*Actually, my sanity is always in question. So, read at your own risk
**This mostly applies to stay-at-home mamas of the one/first child variety. Because, really, I’m sure by the time number 2 and the rest of the siblings make their way….you are FAR too busy to care about sanity.
Let’s start by taking a look at why I would make such a crazy decision as to stay home with my bambino. My reasons were as follows:
1) I knew that is what God was asking of our family
2) I really, truly always wanted to be a “mom” when I grew up. I think it is because I thought I would be able to watch soap operas or something, but no matter the intention, God always placed the desire in my heart. (And in case you were wondering, in the 5+ months I’ve stayed home, I’ve yet to catch a soap…guess God cured me of that)
3.) My mom was a stay-at-home mom and it was truly a gift. I want to pass that gift on to my kiddo’s
4.) Jobs & Careers will always be around. Babies & Children won’t be. I really don’t want to miss a minute
5.) Um…the price of childcare?!
6.) The Blessed Mother did it and I think she is a pretty good example.
7.) We are probably going to be homeschooling
I know I am very blessed to stay home with James. I know for many it is not an option, and for us it has all been about priorities and choices. It’s not that I don’t have career goals and dreams, but it’s something I wanted to do for my boy. Also, I know not all moms are called to stay at home; and kudos to those balancing careers and raising a family. Whew! Just watching y’all makes me tired! That being said, staying at home definitely is not the easy option or or for the faint of heart. It means hours of changing diapers, never ending spit-up covered shirts, nowhere to run to escape the fussing/screaming/colic/gas/whining and yes, a lot of boredom. Babies are cute, babies are sweet….babies cannot have intelligent conversations with you. I’ll never forget the first day Marcus went back to work. The silence was deafening. So were James’ cries. Oh my goodness, I watched that clock like a hawk. The guilt washed over me hard, my inner voice mocking me “This is what you wanted!”
It IS what I want, but I had to figure out some survival techniques. The days are long and repetitive so you have to figure out how to enjoy it all without losing your mind. Here is what works for me:
1.) Prayer! I’m like Bon Jovi over here, living on the prayers. Seriously though, if I skip this part… the day gonna be ugly. Not that I don’t have bad days when I remember to pray, but the grace is just so more abundant. Babies drastically limit your dedicated prayer time, so I fit it in wherever I can in the morning..often while simultaneously entertaining JP. Since he loves to be sung to, this means singing my prayer intentions to the tune of He’s Got The Whole World in his Hands. Whatever works. My brain has been pretty sluggish the last 6 months, so I try to just commit to a decade of the rosary during his naptime or nurse so I can focus. Marcus and I will do morning prayer during his first nap. We basically just fit it in whenever we can, but truly prayer= survival BFF
2.) Shower & very hearty breakfast! In all honesty, sometimes I accomplish these at the price of James crying a bit. I’ve found it is vital to my day and I feel better if I look better which is why I sometimes have mascara and a nice shirt on even if we have nowhere to go. Also, without a high protein breakfast things fall apart fast around here. I’ll get shaky, nauseous, cranky & mean, and then just want to eat sugar for the rest of the day. Plus, the breastfeeding makes you perpetually hungry and you need the good food to keep that supply up!
3.) Play-dates! Okay, James really is not playing with any of my friend’s kids, but STILL… I neeeeed ‘em! I feel so blessed that I have lots and lots of friends & sisters who are always up for a walk in the park or coffee while our kids/babies scoot around on the floor or play together. That interaction is so important to me and I know I would be going nuts without it. In fact, every day that Marcus works (he has a weird firefighting schedule), I plan something. Since he needs a nap when he gets home the following morning, I try to be out of the house then too. I don’t take my fellow stay-at-home moms for granted, since I know lots of mama’s don’t have that luxury. I would suggest trying to start something up, maybe with other young moms at church or checking out meetup.com and creating a group.
