5 Things I Have Learned in 5 Years as a Stay at Home Mom

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As Dominic’s 5th birthday approaches, it occurred to me today that that means I have been a stay at home mom for almost five years. That’s longer than it took me to finish college, longer than any job I held, longer than I’ve known some people. It’s a long time. And so, in honor of Dominic’s 5th birthday, here are five things I have learned in my five years (rounded up) as a stay at home mom.

Dominic reading to me and Allen - what I've learned as a Stay at Home Mom

Structure helps us all.

This may sound silly, but I have alarms on my phone for lunch time and dinner time and bedtime. This allows us to keep things at roughly the same time every day without watching the clock, plus the kids understand what’s coming next. I also use an app that keeps track of my housework and this results in us doing certain things on certain days of the week. The kids have picked up on this and they know what to expect. It helps me a great deal to have some kind of structure otherwise the day blurs together because there’s no start and end time to my day. The kids knowing what to expect also helps them to roll with the day – they know when they can expect to be fed and they generally go to bed fine because we have a routine in place before bed.

Everyone is going to have opinions.

I have to start off by saying this is true of all parenting – not just being a stay at home mom. Everyone – and I mean everyone, including random strangers – has opinions on the “right” way to parent kids. Somewhere, someone out there thinks you are ruining your kids for something you do/don’t do. Guarantee. And every kind of mom faces their own kind of stigma and naysayers. For me, as a stay at home mom, this has included pressure from others to get a job and someone I knew called me a freeloader once. All of these things though are just opinions and frequently, not very helpful ones. You and your spouse are the ones who get to make the decisions about your unique and amazing kids – period. Check the outside opinions at the door to your house. This is way easier said than done, but it will make a world of difference.

You need a tribe.

Being a stay at home mom can be lonely and isolating. You don’t always see a whole lot of adults and being around your kids all the time can be hard. You need to find the people who are going to support you in this journey, the people who are going to lift you up when you feel like quitting or when you feel like you’re not good enough. I’m fortunate to have a strong tribe of people supporting me and I truly believe their support is invaluable.

My tribe is a diverse tribe and includes wonderful ladies nearby and far away, some who have kids, some who don’t, some who are the same age as me, some who are older, some who share my faith, some who don’t. However, what they all have in common is that they love me and want to see me succeed. They’re not seeking to tear me down but to encourage me. They’re not seeking to force their opinions on me, but to give advice when asked. They’re not seeking to tell me to quit, but to tell me I made this decision for a reason and to keep going. I am grateful to each and every one of them. I hope that you are lucky enough to find a tribe like I have. Because I can tell you when I didn’t have a very big tribe, it was hard.

There is more to you than being a stay at home mom.

When I first had my kids, I fell into attachment parenting (more about that another day). This made me feel like I could never leave my kids. Like I had to be with them 24/7 or I was a bad mom. I let myself be completely absorbed by parenting and let my other hobbies and interests fall by the wayside. But do you know what I’ve learned this leads to? A stressed out me.Over time, I’ve been able to slowly add in more things that are just for me. I sing in my church’s choir and attend Bible study regularly (with some of the moms from my tribe – thus accomplishing two things 😉 ). I blog and I read books and I write. I try and get out with friends and with Nick when I can.

Being a stay at home mom is a lot of pressure. If you let that be the only thing you have going for you, it’s easy to let the failures crush you. But the reality is, you can not measure your self-worth or success by the behavior of your kids. I still struggle with this because unlike other jobs, there’s no paychecks or promotions or recognitions. But for me, having things I can enjoy outside of parenting helps remind me on the bad days that there is more to life than parenting and I have not failed as a human being even if my kids are little terrors.

It’s normal that it is simultaneously so hard and so rewarding.

I feel like when your kids are little and it’s hard, you tell yourself that later on, it will be easier. When they don’t need you to do so much for them, it will be easier. But the reality is, it doesn’t get easier in a linear fashion. Some things get easier, but then there are other new problems that crop up. And sometimes, if you’re like me, you think if you just work a little bit harder, you will get there, to a point where it’s easier. But life – and parenting – don’t work like that. Parenting has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

But! On the flipside of that, I’ve also never done something this rewarding. There are awesome moments where you see them do a new skill for the first time. Or get a big hug from them with an I love you. Or they finally remember to do something you’ve been working on with them for ages. These moments make your heart like 3000 times bigger. It is frequently both of these things in the same day and sometimes even in the same moment. That’s normal. That’s life.

So I suppose, on reflecting on this list at the end, this isn’t just about being a stay at home mom. It’s also/mostly about being a parent. This is what I’ve learned and really, what I’m still learning. I’m still a work in progress, just like my kids.

What have you learned from parenting? 

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