Before I had kids, I always thought I’d be a stay-at-home mom. I loved being around kids. At family events I’d always be the one entertaining and taking care of my younger cousins. When I was with friends who already had babies, I’d be begging to hold them. I dreamt of the day when I got to be a mom and hoped I’d be lucky enough to be able to stay at home with them until they reached school age, raising them into the most perfect, gentle, kind-hearted humans that my (four) kids would be.
Fast-forward three years and so much has changed. I absolutely adore these pint-sized dictators humans and wouldn’t trade them for the world, but I also realized that (a) taking care of little people day in and day out is waaaay more mentally (and physically) exhausting than I ever could have imagined, and (b) that I would miss so much of the old me. That part of me that did things for myself, had hobbies like art and design, challenged myself with learning new skills like HTML or how to use an SLR.
So I started this Instagram (and subsequent blog) journey 11 months ago to give myself a creative outlet, to connect with a community of moms in the same boat as me, and to challenge myself mentally in a way I haven’t done since I stepped out of the corporate world and into the world of diapers, never-ending piles of laundry, and tantrums over who gets the red ball and who has to “make do” with the identical-in-every-other-way blue ball. This past year has been quite the journey, a lot of ups and downs as I learned how to juggle this new and exciting (but ultimately very time-consuming) blogging business with full-time parenting (and household) duties. For anyone thinking of making that jump as well (or already in the deep end and wondering how to possible stay afloat), here are my top 5 tips for being a working, stay-at-home mom:
[ 1 ] Realize you can’t do it all
This is probably the hardest thing for me to accept. I’m a perfectionist at heart and want to be able to do everything I set my heart to and do it well. There are only 24 hours in a day and at least a few of those need to be spent sleeping. It’s just not possible to do everything if you’re trying to take care of your kid(s), keep up with housework, and work full-time from home. Those three things would keep three separate people busy enough as is, so do yourself a favour and accept that something’s gotta give. For me that means the house is messier and dirtier than I would like (despite appearances), we eat more take-out than I care to admit, and Isabelle watches a bit of TV most days.
[ 2 ] Get help
It takes a village, as they say. Don’t be afraid to admit you need help. I’m super lucky to have my parents nearby and able to help out a lot – they take the kids a couple days a week and, without that time, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do. (Mom and dad, if you’re reading, THANK YOU! You are seriously my lifesavers.) If you don’t have family nearby or they aren’t able to help as much, hire some help. A nanny, a part-time babysitter, daycare, a housekeeper. Anything to ease your workload a bit. If you don’t have the money for that, arrange a babysitting exchange with a good friend: for a few hours or even a few days each week, you take each other’s kids so you both get some time to do other things.
[ 3 ] Work while the kids are sleeping
This one is probably a no brainer because, really, working (at home) whilst the kids are awake is more-or-less impossible. (At least for me.) I can take photos and craft when they’re awake but if I try to sit down and work on my laptop (the bulk of my work), they object big time. Isabelle no longer naps but we enforce quiet time for 45 minutes each day (she reads books in bed) so that gives me a bit of time during the day. And of course there are several hours each night after the kids are in bed where I’m usually working.
[ 4 ] Involve your kids
If it’s at all possible, involve your kids in your work. I take a lot of photos of my two, so clearly they’re very much involved in that aspect. But I also involve them in anything hands-on by giving them a “task” so they feel like they’re helping. (Whether they’re actually helping or not is a completely different story but as long as they think they’re helping.) It might mean that whatever you’re doing will take twice or even three times as long, but it’s better than not getting it done at all, right? (This is why I involve my kids in all my cooking. It’s the only way it gets done.)
[ 5 ] Take care of your health
This is absolutely the most important tip. Working as a stay-at-home mom means you’ll be stretched to your limits each and every day. You’re taking on more than a typical workload so you absolutely need your body (and brain!) to be able to keep up. That means getting enough sleep, getting a bit of exercise each day (even if it’s just pushing the stroller to the park and back), and making sure your body gets the nutrients it needs.
I started taking Adrien Gagnon Go Omega Cognitive Performance about a month ago. It’s an Omega-3 supplement that supports cognitive health and brain function (because we all know mom brain is very real). According to Adrien Gagnon, DHA is the most abundant fatty acid in the brain and is the primary Omega-3 fatty acid to contribute to the development of the nervous system in an unborn baby. (It’s one of the supplements I took religiously whilst pregnant with both my kiddos.) Omega-3 fatty acids are such an incredibly important part of our diet at any age and play a variety of roles in the brain. According to Adrien Gagnon as well as the ever trusted Google Doctor, Omega-3 fatty acids can:
- improve brain function
- assure good brain, eye, and nerve development (during pregnancy and early life)
- diminish risks associated to the aging of the brain (like alzheimer’s disease)
- fight depression and anxiety
- reduce symptoms of ADHD in children
- improve mental disorders
- improve sleep
There are a host of other benefits, just check out Authority Nutrition’s list. I’m focusing mainly on functions of the brain and nervous system because that is what this Adrien Gagnon Omega-3 supplement is specifically formulated for.
Now have I noticed a difference? According to LiveStrong.com, it takes about 2-3 weeks for the benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids to start working but it takes a bit longer (2-3 months) to reach optimum levels. It hasn’t been quite that long for me yet, but I have to say, I have noticed a difference in my sleep and concentration. I’ve been going to bed a bit earlier without actively doing anything differently. I attribute that to being able to focus on my work a little better and ergo being able to head off to bed sooner. So longer sleep plus better sleep quality (I’m definitely tossing and turning a bit less) means the next day I’m able to concentrate more and, again, get everything done quicker.
What’s great about these supplements is that it’s an enteric softgel, which essentially means that it’s coated with something to help prevent it from dissolving in the stomach and rather allows it to dissolve in the small intestine. I don’t know about you, but the fishy aftertaste of all the other Omega-3 capsules I’ve tried is something I really don’t like. These ones don’t have that whatsoever and I truly believe that’s one of the reasons I’ve been able to stick with it this past month (and plan on sticking with it for months and years to come). Their fish oil is also certified “Friend of the Sea”, which means it comes from responsible fishery and satisfies very strict environmental criteria. It’s always nice to support a company that takes its environmental impact seriously.
For all you moms (and dads) who are juggling multiple “jobs”, what is your biggest piece of advice?