If you’re a stay at home mom with young kids, it’s highly likely that you have felt slightly depressed or lonely at some point. I know I have. It’s natural to put your children’s needs before your own, and necessary most of the time when they are babies and toddlers. Our to do list grows with each new baby, and thought for how to keep ourselves healthy mentally gets pushed to the back burner. We get into survival mode.
I have (very) slowly learned as a stay at home mom is to make a way to do the small things that made me feel human so I can be the best mom for my babies. Some people call it self care. Here’s what they are.
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“Self Care” as a stay at home mom is about finding rest and calm in the chaos.
I remember after our third baby was born, I was doing my makeup in the 5 minute car ride while my husband drove us to church. Every Sunday, and it was the only day of the week I did my makeup. If you know me…I adore makeup and have always found time for it, till then.
I also remember going entire mornings forgetting to eat, because everyone woke up and needed me for everything. I remember thinking…this is nuts. When will things slow down? Shortly after, I wrote 8 things I stopped doing to be less busy as a mom.
Things slowed down when my kids got a little older. I learned a few time saving tips with toddlers in tow. But even at the busiest time of my life with babies, I found a few tricks that helped me enjoy stay at home mom life more. They are not expensive, and you can do them at home to keep you a little more sane.
1. Take a shower at night when you are not rushed
I can’t tell you how sacred this has been to me every single night for 6 years now. I shower. Shave my legs if I want. Put on lotion. Do my skincare. No one needs me. It’s quiet. It’s pretty glorious if you ask me!
At one point with my first, I tried exercising in the day and showering after while the baby was in a lounger in my bathroom. I probably peeked out the shower about every minute. It was not relaxing at all. Now if I exercise, I call it good and wait to shower at night.
If you’re tied to morning showers to wake you up, of course do what works for you! But night showers have been the answer for me to feel clean every single day, with as much unhurried time to myself as I need.
2. Feed your body nutritious foods
You are going to feel 10,000 times better if you are fueling your body with fruits, vegetables, smoothies, protein, and healthier foods. I’m actually the worst at this, because I often just forget to eat.
That’s not a typical problem for most moms, but skipping meals on accident or eating your toddler’s goldfish for lunch isn’t going to make you feel good.
You’ll be more irritable, tired, and will probably feel more depressed about life. I’ve actually told my kids it’s ok to remind mommy to have a snack if I’m starting to get grumpy!
Figure out what’s keeping you from eating healthier
If it’s hard to make nutrition a priority. So what do you need to make it easier? Healthy pre made frozen lunches? Pre cut veggies? New recipes you actually enjoy? Making something in bulk to nibble on all week? New snack foods with more protein? Figure out ways to overcome whatever is keeping you from taking care of yourself.
At one point, I recognized that neglecting to feed my body what it needed was keeping me from being healthy or happy with my body. I would get jittery and cranky too. So I had to literally set timers and buy foods that required little prep time for last minute snacks if needed.
To this day I love making a huge pasta salad for myself to eat for a few days. I combine pasta, olives, one head of steamed broccoli, cubed cheese, cherry tomatoes, and Olive Garden Italian Dressing. It’s my favorite!
I take shortcuts. Like buying baby carrots instead of carrots I have to peel. (Yes, that one step is sometimes enough to keep me from eating them…possibly from being too busy or tired or lazy).
I also keep almonds and cashews on hand and I always keep a bag in my purse. And sometimes even healthy frozen meals.
Breastfeeding moms need extra nutrition
It’s especially important for breastfeeding moms to get enough nutrition. Your body is incredible at making sure your baby gets everything they need…even if it means pulling calcium from your bones and other nutrients from your body to make it happen.
It’s a good idea to continue taking a multivitamin while you are still nursing, and to make sure you are getting enough calcium.
3. Get some fresh air
Getting a daily dose of fresh air with a short walk is one of the best things you can do to combat depression. My husband used to send me on a walk when he got home from the hospital (he’s a doctor) because he knew it was the best thing to improve my mood.
Sometime’s I’d try and convince him I didn’t want to go, and yet when I’d get home…my whole demeanor was happier. I’d stretched my legs and breathed fresh air…nature is so therapeutic!
Being outdoors is just different than a treadmill…the scenery change, the wind, the smells, it refreshes you. If you can’t go on a walk, you can also sit in your backyard while your kids play. It just works wonders.
Exercise a little, starting with 10-15 minutes.
