How To Become A SAHM (Part 3) : The New Reality
If you’re at home with your kids, you know that life isn’t always what you imagined. To get here, I hope the two of you really discussed and got on the same page about this decision. This is not something to jump into without really talking it through. After that decision was come to together, there are steps to take to get to this moment. If you got to step 4, you are here. The long awaited goal, the culmination of months (or longer even) of hard work and now you are a one-income family.
Before coming home, I’m sure you imagined lots of things: cuddles on the couch, coloring for long stretches of time, making cupcakes together. I know, because I imagined similarly before I was a SAHM. But the reality of life at home and what you are responsible for to keep your family organized and surviving is much different. What does it look like?
Let’s start with the perception of a SAHM.
Those who have never done it and even those super supportive husbands (ahem, Hubs) have an image in their minds of how our days go. Something along these lines:
Casual days, consisting of meals of your dreams every time you eat and TV for as long as you want. That TV time is shows you love, of course. Following that are the ever steady sleeping kids, who take naps like pros and wake up in the best of moods after. Errands and grocery shopping are no problem, and leave plenty of time to handle other items on the to-do list. Laundry and cleaning the house are simple tasks, leaving plenty of time to prepare dinner before the Hubs walks in.
This idea of what our days look like leaves the unbeliever flabbergasted as to why the house looks like a tornado ran through and the dinner is still frozen in the sink by the time Dad walks in.
So, let’s talk about what the reality of a SAHM is.
Morning comes early for many moms, usually between 6 & 7 am. The little minions are desperate for food, because the loooong night was too much for them to last. So crying and yelling “EAT!!!” at the top of their lungs is the mandatory response of at least one kid. The table is a total mess after the kids are done, but on we go to the next step. Dressing and teeth brushing is a must (though I’ll admit I miss their teeth more often than I should).
Chores and games fill the morning, some of it being the fun filled activity we hoped for, other parts being a referee type atmosphere for us moms, keeping the kids from drawing on the other’s face and stopping the 3 year old from playing the “squeeze the 1 year old’s hand until he screams” game. Then follows lunch, which hopefully they all want to eat and not throw, then to naptime.
Some days, they sleep like little angels. Many days, they fuss, play, and run around their rooms the whole time, filling naptime with spankings (for those of us pro- that) and yelling “go to sleep!! ” in a desperate attempt to have any quiet time.
Afternoons are similar to the mornings, but included in it also: hurriedly grabbing dinner out of the freezer to hopefully thaw enough before 5pm to cook it, re-cleaning the house again, only to clean one more time before the Hubs walks in, and re-washing another load of laundry you forgot to move to the dryer and now it smells.
Then Hubs walks in, completely unaware of the constant chaos that has been part of the day.
This whole reality comes into focus for the husbands when one things occurs:
Mama gets sick.
Whether it’s a wisdom tooth removal (our situation) or a stomach bug, when Dad has to step in for a whole day, his view of the SAHM comes into focus and they understand our weakness and failures that keep the house from being perfect. I recommend you (talking to the the husbands here) go ahead and see what life at home really looks like. You can’t get that perfect home and organized family just because Mama is at home. We have our own responsibilities to keep the family in order, and they aren’t in the same priority list as yours.
So, see the reality of life at home, know that the chaos brings great love and comfort to your family even amidst the messy home or piles of unfolded laundry.
Now, all of us at home, we have quite a list of responsibilities.
To keep your one-income family, you have many things you have to do.
- Take care of the kids
- Keep the house up
- Master schedule keeper
- Groceries and errands to run
- Full partner in the budget
Let me explain what I mean by each of these, and how we have handled it.
- Kids, the reason we want to be at home.I’ll start by saying that I don’t, by any realm of reality, mean that the husbands are now not responsible for the kids. BUT as the one at home, you will have much more time to be the hands on person in the lives of your children.
This is huge, as you have more chance to speak truth and love into those kids.
You are the one who has to deal with the daily discipline, the meltdowns, the cuddles, the arts and crafts activities. All the reasons you want to be home, rolled up into a sticky, sweet nose-booping mess we call our littles.
