Staying at home with my little Poppy was one of the best decisions I have ever made even though it is far from perfect. The key for me has been about Finding Balance as a Stay at Home Parent.
Yesterday was quite the day. Poppy was awake from 3am until 8am, she dropped my phone in a bowl of soup, broke a pair of my sun glasses and refused to nap. I haven’t showered in 2 days. I have a bunch of work I was hoping to take care up and I haven’t exercised in over a week. So yea, being a stay at home parent is not always easy. But for every 1 not great day, there are 5 great ones. And in the end it is all about balance.
I made the decision along with the hubs to stay at home. I left my corporate cushy downtown job for a life of diapers, play dates and baby food. It was a big decision and I can honestly say I have not regretted it one bit.
With that said, being at home with a baby or now an energetic toddler can definitely bring its challenges. At times it is physically exhausting, mentally challenging, and emotionally taxing. Not to mention the housework, yardwork, cooking, errands, laundry, cleaning, and weekly attempts to working out. Me time… what is that??
Just like going to work every day, staying at home can be stressful and demanding. And in my 15 months at this mommy gig, I have learned a few things that help to create some sort of balance.
Confession: I am by no means excellent at doing all of these things. Far from it. Instead I consciously try hard to focus on as many of these things every day. And it seems when I do, life is good.
After re-reading this list several times, it appeared to me that this list is very much applicable to being a parent in general. Whether you are at home or at work, I truly believe these things help to find a balance even in the midst of a hectic and busy parent life.
11 Ways to find BALANCE as a stay at home parent:
1.Find an outlet that you love.
For me it is this Sweet Poppy Seed. This blog started off as a fun outlet for me and has become a passion, motivation and part-time job. And I love it. Without a hobby or something to focus on, I would go crazy. I am still incredibly busy with baby, house, food, errands, etc. But this blog is a labor of love for me and I find time for it and enjoy it.
Many parents I know who are at home, have different outlets. Volunteering, Moms Clubs, part-time work, book clubs, crafting or sports groups. Finding something that you can do for YOU is important 😃 Because as much as we love our kids, YOU matter too!
2.Create a daily schedule and set goals.
I have learned that with little ones, it’s so important to keep them and yourself on a good routine/schedule. Without a schedule, days can feel unmanageable, chaotic and long. And although routines do change as kids grow and go through different developmental stages, having one is critical.
Every Sunday, I write down our plans for the week on our kitchen chalk board. Kid activities, play dates, errands, meals, workouts, and nap time goals. Having a clear schedule and small daily goals makes every day exciting and motivating.
Then at the end of each day after baby is in bed, I am able to relax with the hubs and revel in the glory of a productive and fun-filled day.
3.Get out of the house
If I stayed at home all day I would go nuts! Really! As I am sure my kid and husband would go insane too! I make it a firm point to leave the house every single day. Even if it means a walk to the park, a trip to the library or a picnic in the yard. OUT of the house.
I believe Poppy finds nature calming (as do I) plus I love letting her explore and get dirty too. Of course in the winter months, our outings will change depending on the weather. Instead there we will do much more of exploring our city, seeking kid programs, hanging with friends and bundling up on snowy days.
Here is what works for us: No TV, and little phone/computer time. I suspect screen time is not great for me or my kiddo so why have it on. I try my best to use nap time or early mornings for the computer and phone. Of course, I’m not perfect. I still tinker with my phone and take tons of photos throughout the day, but try not to do it too much.
When we need noise, we play music, either fun kid stations or some fun mood music for me! When I need to find out what is happening in the world, I listen to news podcasts on our walks. Then at night, once baby is asleep, the TV, computer and phone are all fair game. I truly find that limiting TV and computer time make me more creative with my time with Poppy and ultimately more engaged. Plus it’s a really great detox
5.Seek and try out kid activities
It is crazy how many activities for kids there are out there. Best of all, most are free! Story times, ECFE classes, zoo activities, music programs or just going to the library. I have to say libraries are my new favorite places. So many awesome libraries in the twin cities offer kids of all ages new toys, new books and the opportunity to make new friends. One of our favorite libraries even has a little mini grocery store just for kids! Best part is that I can relax with some coffee and a book while my little peanut plays like crazy!
My best recommendation here is to start at by asking your local librarians, parents you meet at the part, or look online for activities at zoos, parks and school districts. Try a parent MeetUp group or even a Moms Club near you.
6.Wake up early.
This does not always happen. Let’s be real here. But I try really really hard to wake up an hour before the baby (she is up by 615am), to get some much needed me time. Me time is more important now than ever before. Time to brush my teeth or wash my face or dare I say take a shower.
My favorite way to use this time is to make coffee and sit quietly in front of the fireplace with a book or computer in my lap, just enjoying the quiet time. It is so invigorating. Then when the rest of the household starts waking up, I am feeling cool and ready for the day.
7.Do something for you every day.
I would say 70% of my day is about Poppy. Taking care of her, playing with her, doing activities with her and for her, cleaning after her, etc. The other 25% is house/life work. So I do my best to always give myself the extra 5% to do something for me every day. Whether it is a run or 30 minutes of yoga or a long shower or a relaxing activity during nap time that doesn’t involve cooking, cleaning or laundry. A play date with a friend or time to read a book. My theory is, a happy mom makes a good mom.
8.Make time for you and your partner.
This is so important. The hubs and I always make a point to spend the evenings together after baby is in bed. Late night dinners just the 2 of us, or movie nights, or lying in bed watching a storm roll in or just chatting over tea and cookies. Connecting with my partner in crime helps me reconnect with myself as more than a mom.
9.Ask for help.
I admit I am terrible at this one. I always like to think that I am wonder woman and do not need anyone’s help, but that is so not true. Some days, I really need the hubs’ help or family help, and as much as I don’t like asking, it is always for the better. Having a support system is so important, and relaying on them is part of it.
I don’t exercise to be skinny. I exercise to stay healthy, awake and sane. On weeks when I am not active, my mood, energy and stress level suffer. This is a vital part of being a parent in general. Whether you are in a cubicle all day or at home, doing something active for you is part of staying healthy mentally and physically. Personally I love running, walking, hiking, yoga-ing, pilates and the occasional HIIT workout. And even though it can be hard to carve out time, I try to fit in some form or exercise 2-3 days a week either with baby or during nap time. Obviously this week has been a big fail!
11.Cherish the small stuff.
Some days are not easy. They just aren’t. But then I try to remind myself that these days with my little Franken-tot running around in her cute diapers are numbered. Before I know it, she will be her own women and will no need me. This seems to work like a charm every time. I normally even tear up a little. Kids grow up so fast, so I am doing my best to find the inner most balance I need to be the best mom I can and enjoy every moment with my tiny tot.
Conclusion: Have I found the perfect stay at home parenting balance? No. Not at all. However these 11 tips really do make a difference and make the at-home experience much lovelier. Even on the hard days, I love my job and my tiny boss.