Balancing the Beauty and Trials of Being a SAHM
Being a stay at home mom is truly a huge blessing for my family! I love getting to be the one who has the biggest effect on my children. I love that I get to see every single milestone. I love that I get to be the one who takes them to experience new things. But that doesn’t mean things aren’t hard some days. In fact, I have consciously worked at avoiding stay at home mom burnout.
My Own Story
When I was dating my husband, he brought up the idea of wanting to marry a woman who would stay at home with his children. I was at once thrilled and yet, a little unsure. I had just completed my graduate degree in speech-language pathology and was loving my job. But I had also dreamed of being a stay at home mom. At the time, I told him honestly that I was open to the idea, but not sure. I kind of thought it would be an easy decision once the time came, but I was surprised that it remained difficult for me to choose between a career and my growing family.
After giving it a lot of thought (and prayer, because that’s who we are), we decided that I would be a stay at home mom. Yay!
I truly love being a stay at home mom! I get to be with my kids every day. But that also means I have to be with my kids every day. And I don’t say this lightly because I know many women who would love so much to be at home with their children. But gosh, it really does get hard sometimes.
There are times when I feel like I’m really crushing it as a mom. The house is clean, the laundry is done, dinner is completely prepped, and I’m reading books to the kids while we act out the story with our homemade puppets. (Just kidding, I don’t think I’ve ever had it quite that together.) But you get what I mean, sometimes I feel good about what I’ve gotten done in a day.
Other times I feel like an utter failure. Kids are crying and sick, dirty dishes are piling up, and I can hardly keep myself from flying off the handle. If one more thing goes wrong, then I will surely lose it. And when I can’t get out of this mood for several days, I really have to reevaluate, because avoiding stay at home mom burnout is a conscious effort.
What is stay at home mom burnout?
The Mayo Clinic describes job burnout as ” a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity”. (Check out their full article on job burnout right here.)
I feel like that definition is absolutely spot on! I can identify with each part of that description when I think about stay at home mom burnout.
Physical exhaustion? Yep! We’ve got that in spades. You might have a newborn, a child that gets up several times at night, or a kiddo that is awake before the roosters. Being a mom is tiring stuff!
Emotional exhaustion? Oh gosh yes! So many reasons for emotional exhaustion: colicky babies, tantrums from toddlers, unending “why mommy?” or a thousand other reasons. And that’s just the kids! Don’t forget the mom’s guilt. And of course, everyone has mom guilt, but at least for me, when my JOB is to care for my kids, I feel extra responsible for how I raise them.
Sense of reduced accomplishment? Check! Even with well-intentioned friends and family, the question, “What do you do all day?” can cut through the heart of a stay at home mom. It’s easy to feel “lesser than” because we don’t get paid for our job. And people don’t seem to understand how much it takes to keep a small human alive and thriving.
Loss of personal identity? Big time! I think this might be the biggest grievance I hear from SAHMs. All of the work we do every day is for our kids. A lot of the things we do go unnoticed and are not seen as praiseworthy by others. We also tend to pour our whole selves into raising our children and making our home a lovely one. Because our days are spent giving to everyone else, we often lose ourselves. We don’t carve enough time out to pursue things we care about, and that can lead to burnout for sure!
Being Proactive Instead of Reactive
I’ll be honest, when I was a single 20-something I really didn’t understand how a stay at home mom could even feel burnt out. But now that I am one, I see it or hear about it all the time. Avoiding stay at home mom burnout isn’t something we can do passively, we have to do it on purpose.
I’m really into being proactive instead of reactive when it comes to most things in my life. I’d rather do the work now to prevent a negative outcome than have to clean up once something goes wrong.
That is how I feel about mom burnout, too. I want to take steps so that I don’t get burnt out. I want to be aware of when I am nearing burnout and take steps so that I can right the ship.
Because the bottom line is, if I am burnt out, then I am not giving my family the best.
The 14 Best Tips for Avoiding Stay at Home Mom Burnout
What follows are my favorite tips for avoiding stay at home mom burnout. Some of these are things I’ve learned along the way, and some of these are things I’ve heard from a counselor. But they are all things that I really think can make a big difference when it comes to keeping you happy as a stay at home mom.
Give yourself a break
I think one of the biggest obstacles to enjoying stay at home mom life is the unattainable expectations we put on ourselves. We think we have to have everything done/ready/perfect all the time. And guess what?? We can’t!
We cannot do everything. We can’t always have every piece of laundry clean and folded, all the dishes washed, healthy homecooked meals every night, and angel children that never fuss or fight. It’s just not going to happen.
So GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK. Let me say that again, give yourself a break. Recognize that you are doing your best with what you have. Know that you are enough, and you have what it takes. (If that sounded too cheesy, I’m sorry. But it’s true, and I had to say it.)
