Being a SAHM is not an easy job and the following are some things I learned through my experience and also tips other SAHM shared with me.
1. Schedule and Routine Helps
I find life much easier to manage if I have a ‘time-table’. There are set days for different types of chores, set sequence of doing the chores throughout the day. I don’t plan right down to the minutes but I generally like to keep to doing about the same things at the same day/ time in roughly the same sequence.
Similarly, I also try to feed the kids at about the same time everyday and let the younger ones nap at the same time everyday. This is actually a healthy habit for them. Moreover, routines and familiarity are good for kids and they welcome it.
2. Plan in Empty Slots
With kids around, it is quite difficult to keep things too rigid. Hence, although it is useful to have a set routine, it is important to remember to maintain some flexibility. Otherwise, it will be even more stressful and frustrating for you to try to keep to a rigid schedule when it is supposed to make life easier for you. One good way of maintaining flexibility is to deliberately slot in empty slots in your schedule. E.g. you can keep certain mornings/afternoons free, or 1-2 days out of the week free. That way, when unexpected, out-of-the-ordinary things crop up, you can have the spare slots to deal with them without affecting the rest of your regular chores. The empty slots give you leeway to shift things around.
For me, when there are no unexpected things to handle, and the empty slots are really free, I make use of the empty slots to rest, do things I like to do (e.g. read a book), or spend some nice, one-to-one time with the kids. Great way to prevent burn outs.
3. Simplify Your Life
The simpler you keep your life, the less there is to manage. There are so many ways to simplify your life.
E.g. Have fewer credit cards means less statements to read and less bills to pay and less cheques to write.
E.g. The less decorative things you have at home, the less you need to clean and dust everyday.
E.g The less external commitments you have, the less you have to juggle.
4. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
Don’t be too overly hung up on small stuff that won’t add much value to the overall picture. The house does not need to be spotless and germ-free. It only needs to be clean. Dinner does not have to be gourmet everyday, and sometimes, a simple meal may taste just as well. Relax and let go.
5. Don’t be too ambitious.
When you are planning your ‘time-table’, don’t be too ambitious and plan too many things. If you can only cope with doing 5 chores a day, don’t try to squeeze in 10. Some chores may not be absolutely necessary, and some may not need to be done everyday. Prioritise and do only those that are absolutely necessary first, and if you can manage, a couple more lower priority ones. Farm out where necessary. E.g. there was a period of time I just couldn’t cope with cooking dinner everyday. So we had dinner deliveries several days a week. Not the most desired situation but necessary at that point in time.
6. Slot in other ‘Value Activities”
Don’t let your ‘To Do List’ be made up of nothing but housework or home-related things. Make a point to plan in ‘Value Activities’ that are equally important (if not more). E.g. ‘couple time’ for you and your husband. Time for you to do leisure activities or pursue your own interests/hobbies. These are usually things that are important and not so urgent and tend to be neglected until it’s too late.
7. Plan and Organise
I don’t mean the ‘time table’ now. Generally, planning and organisation are important skills for a homemaker because there are so much to do with so little time. You need to plan properly so that you do the most things within the shortest time in the most efficient manner. You may even need to multitask. You need to be organised so that everything at home is orderly and you don’t have to hunt the whole house down just to find a pair of scissors, for instance. It would be helpful to have a notebook or organiser or even a PDA (if you are the high-tech type) to help you keep track of things, from your To-Do List, to important telephone numbers, etc.
8. Find Shortcuts
Don’t just stick to the way your mother taught you. Find ways to make chores easier to do. With new technologies, there will always be easier and more convenient ways of doing things. Some of our mothers’ ways were done the way they were done simply because at that time, without all the nice appliances we have now, they had to do it the hard way.
E.g. A lot of washing machines now have soak function. Why bother to soak clothes in pails and then later on transfer manually into a machine to wash?
E.g. Lazy me will never hand wash any clothings unless absolutely necessary. What I normally do instead, is to put those ‘Hand Wash’ clothes into the machine and wash with the gentlest cycle (possibly in a laundry net), minus the spin cycle. After they are done, I just take them out of the machine, wring with hands, or drip dry.
