How High-Achievers Can Enjoy Being Stay-At-Home Mums
One of the biggest challenges I face as a mama is the unceasing inner drive to be achieving things. If you’re internally motivated and always writing to-do lists and pursuing goals, then I’m sure you can relate.
Before my baby was born, I did a lot of things. I worked as an online marketing consultant and freelance copywriter. I built and managed my own website, wrote guest articles regularly, and wrote and published an ebook about small business marketing. I was also pursuing my dream of being a full-time author, by writing as often as I possibly could. I read and regularly took courses to improve my craft. I didn’t have spare time, I had do-stuff time. But I always knew I would be a stay-at-home mama. I imagined I would still be able to do it all - working from home and pursuing hobbies with a baby snoozing away in a bassinet.
Then I had my baby girl. It wasn’t as easy as I’d anticipated, and I was shocked when I realised I wouldn’t be able to write a novel with my baby playing happily on the floor beside me. I struggled with not being the ‘perfect’ mum I wanted to be, and with the fact my baby didn’t follow the rules as set by the popular parenting books (if I did ‘x’ then she should do ‘y’, right?). I felt like a failure.
On top of that, my mind was full of all the things I wanted to do with my time that I couldn’t do anymore. I dreamed about being able to work on a book, or take a course, or go to a conference, or even just read a novel. Everything seemed impossible with a baby in my arms (not to mention while being super sleep-deprived).
People often suggested I just focus on ‘being a mum, and do the other things later’. I could only follow that for a week at most before the inner niggling to be doing something else would start again. I’d listen and read things that inspired me personally, but then left me frustrated and resenting being a stay-at-home mum, because of my inability to just follow the inspiration.
Yet slowly, day by day, I learned to love life as a stay-at-home mum. For high-achieving mamas, you’ll know that doesn’t mean I gave up pursuing my dreams, it’s just not in our nature. While other mamas would watch tv episodes and catch up on sleep when their babies napped, I’d be vigorously pursuing some goal. I managed to write a whole book in two months, far quicker than it had taken me prior to having a baby. I became fitter and healthier than I’d ever been pre-baby. And I did it all while being completely present with my little one and loving the moments we shared together.
Now, I love being a stay-at-home mum because of the opportunities it gives me to achieve more than I could have without my baby. Here’s how.
12 Ways to Achieve Lots while being a Stay-At-Home Mama
1. Realise you can still get very significant things done, but not all at once. Pick 2 things to do in a day, not 10. Otherwise you will get frustrated and end up trying to multitask and getting nowhere. If you pick 2, you can just focus on those and tick them off the list, and feel so satisfied at achieving things while being a super present mum. This also means really working out your priorities. What is the most important thing to get done today?
2. The first and most important thing on your to-do list every day has to be 'spend time with baby'. Recognise your role as a mama is actually achieving something - you're raising a family. That's your primary role, that’s your most-important job. Also, if it’s physically written on your list, you'll feel justified spending time with your baby instead of frustrated you aren't doing other things. (Read Why Being a Mama is my Biggest Achievement)
3. Be disciplined. Use your baby’s nap time to work on your project, not make a cuppa and scroll through Facebook. The moment that baby's asleep, use your time well. It’s all you’ve got now, but if you use it well, it’ll be more than enough. Learn to be more productive and focused in half an hour than you used to be in three hours of focused time. Just go straight to the main job, do it, focus on it, and don't allow yourself relax/distraction time until you've done half an hour on your project. (Read Tips for Freelancing from Home with a Baby for more productivity tips for stay-at-home mums.)
4. Have weekends. If you were working full time, you would have regular days off from work. When you're a stay-at-home mum you don't get a weekend off from your role, but you need to give yourself a weekend off from achieving things. Be super relaxed and do other things on the weekend, so you can focus on the weekdays and still keep achieving. If you try to pursue goals all the time, you’ll burnout just like anyone else would, and far quicker, as this motherhood thing is extremely exhausting.
