We’re moving right along in our Stay-at-Home Mom Survival Series. Part IV is all about making your mental, emotional, spiritual and physical well-being a priority over everyone else. You can’t be of help to anyone else if you are not well. Period. Yet, most mom’s put themselves last on their to do lists and when that happens everyone suffers. A good example of this is when mom gets sick and the entire household comes to a screeching halt. You haven’t really lived until your toddler is in the middle of a meltdown insisting on sitting on your lap which just happens to be holding the bucket that you are currently throwing up in. True story. I thought I was going to die that day. I didn’t. Once again, living to write about it.
However, an even bigger problem than the occasional flu bug is the mental and emotional exhaustion that can set in as a stay-at-home mom. This is much harder to deal with because it’s not as easy for our family members or spouses to detect when we are struggling in this way so they are not as quick to step in and help out. I find it funny that for most of us, when we are physically ill, tell everybody. We tell our husbands every single horrible thing we are feeling. We call our mother and girlfriends and tell them of this horrible bug that has taken hold of us. We rush to update our Facebook statuses in order to let the world know of our suffering.
But what happens when we are feeling overwhelmed with life or with parenting our children? What happens when we feel depressed or full of anxiety? Most of us tend to hide this side of ourselves from others. Somewhere along the way we got the idea that becoming overwhelmed with life, feeling depressed or anxious made us failures. Rather than reaching out for help as we would if we had the flu we put up walls and push people away because our pride and ego can’t stand to admit to another human being that we are fallible, that we can’t do everything on our own and that we need help.
There are very few Facebook statuses that say, “I’m struggling parenting my children today.” “I don’t know if I have the patience to get through this day.” “Will someone please watch my child for me so that I can catch my breath and regain control of my emotions?” “I need help today to keep me from screaming at my child and blaming them because I feel stuck at home with very little support from my husband or family.” On the rare occasions when we do see Facebook posts where someone admits that they are struggling, how many of us have gotten out from behind our computers to truly offer a helping hand? How many of us have passed judgment on that person’s mental state and rolled our eyes at their dramatics? I know I have. On the flip side, my heart has also gone out to others who are suffering and at those times I write out a very nice message about keeping them in my prayers then post my comment on their page before scrolling on. Not exactly the same thing as helping another person in need.
These observations are not meant to make any of us feel guilty. There’s more than enough mom-bashing on social media to go around for all of us. I’m writing this so that we can see how unfair we, as mothers, treat ourselves. Women in my generation have been taught that we can do and have it all. Just because we CAN do it all doesn’t mean that we should. Every decision and choice we make has pros and cons to it. No one can have it all without receiving help. No one. Then why, do we, as mother’s, put that kind of pressure on ourselves?
The key to putting your needs first is to be proactive and ask for help BEFORE you’ve crossed over into the land of bitterness and resentment. I struggle with this frequently. I find myself feeling overwhelmed but rather than telling my husband I think that I can get through it on my own. I just have to try harder or do more and that’s simply not true. Taking time for yourself can be as simple as asking your husband, family members or a friend to watch your children for a couple of hours so you can take a nap, watch Netflix, go for a walk or see a movie. Anything to give you some time away from your children in order to recharge your batteries.
So what are some of the signs that you are heading towards the slippery slope of stay-at-home mommy madness? I’m glad you asked! Listed below are ten questions, all things that I’ve felt at one point or another in my stay-at-home mommy career. Sometimes I recognized that I was feeling overwhelmed and needed a break. During those times I asked for help right away and began to feel better. Unfortunately, most of the time, I refuse to admit that I need help and suffer in silence for far too long, feeling miserable and making my family miserable in the process. If you answer yes to any of these questions then it’s high time you start making yourself a priority. You’re worth it, I promise.
- Do you feel like you are “stuck” at home with your children?
- Do you feel like you are the only one that does anything around the house and for the kids?
- Do you look at the week ahead and feel tired and full of dread?
- Do you feel cranky and annoyed with your children and husband often and for no particular reason?
- Do you find yourself losing your patience and getting frustrated easily?
- Does the thought of planning a night off for yourself feel like too much work?
- Is sleep the only thing that you really want to do?
- Do you not feel refreshed after having a couple of hours to yourself?
- After a night out with friends or time off by yourself do you dread picking up your children or going home?
- Do things that used to make you happy seem silly and pointless?
Allowing yourself to be vulnerable, recognizing that you can’t do it all, setting your pride and ego aside in order to ask for help and allowing others to help you will only make you a stronger and more capable person. Thereby making you a happier, more satisfied mother who in turn will produce happier, more confident children.
