how to get out of your sahm rut

Being a stay-at-home mom was never my dream. Like in a lot of families in today’s complicated American economy, it became clear as a first-time preggo that it didn’t make much sense for me to return to work once the baby was born. My salary would hardly cover daycare and commuting costs, with nothing left over to actually have fun with. Even though I came to it by circumstance, I found I actually liked being home with my daughter.

Watching all the milestones unfold in real time and bonding with her was such a joy. I also didn’t hate living in leggings and oversized t-shirts after seven years as a fashion journalist where heels and skinny jeans reigned supreme. Here’s what they don’t tell you though: Being a stay-at-home mom can be isolating.

No matter how much you adore your children, having no adults around to talk to all day is hard. The monotony of laundry, dishes, diapers, and meltdowns can start to wear on a person. And not earning an income can set up an uncomfortable dynamic when it comes to finances. I speak to SAHMs a lot about the realities of this lifestyle, and I always offer the advice that you can beat the feelings of loneliness and worthlessness, you just need to take active steps to do so.

Get Ready in the Morning

It might seem silly, but it’s not. Taking five minutes in the morning to put yourself together—whether that’s showering and drying your hair, putting on makeup, and/or getting dressed in an actual outfit (no PJ’s!) gives me a sense of assurance. Even if we are not leaving the house, I always like to at least change out of what I wore to bed and apply a little makeup. Not only do I feel better about myself when I’m put-together in some capacity, but I like to think it shows my girls that I care about myself.

Make Some Mom Friends

Easier said than done? No way! It’s actually not as bad as you think, even if you do feel shy and awkward like a lot of SAHM’s I know. A great step is to join a local mommy group on Facebook or sign up for MeetUp to find other moms in your area. There is even an app for this now—Peanut—that’s almost like a dating app for mommy friends.

Or, try the old fashioned way and say “hi” to strangers! It takes guts, but I have met some of my closest friends with all of the above methods. Having a friend down the street who is in your same situation helps a lot with the loneliness and also make the mundane days fly by. Make a date and go on adventures together. Invite her over for coffee and let the kids play. Your life will change, I promise.

Find a Free Class

A lot comes down to money as a stay-at-home parent. There have been so many times I’ve felt frustrated at an inability to get out because everything is expensive. But search Google and ask around town to find programs at local churches, synagogues, and community centers.

Or get creative! Some of my newer mom friends and I have decided to put together a mommy-and-me yoga group of our own in someone’s living room using YouTube instead of shelling out for expensive classes. The goal is just to get out and have some fun with your kids and some other women.

Get Outside

Sunshine and fresh air are so good for the soul. They’re important for our tiny humans, too. Slather on your sunscreen, pile the kids in a stroller or baby carrier, and head outside. Whether you are going to a park, hiking trail, playground, or just around the block, leaving the house and moving your body will feel so good.

In colder months, I try to still get out once a day even if it’s just for a trip to Target or the local pet shop. Kids crave a change of scenery, and we need it even more than they do.

Start a Side Hustle

I’ve always worked part-time from home, but especially now that I have two children, my side gigs are important. For me, what works is a blend of intellectual (freelance writing) and pure fun (selling makeup). Look into turning your passion or skills into a little extra cash. Maybe that means selling crafts on Etsy or at local markets, doing transcription or customer service for a company you love, etc. Not only does it help your spirits to feel like “more than just a mom,” but it feels great having extra money in your pocket whether to help with bills or just have some fun with the kids.

Make Time for Mindfulness

It’s easy to forget who you are in the repetition of daily tasks. Pretty soon you turn around and can’t remember the last time you did anything for yourself. I find I’m always jotting down my daughters’ milestones on my iPhone, but keeping a journal of my own thoughts, feelings, and accomplishments has been important too.

Not one for journaling? Meditation has numerous benefits for all who practice: decreased stress, better sleep, and more consistent mood being some of my favorites. Taking five minutes to unwind your mind at the end of the day will be good for you, your partner, and your kids. Prayer, yoga, and bubble baths are other great alternatives.

Take Time Off

As much as I love our family time on the weekends, I try to take at least a few hours off every Saturday. And one full day a few times a year. My husband gets great bonding time in with our girls, and I can relax, refresh, and return feeling more like myself. Whether it’s a full-on spa day or just a chance to clean the house from top to bottom without distractions, all moms need a break but stay-at-home moms never get a minute to themselves, so it’s especially important for us.

The bottom line is this: you are valued, important, and amazing. Take care of your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Treat yourself how you’d want your kids to be treated. Try at least one thing on this list, and you’ll start to feel the rut disappearing.

Photo: Getty