If you’re a working mom and thinking about making the transition to stay at home mom, or if you are expecting your first and unsure which path to take, you probably have a lot of questions. What’s it like to be a SAHM? What do you do all day? Is it for me?
My friend Julie is a working mom with a second child on the way. She’s considering making the switch to SAHM and decided to interview me to answer some of these questions.
My Q & A With Julie:
1. While I’m sure each day is different, run me through a “typical day.”
Well, with two preschoolers, there is a lot of routine in my days. The boys wake up at the same time (too early) everyday. Husband and I try to sneak in a few extra minutes of sleep while we let the boys play on the iPads before breakfast (educational apps only ofcourse ;) ). After breakfast, we get out of the house (more for me than them) and head to the park, indoor gym, playgroup, or school – it’s really important for them to burn off some of that energy! We come home and I let the boys watch a little TV (usually Sesame Street, Dora the Explorer, or Super Why) while I prepare lunch. After we eat it’s nap time for Butter Cheeks while Flash plays with his cars, and mommy works on her blog or website. Then it’s dinner prep, Husband comes home for dinner and family time, and finally we brush teeth and take baths before bed time.
2. What is your biggest struggle/challenge as a SAHM?
What I find incredibly difficult is that staying at home is a full-time job. I may not be a salaried employee with health benefits, but my work is 24/7. I often feel like a gerbil running on a wheel without a break – which at times can be an emotional toll I’d never experienced before.
The boys are at an age where they constantly want something. If it’s not “mommy mommy mommy mommy!” over TV or a toy, it’s “mommy mommy mommy mommy!” because they’re fighting about something. IT’S. NON. STOP.
As a result, finishing ANYTHING is difficult because there are constant interruptions. While some moms are good about making “me time” a priority, I’m not. So I find myself feeling burnt out every month. If I don’t do enough for myself, then I pay the price.
3. Which habits or routines are most helpful for your day/boys/sanity?
Getting out of the house! Whether it’s playing in the backyard for an hour or two, or getting off campus. They need to burn their energy, spend some time with their mom, and they are better behaved as a result. And happy kids make for a happy mom!
I can’t stress enough how critical joining a playgroup was for my happiness as a SAHM. I was one of the first of my friends to have kids, and all of my friends worked. This led to me feeling very isolated. The playgroups/mom community I joined were awesome for several reasons: 1) I got to meet a lot of really nice moms, 2) It socialized my kids, 3) You can talk and share your thoughts, concerns, good ideas, etc., 4) It normalizes your life and struggles when you think your child is acting crazy, 5) You get some ADULT TIME.
5. Give me some tips for how you (try to achieve) balance between time spent with your boys and time needed for household stuff (cleaning, cook prep, etc.) as well as errands, play dates, mommy alone time, etc. Basically I would love to know how you keep yourself and your family organized?
First of all, I am not the queen of organization and balance! So just a disclaimer on that front. I try though, and sometimes (like right now after our move) I am struggling. Everyone runs their home differently, and by no means am I not saying my way is “the way;” but my philosophy is that my kids and family come first. When the kids were babies, my priority was spending time with them and the laundry came later. As they get older and more independent, I am able to sneak off to do loads of laundry. For example, right now is nap time, so Flash is playing by himself and I’m doing my laundry. This is the time I use to vacuum, prep for dinner, and do other necessary home chores. In terms of errands, the boys are dragged along with me. I try not to make more than two stops because the boys start to wear down. Now that they are both in preschool I’ve been having mommy time with other SAHMs I haven’t gotten to spend as much time with in the recent months. So basically, I find windows of time and get things done then. I keep a daily “to do” list, and I prioritize because rarely do I get everything done that I would like for that day.
6. How has being a SAHM changed over the years as your kids are getting older?
In some ways it’s getting easier because the kids are able to play independently and entertain themselves. I also feel like I can do more out of the house and enjoy restaurants more while they’re with a babysitter. And yet, in other aspects it’s harder because they expect more from me in a different way than they did before. For example, they are chattier and want to talk ALL THE TIME. They have questions and demand answers. It’s fun hearing what they say and ask, but there are times I miss the silence.
Another thing that’s changed is their activity level. My boys have always been rambunctious, but now not a day goes by that they aren’t literally bouncing off the walls. They run everywhere; walking is a thing of the past. So with this increased activity level comes my need to stay on top of them (to make sure they aren’t jumping head first off my bed, or that they’re not flushing toys down the toilet, or that they’re not running the shower onto the bathroom floor) which gets exhausting.
7. With your full days, how do you schedule/prioritize “Danielle time” Or “couple time” with hubby?
As I stated previously, I do a poor job of scheduling “me time.” Because currently, “me time” consists of: kids, tiny-trots, blog, house, and husband. But once the kids go to bed, Husband and I will spend the hour or hour and a half we have left talking or watching TV. We also try to schedule date night once a month. Before I started tiny-trots, I coveted nap time because that’s when I would read my magazines, catch up on TV shows, nap, work out, talk to friends on the phone, etc.
8. Tell me how you involve your boys in some household tasks as they get older.
First of all, kids LOVE to help, even at a very young age. Now that they are two and a half and almost four, they: help set the table, pick up their toys when they are done playing, put things back, “vacuum,” scrub the dining room table, dress themselves (but 90% of the time they want me to do it), water the flowers, and wipe up when they spill.
9. Give me some of your go-to indoor activities for rainy days with your boys (or when going out isn’t an option).
Classics like Play-Doh, coloring books, and matchbox cars are classics for a reason. As the boys get older they are able to spend more time doing these activities by themselves. It’s pretty amazing. Play-Doh especially! They have some great sets that come with a whole bunch of tools for them to cut, roll, and form things. Flash will sometimes play for hours by himself with his cars.
Aside from these toys, we also: make a tent and they play with flashlights, play in our ball pit, make an obstacle course and time each other, have dance parties, form a band and make music (our band is called “Dinosaur” with lyrics by Butter Cheeks), make crafts, and make slime (you can find recipes online).
Every now and again, I will stop at The Dollar Store and buy educational activity books, which Flash LOVES. But they need your help with these because of the directions on each page. And on those particularly trying days, my boys will watch TV or play with our iPads, but we limit screen time to three hours or so a day. For more ideas, I’ve got a whole section dedicated to this on my Pinterest page.
10. Are your boys enrolled in any classes/activities? If so, which do they enjoy most? And how do you decide how many is too much (so as not to overschedule)?
My boys have only been enrolled in two programs (one each). Music Together was great for Flash until he was 15 months. At 15 months he just wanted to run around the room and explore the building. Butter Cheeks enjoyed Great Play of Fairfax starting at age 2, where he was able to do some obstacle course-type activities. For my kids, it seems that anything that gets them running around and playing is what they enjoy most. Plus it wears them out (in a good way).
Frankly, at first I didn’t enroll them in more classes in order to save money. I think when they are this little, there is no need to schedule them in classes all the time because they may be too young to appreciate it, and there are a lot of free things out there for them to enjoy. I think that many of these classes may be more for the parents than the kids… most kids can have fun in a cardboard box! So to answer “how many is too much” is hard to quantify. But I don’t think more than one is necessary at a young age.
Hopefully this Q&A helps to provide some insight into what it’s like to be a SAHM. It’s an unbelievably fun and rewarding job, but it is every bit as trying and stressful as a normal job can be. There are times when I miss having an infinite amount of “me time,” but I wouldn’t trade the time I have with my munchkins for anything in the world.