How to stay on top of things and still have time, energy, and sanity as a stay-at-home mom (SAHM)?
It can be very challenging to find time for ourselves with a new baby in tow.
In this article, I’ll be tackling how I take back my time, energy, and sanity as a new mom when it’s impossible to get help.
NOTE: Make sure to read all the way to the end of this post, because I have gone ahead and left a freebie for you. You’re welcome =)
Before we begin, here is an:
- article is some practical advice for the first year new mom,
- article for moms who are feeling lost
- article on tips for moms to work from home
- Article on sleep training
Taking back time for myself as a new mom
The first thing I did was to take back control of the spiraling situation I was in as a mom.
As a new mom, one of the most elementary things we lose control of is our sleep and grasping some normalcy in a day.
And it is especially difficult in the first 6 months because the baby just hasn’t quite settled down yet.
Here’s a post on verywellfamily that tackles some of the issue of why parents don’t have time for themselves.
So I have implemented two things that has tremendously given me back time and energy and sanity!
Gaining back energy through sleep training my baby as a new mom
I started sleep training my baby at 5 months old.
Prior to sleep training, my little girl would take forever to fall asleep! And when she does finally fall asleep, she’d wake up in 30 minutes-45 minutes grumpy and crying.
I realized upon research that she has become dependent on me to fall asleep and stay asleep!
And when their sleep cycle is over (which is about 30-45 minutes), she’d wake and don’t know how to fall back to sleep without me!
This explains why she would need me to rock and sing her to sleep for at least 30 minutes (sometimes 1 hour) before settling her into her crib!
Hence after I sleep train my little girl, life has become significantly better for both the baby and me almost immediately!
This is because now when she does wake up from a sleep cycle:
- She can go back to sleep,
- she gets enough sleep,
- she would wake up happier.
That in turn gave me more time because now I:
- get 90 minutes of rest for each of her naps!
- I could take a shower,
- eat properly,
- or take a cat nap!
I could recharge as she recharge and it was win-win for both of us!
If you’re interested to learn how I do it, I’ll be working on the baby sleeping mindset and baby sleep approaches in my next few posts. Subscribe to stay informed when it’s published.
Structuring time as a stay at home mom
The second thing I did was to try and establish a routine for my baby and in turn a routine for myself.
Note I use the word TRY. This is because it is very difficult and stressful to stick to a routine when it comes to the first 6 months.
But nonetheless, routine is still important even if it’s difficult to stick to it.
The trick here is to be open and flexible with changes around the routine, not a non-existent routine.
Having a routine has helped me:
- anticipate what my baby needs at the specific time of day
- be able to prepare ahead for her needs
- I no longer need to second guess her needs as much
- our days move like clock-work
And because of that it has elevated my mood and sanity tremendously!
With not knowing what she needs out of the way, my days are less stressful for the both of us, because I could give what she wants before she gets too frustrated.
And with a fixed amount of hours to myself (because she naps at a certain time) I have so much more freedom to do what I want.
Having a happy and calm baby in turn gives me a peaceful mind thus making my days more fun than stressful.Routine can be stressful if we follow it strictly, but nonetheless routine is still important even if it's difficult to stick to it.The trick here is to be open and flexible with changes around the routine, not a non-existent… Click To Tweet
I’ll be working on how to create a routine, the mindset and approach in my next few posts. Do subscribe to stay informed when it’s published.
Outcome of a routine and sleep training
By sleep training my baby, I invariably created a routine for ourselves because, in order for sleep training to work, we need to stick to similar nap-play time patterns.
Because she has her nap time and playtimes in place, I too have a routine revolving around her. This allows me to know when and what I can do for myself.
During her nap times:
- I now know what activity I can do at what time of the day based on how long it takes to complete and how long she naps
- I could set the right expectations or mini-goals for my activities so I do not get ‘caught’ halfway when she wakes up in
- I can plan how many activities I can do for how long based on the length of her nap
- basically I have the flexibility to do whatever I want during her nap and sleep times. It could be chores, work, self-care, me-time, or just rest.
