Today, I wanted to take a moment and talk about what I’ve learned being a stay at home mom for the last 18+ months. Now that I have been on both sides of the coin (working mom for 2 years, stay at home mom for almost 2 years), I’ve learned strategies to make staying home less financially stressful, less lonely, and less mundane that I thought might be helpful to anyone who is new to the stay at home game.
To make it a little more concise and organized, I’ve cut it down to the five best decisions I’ve made as a stay at home mom.
#1 – FIND A NETWORK.
When I first started staying home, it was incredibly lonely because I truly only knew about five other women who had young kids and didn’t work outside of the home. We took more trips to Target and the mall than I care to think about, I annoyed the poo out of those few friends, and we spent entirely too much money at Chickfila because I didn’t know what else to do. About two months after Kate was born, my sweet friend Amy invited me over one afternoon and encouraged me to join her playgroup. She was the only one I knew in the group at that time, but I stepped out of my comfort zone and did it anyway. About a month later, she moved to another town, and I thought about quitting, but I continued to go and meet other moms, and 15 months later, I can honestly say it has saved my sanity. Not only do my kids look forward to playing with friends, but I have formed friendships with other moms in my same life stage, and they just get it. They offer advice, we laugh about inappropriate things, and the adult conversation is just good for the soul. So, whether it be a playgroup, a MOPS group, baby boot camp, a Bible study, WHATEVER that looks like for you…find a network of like-minded people.
#2 – CREATE A ROUTINE.
My kids (and I!) are absolutely at their worst when we have no plans and no agenda. (Except on Saturdays – for some reason, when Daddy is home on no plan days, it just is more fun. Hmmmm.) Kids thrive on routine, and they find comfort in knowing what to expect. Once Kate finally dropped her morning nap, we created ourselves a very basic routine, and although no day looks exactly the same, there is predictability, and my kids generally know what to expect and when. There is consistency in knowing that dinner will be around 6pm every night, and that right after that, we’ll take a bath, play in our rooms, read, and then go to bed. I’ll share on another day exactly what our routine looks like, but everyone’s needs are different, so do what works for your family.
#3 – GET OUT OF THE HOUSE. (Bonus points if you get dressed in clothes that aren’t Spandex!)
This one was hard at first because Kate had colic/reflux/milk intolerance/hot mess syndrome for about seven months, and getting out in public was sometimes embarrassing because she cried so much. BUT, I almost never regretted the decision to get out and be social. While I occasionally enjoy a day where we stay at home in our pajamas all day, I am very extroverted by nature, and I’d often find myself depressed and lonely when I had looked at the same four walls all day. And let me tell you, kids can get cabin fever, too. OH, can they get cabin fever! There have many bad moods fixed by a simple outing to the grocery store or the park. There’s just something refreshing for everyone about interacting with other people.
#4 – BOW DOWN TO DAVE RAMSEY.
Unless you married Mark Cuban, cutting out a paycheck will take a major toll on your financial decisions, and it can often lead to major stress in your marriage. We went about a year with no real budget, spending what we’ve always spent, and we very quickly realized we were in the red every month. So, we got creative. We went to Dave Ramsey’s cash system for the variable expenses (groceries, restaurants, personal money, miscellaneous kid needs, entertainment, etc), and we learned to say no when the money was gone. If the restaurant money was gone and I didn’t want to cook, we dug up a box of the Kraft blue box and called it dinner. (And let’s be honest, no one complains about the blue box goodness.) When the kids outgrew their clothes and toys, I sold them online for a little fun money. We are still a work in progress, but we’ve learned to budget and do our best with what we’ve been given. There are always surprises (hey there $800 bill from the emergency room…), but we are in a much better place and have more peace about our monthly spending. If you’ve never heard of Dave Ramsey, look him up. The man is brilliant.
#5 – DON’T BE AFRAID TO STEP OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE.
For those that know me personally, you know that arts and crafts are not my spiritual gift. (I’m still sort of wondering what mine is, to keep it real…) So, in true God fashion, He gave me a son whose absolute favorite thing to do in the world is paint. (Side note – His teacher made a point to tell me today that he spent 25 minutes painting today at preschool…the other kids were done after less than five. She then encouraged me to look into sand paints for him so he can add “texture” to his artwork…say WHAT?!! I probably looked at her as if she had just told me he was the next Bachelor. I was SO confused.)
Anywho, I digress. The point is that I have a son who loves something I know nothing about…so I do the best I can to encourage him. It doesn’t come naturally to me, and most of the time, our paintings look like multicolor vomit, but he LIGHTS UP when I ask him to paint or color or do play doh with me. I detest the task, but I love spending time with my son, so I do it. And if that painting (and I say that loosely) gets taped to the refrigerator, he just about EXPLODES with pride. It’s worth a little discomfort on my end to see his joy.
As I mentioned above, I also had to take a major leap of faith and put myself out there to meet other moms. I have a huge fear of rejection, so while that was difficult, it was also so rewarding because I now have a network to rely on. So, be brave! Stretch yourself, do things that don’t come naturally, and step out of your box. Motherhood creates this beautiful unity among women, and if you are brave enough to put yourself out there, I can assure you that there are other mommas out there ready to welcome you with open arms. We are all on this crazy journey together, and no one can (or should!) do it alone.
So, what have I missed, mommas?? Anything I left out?