5. Do things you couldn't do if you were working. So, for example, you have lots of listening opportunities. You can play podcasts or books in the background all day long. You could practise learning a language. You could learn or study things you wouldn't have time to do if you were working - self-paced online courses are great, or even just self-paced learning through apps, websites or programs. I used to listen to audiobooks while nursing my newborn baby, and as a result, I listened to a broad range of classic novels I wouldn't have read otherwise. If I was working, I'd have felt I had to pursue career-related goals, but as a stay-at-home mama, I have the freedom to pursue personal goals too.
6. Be creative in how you do things. You can write, read and plan/think in creative ways. Listen to audiobooks or podcasts instead of reading books or blogs (if that’s easier). Plan things, brainstorm and take notes in your mind while you're rocking your baby to sleep or out walking. There are even voice-text apps, so if you’re out walking your baby in the pram, you could write a book (or achieve some other task on your list) by speaking into your earphone mic on your phone! This is really about making the most of what we’ve got - for me, that was lots of listening time while still being physically present with my baby.
7. Get time without the baby. If you can, and not everyone can, make the most of daycare and babysitters. If you have one day a week to work on your personal goals, then it’s easier to forget about those goals the rest of the week. I didn’t have this option, but I know many mamas who use a day a week to do a course, or start a small hobby business. One thing I did was make the most of the time when my husband was home from work. He’d look after the baby for an hour every afternoon while I had time to myself.
8. Exercise regularly. This makes a massive difference. Exercise helps boost your mood and energy levels, and also helps you work through all the thoughts and frustrations going on inside. It’s essential ‘me time’, which us high-achievers need for quality thinking time. I try to go for a walk every day, as it simply motivates me and helps me to refocus. Most of all, exercising will keep you feeling good about yourself, which is super important if you want to stay energised and happy.
9. Know there’s no such thing as a perfect parent. What you are doing is perfect, it’s what the rest of us do, too - the best we can at the time. Don’t let your role as a mama be how you judge your level of achievement. There’s no such thing as a perfect mama, or a perfect baby, and the pursuit of either will always leave you unfulfilled.
10. Define your own success and stick to it. Don’t get talked into doing things you don’t really care about, because your time is more precious than others realise. For example, rather than spending your baby’s nap time baking something to take to mothers’ group like the other mums do, use it to tick something off your list, and take something store-bought to mothers’ group instead. Other people’s ideas of success are different to yours, and you’ve got to stick to what is going to help you feel proud and fulfilled, not try and win others’ approval, or get swept up in things that aren’t that important to you.
11. Include your baby in your dreams. What that means is, pursue family goals, not just personal goals. All the motivational stuff out there focuses on ‘me, me, me’. They talk about your passions, dreams, skills, hobbies and careers. It’s pretty hard to find resources for high-achievers or entrepreneurs that tell us to be good mothers first. Everything seems to focus on achieving things in spite of being a mama, not because we’re a mama. The fact is, our culture centres around ourselves - but that’s just not what motherhood is. We’ve always had our own goals and dreams, but now it’s time to come up with some dreams you have for you as a mother. What sort of mama do you want to be, what sort of memories do you want to create, what dreams do you have for your family? What sort of life do you want to have with your baby? Have short term goals and long term goals, goals which focus on the times you will be together with your family.
Now, when you are present with your family, you’ll be able to tick off goals just as much as when you get time to yourself.
12. Allow yourself to find new dreams through motherhood. For example, this blog wasn’t something I ever could have done before having a baby. It’s a dream that’s formed along the way. I recognise now I am being exposed to so many opportunities I never would have imagined, simply because I am a mama. I have new friends and networks, go to new places, research new topics and more. I’ve allowed myself to have new dreams, too.
Allow yourself to see the ways being a mama has positively impacted your ability to achieve new things you never would have achieved otherwise. It’s a really great exercise and always helps me remember to appreciate being a stay-at-home mum.
Those are my tips, and they really help me whenever I start to resent the limitations being a mother puts on my lifestyle (and my ability to pursue personal goals). They also have helped me to achieve far more than I would have, had I not been a mama! I hope they do the same for you.
What are your tips for managing your personal dreams and goals while being a stay-at-home mama?