The idea of not knowing when I can get things done, or when I could take a rest used to drain me.
And worst of all, it took a toll on me, and became distant and not attentive to my baby’s needs.
With a routine in place, I have become present with my baby, the dishes may not be done, or I’m feeling tired, but it’s okay because I know her nap time is coming soon and I can get those needs addressed when she’s down for her nap.
Systemizing and staggering duties for better use of time as a stay at home mom
So on top of baby-sleep training, creating a routine for myself and the baby, I created a system to address the daily duties like cooking, cleaning, and laundry (specifically soiled diapers) so I could streamline the processes at home and be smarter in how I use my time and energy.
This is especially useful when we have to work from home.One of the ways to find time as a mom is to streamline processes at home and relook at how we can do things smarter not harder, and pocket those saved minutes for ourselves.-Navigatinglife.blog Click To Tweet
I’ll be working on how to create systems at home, the mindset and approach in my next few posts. Do subscribe to stay informed when it’s published.
On top of caring for the baby, one of the biggest things that takes a huge load of my time and energy is cooking. I am an inexperienced cook, so cooking takes longer for the beginner me.
And after getting frustrated with not having the right ingredient and having to run to the store last minute while the baby is napping was stressful.
It was such a waste of time. Time can be spent on better things. I needed to stop running around like a headless chicken!
Hence I’ve decided to plan one week’s worth of meal. And I do this weekly.
This means I would think ahead what I’d plan to cook in the next 7 days, write them all down and start identifying what ingredients and how much I needed for the week.
So at the end of the meal planning I know:
- What I’m cooking everyday for one week
- I know what ingredients to get
- I know how much ingredients to buy at one go
and I don’t have to think about what to cook until the next weekend comes.
What if there are days you plan to go out and eat?
No problem, just look into your dine-out habits and patterns and account that into your meal planning.
Since I now have a list of ingredients I need exactly for the week, I will no longer need to do any last minute grocery run.
And I only need to go to the grocery store once a week! Grocery shopping is not my me-time activity, so I’d like to reduce that as best I can so I can get back to having some quality time to myself.
Having a list and bulk buy also makes grocery shopping faster and streamlined.
This is because I’d also be shopping my grocery list according to the isles, knowing exactly what to pick without needing to go back and forth searching for what I need.
Okay, so you must be wondering what does bulk cooking means? Is it to cook a lot at one go?
Yes it’s as simple as that.
Cooking a lot of food per cooking session.
Once again, let me emphasize I’m not an experienced cook, so every prep and cook time takes me a lot more longer compared to a professional for a simple meal.
So the less I spend time cooking the better.
I used to cook twice a day, lunch and dinner, and after keeping it up for a month, I was starting to wonder where most of my time went.
And after sitting down and calculate the amount of time I spent on prepping, cooking, and cleaning, it was a good 2 hours minimum, per meal!
That’s at least 4 hours a day!
I decided that I needed to make my cooking time worthwhile and efficient.
Since I’m going to spend 2 hours cooking per meal anyway, why not cook more, enough for 2 meals?
This does not mean cooking different meals for lunch and dinner in one cooking session. I don’t have that multitasking capabilities. I mean to cook 1 meal with the same ingredients but increasing its amount I cook.
And that’s what I did, started cooking once a day, but enough for both lunch and dinner,
Now I only need to prep, cook and clean the kitchen once a day!
Then I started increasing the amount of meals I can cover, from 2 meals to 3, from 3 meals to 4.
4 meals essentially means 2 days worth of food (lunch and dinner).
This also means I only need to cook 3 times to get 6 meals worth, that is 6 days worth of food, cooking only 3 times a week!
I decided to leave the last day as a dine-out day for both my husband and my sanity XD
When I discovered I could do that, it has changed the way I approach my meal planning, grocery shopping, and cooking!
