Sanity saving tips for stay-at-home moms

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At the time of writing this, I have four children aged 11, 9, 5, and 2, which means I have been a mom for over a decade – and during all this time, I have been at home with my children, whether “just” a stay-at-home mom (more than a full-time occupation in itself!) or, in recent years, also a freelancer juggling writing and editing jobs and publishing her own books.

I have home educated and done crafts, started a garden and changed a gazillion diapers, milked goats and potty trained, nursed four babies and broke up countless fights, treated children and chickens for lice, kissed boo-boos and wiped noses. Now that I have preteens, I constantly find myself having conversations with kids who are convinced they are infinitely smarter than I am.

It has not always been easy. There were (and are) days when I just wanted to get away for a bit. There are frumpy days, dragging days, tear-my-hair-out days.

But I still wouldn’t trade it for anything, and with time and the gift of perspective that comes with it, I have learned to lean on a few strategies that help me keep (somewhat) sane.

1. Be realistic. I know that there are going to be all kinds of days. Sometimes we are all sitting in peace and harmony around the table and I’m doing fractions with the older girls while the little ones are coloring. Sometimes my kids are doing their best to get the house demolished. Sometimes I have plenty of energy; sometimes I’m down with a stomach bug or just feel blah. But whatever happens, you get to have a fresh start the next day.

2. Focus on the basics and prioritize. I used to iron. I never do that anymore. I don’t do labor-intensive recipes and I don’t wash my windows from the outside. I know that I do a staggering amount of work each day and I refuse to feel guilty about not cramming in more.

3. Don’t let things pile up. If at all possible, wash those dishes before you go to bed. In the morning, you’ll be glad you did. The longer you leave things to pile up, the harder they are to tackle eventually. I keep laundry manageable by sticking to throwing in a load every other day and having it folded and put away before the next load is due to wash. I do a tidy-up several times a day and try to clean messes (such as a dirty stove) as soon as they pop up. I don’t do it because I love to clean (ha!), but because I hate being overwhelmed.

4. Delegate! There is absolutely no reason your children should expect you to do things for them which they can do for themselves. Insist that everyone picks up after themselves, serves themselves, and helps out with age-appropriate chores. Very young children can learn to pick up after themselves, keep their play area tidy, and wash their glass after they have a drink. No, it isn’t always easy, and yes, I struggle with this, but I refuse to raise little entitled layabouts who expect full room service.

Don’t forget to enlist your spouse if possible – just because you are the one who stays home, it doesn’t mean you have to do everything by yourself. You are always on duty and deserve a break (more on that in a bit).

5. Don’t compare yourself to others. We all have that friend with the immaculate living room and the kids who all play cello. But guess what? We are all different. Be kind to yourself. Think about what would happen if you stopped, for just one day, doing all the myriad of “nothings” that accumulate during each 24 hours – mopping up spills, keeping everyone clean and fed, tackling the garbage and all those little “insignificant” jobs your family only learns to appreciate when you happen to fall sick. Yeah, you see my point. Don’t judge by performance – evaluate by work performed, and you’ll likely see you’re already doing awesome.

6. Take some time off and break the routine. When was the last time you read a good book? Spent time on a hobby? Took an unplanned hike? Called a friend? Got enough hours of sleep? Had a bath without someone banging on the door? Be honest, and you’ll see that you deserve some pampering.

While it isn’t always possible to get time alone, you can also be refreshed by having a break from routine with your children – a picnic, watching a movie together, putting your feet up while little ones play in the pool, even just curling on the rug as you read side by side with them.

Don’t feel guilty – there is always more work to be done, and life is too short. So do what you can to grab that portion of joy and beauty in your day.

Humongous heat wave

For the past three days, every time I opened the door it has been like stepping into a preheated oven, day and night. Yes, that bad. Stifling, scorching, suffocating heat that is literally making us lethargic.

I try not to run the air conditioning all the time, but it’s not easy. We wake up in the middle of the night sweating. Thank goodness for AC, cold drinks, and showers (having lived with constant disruptions in running water supply for a few years, I really appreciate the last one).

So what have we been doing without our favorite pastime of nature walks, and with the heat too intense for outdoor work or baking? Well, there are always books and crafts for the kids to fall back on, for which I’m thankful.

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The mulberry tree in the nearby park has been especially bountiful. I just wonder why nobody else seems to take advantage of all this fruit. We have been making jam and also froze some for later, but there’s a great deal more than we can use up.

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The incubator is humming along and we are supposed to have our first chicks in a few days. The kids can’t wait.

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I’m making another little jute basket for storing odds and ends – it seems I’m always in need of more of those!

I hope we get to enjoy more pleasant weather soon and can get out of doors again. On the up side, I can’t imagine the coronavirus surviving too long in this heat.

