Being a stay-at-home mom can be absolutely life draining. It can be lonely, depressing, and make you feel like your life has no meaning.
Now, I don’t say these things to be a downer. It’s just true! Between the way that our culture promotes working motherhood like it’s the only way and the loneliness that can ensue when we are surrounded by noisy, naughty little people all day, it can truly take a toll on our mental health as stay-at-home mothers.
So, what are we to do? How do we make stay-at-home “momming” a fulfilling and joyous duty?
Here are some of the things I’ve learned in my two years of being a SAHM… hopefully I can come back to this in a few years and add some new insight. 🙂 But for now, here’s what I’ve got:
Change your mentality.
When I had my first child I remember going through a really dark season of depression. There were a lot of reasons I felt depressed, but a really big reason was because I felt like my life was over. All of the sudden I had this new child depending on me for absolutely everything and I felt sucked dry… like none of the old me was left.
There’s definitely a process of grieving the old you when you become a mother. The old you IS gone… in the sense that you aren’t exactly the same. Your body will change, your personality and emotions will change (it’s scientific!), and your priorities will change.
However, I believe that it’s all about our mentality. We can either choose to think of our old selves as GONE or REVISED.
If we think of our old selves as totally gone, that can lead us to feeling worthless as mothers… like our entire lives revolve around these kids that we created. It can lead to depression, frustration, worthlessness, self-hatred, blame (cast on our husbands or children), anger, and many more negative emotions.
Or… we can think of ourselves as revised! YES, we are different than we were before we had kids. Yes, our emotions and priorities have changed. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
I don’t know about you, but I personally prefer the woman that I am today over the one that I was before having a child.
What sets these two mentalities apart if how we focus on the change. I believe being a mother has changed me for the better and has made me more capable in general. Sure, there are things I can’t do right now as a mother of a toddler, but before I know it I’m going to have an empty nest and have the world at my fingertips.
And I am confident that when that time comes, I will be a FAR more compassionate, intelligent, and emotionally/spiritually mature woman than I ever could have been before having children.
Instead of thinking of your children as a road-block to your personal success, think of them as character-building trainers that are helping you become the woman you are made to be!
Don’t expect too much of yourself.
Another huge reason for depression among mothers is expecting ourselves to be perfect. Like I will say many times in this post, women are well known for being people-pleasing perfectionists. Especially in our world of social media, we are bombarded with images of the “perfect” mom/wife/woman and we feel inadequate when we compare ourselves to the impossible.
But the truth is that we are futile human beings. We will always be frustrated with ourselves if we are constantly in comparison with others who have different personalities, strengths, incomes, problems and children.
Figure out what you CAN accomplish and do it happily. Make goals for your day that are attainable and practical. If you find yourself exceeding those goals every day, you will be joyful and satisfied! For more info, read my article specifically about this topic.
On the other hand, give yourself goals!
A huge reason that mom’s desire to work is because it gives them a purpose outside of their children. I get it… I really, truly do. But we can do this even as SAHM’s. One of my favorite parts about being able to stay home is that I have time to do the things that my heart desires. I have time for writing, cleaning, exercising, self-care, time with Jesus, organizing, decorating… okay, so I don’t really have that many hobbies. But these few things that I really love to do, I have the time! I don’t always feel like I’m rushing around trying to figure out how to fit it all in. My life is full and balanced instead of overworked, rushed and exhausting… and I like it that way.
My mother’s advice to me right after having my first baby was to always make time for my own hobbies, dreams and life. As important as it is to devote time, love and energy to our children… we won’t have what we need to give to them if we aren’t pouring into ourselves as well. That’s why as a SAHM it is absolutely vital to have goals and aspirations that don’t have to do with our children. Of course, we need ones for our children as well, which brings me to…
Strive to do the best job that you can to raise your children.
Kids have so many needs. Healthy food, active play, mental stimulation and learning, emotional coaching, spiritual guidance, LOVE… Yes, a daycare can provide a huge portion of that. But as a SAHM, we have been so incredibly blessed to be able to do this with our very own kids! Think of the great opportunity you have to pour into your children. Think of it as your JOB..because it is! It is literally your job to raise these beautiful little humans. Let it be a thrill instead of a bore. Write down things that you see your babies learning…. notice the way they are growing.
I’ll never forget the moment that I realized how important my job was. I don’t even remember WHEN or HOW I thought it, but the revelation was absolutely life-changing for me. I had spent 1.5 years of my SAHM career thinking that my job was pretty boring and pointless. I spent a lot of time wondering if what I was doing was even worth it.
Then one day I was watching a friend’s foster child. I noticed that this little one, about a year older than my own, had severe language, social, behavior and physical delays. And I know his story… most of this became of simply being neglected. Lack of touch, love and socialization. It broke my heart for him, but reminded me of how vitally important it is that I touch, love and talk to my own baby. The things that I take for granted, and see as not really that important on a day-to-day basis….. His life literally depends on it.
So on the day where you feel like your job as a SAHM is worthless and a waste of your life, remember this: every touch, every interaction, every conversation with your child is a little puzzle piece of their little life being built. Don’t ever take for granted the part that you play in that life.
Prioritize what brings you joy & simply survive in the rest
As mothers, whether working or SAHM, we are probably all guilty of trying to achieve perfection in every possible area. It’s just who we are as women. Most of us aim to please, even at the expense of our own mental, spiritual or physical health.
If we try to have perfection in every area, we will only burn ourselves out and feel depression/despair/exhaustion. We will fail to thrive because we are no longer mentally or emotionally capable of giving of ourselves.
Every mama has the things that bring them joy. For me, it is cleaning and keeping a house. It’s an absolute delight for me to keep things up… whether it’s doing the dishes, the laundry, vacuuming or washing the dishes… my heart delights in keeping my home beautiful, clean and cozy. It doesn’t feel like work to me and if it isn’t done, I feel anxious and overwhelmed. I devote many hours a day to keeping up the house and it only makes me feel joy.
On the other hand, dressing myself and staying beautiful drive me nuts. When preparing for events that require me to look nice, I often end up having a panic attack and a very messy floor (with every possible outfit combination throw everywhere). Taking the time to do my hair/makeup/outfits perfectly and to keep myself groomed are a stresser for me. Now, this doesn’t mean that I don’t do it. Probably 1-2x a week I will curl my hair, wear some eye makeup and put on a pretty outfit. But this takes quite a bit of effort on my part and isn’t exactly enjoyable for me. Most days I’m in yoga pants and a messy bun and I’m 100% satisfied with this.
Keeping myself healthy tends to fall somewhere in the middle. I know lots about my body, how it works, and what I need to do to keep up my health. I love meal planning, eating well and exercising. When things are going well in our lives, I do spend a lot of time on these things and I enjoy it. But when things go a little haywire (someone is sick/hubby is having a hard week/mama is feeling down) being healthy is a no-go for us. There are weeks that are spent largely on the couch with some soda in hand and I’m totally okay with it.
So, mama… what brings you delight? What parts about being a SAHM do you absolutely love? Is it crafting with your little ones? Is it taking time to keep up your appearance? Is it baking or cooking for your family? Is it writing?
Whatever brings you joy: make it a top priority! If it brings you peace, joy and satisfaction, make sure that it is part of your daily routine.
Whatever stresses you out: leave it for last. If you hate laundry or cleaning, devote ONE day a week to it and get it all done. Don’t pressure yourself to be perfect in an area that truly brings you frustration.
And the other stuff? Do your best to get it done, but if it’s not always accomplished? Let it be.
What’s your best parenting advice for stay-at-home mom’s?
Let me know in the comments!