Now cooking takes less of my time, allowing more time for myself!
Regular spot cleaning
This cleaning is not about the kitchen, it is about the vacuuming and mopping.
I come from an Asian background. We do not wear shoes in our homes, so our floors are generally clean on the occasion of my hair, cat fur, and dust.
My approach might not work for everyone.
How I do my cleaning is having a portable mopping stick (the ones you replace with a large wet wipe) and a hand-vacuum.
I do spot vacuuming and spot mopping regularly.
Because I do them regularly, a few minutes at a time, our floors are generally free from obvious footprints or sticky floors.
So our floors are decent generally.
And maybe once a week I’d do a thorough run down with my large vacuum cleaner and bucket and mop.
So my tips for new moms here is to keep general cleanliness regularly, rather than do big heavy duty cleaning daily.
There are two things that takes up our time when it comes to laundry for new moms, the folding and ironing of clothes and baby soiled diapers.
These two requires attention that cannot be automated with a machine.
So I’ve made laundry folding an activity while she was awake and playing. OR I would do it when I was watching tv while she’s asleep. Whatever it is, I always do laundry with something else. This is my way of killing 2 birds with 1 stone.
Baby soiled reusable diaper is a tricky one because there’s a lot to it and it does take time.
The biggest challenge as a new moms is dealing with pee and poo diapers. And I’m happy I’ve perfected our system at home.
I have set up various ‘stations’ in the house that meets different functions so the diapers would move from one station to another before finally throwing it all into the washing machine.
And all these stations aims in reducing smell in the area, and stain on diapers.
The stations I have are:
- dirty baby clothes station
- pee-diaper soaking station
- poo-removal station
- dirty poo-diaper soaking station
- poo-diaper scrubbing station
- scrubbed poo-diaper soaking station
Now, this all sounds very fancy, but all they are are just buckets with soapy water, scrubbing tools, and bins in various toilets in our house.
Why they are housed in different toilets is because those are the places that are most convenient for us to address the mentioned items.
So I just make sure I have a set of buckets, tools and soap set up in the area for us to clean during our shower times and our system is up!
Taking care of my needs to maintain my sanity as a stay at home mom
One of the things I found that recharges me most is actually taking care of my needs.
I love how this post titles “It’s not selfish to make yourself a priority.” by parents.com.
When I take care of my needs, my energy and sanity automatically recharges without thinking about it.
But here is the problem, moms are always running short on time to perform all their duties well or difficulty in finding time to be alone. With cooking, cleaning, taking care of their kids, where do you even have time for yourself?
I totally know it because I lived it!
That used to be my life!
I never get time for myself and I needed my me-time!
But I realized one of my biggest mistake was to put myself LAST in the mom duty equation!
Because I prioritize doing everything else in the day, when it comes to the end of the day, my energy gets so depleted that even in the rare time when I do have time for myself, I can’t even bring myself to do anything else but to vegetate!
So do yourself a favor and give yourself some self-love as frequent as possible. You need to remember to meet:
- your basic needs for food, shower, and rest.
- your need for intellectual stimulation, like reading a book, gardening, or crafting (these are my go-to)
- your social needs like connecting with friends and family over the phone
- your need to do something impactful whether for your family or the community.
Constantly trial until you find a permanent solution
Now I know it’s easier said than done, the question is how do we do it as frequently as possible when we don’t even have time for ourselves in the first place?
Well, your first 2 steps should get a routine down and find solutions that solve your challenges permanently.
Every solution to a problem will be different to another mom. For me it is sleep training my baby so I can get my energy and time back.
Ultimately, it is important to identify what are your problems/challenges that are dealt with temporary measures and start trying different ways to get to a permanent solution.
Practicing self-care intentionally and regularly
Since I learned that I have been putting myself on the back burner when it comes to taking care of myself and me-time, I realized I need to intentionally take care of myself as my norm.
