When I decided to be a stay at home mom, I had a vision of playing together and making irreplaceable memories. However, it wasn’t soon after that I realized that the memories I was giving her were far from ideal. I was too tired and preoccupied to enjoy our time together. It felt like a lose-lose situation for both us. Something had to change.
Like with most things, less is more. Too much exposure to anything can make you jaded. For example, if you eat ice cream every day, it probably won’t feel like a treat anymore. I was spending so much time with my daughter that it no longer felt special. I didn’t feel the need to give her my undivided attention because I knew I had “unlimited” time with her.
I realized what I needed was structure and limits. If I had a limited amount of time with my daughter, I would value it more while teaching her an invaluable skill: independent play. It would also give me the time to get my daily tasks done so I didn’t feel the need to constantly be multi-tasking. So how did I do it?
It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t quick, but it was worth it. This is what I learned.
Design your day
Start by writing all your errands and tasks, including the inconsequential ones like loading and unloading the dishwasher. Once you have them written down, group them by location. For example, doing the dishes and prepping breakfast, dinner, and lunch can all be done quicker because they’re all done in the kitchen.
When you are a stay at home mom, the to-do list can seem daunting. Grouping your tasks helps reduce the quantity of work you have to do. It also ensures that you are working in the most effective way possible. Ideally, you should have no more than three “groups” of tasks.
You can’t expect your child to magically play by themselves. To motivate them to play independently it needs to be appealing. I suggest making highly motivating activities or toys available only during independent play. My daughter loves a stomping floor piano, so it only comes out during independent play time. Switch out the toys available during independent play – remember, less time with something keeps you from getting jaded.
Keep in mind that your child has the attention span of, well, a child. Therefore, make sure that you not only leave them with enough activities, but also for the right amount of time. Start small; schedule away 15 mins of independent play at the beginning and work yourself way up to more time.
My daughter has a hard time understanding the concept of time because it is so abstract. Using timers made the concept of time more concrete, which helped her understand and anticipate independent play. When we began I used a visual timer, but I now simply use my phone as a timer.
I also used a visual schedule so she knew what to expect out of our day. We would go over it at the start of the day and with each transition visit it again to see what was going to happen next. After about 2 weeks of being consistent with it, I didn’t need to use the visual schedule and we could simply talk about it.
Self-care can look different to different people. As an introvert, to me, self-care is watching a 30 minute show. On the other hand, some of my friends who are extroverts say self-care is having an uninterrupted phone call, or checking in on social media. Whatever self-care is, make sure to schedule that in small doses throughout the day. Because a happy mama will raise happy kids.
The key to being a sane and happy stay-at-home mom is structure. By having time limits to each part of your day, you and your child can both look forward to the time you have together. It is important to make sure that you are happy being home since children tend to mimic our feelings. If you are tired and preoccupied, your child will pick up on that. A lot of times children act out for attention. It’s important to make sure the attention we give is positive attention, not negative attention.
How do you stay sane as a stay at home mom? How does your day look?