These are crazy times. I don’t plan on writing a post about COVID-19. It’s not something I am inclined to discuss politically and frankly, there is already such a wealth of information available, I don’t feel compelled to share my personal thoughts.
However, I am aware of the fact that so many people have been forced into an unfamiliar lifestyle with this quarantine. Schools canceled, jobs suspended or worked from home. On top of that, we can’t go out – anywhere. When has the American family ever spent this much time strictly at home? In our busy, socially driven lifestyle, this kind of “down time” is foreign and unnerving.
Quite frankly, my day-to-day life hasn’t changed much. I am an introverted, stay-at-home-mom, living in a new state where I still haven’t made friends or settled on a church. Our lives have been pretty solitary for a while now, and for the most part that works just fine. We’re homebodies at heart. But even so, being more or less forced to stay at home is taking its toll. I am very much looking forward to when life goes back to normal.
It struck me that during this time, the Stay-At-Home-Mom (SAHM) community in particular has something valuable to offer. We are the ones who are used to spending the majority of time at home – taking care of children, home, meals, and more. While the current situation isn’t ‘normal’ for any of us, we are most familiar with the whole being-stuck-at-home-with-children thing. And as such, I think that we likely have some valuable insight and encouragement to offer.
I’ve already mentioned that I’m a bit of a homebody, and introverted to boot. But that doesn’t mean that being a stay at home mom is easy. Today I’d like to share with you some practical advice for staying sane and minimizing chaos at home with littles.
We will start with routine because really, this is the root of all of my other suggestions.
As much as kids may protest, they truly do thrive on routine – especially little ones. You don’t have to create a minute-by-minute schedule to strictly adhere to, but take a few minutes to write out a rough outline of your day. What time is breakfast? If your kiddos are of school age, when does learning take place? Naptime? Snack time? Chances are you already have a general schedule you follow, but school closures and stay-at-home orders have likely disrupted your routine. Getting a new one established can help bring stability to the home.
Even if you aren’t a schedule-oriented person, having some structure can be really beneficial and help the days pass more productively.
Time for Me, Time for You
Children can be demanding of your time, especially toddlers. Sometimes it feels like my entire day is wrapped up in what she wants and needs. Isn’t that just how motherhood goes?
While I’m frankly tired of hearing the phrase “self care”, there is something to be said for taking care of yourself. It’s true that you can’t pour from an empty cup. While motherhood is a high and holy calling, you are also more than just a mother. You are still your own person, and you need to have some time for yourself – whatever that may look like for you.
In addition to that, the world doesn’t revolve around any one person. Toddlers don’t know that, but they do need to learn it. Not everything is or can be about them.
This is something that I struggle with, because so much of the past two and a half years has been pouring into and caring for this little person; keeping her fed, clean, happy, and so much more. When she is upset, or when she wants something – especially my attention – it’s hard for me to deny her. But it is important to do so at times because as mentioned above, the world doesn’t revolve around her. Part of my parental responsibility is helping her learn independence.
How you accomplish this will look different depending on where you and your family are in life. In our home, I try to have a focused time each day for both me and Vivian. After we eat breakfast in the morning, I spend time with Viv. We play with toys or snuggle and read stories. After I’ve given her my focused attention for a while, I leave her to entertain herself while I go and do something on my own – read a book, work on my laptop, or something of that nature. She’ll often still interrupt me or want me to play, but I tell her that Mommy is busy right now and that I’ll play with her later. How she reacts varies, but at least I know that she has been given time and that she is equipped to keep herself happy for a while. We usually have another block of time later in the day after her nap, during which time we’ll often go for a walk or play outside.
All of that to say this: Children do need attention, but they certainly don’t need to consume all of your time. When you are there, be all there – but also help to foster independence. Make sure that you are getting at least a little bit of time for yourself.
Many mothers-of-littles struggle with the chaos that inevitably erupts during playtime. Toys seem to spontaneously appear on every surface, books sprout legs and walk away from the shelf, and Cheerios dance their way into every corner. It can be overwhelming and by the end of the day, you just don’t have it in you to clean it all up. Thus it accumulates and grows into a horrifying mess.
There are some people who genuinely don’t mind living in such chaos, but for many people, mess is stressful. I know it is for me. When the house is a disaster, my peace is disrupted. So how do we keep it from getting to that point?
In my home we have a mid-day reset. Before her nap in the afternoon, Vivian and I clean up all the toys. I like this method because it not only keeps the mess at a manageable level, it also encourages my toddler to clean up after herself and establish habits of tidiness. When she gets up after nap, the room is a clean slate and she can pull out whichever toy/s she wants to play with. We also clean up the room before bedtime so that we have a fresh start the next day.
Depending on the messiness level, you may need more than one reset; that’s okay. As I mentioned in my last blog post, my family is currently living with us. We are averaging about three resets a day right now. More kids, more mess. Don’t be afraid to do what you need to encourage a healthy atmosphere in your home. Cleaning up after oneself is a great habit to instill in little ones.
You Can’t Do It All
I live in a two story, nearly 2,200 sq ft house. It is a very rare thing for the whole house to be in order at the same time. While I am pretty good about the keeping-neat-and-tidy portion of housekeeping, the deeper cleaning often gets neglected. Surfaces are usually dusty, floors don’t get mopped as often as they should, windows are grimy, and bathrooms… yeah, I have two and a half bathrooms. Only one seems to stay clean at a time.
Beyond daily tasks and routines, it seems like the kitchen is the only room actually getting cleaned – and that just because I have to have clean dishes and counters to prepare food again the next day. It’s frustrating to feel like I spend so much time doing and yet so little actually getting accomplished. There is always a running list.
But you know what? That’s okay. It’s okay for your home to not be put-together all the time. It’s okay for there to be mess, clutter, dirty floors or dusty shelves. Because you and your family are living life there. Mess always comes back; there will forever be more cleaning to do. I don’t say that to discourage you, but rather to help you relax a little and realize that it’s okay to not have your home Pinterest-perfect all the time.
I am certainly not recommending letting all descend into total ruin. That isn’t pleasant for anyone. Rather, figure out what your threshold is. Not what you find somewhat-tolerably-passable to live with, but what point you can breathe easy and feel at peace. Maybe that does mean having everything perfectly clean and tidy. Maybe that means, like in my case, having surfaces free of clutter and storage areas tidy, even if the deep cleaning doesn’t quite happen on the daily. Or maybe you don’t mind having mess in the living room, as long as your bedroom is pristine. Maybe you prioritize the kitchen because you spend so much time there.
Whatever it is, figure out what works for you and your family. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing, or how perfectly they seem to be doing it. None of us are perfect, and I think all of us work more at appearances than others may realize.
Find the Joy
There is so much fear and uncertainty right now but ultimately, God is in control, and we’re all going to be okay. Don’t resent being stuck at home; find the joy in everyday life. Find joy in this extra time with your kids. Unplug for a while if you find yourself struggling with anxiety, and just live in the moment. We can’t take these precious days for granted.
I’m still pretty new to this wife/mother/homemaker role, but I hope that you found some of these suggestions to be helpful. Being a SAHM certainly isn’t easy, but there is much beauty and joy to be found. I am incredibly blessed to be able to live out this role.