4.) Going outside & taking walks! This one is HUGE to me. Even though months 1 through 5 were cold, cold, cold.. I didn’t care. I would bundle this baby up and we would walk around the neighborhood, sit on the front steps or lay a blanket in the yard with a couple of toys. James was just happier outside and it cleared my head & refreshed me. Even when he hated his stroller in the beginning, I just kept on walking..it wasn’t long before he loved it, looking all around and cooing. The walks were just enough gentle exercise to be perfect for a postpartum work-out and the endorphins released worked wonders for that postpartum depression. I remember having a terrible morning then we would go for a walk and when we came back I was just re-charged and much happier. It gave me energy during that afternoon sleepy slump. Sometimes, I would use the walks to catch up with two of my long-distance best friends, other times I would chat with James, but I like most of all doing neither of those. Just being outside and quiet and able to let my mind wander/daydream or pray. It is pretty much the only nice & quiet time during the day where I can just think about what I want to think about since James is mesmerized with the passing cars and rustling trees. AND there are no dirty dishes in the sink staring at you ;)
5.) Finding some new, at-home hobbies! Having a little one and nursing can keep you pretty chained so it is nice to discover some baby friendly hobbies. For me it is a lot of reading while nursing or naps, and I have finally started working on writing a book that has been floating around in my head forever. I don’t think I would have ever taken the time to do that if I wasn’t staying home with James. Blogging is a hobby, too :) I’ve also been enjoying doing a little baking recently (which is extremely, extremely weird of me and just negates all those walks) and of course, taking pictures. For you it might be crocheting, crafting, welding, whatever your pleasure..
6.) Don’t obsess over sleeping when the babies sleep! Oh, the stress that old adage caused me the first few months of James’ arrival! It was so just so much pressure! Oh, baby is asleep..you better take a nap or you are probably going to die of sleep deprivation! Even in the wake of James’ recent horrific night habits, I had a hard time napping during the day and then I would freak out about how I was never going to get it right. I’ve learned to take the pressure off these days. If he is napping and I don’t have any other pressing duties, I’ll just give myself permission to relax, read, soak my feet, whatever might make me tired..and guess what? I’ve been able to nap again. Many well-meaning baby classes will tell you to let the household duties slide when babies are little and while there is a lot of truth to that, I needed some order before I could nap. I couldn’t fall asleep if there were dishes in the sink or laundry waiting to be folded (but that might just be the OCD in me). The point is, do what you need to do to relax. We will sleep again and until then, God will give us the grace..
7.) Step away from the social media! Really, I love a newsfeed catch-up as much as the next person. There are times when facebook, blogs, twitter and the like can be a great thing- a window to the outside world when you are stuck at home. It can also be a serious distraction, and if you are like me and suffer from compareyourselftoothersitits, and really make you feel a whole lot of discontent with your lot in life. People out there in the facebookery world are doing amazing things and the devil can/will use it to tell you that you are wasting your time and talent being a stay-at-home mom. Don’t fall for that trap, friends! I’m preaching to the choir with this one, but I really, really, really try to avoid screen time when baby is awake. Not that he needs my unfocused attention all the time, but I try to save it for when he is napping. I have to be careful about my blog too. I would be perfectly happy to blog while James’ entertains himself chewing the cord to the lamp, buuuut something inside me tells me not to ;) Please don’t think I have this survival technique down, I flub it up a lot, but on the days I keep the screen time to a minimum seem to go smoother and I’ll stay in a better mood.
8.) Accept Help! The life & times of a new mom can be extremely, really, very hard. You just have to be humble sometimes and let your mom come over and spend the night when times are tough. And, let your husband help! When he offers to do the grocery shopping, watch the baby so you can sleep in, take the baby for a run or anything that involves giving you some alone time…hop on it!
9.) Invest in your marriage! James’ rocked Marcus & I’s little idyllic romance for a while, and we really had to learn to put each other first in a brand new way. Remember you are on the same team, date each other, be affectionate, encourage each other and don’t take each other for granted. When Marcus and I are happy, happy, happy I don’t spend my days at home with James’ in bitterness and resentment.
10.) Music! We alternate between my terrible singing, and some favorite Pandora stations like Motown, The Lumineers, James Taylor, Classical, and old favorite church hymns. It puts a pep in our step and makes the house seem not so empty.
annnd the most important survival technique of all
EARLY BEDTIME! James typically goes to bed in between 7 and 7:30. This gives me practically a whoooole ‘nother day! When he was a smaller baby, I always kept him up late thinking he would take a longer stretch before nursing or sleep in…it really backfired! He gets sleepy around 6 and sometimes it can be hard to keep him up before his bedtime. We experimented a little, but after reading his cues, 7 to 7:30 seems perfect for him. Besides when he went through a really horrible sleeping stage, he sleeps into about 7 now. This early bedtime is so nice, though. On the day Marcus is working it means dessert and lounging on the couch after doing what needs done around the house. When Marcus is home it means time together. Win, win, win.
So, I think that about sums it up. This is how I make it through these days. If you throw it a mental breakdown about once a week just for kicks, then it would be even MORE accurate! I’ll be sure to revise this when I have a toddler and a baby some day, laughing at how hard I thought all that boredom was :)