19 Crucial Tips for the New Stay at Home Parent
Some people dream of nothing but getting married and having a houseful of beautiful bouncing babies to stay at home with all day, every day. Not this mama.
I never thought about marriage too much except that if I did it, it was going to be to someone who I was head over heels for, had been with for a long time, and that it would be forever.
I went back and forth with the idea of having kids for a long time but I knew, I knew, that if I did have a child, I never wanted to be a stay at home mom. I liked working, having my own money and independence, and the relationships that came with my career.
Very long story short, when my son was about 6 months old, I did end up becoming a SAHM. My job was physically and emotionally exhausting (nursing in the Hospice field), I worked second shift, I barely saw my husband, and my employer was trying to make me pick up another weekend and quit my other (on-call/casual) job.
When it came down to it, after day care expenses and taxes, I was only bringing home about $8 / hr. We were comfortable financially without my income so my husband encouraged me to take the leap. I resisted a little at first but eventually came around and I am so happy that I did.
Although there are days that feel like they will never end and days where all I can do is cry because I am so completely and utterly frustrated, there are also many magical moments of love, learning, joy, and just pure fun.
Whatever your reason for becoming a SAHP, congratulations and hold on to your shorts/yoga pants because it can be a bumpy (but rewarding) ride!
Tips for the New Stay at Home Parent
1) Reach out for support
Set up play dates with a friend/neighbor that has kids. Go to places where parents and kids congregate and make some new friends. Look into a local MOMS Club (Moms Offering Moms Support), MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers – a religious org.), or find an online support group.
Having a dependable group where you can have adult conversations, ask for advice, and (if it’s a physical group) socialize your kids with simple play dates or fun events (planned in advance by the club) is so important and super helpful.
Joining The MOMS Club is seriously what saved my sanity. My son and I both made friends that will last a lifetime and I felt great about being able to give back to my local community through volunteering, service projects, and fundraising events.
2) Create a feasible schedule and become an expert at list making
Make a list of the things that have to be done daily, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly etc…
Next, make a list of the things you would like to do daily, weekly, etc….
Now, break them down into small, manageable chunks.
For example: Mondays – Dust entire house, Tuesday – Vacuum / Sweep all floors, Wednesday – Mop
Make a morning and an evening routine. Simple things like doing one load of laundry every morning and folding it every evening can have a huge impact on the overall feeling of how much you have to do each day.
Having a realistic and manageable schedule will help keep your house clean and your mind somewhat intact.
3) Develop and stick to a routine
I’m not saying become a drill sergeant who is constantly stressing out over the clock but having approximate times for all the things that happen each day is a huge stress reliever.
4) Menu plan, menu plan, menu plan
I cannot tell you how much this has helped me. Gone are the days of trying to scour the fridge and pantry at the last-minute trying to figure out what the hell you can throw together for dinner. Check out my post about getting started with menu planning here.
5) Institute the One Minute Rule
If a task can be completed in one minute or less, you have to do it. No procrastinating allowed.
All of those little one minute tasks quickly add up if ignored and will overwhelm you in the end. Tackle that little task now and trust me, you will feel like Super Mom (or dad). I think I got this idea from Gretchen Rubin, my happiness guru.
If your kids are able, have them do even the smallest chores, like putting away the silverware (2 year olds can handle this), feed the pets, or setting the table.
It’s very tempting to do everything ourselves but this a) is impossible and b) teaches our kids nothing about the real world and that’s our real job, right? To get them prepared for the next chapter of life?
If you can, ask your significant other to pick a task to take on each day/week. I know this isn’t always feasible but if it is, it can sure help lighten your load.
7) Make the beds first thing in the morning
I’m sure you’ve read this one around the webs a million times – that’s because it works. Your bedrooms look cleaner and you feel like you’ve accomplished a task first thing in the morning. What a great way to start your day.
8) Do a 15 minute clean up at night
At least one hour before bed, set a timer and go to town picking up and putting everything in its proper home. When the timer goes off, you’re done. Now you have to relax, even if the house is still a mess – you’re done.
You will wake up in the morning feeling at least a little less under water.
9) Unload the dishwasher (if you are lucky enough to have one) before breakfast
Load the dishwasher throughout the day and start it before bed (maybe during your 15 minute clean up). It takes me 3 minutes and 15 seconds to empty mine. What a super easy and quick way of keeping that sink empty and the counters clean!
10) Make a command center
Some great things to include are: a dry erase calendar and white board, a bulletin board, a mail sorting station, kid’s chore and reward charts, your weekly menu (so no one has to ask the dreaded “What’s for dinner?” question), and homework boxes.
I’m going to be redesigning mine soon as it is pretty sad-looking and not as functional as it could be. I’ll make sure to write a post about it!
11) Train your kids and significant other to write things they need or use up on the white board
Instead of your husband telling you in passing that he needs deodorant and trying to add that to the other million things you have to remember, now it’s written down.
If someone uses the last of the cheese or milk, it better written on that board, or else 😉 .
This saves so much time when I’m constructing my weekly shopping list.
12) Freezer cooking is your friend
If you are financially able, set a weekend aside and cook/prep as many meals as you can. If you don’t have that kind of time or money, make a double or triple batch of meals when able and then throw them in the freezer. Cook once – eat multiple times. Genius.
P.S.: Make sure to write what each meal is on the container, the date that you made it, and keep a running log of what you have ready to go. I use a wet erase marker on the top of our freezer chest. When I take something out, I erase it. I also keep a list in my Bullet Journal of the meals that we have in our regular freezer.
Freezer cooking comes in so handy when you get sick, when you come home from being out-of-town, when you have a crazy day and just cannot even contemplate cooking, and when a loved one is in need of a little help.
Stay tuned for my post on how to get started with Freezer Cooking!
13) Most importantly – give yourself a break
This job is no joke and you are a person with wants and needs too. You cannot come last all the time or, speaking from experience, you will burn out.
I have recently learned how very important self-care is – not just for you but for the sake of your entire family. Work hard to find the balance and make sure to take time for yourself.
Try to think about self-care like the instructions that the flight attendants tell you on an airplane: Put your oxygen mask on first so that you can go on to help others.
You are no good to anyone if you are completely burned out and exhausted.
Bonus tips from my fellow MOMS Club members:
1) “Invest in a good bathroom door lock. So you can have a good cry, a breather or just go to the bathroom in peace!” – Mitch
2) ” Lower your expectations of yourself right off the bat. You will never be able to get it all done every day, and that’s okay. Snuggle time is more important than loading the dishwasher sometimes. Raising kids is hard, yet rewarding job…don’t underestimate that.” – Shannon
3) “Don’t regret taking the time to shower.” – Barbara
4) “Trust your instincts.” – Terri
5 )” Don’t be afraid to accept or ask for help. You don’t have to do it all and be a Super Mom.” – Jeny
6) ” If you are a busy person and always on the go, don’t forget to stay home sometimes! The kids need at home days too.” – Chantelle
What tips and tricks do you use in your household that you think can help other parents? Tell us about it in the comments!