At one point in her stay-at-home-mom-hood, my mom was taking care of four children between the ages of 11 and infancy. Sainthood was taken, so she figured, "Why not?" It wasn't always easy or "worth the exhaustion!" as so many people like to tout these days on Facebook. In fact, she wasn't always sure how to find satisfaction as a stay-at-home mom and her fear that she was most certainly screwing one (or all) of us up seems to be pretty normal. Experts say she's not alone in the least.
"I recommend keeping your spiritual, emotional, and physical tank as full as possible," Samantha Drazin, a Florida-based licensed mental health counselor at Your Space Wellness & Consulting, tells Romper in an email interview. "Being a mom is one of the toughest jobs there is, and there are no training manuals." Which means feeling overwhelmed? It's easy to do, and you have to remember that.
Karin Ulik, a life coach and mother to four children, tells Romper it's important to recognize that it is normal, as well as somewhat unavoidable, to feel inadequate and stretched thin from time to time. "Even when we are happy with what we have, there are times our own situations can feel unsatisfying," she tells Romper in an email interview. "By accepting those feelings you can start to understand the best way for you to deal with it."
Ulik and Drazin agree that it's important for moms to lose feelings of guilt about needing some solo time. "You can’t be everything to everyone at all times," Ulik says. "And the truth is neither your partner nor your children expect that. It’s OK if the schedule is a little off — the dishes can sit, and the laundry can wait. You don’t have to play non-stop with your children — let yourself off the hook."
Drazin says you can practice self care by scoring some alone time during nap for an online yoga class or meeting up at a coffee shop with other women who are stay-at-home moms. And "remember that 'no' is a full sentence," she says.
"Practice positive affirmations such as, 'I'm doing great!' or 'I'm blessed to be me', and remember to schedule time for you whether it is a manicure, gym class, or lunch with the girls. Think of it as a business meeting with yourself."
If you need to ask your partner to lend a hand, Ulik suggests setting aside some one-on-one time to discuss it. "If you approach your partner from the perspective of seeking help for a solution, rather than one that could be seen as complaining or blaming, the conversation will go better," she says. For instance, Ulik says saying things like, "You’re gone all day and now you’re just sitting on the couch — you need to help me more," will likely cause your partner to feel defensive. Instead, consider something like, "I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed right now and I’m really unsure what to do about it. Do you think you can help me figure it out?" In the second scenario, your partner is more likely to respond with empathy and it leaves room to discuss how to approach parenting as a team.
And, of course, it's also important to know yourself and what you want from life, "and that includes knowing why you wanted to stay home with your kids in the first place," Ulik says. After the birth of her first child, she says she distinctly remembers feeling very torn about wanting a career, but also being unable to leave her baby every day. "It took me a while to figure out that I deserved to have my own interests, in addition to my interest in my child yet not at the expense of my child," Ulik says. In the end, she found a way to do both by finding a flexible work arrangement. "If deep down you really prefer to be working but have guilt over the idea of having hired childcare, you’re more likely to feel inadequate or even downright unhappy."
When you can, Ulik says, find small moments of gratitude throughout the day, even if one kid is wearing two different shoes and screaming at the top of her lungs, while the other scales the kitchen cabinets. "It may not be quiet, it may not be a moment of stillness, but it’s not going to last forever," she says. "And just witnessing your child becoming their own person is a gift."
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