Set reachable goals
Instead of having ridiculous ideas of all the things you can accomplish, set reasonable goals because having a few goals and then carrying them out feels so good. It helps you feel accomplished.
One of my best friends set a daily goal for herself that I loved. She wanted to do something that would promote spiritual growth, some sort of physical activity, and one thing for her mental health. I love this set of goals because it includes a lot of things that are good for you, but it’s fairly open-ended.
Spiritual growth just might be a 5 minute daily devotional or reading the Bible and journaling about it. The physical activity could be a full-on workout at the gym, or a 20-minute walk while pushing the stroller. And the mental health goal might be a nap, reading, or journaling.
Another friend of mine has the goal of doing 30 minutes of housework per day. Someone else I know wants to spend 10 minutes of one-on-one time with each of her children. One of my personal goals is to read at least 3 books to my kids per day and sing 3 songs with them.
So basically, just pick something important to you and stick with it. It will feel really good to know that you are reaching your goals.
Have a schedule…or don’t!
Some moms (and kids) absolutely thrive on a schedule. It can give your week some structure when sometimes being a SAHM feels a little endless. You can have a weekly schedule where you do different things on each day of the week. Maybe something simple like having designated outside days, baking days, playdates, arts and crafts days, and theme days. (If you want to start baking with your child more, check out my post here.)
However, you also might be a mom who does not want the rigidity of a schedule that you feel like you have to stick to.
You just need to figure out whatever works for you.
This is advice from a counselor. When you are feeling down or stressed you may be tempted to grab a sweet treat or a salty snack. While this will make you happy for a bit, it will not help you in the long run. Eating healthy makes you feel better. Try to go for snacks and meals that will give you energy, not take it from you.
I like this list of healthy snack options. Hope you like it, too!
If you just laughed out loud when you read “get rest”, I’m sorry. But again, this is advice I got from a counselor, too. Getting rest is a really important part of staying well. You might feel like it’s nearly impossible to do so but evaluate your day. Do you stay up too late to watch your favorite Netflix show? Could you squeeze in a quick 20-minute nap while your kids are resting? Do you need to get up before the kids do every morning?
Try to exercise
Getting exercise is easier said than done. But I try to work it into our schedule, rather than add it on top of everything else. I love to go on walks with my kids so that they can enjoy time outside, and I’m getting in a little exercise. It doesn’t have to be crazy, but even a little exercise will make you feel better.
Build in a daily nap or quiet time schedule
Having a designated time every day when your children are napping or having a quiet time can be so beneficial for both you and your little people. Even if your children don’t nap, I think it’s totally reasonable to have a “quiet time”. For me, this is needed because I know I will get some time to myself every day.
Find mom friends that get it
Mom friends are such a big deal, and I highly recommend finding mom friends you can identify with, not just for playdates, but also for moral support. Mom friends are so great when you are navigating a new stage or having difficulty with something at home.
Check out my article here about mom friends.
Get a side hobby
Sometimes that whole “loss of personal identity” comes from not having anything you do for yourself. So find a hobby and give yourself time to do it. If you find a hobby you really can get into, it will likely bring you a lot of joy and satisfaction.
Ask someone to watch your kids for a night off
Get yourself some time without the kids every so often. You could do a date night, a night out with friends, or a solo night. It’s whatever you need at the time. Get a babysitter, ask family, or consider doing a “swap” with a mom friend. You can watch their kids for a night while they go out, and then she can watch your kids when you need to go out.
Get out of the house with your kids
Sometimes I just feel stuck in these four walls that are our house. I get a little stir-crazy, and I just need a change of scenery. When I can’t get a whole night out (like what I was saying above), then I go out with kids.
It can be as simple as going to a new park. Or I might take the kids to the zoo, the library, or the children’s museum. It’s up to you!
Do something extra fun/different with your kids
When your life is feeling a little monotonous, take things into your own hands and spruce up your day a little. Plan an extra special activity with your kids.
You might do a theme day (farm animals, the color red, or backward day). You could build a fort, have a water day, or make a fun little craft. When you do something your kids will love, it’s bound to bring you a little extra joy too!
Talk to your partner about how you are feeling
When you are feeling a little down, it’s really important to talk to your partner. Spend time with them and let them know what’s going on. At times, just talking through it can do wonders. Other times, your partner might offer some ideas that can help lessen your burden or frustration.
Don’t be afraid to get therapy
I love how much our culture is normalizing counseling and promoting mental health. Going to therapy used to be something you didn’t want anyone else to find out about, but it’s becoming so much more normal. I have been to therapy at a few different points in my life, and I highly recommend it! Getting a fresh perspective from a third party is so helpful! So if you need it, go for it!
What are a few things you are doing to help prevent mom burnout? What works for you? Let me know in the comments!