Self-love as a mom should not be an occasion we need to plan for, it should be something we do as a normal habit on a daily basis.self-care as a mom should not be an occasion we need to plan for, it should be something we do as a normal habit on a daily basis.-Navigatinglife.blog Click To Tweet
What are the self-care activities I need to do intentionally?
- Eating my meals at around the right time, not skipping or merging my meals
- Getting the rest I need daily (by baby-sleep training)
- Doing what brings me joy and pride for at least 20 minutes
- socializing and be apart of a community
- sharing my expertise
By having my needs met regularly, the chances of me having a breakdown has significantly reduced.
It also significantly reduce my guilt for practicing self-care because:
- it doesn’t take me long to recharge,
- I feel good from my regular self-care,
- with my mood uplifted, so does my perception of everything I do
The goal here of practicing self-care is to make it second nature to us. Once it becomes a habit, burning out would become something seasonal due to events of life circumstances, not an evergreen mode.
Scheduling my Me-Time in advance
Now since I’m talking about making self-care an evergreen natural habit, why do we need to schedule anything at all?
That’s because we need to learn the difference between self-care and me-time. Something I recently discovered.
And that me-time is different from self-care.
Taking care of ourselves is something we should do on a regular basis, as a habit, while me-time is something we do occasionally that may be more elaborate and may require you to spend some money.
An easy example will be to pamper yourself with a good spa day.
We can’t do this regularly, but as moms, we do deserve to enjoy the occasional treat from time to time.
And yes, we need to schedule this in advance or it will never happen. I’m sure you ladies know what I mean.Yes, we need to schedule me-time in advance as a mom or it will never happen.And no, you cannot only do me-time and not practice self-care.You need BOTH for a balanced mom life.-Navigatinglife.blog Click To Tweet
This is another reason how I maintain my sanity. To be able to go out, dress up, look pretty, and hang out with a girlfriend in a coffee house.
Sometimes I come back feeling inspired, motivated with new opportunities.
But now with Covid, we need to find other things to keep us inspired. It is a must! Think o fit as food for our soul.
Having an outlet to process my thoughts and feelings
This is another crucial element to have in your life!
An outlet to process your thoughts and feelings.
Especially during this difficult pandemic year.
I used to sleep it off if I was feeling overwhelmed.
But I learned that as much as I have evaded my feelings, it did not help me process nor come up with a solution to my problems. I pretty much covered up my problems with a band-aid.
So what happened was that I’d get stuck in the same loop of overwhelming feeling related to the similar issues over and over again.
I learned that how I dealt with my feelings were unhealthy, and I needed a healthier way to process my thoughts and feelings and resolve my struggles for good.
My go-to is journaling and it has been very helpful in:
- turning my feelings, perception around,
- and coming up with my own solutions.
Journaling has helped me clear my head, worked through some emotions, and even getting inspired with ideas.
So find what ways would help you process your thoughts and feeling effectively and healthily.
You’ll know your method is not working (and that it is only a band-aid to your struggles) when you constantly met with the same issues and not moving forward in resolving them.
If you’re wondering what my journaling approach is like, I’ve gone ahead and prepared a freebie. Feel free to download my free journal here.
Summary on how I gain back time, energy, and sanity as a stay at home mom (SAHM)
In order to get your time, energy and sanity back for yourself you need to:
- take control of your spiraling situation
- find a way to improve you and your baby’s sleep quality (after baby is 4 months old)
- creating a flexible routine for yourself and the baby
- systemizing your house to work smarter and efficiently so you can take back the extra time for yourself
- taking care of yourself as a daily habit
- scheduling me-time to treat yourself to feel renewed or refreshed
- having a healthy outlet to express and process your thoughts and feelings
Do share in the comment below if you find this helpful or you have new ideas to add! I’d love to read it!
Share this to a fellow mom whom you think will benefit from reading this post!
Before you go, don’t forget to grab yourself my journal freebie to help you declutter your mind and get some peace of mind and sanity in this challenging journey of motherhood!