Freelancing: when enough is enough

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I work as a freelance editor, proofreader, and copywriter, besides authoring and publishing my own books. When I first started freelancing, I was unfamiliar with the platforms, didn’t know anybody, had no experience, and had to hunt and hustle for every project. Thankfully, I am not in that place anymore, and usually have more incoming work than I can reasonably commit to, so I have to be choosy and know when and how to say no. 

It isn’t always easy when a client asks specifically for you and you value that professional relationship, but I do have one principle to guide me: I chose to freelance and work from home, rather than opt for more traditional employment, because I wanted the freedom and flexibility to be with my children. I wanted to be there to teach them, take care of them when they are sick or need me for other reasons, and to have a flexible schedule that would enable me to set work aside for a while and just go out to enjoy the sunshine on a nice day.

The problem is, when you are an independent entrepreneur, you don’t have set hours. You don’t just punch a card and you’re done for the day. There are always new projects to check out, books to work on, clients to communicate with, emails to send, research to do… And it’s quite easy to get caught in all that, so that you get annoyed with life for getting in the way of work – which is not very reasonable.

My top tips for maintaining a healthy balance are as follows:

1. Know and accept you will never be able to do it all or to please everyone. There will always be projects and clients you miss – but the good news is, life is dynamic, and there will also be new ones.

2. Be realistic. How many hours a day can you reasonably commit to? Without overworking and compromising the quality of your work? Without snapping at your children? Without pulling half- or all-nighters?

3. Be your own boss, but as if you were the boss of someone else. I mean it this way: if you were employing someone, and that someone had no time for lunch break or recreation or adequate sleep hours, would you consider yourself a very good employer? Would you expect high productivity and quality work from a harassed, overwhelmed employee? You see my point. Treat your body and mind with kindness and respect, and you will enjoy a routine that is both more peaceful and more productive.

Exploring nature

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Today we went on another one of our hikes, and guess what we found? It’s the first one I saw since we had moved here.

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Little explorer.

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A cool moss-covered rock. We had a rainy weekend, so everything was fresh and lovely and not too hot.

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We all had so much fun!

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A breathtaking view on a lovely afternoon.

And, most importantly, we still adhere to social distancing. Our government is opening everything up way too fast to my liking – but just because something is now legal, it doesn’t mean it is recommended.

Hope everyone had a great weekend!

Making soap with kids

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This week, we had some fun with making soap. I used to be very wary of using lye near small children, but decided to give it a shot with very, very careful supervision. The older girls had a blast and learned loads.

Making soap is a great way to work in some math and science. We talked about the chemical reaction that heats up the water when it’s mixed with lye, and also about the process of saponification.

I used a mix of coconut and palm oil, so the soap bars were ready to unmold pretty soon and popped right out of the cute little silicone molds the kids chose.

Those who don’t feel like using lye at all: you might want to try making soap jellies. It’s quick, easy, and super fun.

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Recipe:

1/2 cup clear liquid soap

3/4 cup boiling water

1 packet of gelatin (about 1 tbsp)

A few drops of food coloring (optional)

Dissolve gelatin in boiling water, add soap and food coloring, and pour into molds. Allow about an hour to set. You will get squiggly jiggly bits of soap jelly that are very fun to use in bath. This activity will leave even the most stubborn bath refusers squeaky clean!

From our backyard

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The little quail pen. It’s easy to move so that they can dig in a fresh place from time to time.

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An inside shot of the quail: the darker one is the female. Raising them has been fun and I can’t wait to try hatching their eggs (which, by the way, make delicious tiny omelets).

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The upgraded chicken coop: now on a raised netting-covered platform. Most of the poop falls right through the netting, which reduces the mess and smell.

Clockwise: sage, mint, rosemary, lemon balm.

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Tomato seedlings are in the ground.

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Two of my favorite repotted geraniums. They are incredibly easy to propagate: just cut a piece, stick it in moist potting soil, and it will soon sprout roots. I’ve been making little plants to give to neighbors this way.

As you can see, we’ve been busy and enjoying the nice weather. I hope everyone is doing well and keeping safe.

A beautiful walk (in total isolation)

Well, the final hectic rush of Passover prep and the seder night are behind us. It’s time to enjoy some well-deserved rest, and today the kids and I managed to sneak to the lovely, lonely fields near our house again. Of course, we strictly adhered to social distancing and saw nobody but this little agricultural aircraft which my children got very excited about:

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It was such a beautiful afternoon. It had rained all weekend and everything – the earth, the plants, the sky – was delightfully fresh and there was a smell of honey in the air. Thousands upon thousands of flowers swaying in the light pleasant breeze. It was like walking in the midst of a lovely fairytale.

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The ladybug season is here, too!

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They had such fun exploring. It was honestly one of the most beautiful afternoons of my life.

As the shadows were lengthening, we went home in a roundabout way, making sure not to run into anyone.

I hope we can make it out there again soon. Stay safe, everyone!