If you can’t walk outdoors, move your body indoors! Exercise is magical when it comes to feeling better about life. No, you don’t need to commit to 30 minutes and buy an expensive program. You can start with 10 pushups, 10 lunges, and 10 squats. Then, if you can, do that again until you can get up to 30 minutes a few days per week.
Here’s the program I’m doing now made for moms to strengthen their pelvic floor. It’s really been the answer for me to stop peeing when I sneeze, as well as gain muscle strength.
There are seasons where you can’t or don’t want to exercise, and I’ve been there. But as far as my mood, the happiest days for me are ones where I do a short home workout. I don’t feel sluggish after, and somehow if nothing else gets done in the day I still feel good about life.
There are also gyms with childcare built in, like the YMCA. So that may be an option you can look into. Some moms I know even use the childcare there while they shower and just relax.
4. Get sleep when you can
Try to prioritize sleep. If you have a newborn it may look like running to bed at 7 after the baby goes down to catch a couple hours before they wake at 9 or 10.
If you’re kids are sleeping through the night, try to get however many hours will keep you from being super grumpy at your kids the next day for no reason….guilty here.
I wish I took my own advice here more often! It’s really hard for me to go to bed by 9! Even if I’m tired…my brain is like “freedom”! It’s also my most creative time. Sometimes I need that little bit of late night freedom, but it’s not the regular anymore because my kids get the worst of me the next day.
5. Be a mom friend
This is a big one.
Loneliness can be so real as a stay at home mom. I don’t think I’m the only one that has experienced this. It’s a huge trigger for depression! One of the mistakes I made was assuming that everyone had a mom friend and didn’t need one. Instagram friends cannot replace face to face friendship.
We have moved twice for medical school and residency, and have 1-2 more moves ahead of us for a fellowship and job. It’s hard knowing you need friends but won’t be around long. And a new challenge for me (since we are homeschooling) is finding friends that have kids with similar ages as mine.
The very first thing I recommend is to pray for a good friend. Then, throw some glue on there and see who sticks. It may not be the person or group you were expecting! It may not be long term, but I’m thankful for friendships that serve a purpose even for a short time.
Making mom friends with kids should be it’s own post. Honestly sometimes it seems a lot like dating…and you gotta get past just the awkward talking about kids to be real friends. Parks are wonderful, but nothing substitutes inviting someone into your space no matter how small or imperfect.
My advice is to be the friend, and stop waiting for someone to beg you to be theirs. Because another stay at home mom near you is hoping for someone to reach out and invite her over, I promise.
How to be a happy stay at home mom
Your list will not look the same as mine. How often we feel the need to see people will be different. The ages of our kids and their needs will be different. The state of our marriage and support of our husbands will look different. Your financial situation will look different.
In order to be a happy stay at home mom, you are going to have to find purpose in the menial tasks. You are going to need to believe no one else can provide the love and stability that you can to your children. You are going to have to stop feeling resentful of other moms that you think have it “easier” than you. Lastly, you are going to start doing a few things from this post to take care of yourself.
When you feel guilty that you are failing as a stay at home mom
Do you ever feel guilty about not loving every day of mom life? That you “should” feel grateful to be home but find it so hard? That you “don’t work” so you should have time to do more? That you should be a more fun mom but instead let your kids go savage or watch too much T.V? That your house “should” be more clean but you can’t muster the energy to do it?
Here’s a great article you should read about “7 Should’s that feed stay at home mom depression“.
A lot of times I find mom guilt reveals an unrealistic expectation that we hold somewhere. One of the most important things you can do is to reject those lies when you think them.
As a Christian, I try to remind myself that my worth is not what my kids or my husband think of me. It’s not even what I think of myself. My value comes from being a daughter of God, because he loves me and created me. I find rest and peace in knowing that.
Here are a few tips for when you feel you “should” be more:
- Be gentle with yourself.
- Think about why you are a stay at home mom.
- Try to connect with your kids. This does wonders for me. Snuggling on the couch while watching a show can totally count.
- Don’t compare your duties, activities, or free time to other moms. They may be in a different situation, they may have a house cleaner, a more chill personality, etc.
Keep a journal of the good little things you want to remember
Also, I highly recommend my one line a day journal. At the end of each day I write a couple sentences down. Cute things my kids did or said, and small things I want to remember. After journaling like this for a couple years, it’s super rewarding to compare the same day over multiple years to see how times have changed. It really helps me to be grateful and enjoy the little things. Here’s how I keep a one line a day journal.
If today’s been a bad day, tomorrow is a new day. Now remember to take a shower tonight, put on some lotion, make yourself a hot cup of tea, and get some rest. 🙂