Okay, I’m going to be straight with you here. When you are homeschooling with a baby, you are in the trenches of motherhood. Your clothes are wrinkly, your eyes are carrying bags the size of a grapefruits, and you constantly get whiffs of soured milk, probably from your own shoulder—your sweet baby’s favorite place to drool and spit up.
You don’t even have time to take a shower, and that’s a basic need. How on earth will you practice self-care in this stage of life?
Admittedly, it's not easy to find margin for self-care as a homeschool mom in the baby years! But there are things you can do to take care of yourself with the same loving attention you give your precious children.
1. Give Yourself Grace
Buckets of grace.
- You will not get everything done.
- You will not have a spotless house.
- You will not have gourmet (or even balanced!) dinners every night.
It’s okay. It's all okay.
Sit down with your husband and go over the list of non-negotiables. For me, I have to have a clean kitchen. It’s a must, or I won’t cook. My husband wears uniforms to work, so his non-negotiable is clean uniforms. So my priorities are making sure that we have a clean kitchen and clean uniforms. Anything else can wait, guilt-free.
2. Say No to What Adds Stress
When my girls were babies, I said no to a lot of activities outside the home including a homeschool co-op. While co-ops are fantastic, at the time, it was one thing that I didn’t have to put on my plate. So I didn’t.
Years later, I see that it was a good decision. And now that my kids are older, we can participate in co-ops and thoroughly enjoy it! Your no may look different than mine, and that’s okay.
3. Say Yes to What Fills Your Tank
Sometimes in the baby stage of life, we start throwing out too many nos. Be careful! There are some really great yeses out there too—sometimes in unexpected places.
When I had babies, I was able to attend Bible Study Fellowship one morning each week. They had a children’s department, and it was a huge blessing to be able to drop them off and go spend time with grown-ups. While it was something else on my plate, this was a great, yes because it replenished me.
I also continued serving at church during these years, in areas where I would have a teaching partner or some adult interaction. An hour at church with another adult did wonders for me.
4. Use the Conveniences You Can Afford
I get it...we are homeschoolers. Many of us are struggling on one salary. There is little extra cash laying around. What I suggest you do, though, is take the little extra and do what you can with it.
When my girls were toddling underfoot and I was busy homeschooling my first grader, we hired a housekeeper to come once a week. We have never had a lot of money, and at the time it felt ridiculous and frivolous. But it really saved my sanity during that stage. Once a week, my housekeeper helped get me caught up to make it through another week.
I think this also applies to simpler services too like grocery pick-up. Spending an extra five extra dollars saves me from spending two hours wandering aisles, telling my child, “No, we aren’t getting five packages of candy bars" and keeping babies in the shopping cart!
Um...yes, please. Take my $5!
When I was a teenager, but not yet old enough to baby-sit, I offered to be a mother’s helper. I asked a mother of preschoolers if I could come over for a day and help her with her kids. She allowed it, and I had the best day baby-sitting. I think she got quite a bit done that day, too. You may be surprised to find a young person who would be willing to do something similar for free or for very little payment.
5. Set Aside Time for Yourself
I am addicted to productivity; my hobbies even center around being productive. But in the baby stage of life, it’s important that you set up regular time to just chill. My favorite thing to do when my kids are gone for an afternoon is pick up a to-go lunch, come home, and watch my favorite Netflix show in bed. When you get a rare afternoon to yourself, don’t to clean the house from ceiling to floor. Lavish attention on yourself!
The great thing about this tip is that you don’t even have to be alone. Do something with your babies just because. Go out and blow bubbles or lay in the grass and read. Enjoy and savor the moment.
One of the still frames of my mind was on a day that I had decided to drop everything and go outside to push my kids on the swing. The dirty dishes sat in the sink, and the floor was nasty, but I still remember my son’s face perfectly, and I remember how my daughter’s curls framed her face.
The days are long, but the years are short. You’ll want those memories one day, so be sure to make them.
6. Limit Your Stuff
The sheer amount of stuff that you can accumulate when you have babies is overwhelming. I regularly found myself drowning in colorful plastic. I found that having an abundance of possessions was a source of stress for me.
It’s a good idea to limit the amount of things you have, which in turn, limits the amount of cleaning you do. Be careful not to fall into the trap of having every new baby gadget. You can get by with far less than you think, I promise!
7. Talk to Grown-Ups
FaceTime, Skype, Marco Polo, the good old fashioned phone call...these are all ways to stay connected to grown-ups. Every day, try to make it a point to reach out to a fellow grown-up:
- commiserate about the state of your house
- swap stories of what your kids did
- solve the world’s problems
Create a circle of grown-ups that you can stay connected to throughout the tough years of child-rearing. It’s worth it to cultivate friendships now. If a friendship can survive raising babies, you can bet that you have a lifelong friend!
8. Prioritize Bible Study
Draw close to God. He will replenish you far more than any fizzy bath or spa day. Trust Him for all your needs, and talk to him when you feel lonely or overwhelmed. There is no one who understands tired moms better than God.
Cast your cares upon Him. He will sustain you.
There’s no getting around it...these years are just tough. There is no magic formula for getting more me time. Chances are that you won’t find a lot of alone time, so you have to maximize what you do find. You’ll need to let go of some of the Type A personality, and let a few things slide.
Find the beauty in your everyday reality, with an understanding that time slips through your fingers like water. You can’t hold onto it and you’ll never get it back, so use it wisely while you have it. You will need to remember, precious Mama, that even if your house is a mess and your hair isn’t washed, you are a good mom because you love your kids. Period.
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