10 Survival Tips for Stay at Home Moms

10 Survival Tips for Stay at Home Moms | Houston Moms Blog

I almost gave a total stranger a hug yesterday.

 At a Houston neighborhood park, I met a stay-at-home mom that I’ll never forget, a mom who could have used a hug.

She had frizzy brown hair in a bulbous bun atop her head.  She was wearing gray spandex pants and a magenta exercise tank top.  Her four boys rolled around near her feet.  They looked like Labrador puppies frolicking in the sunshine. 

I learned that her two youngest boys were only eleven months apart.  “Eleven months apart,” she repeated.  I can still hear her voice, monotone and flat.  She pointed at her youngest boy, who was laying tummy-time-style at her feet.  “An accident,” she said, almost whispering.  When I asked if she was getting any sleep at night the mom informed me that her littlest was still waking up three to four times a night. 

I watched her incredulously.  She sat on the fake grass, her legs akimbo.  She unpacked a bag of fast food for her boys.  Her hands worked deftly to distribute it, as if she were tossing out cards in a gin rummy game.

I asked if she had relatives in Houston to help with her kids.  “No one,” she told me.  “I have no one.  My husband’s at work all day… Most of my friends are back at work already.” I saw the drooping of her shoulders and detected a heaviness that I recognized. Her chin began to quiver and she looked away.

I regretted having asked her so many questions.  I hunted for some nugget of encouragement to say to her.  But, I came up with zilch. 

I knew her struggle, at least half of it. 

As I left the park with my two kids, I looked her in the eyes.  I managed half a smile and said, “Have a good day.  Good luck.”  My goodbye sounded empty and lacking.  It was so far from the bit of hope I wished I could have given her. 

I should have hugged her. But I didn’t even know her name.

For us stay-at-home moms, life is a hurricane.  But, instead of rain drops falling, it’s a downpour of demands from husbands and children.  We’re battered by unspoken demands too, those of housework and cooking and teaching and disciplining.

We know that we are the best ones to raise our children.  But, many times the diaper-changing, tummy-filling, and tantrum-calming are overwhelming.

Part of us craves the fun, carefree lives we had pre-kids.  We’ve forgotten what used to bring us joy.  Old hobbies lie dormant.  What did we even used to do when we had “free time” anyway?  Today’s time and attention belong to little beings whose survival depends on us.

On rough days we bemoan the fact {not in front of the kids} that we aren’t working a “real” job.  We miss adult conversations.  We ache to sit in silence, in a room free of banana peels stuck to the couch and crayon on the walls.

It’s not all bad.  We do have moments of happiness and laughter.  It’s just that sometimes we envy our working mom friends.  Our days replay the same monotonous dirge.  The motherhood machine repeats the same cycle: wake, watch the kids, feed three times, cook, clean, put to bed. Sleep. Repeat.

I’ve ascended my way out of these doldrums.  I have discovered salvation as a stay-at-home mom.  Like tiny lifesavers on an ocean horizon, some things have rescued me time and time again.  Stay-at-home mom friends have told me what saves them too.

Here are my top 10 survival tips for stay-at-home moms.  I’m sure that many moms already practice these.   Perhaps they can be of help to a struggling mom somewhere.

  1. Get cardio exercise at least once a week. Exercise releases feel-good chemicals and alleviates depression.  Even if we are too out-of-shape to run half a mile, we can speed-walk.  Cardio exercise is best but walking is great too.  I speed-walk when my husband can watch our kids.
  2. See another friend face-to-face once a week. Phone calls don’t help enough as does face-to-face interaction.  We need social connections.  Stay-at-home moms should schedule a face-to-face meeting with a friend at least once a week for chatting, laughing, complaining, etc.
  3. Dress up nicely each day. We don’t have to paint our face each morning but nice jeans, a presentable top, and a bit of jewelry can make us feel confident and self-empowered.  Research backs this up.  It sounds silly, but moms can always lay something out in the evening to wear the next day.
  4. Remember your hobby or get one. What gave us joy pre-kids? What was your hobby before becoming a mom?  Fit in some time for a hobby.  Good ideas are journaling, gardening, and cooking.  I have a mom friend who refurbishes old furniture.  I write, garden, and craft my own greeting cards.
  5. Establish a household down-time. Have some time when you just do nothing.  Or you can read, rest or TV-watch while your kids are occupied. Train your kids to rest on their own, do puzzles, crafts, or TV-watch while you recharge.  It helps not to have to entertain them all the time.
  6. Take advantage of relatives and close friends nearby. My Houston mother-in-law is happy to watch my kids occasionally to give me two hours to myself.  Take advantage of relatives or close friends who offer to watch your kids so you can have some “alone” time.
  7. Let your kids burn off energy at the park. The more kids burn off energy outdoors, the less they misbehave at home.  The park is a good place to meet other moms too and make new mom friends.
  8. Check out your local library story-time. Houston is peppered with libraries that regularly have a toddler and preschool story time.  Check the websites of your local library for this scheduled time.  My toddler son is obsessed with the puppets at our library’s story time.  I get to relax while my kids enjoy the show.
  9. Give your husband a daily household chore. Many of us don’t have the luxury of a maid.  For the stay-at-home mom it’s impossible to keep up with all the housework. Ask your husband to pick up one daily chore in order to help out.  My husband takes out the trash/recycling and washes some dishes.
  10. For parenting issues/problems ask your pediatrician or find a good parenting website.Our pediatrician recommended a parenting website for some problems I was having with my daughter.  I was surprised to receive some real help from a website called ahaparenting.com.  There I found recommendations for the exact parenting difficulty I was having with my daughter.  Even better, this website helped me understand how kids think.

I don’t know if I’ll ever see the mom who could have used a hug that day at the park.  I hope she will find some tiny lifesavers like the ones that have saved me.


About Catherine W.

Catherine hails from Cleveland, Ohio but has spent the last seven years in Houston. She is a seasoned world-traveler who learned the Russian language {in Russia} at 25. She is a teacher, cancer-survivor, and mommy of 2. After a 16-year break from creative writing she was surprised to wake up one day and start writing again. Now her pen won’t stop. Although she misses the 4 seasons of the Midwest, she admits Houston is a nice place to live {except for the heat}.


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