Being a stay-at-home mom is tough! I chose the role with my two kids and I understand the challenges that come along. While there is great joy in being with the children 24/7, one can sometimes feel demotivated and under-appreciated (when was the last time your toddler gave you a performance review? emm never!) I don’t even like the title stay-at-home mom and rather prefer “work-at-home mom” because there is no “staying” and lots of work. Sharing some tips on how to be a happy and motivated mom at home with the kids along with a back story of how I became a “stay-at-home” mom.
Had someone told me back in 2008 that I would be a stay-at-home mom of two children doing pick-up and drop offs, library classes and grocery trips I would have laughed at their face. In 2008 I was enjoying a wonderful corporate career in Pakistan, launching amazing products and traveling around the world. My 5 and 10 year goals were personal targets, career ambitions and visiting every continent in the world.
Things changed, like they always do especially when we firmly believe they never will. I met my future husband, we got married and I moved to Canada. My life changed a bit but I soon found studies, volunteer work, a social circle, the new home and soon a job in my field to keep me busy. I loved working in Canada because it was different and I got to build my career without my strong network in Pakistan or the brand name of any university I had attended. In 2010 I became a mother and around the time my maternal leave was finishing in 2011 found myself in a new city because of my husband’s new job. I decided to study at that time rather than look for a job. As my studies were finishing I found great part-time work of my interest that I could manage around my daughter’s preschool hours.
However just before I had my son, I decided to become a full-time stay-at-home mother. It was a decision that was thoroughly mine and one that took many years for people around me to understand, including my parents. My husband was onboard with my decision but I arrived on it totally on my own. It took me many months to accept this role myself. Yes, I did get those nagging thoughts: “but what about your career plans”, “all your studies will go to waste”, “you will regret this”, “I will get bored to death listening to nursery rhymes all day”, “my children might not get benefits that other kids do”, etc etc. It wasn’t just my thoughts, many people were kind enough to ask me these questions on my face. Others posted articles and researches online and engaged in heated “mommy wars” social media debates.
I found my peace with all these thoughts and questions after making peace with my own decision. I realized that this was a decision extremely personal to me and my circumstances. That I could not judge anyone else’s decision just like they can’t judge mine. I respect every parent’s decision whether it is to work outside the house, work part-time or to be at home, because all parents know best for their own life and child. I know my home, my children, my path and I have made the best decision on the data points available. Any of this can change any time. But right now, I’m satisfied being at home with my children. That I’m enough and able. I know the best for my own children and whenever I need to be back to “work”, God and the universe will help me like they always have. That like all things in life staying at home with my children is also a season and this too shall pass all too quickly. But I want to make the most of it while I can with those morning snuggles in bed, chats over the walk to school and afternoons collecting leaves in the garden.
Yes, it’s always not that pretty. There are tantrums, mountains of laundry and never-ending to-do lists. My MBA trained mind forces me to optimize house chores by schedules, lists and yes even excel sheets. I have looked at LinkedIn and calculated in my head how many years it will take me to catch up with the colleagues who were my peers a few years ago. I have opened my bank account and laughed at my retirement fund. But these are all small things in the big plans I have for my life right now and here are a few tips I have to be a happy and motivated “stay-at-home” mom.
You might be at home by choice, or just for your maternity leave or in transition while in a new city, but I hope these tips will help any mother who is at home with little ones.
1. Some days in the week wake up before your kids. Pray, shower, change clothes, have a nice quiet cup of tea/coffee with breakfast. A good quiet start to the day is very important for adult sanity.
2. Respect your own time. Even though you’re at home and it seems like time is flexible, plan your day. Have a time that you wake up, a time for breakfast, a slot where you go out for a walk, or kids play, then lunch time, post lunch quiet/nap time, dinner time and bed time etc. Don’t jump to last minute plans and give your own time value. Resist saying “I’m just at home, I can do this.” Replace this with: ” I will see if this fits in our schedule.”
3. Exercise your mind by signing up for an online or evening course. This can be anything that has ever interested you and you never had time for. This is a lovely time to explore your interests.
4. When you feel down avoid all screens and instead go outside for a walk or get down on the carpet with the kids.
5. Never compare your life with others based on what they say or what you see on social media. Count your blessings.
6. When you’re doing house chores like cooking or cleaning listen to Quran, any spiritual lectures, Ted Talks or motivational podcasts. My current favorite podcast is Gretchen Rubin’s “happier” series.
7. Surround yourself with people who motivate you and are positive. Stay away from negativity and those who complain excessively/gossip. We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.
8. Value yourself. You don’t need a nod of approval from anyone: not your husband, not your mom/mother-in-law, neighbor, friend’s uber cool friend etc etc. You’re worthy. Your worth is immeasurable by words, Facebook likes or comments. Treat yourself like you would treat a special friend. Be kind to yourself.
9. Be kind to the world. Everyone is fighting their own battles. That friend who didn’t invite you to her birthday party? Her husband just lost his job and she’s scared for the future. That auntie who questioned your parenting skills? She was abused all her life by her husband and has grown defensive and mean. That friend who never phones you back? Her child is very sick and she’s not ready to share it. We can not solve the problems of the world but we can make our own world peaceful by not focusing on the negative and keeping our outlook positive. Forgive people, be kind and don’t over think.
10. Prioritize your time. There are only so many hours in the day. Don’t watch that drama that depresses you when you finally get some time alone. Pick something that makes you happy or motivates you.
11. Take care of your body and mind. Eat well. Stay active. Read. Meditate. Laugh. Smile.
What tips have helped you stay happy and motivated? Would love to hear from you!