This is a guest post by Lynley Baker Phillips, who is a stay-at-home mommy to two, blogger, former special education teacher, and referee in all major toy disputes. Her writings have been featured in various publications and on Examiner.com. Feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When I bid my teaching days farewell and started my career as a stay-at-home mom, I had many grand dreams for what the days would hold for me and my new baby boy. There would be trips to the park, lunch dates with fellow stay-at-home moms (SAHM), outings to Mommy and Me classes and long morning spent around the house wearing our PJs. I was realistic enough to know that Sesame Street would most likely be on the television rather than a soap opera and there would be more Cheerios consumed than exotic bonbons (especially if I ever wanted to wear something that did not involve an elastic waist). I knew being a SAHM was hard work, but it was a career choice I was excited about and ready to tackle.
As time marched on, I settled into life with a new baby….a life that was nothing like my preconceived notions of being at home. Although precious, my new baby was easily over-stimulated which made lunch dates impossible. Our area happened to be experiencing an Indian summer that year, which made trips to the park in 100 degree heat miserable. The husband and I had slimmed down the budget to accommodate my lack of income, which made expensive baby classes out of the question. Suddenly the ideals I held in place about the structure of the SAHM’s day crumbled. I soon found myself inside with a baby 24/7, unhappy and questioning this new career choice.
About four months into my gig as a SAHM something clicked. I decided I could either roam aimlessly though my life wearing faded yoga pants and finding excitement over getting all of the baby bottles washed by noon or I could take charge of this new career I had chosen. Sure the aspects of the job were a bit different than I had expected and my boss, although terribly handsome, was incredibly demanding. Yet if I was going to succeed as a stay-at-home mom, then I needed to structure my work day and establish routine in my life. I wanted to be productive during my day, tend to my family’s needs and go to bed at night knowing that I had accomplished something good at work. Below are some tips I incorporated into my SAHM work day that put my career at home back on track.
1. Designate a beginning and an end to the workday. Being a SAHM does not appear to be a typical 9-5 job, especially when the "boss" can call you in to deal with a stomach virus at 2am or request just one more drink of water before bedtime. Although parenting is a 24/7 job, designate a time frame for the work day. Set a beginning time and an end time, allowing yourself to rest after a day's work. Do not be tempted to mop floors after the family is tucked in for the evening or fold one more load of laundry before sitting down to talk with your spouse at the end of the day. Having an official end to the workday will help you be able to prepare for the next day at home.
2. Accomplish a big task early in the day. Often times, SAHMs can reach the end of the day and not be able to identify one big task they accomplished despite being busy all day long. Choose one big task a day to accomplish first thing in the morning, such as vacuuming bedrooms or cleaning the bathrooms. Have children help get these tasks done so you can spend time with them doing a fun activity.
3. Schedule an outing. Getting out of the house, even just for a quick errand to the post office, keeps spirits high. Try to get out of the house a few days each week. Outings can be more fun for everyone if they are scheduled when children are fed and rested, such as in the morning or after nap time. Subscribe to local parenting websites that send out weekly schedules of family-friendly events happening in your area for ideas on what to do on these outings.
4. Use a calendar to organize the day. There are several online tools to help busy mom's organize their day as well as many types of day planners. Set aside a time, such as Sunday evenings, to plan for the upcoming week and update the family calendar.
5. Keep clutter to a minimum. When children are at home all day with a parent, it can seem like the toys are overtaking the house by 5pm. Designate two times during the day to do a quick toy clean-up, such as before lunch and before bedtime. Be sure to have children help (or accomplish this task on their own). Keeping toy chaos to a minimum allows children to have the space to enjoy their belongings more and keeps the house uncluttered.
6. Consider taking a day off. SAHMs rarely have the chance to call in sick or take a personal day off of work to get things accomplished. Consider swapping babysitting duties with a fellow stay-at-home mom. Offer to watch her kids one morning by hosting a play date, allowing her to have a few hours to herself. The next week, she can return the favor.
7. Set aside a block of alone time each day. Whether it is having some quiet time with a cup of coffee and a good book in the mornings before the family wakes up or browsing the Internet while the children nap, be sure to set aside time each day to do something enjoyable by yourself. One must take care of themselves in order to effectively take care of a family.
8. Have reasonable expectations. Do not set out to clean an entire house, complete various educational activities with the children, host a play date, read a book, cook three healthy meals, and get to bed at a reasonable hour all in one day as a SAHM. Set a few goals for each day, take time to interact with your family, and go to bed each evening being proud of your job and the work that was accomplished.
Four years and another kid later, my days at a SAHM have a lot more structure than they did in those early days of mommyhood. There is still chaos on some days and still times when any sort of structure is demolished by a missed nap or a sudden fever. Despite these bumps in the road, I can proudly say I love my job…demanding bosses and all.