Whether you’re ticking down the weeks of maternity leave or transitioning to your new role as a stay-at-home mom, those long days at home can get hairy. Here’s how to stay sane.
Your first few weeks at home with a new baby pass by in a flash, and there’s undoubtedly no place else you’d rather be. After a certain amount of time, though, it isn’t unusual to begin getting a bit antsy. Follow these tips to keep it together (and keep from losing your mind) when you’re home all day with a little one.
While not the same as face-to-face contact, social media can help new moms feel less isolated by providing someone to “talk” to at the punch of a button (or swipe of a screen). Just be wary of falling victim to “mommy envy”—you know, when your neighbor’s sister’s best friend’s life looks so dreamy in every photo she posts that you start second-guessing your own. No one’s life is as perfect as it looks on Instagram! Also, make sure not to let these cyber connections replace opportunities to interact with real humans sitting across the table from you.
Flip the switch
For many of us, turning on the TV in the morning is almost instinctual. First, you catch up on the news. Next, you get sucked into a movie (or a marathon of The Walking Dead). Then, you realize House Hunters is on … While the background noise can be nice, it can also be a major distraction and drain your day before you even get started. So make an effort to back away from the TV, internet, smartphone or whatever your electronic crutch is, and enjoy a little peace and quiet with your baby. If the sound of silence makes you nuts, opt for your favorite music turned down low. When it’s time to tackle those chores, flip to something that will get your blood pumping. You might find that folding laundry while singing and dancing for your baby is quite entertaining.
Take a trip
The problem with actually getting out of the house every day is that it isn’t always affordable. Those little trips can quickly add up. (Let’s be honest: Window shopping is only fun for so long.) Find some free or inexpensive activities to enjoy on those days you simply can’t stand your four walls a second longer. Because your baby isn’t doing much, many of the options that will be available to you in the future—story time at the library, for example—aren’t going to be much fun at the moment. Instead, take the opportunity to do what you like to do! Look for free or discounted days at nearby museums or attractions. You can stroll peacefully through the exhibits while your tot hangs out in the carrier or snoozes in the stroller—a luxury you likely won’t be afforded once he begins toddling on his own.
Extend an invitation
You might be covered in spit-up and dishes might be piled up in the sink, but your friends still love you. Invite a gal pal over for coffee, an easy lunch (who doesn’t love a good sandwich?) or just a chat. Even though you’re exhausted and might be tempted to zone out on the couch for hours on end, a friendly visit can help bring you out of your zombie state—and you may even realize how much you’ve missed socializing. Many people assume that you’re busy with the new baby and wait for you to make the first move, so make it. With a little luck, you might be able to work it out so that you score some conversation and a nap. (Now that’s a good day.)
Nothing is worse than being stuck at home all day in a cluttered mess of a house on three hours of sleep. You have no energy to clean, and yet you cannot stand the sight of one more mess. What to do? Recruit help. Take care of what you reasonably can during the day, and ask your partner to help get things orderly in the evenings. It doesn’t have to be white glove-worthy—housework generally takes a backseat to parenting in the early months—but making things a little less cluttered can make your surroundings (and your days in them) more serene. You might also be pleased by how many friends and family members are willing to come by and pitch in with the chores. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
Find your voice
Texting is a primary (and convenient) form of communication these days, but remember wall phones? With cords? That wasn’t so long ago! Hearing the sound of someone’s voice can go a long way toward pulling you out of an at-home funk. So make a call. Phone a friend. Have a conversation that doesn’t involve typing. You’ll be glad you did.
Let in the sun
Many, many years ago, when I was adjusting to life as a stay-at-home mom with my wee babe, someone gave me the simplest advice: Throw back the curtains, and let in the light —every single morning. It quickly became habit, and now you’ll never catch me in the dark (or under artificial lighting) while the sun is out. I instantly feel better when there’s sunlight streaming through my windows. Not only does it help you and your baby solidify your circadian rhythms (meaning sleep for all—hooray!), sunlight is also known to improve mood and reduce anxiety. It can even boost learning potential, which is a pretty positive perk considering you and your tiny tot are both picking up new skills by the minute.
It’s been said a million times: The days are long, but the years are short. Nothing could be more true. Don’t feel bad when you have a trying (or particularly stir crazy) day—it’s normal. But also don’t let the long days fly by and miss opportunities to enjoy each stage of your baby’s life. Spend a little time every day bonding with your new addition —read aloud, sing softly to him or just tell him about his family—and enjoy plenty of cuddles and kisses. This too shall pass … and all too quickly.