So if you answered yes to any of those questions above let’s take a look at some ways that you can start making time for yourself right now.
Schedule Time Off Weekly.
Sound too good to be true? It’s possible but you have to ask for it and then make yourself a priority every week by making sure that it happens. My husband and I each chose one night a week and one morning on the weekend for “me” time. His are Tuesday’s and Sunday’s and mine are Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings. Over the years, we’ve both grown to love and count on our time off in order to blow off steam. Having agreed to our nights off beforehand makes it so much easier to make plans without feeling guilty or stressed about finding someone to watch the kids for an evening.
I’ve also been extremely fortunate to have my mother-in-law and aunt who’ve agreed to each watch one of my boys every Tuesday morning. Allowing me a morning off each week to clean my house, work on my blog or just spend a few delicious hours to myself.
If you don’t have family available or willing to help ask another mom friend if she’s interested in taking turns each week watching each others kids for an afternoon. That way you each get one afternoon a week to yourselves.
Have a buddy system.
Just like with working out, your odds of success increase when another person is involved. Talk with your friends and arrange a time every week to meet and go for a walk, jog, or meet for lunch or dinner. Something to get you out of the house each week and do something non-kid related.
Before my good friend moved, we would meet once or twice a week to go hiking. It was great exercise and didn’t even feel like working out because it was so nice talking with her. I miss those hikes and that time with her so much.
Join a Class.
What better way to get out of your mommy rut than to try something new? This is a great way to get outside of your comfort zone and seek something special just for you on a regular basis. Whether it’s a cooking class, cycling, yoga, meditation, or art class, sign-up for something non-kid related just for yourself. It’ll give you something to look forward to every week and the fact that you spent money on the class and it’s at a particular time makes it easier to arrange sitters to watch the kids.
Plan an Overnight Getaway.
Every six months or as our budget will allow, I plan an overnight trip just for myself. A couple have been fun adventures with friends. I’ve gone to autism, homeschooling and blogging conferences to learn something while also taking time for myself. And one of my favorite getaways is to book a hotel room in a neighboring city. Far enough away to feel like I’m getting out of town for the night but not so far that my entire time away is spent driving. I spend the night in a hotel all by myself. Sometimes I do a little shopping before, grab dinner to go from a new restaurant then lock myself in my hotel room with my laptop, TV & remote all to myself. I stay up as late as I possibly can, drinking caffeine and eating unhealthy snacks then sleep in as late as I want the next morning. I take my time taking a shower and getting ready for the day all by myself. It’s my type of heaven and I look forward to every single trip. I absolutely crave alone time and this is the perfect opportunity. Figure out something that you would really like to do then figure out a way to make it happen.
Depending on what you want to do, it doesn’t have to be expensive. For an overnight by yourself, you can find nice hotel rooms for $100 or less. Saving up a little extra money here and there for several months will pay for your overnight and what it does for your mental and emotional well being is priceless! I always feel recharged after an overnight by myself. By the time I return home I’m feeling grateful to my husband for allowing me such a treat to myself and I miss my children who look bigger after not seeing them for 24 hours.
Ask for Help.
I like to think of myself as a very transparent person but I’ve discovered that although I’m very open and honest in my writing I’m not as forthcoming in person. This became apparent to me after I started this blog. My parents and aunt proofread every article I post to this blog. Most of my posts are extremely personal and I was surprised to learn that a lot of the things that I’ve written about my feelings and daily struggles came as a surprise to them. They honestly didn’t know how badly I was hurting at various times in my life. That really surprised me because I thought that I was really open about my struggles and how much I was hurting. That’s when I realized how very rarely I let even the closest people in my life know when I’m struggling and when I need help. How can I expect others to help me if they don’t know that I need help?
It’s easy to feel resentful of our family or spouses when they don’t respond the way we would like them to but it’s very important to ask ourselves, “Have I been completely honest with my loved ones and told them how much I am struggling and that I need their help?” When I’m feeling this way the answer is always no and I’m going to go out on a limb and say that most of us don’t. We hold our innermost vulnerable feelings in and only let the feelings that overflow out. Meanwhile feeling angry and resentful at the people and world around us because we think they don’t care when in fact, they very much care but don’t know that we need help or what they can do to help.
Asking for help isn’t easy but you’ll be surprised how much help is available to you if you just ask.
That wraps up Part IV of the Stay-at-Home Mom Survival Series. I hope you found it helpful. Please let me know what you think of this series by leaving your comment below, share this post on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+. I’d love to hear from you!
Stay tuned for Part V of the Stay-at-Home Mom Survival Series: Pursuing your own Interests and Friendships.