It’s taken me a long time to figure it out: Being a stay-at-home mom (SAH) doesn’t mean that the self you once knew and loved has to be virtually unrecognizable. And once you find that former self, you’re going to realize that she is an entirely different person than you remembered—she’s so much stronger and more stylish, confident, fun, smart, giving. Most important she’s ever-changing!
If you’re like most SAH moms today, you had a career before kids and knew a different life. You worked hard in high school to get into a good college—maybe even an Ivy League school—then you worked hard in college (ok, maybe with a little partying on the side, or, in the case of my alma mater, Lehigh, a lot of partying). But that hard work finally paid off as you began to build a career at a good company.
And then came baby #1! Seemingly overnight you traded in your pencil skirts for yoga pants (and you don’t go to yoga, Namaste what?!)! You are now home with a newborn and have no idea what you are “supposed to” accomplish all day. You are used to a world where you rocked!! You knew what to do; people listened to you; you were empowered! Although everything in your past has made you the incredible mom that you are, you are left feeling that you’re not doing enough. You’re a smart and successful woman who can do so much more than playing with blocks and changing diapers.
I believe that one of the most important things you can do for your family is to take care of yourself and your marriage! You can lose who YOU are while in the weeds of raising young kids…and when that oh-so-sad, but also glorious, empty-nester phase begins, you don’t want to look at your husband and have nothing in common. Being the best in all areas (wife, mother, and self) is all about balance. If you’re concentrating on one piece too much, then you’re neglecting another; therefore missing out on the total package!
“Life is not about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
Discover Your New Rockin’ Self!
Take Care of Your Body
The first thing you have to do is toss those yoga pants (unless you’re actually doing yoga) and go to the gym. This is all about you! Get back in shape—if you haven’t lost all of your baby weight, then do it now! If you’ve lost the weight, but still aren’t toned, then get to it! You feel better when you get in a good workout, plus with gym childcare it provides a much-needed break. When you feel good about your body it’s a snowball effect: You pay more attention to your overall appearance. You pay attention to what you’re wearing, your skin, your hair. You just feel better overall! Go get a haircut, a fresh face lotion maybe—take care of yourself!
“An object that is at rest will tend to remain at rest. An object that is in motion will tend to remain in motion.”
The next part of this is to clean out your closet: Get rid of all the clothes that just don’t fit quite right or aren’t flattering. There is a fantastic article on a minimalistic way of doing this by Denaye Barahona, Why I Got Rid of My Wardrobe. I’m not suggesting that you become vain, it’s about feeling good and confidence. When you feel better overall, you’ve got so much more confidence and are starting to discover an even stronger and more beautiful self.
Invest in Your Marriage
Make it a priority! Go on regular, weekly date nights with your husband, just the two of you—your former self loved doing this, recapture that! Personally, we go out every Friday night from 6:30 to 8:30. Our date nights are not long and not super expensive, but we get out together…granted in our pre-kid world those dinners where much longer, but you’re at least stopping and connecting (plus we generally continue our date on the couch with some wine). By doing this, and making it a priority, you are putting an importance on your relationship. I do suggest seeing friends too; at least one girls night and one couples night per month. Just remember that your relationship with your partner is number one and you need time alone to kindle that. Obviously, any night is fine, but try a Friday night one week. At least for me, being a SAH mom, going out on Friday night gives me something to look forward too; the week somehow feels slightly shorter because the sitter does the nightly bedtime routine instead of me! Plus, it feels like going out for Friday happy hour; you feel like you’re part of the world.
Recovery is giving yourself a break from the wonderful, but draining, life raising young kids. Without recovery you’re too worn out to concentrate on anything. Concentrating on both your body and your marriage will give you some recovery, but you need more (especially the more kids you have) because being a SAH mom is again, wonderful, but also extremely challenging.
For recovery, I suggest taking one Saturday or Sunday off every month, or at least every 6 weeks. This means a day where you leave the house at 8 a.m. and don’t come home until 8 p.m.; bonus points if you can squeeze in an overnight for sleep recovery! Drive somewhere, go to the beach or the spa, read a book, go shopping—something that you enjoy and find relaxing; something that the former you could do, but now never get the chance. You need a break from everyone and everything! When you come home the kids should be in bed and the house picked up. Your husband will have to work a little harder that day, but he’s fabulous (that’s why you married him)—so he can and will to give you some needed time off and because it will make you a better wife and mother.
So once you’ve scheduled in a little recovery time, you can now concentrate on “professional” fulfillment; doing something in the “business” community. I use the terms professional and business very loosely. I don’t mean that you’re heading off to Wall Street, I simply mean that you are doing something to exercise your mind, challenging yourself, and reaping the rewards of acknowledgment and success outside of raising children.
Spend at least two hours a week in something that challenges and excites you.
