Sneak peek: Finding purpose as a stay-at-home mom can be a struggle at times. Of course, raising children is meaningful but when the day-to-day routine feels overwhelming or monotonous, these tips can help.
After being a stay-at-home mom for 10 years, I’ve learned that it is a role full of paradox. Yes, it is a privilege to be able to be with my kids each day. And it’s also true that being a stay-at-home mom involves a lot of sacrifices. For me, the key to enjoying this role and finding purpose as a stay-at-home mom is making peace with this paradox.
Recognizing that being able to stay home with our kids is a privilege doesn’t mean you have to enjoy every minute of it. Being a stay-at-home mom is challenging. There is no getting around that. We sacrifice our careers, much of our free time, and our own agendas to be stay-at-home moms. I think what most of us recognize, however, is that these sacrifices are somewhat temporary. Ultimately, as our kids mature, we return to careers or creative outlets. The time we spend with our kids when they are young is irreplaceable.
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How to Enjoy Being a Stay-at-Home Mom
When I consider what I’ve learned over the years about finding purpose as a stay-at-home mom (and thrive in this role), it mostly involves finding balance. It is easy as a stay-at-home mom to give all of yourself 24/7 to your kids and forget about your own interests and well-being. Stay-at-home mom life doesn’t have to be that way. We can keep a piece of ourselves alive and well, even in the midst of giving so much to our kids.
Here are several things that have helped me learn how to enjoy being a stay-at-home mom:
Find your village of other mamas.
Being an introvert, this one took me a while. At first, I thought being a stay-at-home mom was an exercise in self-reliance and independence. While it can be a bit of that, finding a village of moms who “get” you, support you, and aren’t critical of your choices is key. Once you find the group of moms for you, you’ll know it. They are the ones who don’t mind you calling on a moment’s notice because you have to get out of the house and see another adult human. I know from first-hand experience, that finding a mama village makes stay-at-home motherhood so much better. You begin to feel like you are not on this daily journey alone and that others can relate to your struggles.
I’ve found mom friends through mom’s groups, church, neighborhood park visits, and library storytime. If you are searching for your village, try to be intentional and open to meeting new moms whenever you are out and about with your kids. Mamas with similar values and habits will inevitably find each other.
Mourn your pre-child identity (if you need to).
The identity shift associated with stay-at-home motherhood is abrupt and dramatic. This is the part of this role that no one really talks about. Many of us who are stay-at-home moms today made the choice intentionally, with a lot of planning and it is still a challenging transition. Many of us worked outside the home for years before taking on the role of stay-at-home mom. We ran board meetings or taught students or designed satellites. Transitioning from “outside the home” work to “inside the home” work can be more of a switch than we expected.
I, too, had to come to terms with this transition. I went from working in a research lab to staying at home with a newborn in the course of just a few months. Mourning my pre-child identity meant understanding that I will one day return to that work (in some form) but that right now my priorities and choices were different. Instead of making excuses (that I didn’t really believe) about why I chose this path, I changed my mindset to recognize the strength of my choice, with all its trade-offs. Coming to terms with this identity shift is essential to learning how to enjoy being a stay-at-home mom.
Comparison among moms starts in simple, almost insidious ways. You meet up with other moms for a playdate but the whole situation has a subtext of comparison. “Is your child walking yet?” “Your posts on Instagram are so adorable!” “How long did you breastfeed?” I’ve been in those situations and I imagine you have too. As the saying goes, “comparison is the thief of joy” and it’s true. I encourage you to walk your own path and not get caught up in comparison with other moms (in real life or over social media). At least one study has shown that social media comparison is related to lower life satisfaction and depressive feelings among moms.
Instead of comparison, seek out friends who build you up. Real mom friends don’t compare, but support. They recognize their own flaws and are quick to overlook yours. One key to learning how to enjoy being a stay-at-home mom is leaving comparison behind.
Related reading: Why Your Facebook Feed Might be Making You Feel Like a Bad Parent
Realize that self-care is essential.
In those early months of motherhood, we sacrifice so much for our babies–our sleep, our comfort, our routine, our bodies and more. It is intense but necessary to provide for those tiny newborns. As time progresses, however, and that newborn develops into an infant and toddler, finding a bit more balance and time to care for yourself is crucial. Parenting is a marathon, not a sprint and continually putting your own needs to the bottom of the priority list usually results in burnout (or worse).
Research continues to back this up. One study found that prolonged sleep deprivation can result in symptoms similar to depression in moms. Additionally, a continual lack of self-care affects our parenting too. This same study showed that moms who are lacking in sleep are less likely to be patient with their toddlers. Not surprising but an important finding! The stress and fatigue you feel from constant caregiving are not just in your head.
How to Enjoy Being a Stay-at-Home Mom
You don’t have to struggle as a stay-at-home mom! You can enjoy being a stay-at-home mom and still keep your identity.
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