Your guide to creating and living a healthier, less stressful life.
If you are a full-time stay-at-home mom or are a mother who works part-time and feel like you are about to crash and burn, know that you are not alone. You have a stressful job and there's science to prove it! Mothers who work full-time report better mental and physical health than stay-at-home moms or women who work part-time.
A new study from researchers at Penn State University and University of Akron found that women who go back to work after having children have more energy and mobility and less depression at the age of 40 than mothers who stay at home. But you could have told them that, couldn't you?
1. Set up routines. Routines sound boring and laborious, but in reality, routines help you have more free time to do other things that are fun and relaxing (just what every mom needs). Make a list of routines that have to be done daily and weekly. Focus in on the parts that cause you the most stress and list ways to get these things done more efficiently than you have been.
For example, if getting the kids off to school is one of your most stressful times of the day, list things that you can do the night before to ease your morning workload. Some ideas that may help are to pack lunches as you clean up the supper dishes, and lay out your outfit for the next day.
Is supper your most hectic time? Set a time earlier in the day to make parts of the meal ahead of time. A salad (with dressing on the side) or desert can be made while drinking your morning coffee. Invest in a cookbook that has uncomplicated, fast recipes (one of my favorites: Jamie Oliver's Meals In Minutes).
2. Sell the idea of teamwork to your children. Be enthusiastic and positive when you approach your children with a list of ideas about how they can help around the house. Give them a sense of empowerment and pride by allowing them to choose the tasks that they will be responsible for completing. Let them know that their hard work will bring them rewards because you will have more free time to do fun things with them.
Some ideas? Bring them to the ice cream shop after their Saturday morning tasks are completed. Take the kids out to a Friday night movie, go for a picnic lunch at their favorite park, or let take them for a swim at the local pool. You can celebrate their accomplishments by going out to dinner as a family.
3. Delegate, delegate, delegate. No, you are not slacking off on your job if you give others chores to do. In fact, for your children, you are helping them grow to be happier as adults. A 40-year-long Harvard University study followed 456 children over the 40 years. Those assigned chores from an early age grew into adults that were more successful in their careers and marriage, living healthier, happier lives than the children that did not have chores.
Some tasks kids can do: vacuum; take out the garbage; dust their rooms; water plants; make beds; wipe windows clean; walk the dog; empty dishwasher; set the table. You get the idea.
4. Use five minute segments to get tasks done. Don't wait for that block of two free hours to magically appear so that you can clean out all of your kitchen cupboards, fold the week's worth of laundry or clean the bathrooms. It won't happen. Grab that five minutes that does come your way, every day.
Wipe out one kitchen cupboard while you wait for the coffee to brew. Fold the laundry as soon as it comes out of the dryer. (It will only take you two minutes now rather than the half an hour later because you would have to iron what wrinkled while it sat in a pile waiting to be folded.) Wash out the bathroom sinks while you are talking on the phone with your friend.
5. Schedule time to have fun. That's right, schedule fun! You need fun times to re-energize. If you don't fit in time to enjoy your life, no one else will. Think of things that destress you, then schedule those things into your week first. Work everything else around that time.
Do you love going for lunch with a friend? Schedule a friend each Friday morning for a meeting at a nearby eatery. Do you want to learn how to swim like an Olympian? Sign up for swimming class. Love taking warm bubble baths while listening to soothing music? Make a date with yourself, your bath, and a "do not disturb" sign on your bathroom door.
It's your job as a stay-at-home mom to take care of others, but it's also your job to take care of yourself. Putting yourself first and finding ways to make your life less stressful is not about being selfish, it's about giving. Giving to yourself allows you to be a better mom because you will be happier, more fulfilled and more energized, and that's a mom any child would love to have.