When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a lot of things. I wanted to be the girl riding on top of an elephant in the circus, but since I’m terribly afraid of heights, I’m pretty sure I just wanted to wear the sparkly costumes. I wanted to be a teacher for a few minutes. I finally decided in high school that I was going to be a famous country singer. Instead I became a dental assistant, because I’m one of those weird people that gets excited about going to the dentist. I always knew in the back of my mind that I wanted to be a mom too. My mom stayed at home with me for most of my childhood, and I remember thinking what a life she must have! She gets to sleep in (if I let her), go shopping when she felt like it (if I didn’t throw a tantrum), and she has all the time in the world to watch tv (if I let her turn my cartoons). Stay-at-home mom life seemed like the ticket to bliss, spotless houses, gourmet dinners, unicorns, and other make-believe things. Let’s fast forward. I retired my dental skills, and at 26 years old, I’m a stay-at-home mom. First, I never planned on having a baby at 26, but I stopped believing in plans a while back. I REALLY never expected to be a stay-at-home mom at 26. Alas, here I sit rocking my sweet, fussy baby in one arm and typing with the other. Just like having a newborn in your care for the first time, learning how to fall into the stay-at-home mom role is a total shock to the system. I’m learning something new every day, and I’m so far from being an expert, but here are a few tips that have helped me survive thus far.
1. Change your clothes every day. I bet you thought being a stay-at-home mom meant staying in your jammies all day, didn’t you? Well, for a couple weeks it is. When you get home from the hospital feeling like death warmed over, pajamas are totally acceptable. There will eventually come a day when you catch a glimpse of yourself in the bathroom mirror and realize that you could star as an extra in The Walking Dead. You don’t have to be a hero and squeeze into a pair of jeans. Throw on some workout clothes or yoga pants (that you definitely won’t be doing yoga in). Feeling human again is key.
2. Go on date nights immediately. I can’t stress how important this is. People that say how hard it was to go on a date night and leave their baby for the first time scare me. We went on our first date night when Jack was maybe a week old, and it set the tone for one seriously healthy and great habit. I remember sitting at one of our favorite rooftop bars and sipping a glass of wine for the first time in months. I’ve experienced three days in my life that really stand out- my wedding day, the birth of our son, and that moment on that rooftop with my husband. We sipped delicious drinks, I ate more oysters than I could count, and we played shuffle board in a bar we’d never been to. We’ve made it a constant effort to go out and be husband and wife and not just mom and dad. Mama, if you’re home all day with your littles, you NEED that time. Don’t ever feel guilty about it. It doesn’t mean you’re selfish. It means you’re a human woman who was a dang individual and a wife before you were mom.
3. Get active. If you’re anything like me, those first few weeks will be hard and a bit painful. I started with a few 15 to 20-minute walks around the neighborhood, because that’s all I could handle. It’s amazing what a little sunshine and low impact exercise can do for your mental and physical health after having a baby. I joined Fit4Mom here in Charleston at 4 weeks postpartum, and I loved it so much that I became an instructor. It has changed my entire mentality about working out, because I used to think I was allergic to exercise. If I don’t get that work out in each morning, I feel off and a little down for the rest of the day. Go get you some endorphins and vitamin D, girlfriend!
4. Be productive, but don’t kill yourself. For the messiest, most unorganized person on the planet, I, for some unknown reason, think my home always must be spotless. Maybe it’s the southern way that’s been instilled in my bones. I remember being so overwhelmed with the amount that I had to do in any given day while staying on a baby’s feeding and nap schedule. I won’t even mention all the moments I had to glue my butt to the couch because holding him while he napped was just the only way of life for him. I worked myself to death at first trying to give my baby all the attention he needed and get all my many daily tasks done. I quickly learned to make lists of smaller tasks I wanted to accomplish just in that day. One day I would tackle the bathrooms and the next I may work on all the floors. I don’t beat myself up about it anymore. I realized that when I work myself to death, I’m missing so many snuggles with my son that I’ll never get back.
5. Surround yourself with family and friends. I’ve always heard about baby blues and postpartum depression, and I’d pretty much already tried to prepare myself. I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety for most of my life, so my doctor explained that the likeliness of me going through PD was high. I went through the baby blues stage and waited for PD to hit, but it never did. I attribute that so much to my own personal village. I swear, my friends and family are the best. They called me, facetimed, came over and brought meals and watched Jack, sent encouraging texts, and just sat and listened to me vent sometimes. I also put myself in social situations constantly. I was talking to veteran moms and new moms like me every day at my work outs. I can’t truly empathize with a mom who has gone through PD, but as someone who has lived with depression and anxiety, I can tell you to try your hardest not to imprison yourself in your own home and shut those that love you out.
I recently talked to one of my working mama friends, and I told her that I just don’t know how she does it all. She looked back at me and said the exact same thing about me staying home. It doesn’t matter if you stay home with your babies or work a full-time job. None of it is easy, and we should all be wearing capes daily. You are a supermom. You’re the light in your child’s life. Don’t be overwhelmed with the every day scramble. I dropped my son off with my parents in North Carolina last week so my husband and I could enjoy a vacation together. It was the first time I’ve left him for more than a night. I walked into my empty house, and I had no clue what to do. I suddenly missed the chaos, the dirty bottles in the sink, the sound of a baby just finding his voice, and those moments rocking him to sleep when he slips one little smile in at me before his eyes slowly shut for the night.
Sometimes happy hour starts at 2:00 pm. Sometimes I tell my husband I’m going to the grocery store and stay there for 3 hours. Some days I don’t find time to shower, but despite it all, it’s true what everyone has always told me. Being a stay-at-home mom really is the most rewarding and fulfilling job I’ve ever had. It’s hard, y’all, but it lives up to the hype.