everywhere, feels like a luxury. It’s like magic.
Now, hard work can be anything. Exercise, cleaning, cooking, gardening, painting a fence. Whatever.
Just do not, under any circumstances, sit around all day, thinking it will make you happy. It will do quite the opposite.
8. Don’t make your children your whole world
Wait, didn’t we just say that being at home with your kids is your world right now? And so it is.
But focusing all of your energy just on your children is unhealthy for you and them.
Of course, taking them to the playground and story hour is wonderful. Playing with them, reading to them, buying them toys are all great things.
But there are times that you need to do your own thing. They can watch, help you, or just play independently.
You are a stay-at-home mom to care for your children, but not just to care for your children. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you have to be constantly staring at them, entertaining them, rocking them, or chatting with them.
Just let them be sometimes. You need a break, and so do they.
9. Learn to love cooking
Making dinner is a big part of the stay-at-home mom’s life. You can hate it and complain about it, or you can learn to love it.
If you say you don’t like to cook, here are some ways to turn that attitude around:
- Make food you like. When you cook things that aren’t appetizing to you, it’s sort of miserable.
- Make a meal plan. Thinking of what to make is half the battle. Get it done upfront, and dinner won’t seem like such a chore.
- Lose the crazy expectations. Not every meal has to be a big production.
10. Schedule time to relax
Motherhood is hard work. Managing your home and life is hard work. Everyone deserves a break, including you.
Make sure you schedule a time to take that break so that you can do so without guilt.
Stay at home moms can live a life full of contentment
Don’t be discouraged. Don’t feel like you have to go back to work. You’re doing a great job.