I’ve been a full-time stay at home mom for 2 months, so now I’m clearly an expert on the matter. I’ve got this insider look into why being a working mom is hard, and why being a stay at home mom is hard. This is why I refuse to judge other moms. We are all doing the best we can for our families, and what’s right for one family or for one season may not be right for another. There is no universal thing that works for all, except for love and consistency.
I really needed to do some thinking, because I became more anxious and more stressed once I made the transition from part-time stay at home mom, to full time. Why? I was a bit put out with myself, to be honest. How in the world could I feel this badly when I was so stinkin lucky to be able to take this year to focus on my kids? I could now focus solely on my family’s problems and not my client’s as well. I could work out every day if I wanted! I could finally do the nagging home clean out projects I’ve wanted to do for ages. I could have time to write, a hobby I sorely neglect.
And yet…I felt AWFUL. I had a constant nervous feeling in my stomach, like I was about to give a talk to 100 moms, nervous. It felt like I was forgetting something important I needed to do, but I couldn’t remember what it was. I wasn’t sleeping through the night, EVER. I was exhausted and annoyed all the time. I cried a lot. All I really wanted to do was lay in bed and binge on Netflix and sweets. I wasn’t enjoying my extra time with Caleb, and I was wishing for escape regularly. This made me feel incredibly guilty. Since I wasn’t contributing financially anymore, I had to step up my game in other areas to make myself matter. I felt like I wasn’t accomplishing enough, being enough. I needed to go above and beyond all the time.
First it was the “yeses”. “I have more time now so… YES, I’ll be the room mom! Yes, I’ll be there! Yes, I can help with that! Yes, I’ll give to that! Yes, I’ll drive all over the blessed state of Georgia daily!”
Then there were the “shoulds”. The house should always be clean! Laundry should be put away! I should cook fresh, homemade food most days! I should be having quiet time every day! I should be exercising at least 5x a week! I should be getting CUT! I should shower daily! I should be filled with joy at being treated like a servant by my kids (ok, I never thought that).
But friend, I JUST WASN’T. I was working out LESS, having quiet times LESS, and enjoying my kids LESS. WHAT IN THE ACTUAL HELL?
Finally, after much internal struggle, I talked to my doctor and started on an anti-anxiety medication. It took about 3 weeks, but I’M FEELING MORE LIKE MYSELF AGAIN! Now that I can think past the haze of depression and anxiety, I see what happened.
When I was working two 12-hour days a week, in the trenches with folks in crisis and hell, I HAD to take care of myself. I was able to spend the day (usually) feeling like I was contributing to the greater good, making a difference, and using my brain. I was mostly respected and heard, and financially contributing to my family. I wanted to do my job well, so doing things for myself was important. Saying no sometimes was a necessity to preserve my ability to be effective. Plus, as my friend and fellow counselor Kelli so wisely pointed out, “us helper types use work to self-medicate.” She could not have been more right. I fear not mattering, not having influence, not making a difference so much so that I was bending over backwards to do a bunch of stuff (frantically, I might add) that I don’t particularly enjoy. I kept pushing off working out or doing something for myself because “I could just do it tomorrow” (I did not). When I was working, those fears were not as big because I KNEW I was making a difference. I felt more freedom to say no, and to more preciously guard my working out times and quiet times. I felt more freedom to not have a clean house, always cook, or be the room mom.
Here are a few tips, in case you are needing to take better care of yourself, too.
- Decide your priorities. Enjoying your kids and making memories? Having a clean house? Service? Time with your spouse? Time for your hobby? Quiet time? Exercise? Cooking? Eating healthy? Decorating? Your side hustle? Chose 2 or 3 of your biggest priorities and schedule those first. Then, fit in the other goodies where you have space left. It helps to write down the running to-do list in your head, and realize that not all the items are urgent and can wait.
- Give yourself permission to say no. You CANNOT be a rockstar in all areas. Something has got to give. What’s your bottom line and what you will not regret giving your time to later? What is driving your fear of saying no? Fear of missing out? Of not mattering? Of disappointing others? Once you know what’s driving you to your frenetic pace, you can do something about it. For example, when I get all worked up that I have to get the Christmas cards in the mailbox RIGHT NOW or the world as we know it may collapse, I may remind myself something like this: “my value and approval comes from the Lord. I matter to him. I matter to my husband and children. The difference I’m making is in the long term, and will not always be instant.” Then, I’ll remind myself of the scripture, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down.” –Nehemiah 6:3. Anxiety makes you lose all perspective and it feels like everything is URGENT.
- Say yes to yourself. Exercise, quiet time, eating well, friends, hobby, side hustle…whatever makes you feel good about yourself.
- Say yes to your marriage.
- Limit social media. How much time have I wasted mindlessly scrolling because I wanted a break or escape? Set a timer or pick a time of day to get online and stick to it, otherwise you’ll find that time disappears and suddenly you need a new wardrobe, you ordered 5 things on Amazon, and you have to redecorate your house. Everything is awful. Why is your kitchen the worst? Why are all your clothes and makeup the worst? It’s just a slippery slope of wasted time and coveting. Why on earth do we keep doing the things that make us feel worse?
My priorities are: faith, family, and health. The area I most need to improve is in making sure I can do these priorities with joy and energy. Did you know that rest is a discipline? An act of trusting God to provide? I’m going to make a few commitments to God. And keep them. The price is too high when I don’t. (I’m also putting it here so I will be more accountable).
- I’m going to take better care of this body I’ve been given. I’ll remove sweets from my diet except for 1-2x a month for a birthday or holiday. I cannot control myself with sweets and it makes me feel like hot garbage when I overindulge (which is always).
- I’m going to work out hard at least 3x a week. I have written these workouts in my calendar and will make them a priority. That way, my kids can have memories with a happy mama.
- I’m going to spend time with God most days, and pray with Josh at night.
- Eating well is important to me, and I like cooking, but meal planning is not my strength. I have a coupon and we are trying HelloFresh next week. I get to cook without too much thinking and planning involved. Win/win!
- I will honor my time better, and practice being present more. I’ll set a timer when I get on social media for 10 minute increments (except for my essential oil classes, of course!) and be more mindful about when I get on. Nothing good happens after 10 minutes for me. I’ll let you know how this goes, because I am straight up addicted to checking it.
- I will honor my marriage. Date every other Friday. We’ll actually get to engage in meaningful conversation without interruption! Seriously, you guys. Our kids will be completely silent, but as soon as Josh and I try to speak to each other they start flapping their jaws, or screaming, or fighting. I mean really?! The kids literally cannot handle us talking. Or pooping. Or eating. Or sleeping. Or doing anything that withdraws attention from them. Fix it, Jesus.
How about you dear one? Do you have space for rest and for yourself? If not, what is the fear holding you back? I’d love to hear your commitments, too!