The 3-Part Stay-at-Home Mom Routine that Benefits Mom and Baby

{Focusing on 3 aspects of my stay-at-home mom routine have made all the difference in making daily life more engaging for me and my kids}


I still remember vividly that day my husband went back to work after the birth of our first son. It was my first day at home with my newborn son...all alone. I was nervous, sleep-deprived and still getting to know this little bundle whom I loved dearly.

BUT, he cried a lot. Would I be able to calm him without breaking down into tears myself? Would we be able to make it out to the grocery store on our own?

It seems silly to me now, but if you flash back to those moments, you may have felt similar. I knew I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, but how do I do this new role?

Stay-at-Home Mom Routines that Benefit Mom and Baby's Development
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Like many stay-at-home moms, I was used to desks, not diapers. I had spent the past 10 years either working in the non-profit world or in grad school. My schedule was my own, I had meetings, I wrote papers, I did research. How do I now drop that part of my life and focus all my attention on this tiny bundle of need and crying? I loved him dearly, but I was a little lost.

Over time, of course, we found our way. It took much of the first year for both of us to figure out our new world--together. Babies change so frequently in that first year, that just as soon as I thought I had our routine figured out, he would change. With some reading and reflection, I soon began to focus on 3 primary areas in our daily life together and this helped immensely: activities, identity, and self-care.


Activities

In those early months, there aren't many activities you can really do with a newborn. However, my son (and most babies) do find ways to make their preferences known.

Bouncing/Walking
My son loved bouncing! Bouncing in the infant bouncy seat and bouncing while strapped to my chest in an infant carrier. Walking also worked well, as long as he was attached to me; not in a stroller. It was pretty much the only thing that calmed him when he got into fussy periods.





Talking
Most babies love hearing your voice. It doesn't really matter what you talk about, just talking helps their brain come alive. It also helps you and your baby get "in sync." Synchronicity is one of the key emotional skills that are developing in the first few months. The more you are in sync with your baby, the easier it will be for you to respond to his needs.

Reading
Some parents may feel weird reading to a young baby since they can't really respond or even focus on the page. However, research shows that even babies benefit from hearing books read. Check out this post for baby books that boost brain development.


Stay-at-Home Mom Routines that Benefit Mom and Baby's Development



Identity

Figuring out your mom identity often takes time. Becoming a parent is life-altering in more ways than one. Being the research geek I am, before becoming a mom, I had read tons of books on child development, breastfeeding, etc. but nothing really prepares you for how you will feel. I thought I would figure out breastfeeding way sooner than I really did. I swore my baby would never sleep in bed with us. Well, real life has a way of not going according to your plans.


Related reading: The Child Development Bookshelf: Best Books for Parents and Kids

Breastfeeding did not come as easily as I had expected so my identity at those early nursing moms support groups didn't fit as well I had thought. I struggled with breastfeeding while those other moms seemed to do it so easily.

After trying out several different moms groups, I eventually found one that was a good fit for me. Having other moms to talk to with whom you share common beliefs, experiences or life views makes a world of difference. For many moms, this type of group helps solidify your mom identity. For other moms, it might be something else--a fitness group or a baby storytime group. 



Stay-at-Home Mom Routines that Benefit Mom and Baby's Development


Consider what interests you had before you had a baby. This usually helps you figure out a path to find other moms who share your interests. Just because you have a baby doesn't mean you have to give up your personal interests or identity.


Related reading: What Being a Stay-at-Home Mom Taught Me About Child Development (that a Ph.D. didn't!)

I also figured out that it was okay to "mourn" a bit the passing of my pre-baby identity. That's not to say that I lost it completely but it did have to change. I think many moms go through this stage.  Especially if you worked full time before staying at home with kids, the identity shift from the "working world" to the stay-at-home mom world is kind of abrupt. Even in today's world, being a stay-at-home mom is not exactly highly valued. Sometimes people still really wonder what you do all day. 

Developing your mom identity really benefits your baby too. The more you can connect with who you really are, what kind of mom you want to be, the more confident and fulfilled you will feel. The more confident you feel, the happier and more engaged you will be with your baby.

Self-Care

As moms, we have a tendency to give and give and forget to take care of ourselves, especially in early motherhood when the needs of our babies are so immediate. The physical and emotional demands of motherhood are real. Many times moms feel guilty for taking time to take care of themselves. The truth is, however, if we don't we will eventually succumb to the demands and our physical or mental health might suffer. We get run down and we get sick. We don't take a break once in awhile and our patience starts to wear thin (research backs this one up). A lack of self-care ultimately catches up to us.

Related reading: Research Reveals the Real Reason You Lost Your Temper with Your Toddler

After months of nursing every two hours and getting very limited sleep, I learned this lesson myself. My mental health started to suffer. Luckily, I have a very supportive husband who stepped in to give me enough of a break during nights that I could function again. 



Stay-at-Home Mom Routines that Benefit Mom and Baby's Development


Over the years, I've figured out that self-care is not just about pedicures and spa days. It's about figuring out what fills you up, what helps you keep your boundaries in place and your mind clear. Self-care looks different for everyone. Here are just a few ideas but it might look completely different for you:

- reading while the kids nap
- going for a run with the toddler in the stroller
- chatting with friends in real life (or sending a card instead of a text)
- listening to a podcast in the car instead of Wheels on the Bus
- sitting down to eat instead of scraping up the kids’ leftovers

The key is that self-care shouldn't be a source of guilt. It should make you feel stronger knowing that by taking care of yourself, you are inadvertently taking care of your children. Babies, perhaps even more than us, are very in tune with the emotions of their caregivers. Using the "still face" experiment, studies illustrate how upset babies get when their caregivers are unresponsive to their emotions. This speaks volumes to the need for self-care. If we are so fatigued or worn down, that we cannot respond well to our children, over time they will notice.

Whether you're a stay-at-home mom or a mom who reports to an office each day, the idea of focusing on activities, identity, and self-care will hopefully help guide your daily routine. The specifics of each person's daily routine might be different, but I think by focusing on these 3 areas, it helps you keep the big picture in mind. By finding ways to balance your child's needs and your own needs, you will no doubt find yourself feeling more confident in your parenting.


Related Resources:


The Gifts of Imperfection





Rhythms, Routines and Schedules



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The 3-Part Stay-at-Home Mom Routine that Benefits Mom and Baby


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