Whether you have one or 10 kids, you don’t have extra time and are certainly not just looking for something to fill your day. You’re plenty busy, but you have to carve in a little time for you to do something that fulfills you, it could be as little as two hours a week. Do something that allows you to wake up in the morning faced with a little more than cleaning the house, feeding the kids, and going to the playground—daily, monthly, yearly! You need to find something that excites and challenges you; and, most important, that’s unrelated to raising your kids or their activities. To clarify, this could be something that is related to kids, but with a business aspect; say, for example, you created a toddler product and now want to market and sell it on Etsy, that’s fine because it’s business related (just happens to be in the children’s genre).
“The most difficult thing is the decision to act; the rest is merely tenacity.”
The part that is tricky about the personal fulfillment piece is that no one thing will satisfy everyone or work in everyone’s life. Personally, I have been searching for this for about a year and a half. I knew that I needed something that was for me, something that I could think about in the back of my mind throughout the day, something that challenged me to think about different or better ways to do something, something that when I came up with an idea I was excited to tell my husband about! This has to be something that allows you to work toward certain goals or levels of achievement, and although not required, for many people it is important to have some, even minimal, financial reward. There is something about making money (even $50) that makes you feel that you did something worthwhile—and there is a ton of value in that.
“Mistakes are proof you are trying”
Of course, being a SAH mom, this has to be something that you can do from home, on a flexible schedule and something you can do as little or much as time allows. Don’t be afraid to try something simply out of fear that you may not like it or it may not be right for your life. Since you are a SAH mom and your family is operating without you generating income, you shouldn’t feel financial pressure, so don’t be afraid to fail (or succeed when you find the right thing for you!).
“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”
I tried various things from starting a website/blog to considering going into real estate! Many things haven’t been just right, but it takes trying them out to find that perfect “job” for you. It’s not until now that I’ve finally found something that sticks, it’s just the right mix of flexibility, appreciation and acknowledgement, challenge, working with other adults (and friends), excitement, and financial success.
Be creative, think outside of the box.
I believe that if you’re not 100 percent fulfilled then you will harbor even slight resentment to your family, which at some point will come out even if it’s 20 years from now. This is not something that everyone needs, but some moms do. Being an adult and getting dressed up, sometimes going to a business event allows you to feel like you are a part of the adult, business world and also allows you to come home and love playing with kids more, making you a better mom. There are a ton of things out there that will allow you to create your own business and schedule, it just requires a little thinking outside of the box.
- Are you great at and love planning parties? Become an event planner for friends and family members (taking only one client at a time)
- Do you love fashion? Become a stylist or personal shopper (doing the majority online)
- Do you or have an eye for interior design? Redo a room in a friend or family member’s house (again, taking only one client at a time)
- Do you love zumba? Become an instructor or personal trainer (using gym daycare while you work)
- Do you have an enthusiastic personality? Try direct sales (doing the majority online)
- Are you a writer? Do some freelance
- Great at photography? Do mini-shoots for families/kids in your area
- A musician/singer? Perform at weddings or events (maybe even once a month)
- Good at creating websites? Market your skills to moms who want to start a blog
Think of things that you would love if your friend offered that service, you have an incredible market at your fingertips, other moms, and we are all looking for something. There is an endless list of these types of “jobs,” it’s just a matter of thinking outside the box and finding what fits for you!
“I barely have time to shower”
OK, you might be saying, “This all sounds great, but I barely have time to shower, much less run a side business.” But you can if you WANT to! It’s all about prioritizing your time, building teamwork with your husband, leveraging available resources, and making a habit of it. Here are some examples:
- Do you live near any relatives? Ask if they could watch the kids every Monday morning from 8:00-10:00 a.m., they would love it and it would give you time to work.
- Is there a gym in your area that has free childcare*? On Tuesdays and Thursdays use the childcare to work instead of workout, then go for a run when your husband gets home. *Check out the YMCA, in our area they offer two hours of free childcare and it’s a beautiful facility.
- Can your husband go to work early on Thursdays in order to come home early? You could work from 5:00-7:00 p.m. while your husband does baths and bed. And this will still give you time to relax at night.
- How about Saturday mornings? Work from 7:00-9:00 a.m., you’ll still have the rest of the day and weekend with your family.
“Do it now. Sometimes ‘Later’ becomes ‘Never’”
Prioritize and preserve your time
There IS time, you just have to find it—be creative! I’ve found that you need somewhere between two and 10 hours a week. Less than two hours, you aren’t giving it enough effort to be successful; more than 10 hours, you move from SAH mom to working mom. Once you’ve found those time slots, preserve them! This is important to you. Don’t let other things crowd out that time. I also suggest selecting a location for your “office”. This could be Panera or Starbucks, but you need to get out of the house and go somewhere that is dedicated to work only. If you’re like me, even if you are alone in the house, it’s impossible to focus with a pile of dirty dishes in the sink. Find that time so you can discover your life that is 100 percent fulfilled. Life is a series of baby steps, but to get anywhere you have to take step one!
“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”
Life is a journey and we’re all in the middle of it, unsure where it will take us. But to be the best mom, you have to be your best self. Go out there and discover the strong, confident woman you are and shake life up a little! I’m a mom of four kids under the age of 6 and I’m telling