I've accomplished a lot prior to being a mom but, for me, nothing compares to the physical, emotional, and mental effort of parenting. Most worthwhile personal and professional pursuits are demanding, but few are as exhausting as what I call "Mom Scanning" — the constant surveillance for (and response to) potential danger or opportunities for mischief whenever you're responsible for a young child. When you're a stay-at-home mom (SAHM), you spend most of your day Mom Scanning, so there were some necessary things I did for myself as a stay-at-home mom in order to recharge.
Being a mom is my favorite thing I've ever done. It's also the most all-consuming thing I've ever done. And being a SAHM was especially challenging for me, because it's so much harder to put boundaries on your time and energy. In addition to being perpetually available to your kids, if you're not careful, it's really easy to give into the pressure that comes from feeling like you have to prove yourself, or prove your value, when you're not necessarily earning money and are worried people you respect (or possibly even your own partner) are wondering just what you do all day.
Once I finally adjusted to being a SAHM, I made a habit of doing the following things just for myself, so that I wouldn't get completely burned out by the experience. It's not always possible to do all of this every day, but I know I'm a way better mom, and a way better me, when I can do the following things on most days.
I Did My Best To Carve Out Daily Time To Exercise
Trying to strengthen my body and recover from pregnancy and birth was (and is) quite a project. So making time for myself to exercise, which has been a huge challenge, is something I've approached as seriously as I can, like a prescription from the doctor or my rush to the door when our wine club shipment arrives.
I Found Communities Of Other Moms
Being a SAHM was a radical role shift for me. So it was so amazing to find a community of friends, mostly online, who were having similar experiences. The camaraderie of folks who could understand what I was going through, especially when I was feeling frustrated and taken for granted, was priceless. As were the funny memes.
I Chatted With Non-Mom Friends Whenever Possible
Like I said, I love being a mom, stepmom, and wife. But for me, it's really important to keep connected to the parts of myself that aren't totally defined by motherhood, and aren't all about my role in my family. Taking a break from constant mom scanning with my friends who aren't moms helps recharge me.
I Stayed In Touch With Professional Contacts…
My professional work isn’t just what paid my bills, it’s also part of what gives me a sense of purpose in life, as do the friends I’ve made while doing that work. So while it was sometimes hard, particularly when I didn't have help with childcare, I tried to keep in touch with friends and colleagues.
...And Kept Doing As Much Relevant Work As I Could Squeeze In
Though caring for and having fun with my son has definitely been my main focus since his birth, I also tried to make time for "work stuff" whenever I could. That was not only for my family’s benefit — though that is definitely important to me and our economic health long term — but also for the sake of the causes I believe in, and the things that interest me outside of parenthood.
I Read Grown-Up Books Whenever I Had The Chance
I’m a hardcore paper-book partisan, but I finally had to break down and download the Kindle app so I could read during cluster feeding sessions and other moments when real books just weren’t practical (or safe from aggressive baby hands). Some sacrifices just need to be made, because as fun as "read aloud time" can be (and any one who knows me knows I love reading children’s books aloud), reading non-rhyming, non-board books about topics of my choosing was (and is) super important for my mental health.
I Slept In On Weekends...
Though breastsleeping and bed-sharing helped me get more sleep than I might have otherwise during the week, there's nothing quite like the deep sleep I can only get when I'm totally alone in bed. That meant trusting my partner to fly solo with our little one on weekends, so I could catch up a little bit on the kind of sleep I haven't gotten at night since my first trimester of pregnancy.
...And Prioritized Sleep Over Pretty Much Any Other Possible Choice
We all know sleep is hard to come by when you've got a young child. So when it came to night time (especially weekend plans) that would possibly conflict with me having the chance to get as much sleep as possible, those things almost always took a back seat.
Except for the time I finally started watching How To Get Away With Murder on Netflix, because Shonda trumps sleep, always.
I’d Take Walks By Myself
Though I'm a big fan of hiking in beautiful places, I never used to be a big "go for a stroll" person, until I discovered the power of a simple walk around the neighborhood during pregnancy. Once the weather stopped being bleak and horrible after my son's mid-January birth, I made a habit of going for at least one walk with him, and one walk by myself as many days as possible each week. (When you've been carrying or pushing another person all day, walking around with nothing but a wallet and keys feels so light and free.)
Wine Tastings, Shopping, Hobbies, And Pretty Much Any Other Solo Grown-Up Time
Enjoying wine tastings and little bites without tiny hands reaching onto my plate (or literally, actually into my mouth)? Going to Target without having to wrestle a toddler and all our stuff into the cart? Knitting for a few minutes during a weekend nap? Yes, please. Sign me up. Even little things like shopping or going to the dentist by yourself can feel like a fantastic break sometimes when you're almost always on Mom Duty.