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By Audrey Sanchez of Two Dogs, One Cat and a Baby
I recently made the transition from full-time working mom to stay at home parent (SAHP), and here’s the real deal: it’s been really hard.
To be clear, both roles are really freaking hard – staying at home is just a different kind of hard. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE staying at home, and this piece is written from a place of great and recognized privilege. Privilege that includes a partner whose job affords us this opportunity and a rambunctious child who is healthy and unrelentingly active.
That being said, my personal experience has led me to believe that while working outside of the home was taxing and chaotic, the whirlwind of trying to “do it all” somehow eased the delirium of constant motion. On the contrary, staying at home is a slower, more deliberate slip into insanity. An insanity in which I barely get anything done and trying to “do it all” is beyond laughable.
Much like having a newborn, the first six weeks of being a SAHP were a complete blur. I was just trying to figure my life out. Now we are in a groove, and despite realizing I’ll never again figure my life out, I have established three sanity-saving strategies that have eased my transition from pant suits to yoga pants.
1) Action Plan Your Week the Same Way You Would Your Work
I credit surviving the transition to being a sudden SAHP to one thing: getting out of the house at least once a day.
My mental health benefits, time goes by more quickly, and in doing so I retain a sliver of that purpose I felt while prepping for an important meeting. After all, convincing a client to invest in your company requires the same influential pizazz as convincing a toddler you’re “almost there” while she screams from the backseat on your way to the park.
It’s like 2 miles, kid; give it a rest.
Don’t just show up at your local library when it’s convenient for you and expect story time to magically coalesce around your schedule. That’s not how it works. If you want to clap your hands, sing Wheels on the Bus, and recite Humpty-Dumpty with a bunch of other over-caffeinated grown-ass women and their overtired kids right in the middle of nap time, first you have to put it on your calendar. Otherwise, precisely 3 minutes before story time is supposed to start, you’ll remember about it, and despite your best effort to help your child decide between wearing shoes or throwing shoes while shuttling him/her to your Cheerio-infested car, you will not make it to story time. You will, however, be stuck staring down the barrel of another day trapped inside your house wherein the walls close in ever so slightly around 4:30 PM.
Tackle this task the same way you would tackle a big project at work. Set a goal. Do some research. Prioritize it. Action plan it. Calendar it. Then, execute on it.
After a few weeks of calendaring story time, play dates, gym time, whitewater rafting, fencing, SAT prep for babies, etc… you’ll have an idea of when things happen and what a sustainable schedule looks like for your family. You’ll also know which places have experienced parents who make the schedule and which places are actively trying to break you by double-booking nap time. No offense, 19-year-old gymnastics teacher, Mindy, but WTF is this 10:00 AM toddle time for babies?
2) Don’t Do Laundry On the Weekend
Research has recently shown that SAHPs (mothers, specifically) invest between 90-100 hours per week of their time caring for their child(ren) and homes.
I don’t know about you, but even when I was hustling HARD, I wasn’t spending 100 hours a week working. There were times I had no choice but to take my work home with me on the weekends, but that work wasn’t suckling from my teat every 2-3 hours on a 24 hour loop.[/nextpage] [nextpage title=”Page 2″ ]
In short, even during my most grueling work weeks, I got a break. Since I can’t absolve myself of childcare responsibilities during the 28.5% of the week that used to be a reserved for taking a break, I’ve chosen instead not to do laundry during that time.
I chose laundry because I hate doing it, and I’ve got enough underwear to last until Monday when laundering resumes. My husband also has enough underwear, and if by some freak occurrence he ran out of clean clothes on Friday night, he has opposable thumbs and knows how to start BOTH the washer and the dryer. Point is: he can do it himself if it’s a pressing matter. If it’s not, I’ve got the remaining 71.5% of the week to get it done.
If your family simply can’t go two days without clean clothing, boycott a different chore. Give yourself a break. Establish some boundaries and give yourself permission to let dirty dishes sit in the sink until Monday morning. Consider complaints an offer to help, and invite the complainer to do the chore him/herself. Otherwise, the people you love and nurture and bathe and feed and wipe and dress can STFU until Monday. You’re a mother, not a maid.
3) Cultivate a Selfish Nap Habit
When you worked outside of the home, did you ever go 8-12 straight hours without pausing to drink a cup of coffee, to socialize, to take a bathroom break, or to check your phone? Unless you were a teacher (bless you, bless you teachers), the answer is probably, “No.”
As mothers, we often put pressure on ourselves to do that very thing. We go go go from breakfast, to park, to nap, to cleaning while the baby naps, to lunch, to folding laundry while the baby eats, to grocery shopping, to reading books with the baby, to singing with the baby, to nap, to prepping dinner while the baby naps, etc… By the end of the day, we’re burned out and resentful. The antithesis of being the present, patient, grateful mother we all hope to be. Throw in the fact that some of “us” are still nursing our 11-month-old babies every two hours throughout the night, and it’s easy to understand why “we” don’t do laundry on the weekends.
If each mother could see how much of herself she gives to her family, it’d be easier for her to feel entitled to save a little bit for herself, I’m sure. Maybe not, though. Maybe I’m just a narcissist who has a case of the gimmes. Regardless, to ease the transition from working outside of the home where accolades were plentiful and coffee stayed warm between the time I poured it and the time I drank it, I have started to hoard a little time for myself in the day. That time is the first 15-30 minutes that my baby naps. Pro-tip: don’t wait until the last thirty minutes of his/her nap because if your kid is anything like mine, you’re not guaranteed more than 15 minutes of sleep on any given day.
I do a quick sweep through the house to gather any toys or food pieces that have gone rogue during play time, and then I sit down at my computer and write. Or I read something other than Eric Carle. Or depending on how zombie-like I am that day, I turn on Netflix and stare dead-eyed at Friends reruns. I do something that makes me feel like myself. Something that uses the part of my brain not reserved for explaining to a toddler why we don’t put blueberries in the dog’s ears.
You see, fellow mamas, someday the calendar will be blank. There will be less laundry (less, but always laundry). There will be no nap time and your kids will be happy to leave you alone with your hobbies. You may choose to go back to work and that transition will look like this advice in reverse. Calendar MORE time with your kids. Do laundry EXCLUSIVELY on the weekend. You get the picture. That transition will be hard too, and therein lies the catch.
Motherhood is just a bunch of heartbreaking transitions that leave us all feeling a little lost and a lot exhausted. Go easy on yourself as the seasons of motherhood change, and go reheat that coffee you poured earlier because I know it’s cold by now.
About Audrey Sanchez