- House-keeping. Bugh. Seriously, the part of my life that is not enjoyable.But, nevertheless, we are responsible for keeping the house from falling down around us. The laundry, the kitchen, bathroom cleaning, toy sorting… you name it, we have to do this.I’ve searched for a schedule that seems to work for me and am still not there. But the key is to keep working on it. And to embrace letting the kids help. They may not be able to meet your standards, but it’s worth letting them learn while helping you out.Big thing to remember: perfection in the home with littles is impossible to maintain and trying to will set you up for failure or missing out on the reason you are home, the kids. Be realistic and work at it every day. And ask Hubs for help in the evenings if you can’t catch up.
- Master schedule keeper. This is important and overlooked by so many people. You set the schedule, meaning how much you get the family involved in.It’s easy to want to do too much when you first come home.Don’t.Take your time, settle into what your new routine looks like. And after, then decide one item at a time. Don’t let your kids be in too many things. Sure, they love the activities, but you lose all that time spent together as a family because you want them to “socialize” and be involved.Kids need down time, time spent quiet. So do you. Be extremely careful to only become involved in things that your family truly wants to be involved in. Running around from activity to activity is not what any family needs.
- Errands. Groceries, general shopping, things that come up that need to be taken care of.These are not always easy to fit in, especially with smaller kids to load and unload. But taking them one thing at a time is the only way to not lose your mind when you need to run around.This being done during the day and week allows for your family to enjoy the nights and weekends instead of running around doing them all weekend long.But as a mom of three kids who are only 4 years apart total, I have a tip: If it’s overwhelming for you or the kids to do all the errands at one time, take it on errand a day. I don’t usually go more than on place with my kids in a day, because they get overstimulated and I get frustrated. Take it at your own speed.
- Full partner in the budget. This is the one that is usually over looked. Not just a little, usually totally.Being a one-income family, you make money for the family by saving money. You have to be a stickler for the budget, constantly looking for ways to save and cut it. This job takes some getting used to. I, for one, a not a finance/numbers minded individual. Hard to believe, right? But nevertheless, to meet our first goal of being debt free, I had to be an active part in tracking our expenses. How did I do that?
Used a white board.
Yep, just a simple white board like this and I wrote our highest budgeted categories: Shopping, Restaurants, Groceries, Gas, and at the bottom, Total Left
I’m a very visual person, so this helped be able to really keep us in check and focused. The most important part of it for us at the time was writing in big red marker: Total debt: $XXXXXXX. This was essential in keeping us mad at our debt. We wanted to get rid of it, and the only way it was going to happen was to stay angry and keep it in front of us at all times.
Budget meeting, once a month.
I know, this sounds silly. But seriously, how am I supposed to active in our budget and finances if I have no clue where our money is going. I didn’t like talking about it all the time, usually ending up zoning out and then we would argue because I wasn’t listening.
This created our deal. Our deal was simple. I give him 1 hr, unrestricted, full-focus to tell me everything he wanted to tell me about our finances. In exchange, I didn’t have to really listen if he wanted to talk about all the details throughout the month.
So, every month, I gave him one hour to completely download all our finances to me. We discussed next month’s budget, any extras that may appear (like a birthday party or Christmas presents). I listened, asked questions, learned more than I ever thought I’d want to know about our budget, finances, and the finance world in general.
But there is a catch. Just because you give him the hour (or her, if she’s the budget buster of the marriage), doesn’t mean you don’t do budget activities throughout the month. You still have to stay focused on sticking to the budget, and that takes work. But only one hr a month of full finance discussion.
Anyone can handle that, right?
These were the two big ways I stayed involved in our finances, as a partner. Why is this so important? Because the person in the marriage that is number focused feels alone in what they are doing for the family if you don’t talk and work together. Maybe you feel like you do things, but this is an action that isn’t too hard to do. And in turn, it will make the two of you work harder and feel in tune for meeting your goals.
I’m sure this isn’t what you imagined when you wanted to be a one-income family. Even the most realistic person doesn’t know all that goes into a day at home, until you’ve done it. This is a huge transition for your family, but I promise, it’s totally worth it! That doesn’t mean it’s easy. You will fail, many times (ask the Hubs about how often our house was a total wreck) and then you will figure out what works for your family. Because that’s why you want to do this.
For your family.