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.

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!

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!

Quarantine: the whole world turns to homeschooling

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One aspect of the coronavirus crisis and the ensuing quarantine is that being a work-at-home, homeschooling family is now totally mainstream. In fact, those who have been doing this already feel like they are one step ahead.

Of course, the current situation poses some additional challenges. I don’t know how things currently stand in every country, but around here, pretty much everything is closed except for supermarkets, pharmacies, and other essential services, and the guidelines make it clear that people should socialize as little as possible with anyone outside their immediate family. So it’s definitely not a time for getting together with friends. It might be hard for some children, but on the other hand, it’s also an opportunity to strengthen sibling ties.

Nevertheless, being locked up at home can make people stir-crazy in no time, and young children (and their parents) might soon find themselves climbing the walls. 

We, personally, have the huge advantage of a yard where my children can go out whenever the weather is nice and play safely. Gardening is also a great way to keep busy. Plenty of weeding to do at this time of the year! Those who are confined to an apartment no doubt have it much harder.

Regardless, I would advise anyone to get out (safely) as much as possible. Take a day trip out of town and walk in the fields, climb a hill, hike down a river – whatever you have in the area and whatever the weather permits. We live on the outskirts of a small town so we have several nice hiking directions around here where we can get on foot and are unlikely to meet anyone.

This is a good time to organize all those arts and crafts supplies you might have forgotten you even had. I organized the book/toy/craft shelves today and I can tell you I found some hidden treasures such as new packs of glitter pens, crayons, stickers, and more. Art paper and coloring books had been unearthed too. Everything is a lot more inviting now that it’s neat and orderly.

When everyone is at home a lot more than they had been used to, it can be easy to slide into letting the kids have a lot more screen time than is healthy for them. I totally understand this and there’s nothing wrong with a good movie or some games, but I have really noticed that excess of screen time brings all sorts of issues such as crabbiness, difficulty to concentrate on other things, lack of motivation for anything but passive entertainment, and sleeping troubles.

Sleep is another matter I would encourage everyone to keep under the bounds of healthy discipline. Personally I can tell you that nothing exhausts me like having everyone stay up late. So, while my older girls have reached the age when it’s difficult to actually get them to fall asleep if they don’t feel like it, I normally tell them to get into pajamas and into bed with a book.

Finally, it’s important to count our blessings. Most of us aren’t in any real physical danger. We have electricity and running water, full refrigerators and pantries, and many ways to keep busy and connect with others. Think of people have gone through wars or live in extreme conditions and have been snowed in for many months – it really does help to remember that comparatively, we really have it good.

So just keep your days simple. Spend time with your family. Hug them a lot. Get out when you can. Pull out a board game. And remember, you are not alone. ♥