Of course, sometimes, the old ways are still the best. But do keep an open mind about trying new methods/technologies that may end up making life so much easier for you.
Besides finding new ways of doing things, there are also other convenience you can take advantage of to make things easier for you.
E.g. instead of taking the time to do grocery shopping, why not buy groceries online and get them delivered to you?
9. Teach you child to do things himself ASAP
As soon as your child learns to feed himself, dress himself, bathe himself, you will have less to do. Hence, although in the beginning, it may seem like more trouble – he may take ages to do something you can do in a second, or he makes a mess out of things – it may be worth the trouble in the long run NOT to simply do everything for him yourself.
10. Teach your child to help with simple chores
Even a very young toddler is capable of learning how to put his toys back into the toy box after playing, or shift small, light stuff around for you while you vacuum the floor, or set the table, or bring the clean laundry to the ironing basket, or put dirty clothes into the dirty laundry basket, etc. Dominic is able to do all these simple chores before the age of 2. Of course, you can’t expect such a young kid to do things perfectly, or consistently. Sometimes, instead of putting the clean clothes into the ironing basket, he gets distracted halfway and leaves them somewhere in the living room. Still, it’s a start.
It is a good thing to train your child to do chores. As a member of the family, he will eventually need to chip in and help so he might as well start young. Moreover, toddlers like to be useful around the house (for some strange reasons). Maybe they just like to feel like they are part of the team? And don’t forget to heap lots of praise when they do right!!
11. Rest when your child rests
Although I find this impossible for me to do, I think generally speaking, this is still a good advice and if I could, I really would like to do it too. However, I find that there are things that I just can’t do with the baby awake, so I have to do them while he naps. The end result is that I do get really tired at the end of the day, after working non-stop from morning till night. Hence, if you can manage, do rest when your child is resting.
12. Do Non-Housework Stuff
It is really important that you take time out to do non-housework-related things, e.g. hobbies and interest, to balance out your life. Upgrade yourself. Learn new things, e.g. a new language. Remember, all work and no play will make you a really dull mom/wife.
13. Keep up with the Outside World
If you do not want to become the typical ‘auntie’ type of housewife who knows nothing outside her front door, then it is essential that you keep up with the outside world. The basic minimum that you must try to do is to read newspapers or watch news telecast as often as you can, preferably everyday. And I don’t mean just reading the entertainment section or the department store adverts. Minimally, try to keep up with local current affairs.
14. Importance of Grooming
You don’t have to put on full make up and dress up everyday. That is, of course, not practical for the kind of work we do. However, do try to put a bit more thought into grooming. Clean and neat will be good. Make up may not be necessary on a daily basis, but it may be a good idea to dress up a bit when you are going out with your husband on weekends.
Although our confidence should not be dependent on how we look, being well-groomed does help our self-esteem. It is also good to do it out of love and respect for our husbands as well.
15. Spend time with God
I know as a homemaker, we are hard pressed for time most of the time. Most of us find it so difficult to squeeze time out to spend time with God. However, I am learning through a rather hard way that to neglect our relationship with God is really more detrimental to ourselves and our family than we think.
It is precisely because we need every bit of time and energy for our work that we need to have time spent at His feet. That’s where we get our strength and nourishment and ‘re-fuelling’ to meet the challenge of another day. Not doing this is like drawing not just on our reserves but on our overdrafts, and eventually, we will pay the price for it (plus interest), be it in the form of physical and emotional burn-out, or disharmony between ourselves and our husbands and children.
I myself am still struggling at this point in time, with this weakness, but I am making a baby step at a time. Although I still am not devoting time to be alone with God, I try to listen to sermon tapes, Bible CDs, or worship CDs while doing my house chores. I may not have time to just sit there and pray but I ‘pray on the go’ (which is how I like to pray basically). I read the Bible to Dominic when I put him to nap, so that he gets to listen to God’s Word and I get to read it. I do bite-size reading instead of trying to cover too much ground hastily.
I know that His grace will meet me at my level and I rest in the fact that He is with me and He always hears me, even my ‘on-the-go’ prayers, and no matter what, He still loves me and will never forsake me. I hope that I will eventually grow from being a ‘Martha’ to becoming a ‘Mary’.