Five Balance Strategies for the At-Home Mom

This week we’re looking at balance strategies for moms. Today we’re focusing on strategies for the stay-at-home mom. Tomorrow and Thursday we’ll look at balance strategies for the work-at-home mom and the working mom. One of those days should apply to you or someone you love. If it doesn’t apply to you, pass it along to a friend who needs the encouragement!

We’re also giving away a book this week. If you comment or add to the discussion on the day that applies to you, you’ll be entered to win the Hearts at Home book Balance That Works When Life Doesn’t by Susie Larson!

Being a mom-at-home is more of a demanding job than most people think. The responsibilities are overwhelming, and the 24 hour duty can wipe you out sometimes.  A stay-at-home moms rarely gets anything accomplished that isn’t undone in an hour.

So how can she make it better?  How can she learn to survive this season of life when the demands of children are unending?  How can she take some time for herself?  The answer is simple, yet difficult.  She asks for it and plans for it.

I was a mother-at-home for over 20 years. Because of the age span of my children, I had a preschooler for 17 straight years. I remember those days well. Last week, I remembered them even more while I cared for two of my grandkids (ages 2 and 5 months) for four days.  “Ah yes,” I thought, “this is why I wrote the book Professionalizing Motherhood for stay-at-home moms!”

Need to find balance in taking care of yourself and taking care of your family?  Here are five strategies to get you started:57278217 (3)

Take time for yourself. Remember self-care is not selfish. Taking care of yourself is taking care of your family.  On a daily basis, do something to fill your emotional fuel tank, even if it’s just for a few minutes.  Read, take a walk, or read a post or two from your favorite blogs or website.  Fill your spiritual tank, too. Read the chapter in Proverbs that corresponds to the day of the month it is (Sept 4–Read Proverbs 4).  Grab a devotional and focus your thoughts on God for just a few minutes each day.

Use naptimes for “you” time.  If you have an infant, sleep when the baby sleeps. The dishes can wait, your body needs rest. If you have a preschooler who is no longer napping, require rest time. Allow him to play quietly in his room or to read books on his bed, but require some down time for him and for you.  Since few preschoolers can tell time, set a timer so he knows when rest time is over. If you’ll feel better getting something done during naptime, set a timer for 30 minutes and tackle the laundry, the house, or the dishes. At the end of that 30 minutes, do something for you!

Change your expectations.  Caring for children requires a lot of time and energy. Expect interruptions. Allow more time for EVERYTHING to happen. If you have a “to do” list, cut it in half.  When your expectations are more realistic, you’ll experience less frustration.

Leave your kids. Some stay-at-home moms are so focused on their kids that they fear leaving them in the care of dad, grandma, another mom, or a responsible sitter.  When my kids were little, we labeled one night a week as Daddy Night. I would have dinner ready when he got home and then I headed out for the night to go to a coffee shop, meet a friend, or just enjoy some time alone getting errands run without kids.  During another season, a friend and I traded days off. One Tuesday was her day off, and the next Tuesday was my day off. Our kids loved playing together, too!  Set some regular time on your calendar to be away from your kids. This will help you be a better mom because you’ll be emotionally refueled.

Find your mothering community. No mom should mother alone.  This is especially important for stay-at-home moms who are often isolated in their own home.  Look for a moms group in your area (check out to find the closest MOPS group to you).  Join a Bible Study. Attend a local La Leche league meeting.  Find other moms who are in the same season of mothering as you are. These are your “co-workers.” They understand what your life is like and will be able to encourage you when you need it!

If you’re a stay-at-home mom and your kids are in school, you’ll enjoy this post I shared several years ago.  Your balance strategies are similar, but just adjusted for your unique season of life.

How about you? If you’re a stay-at-home mom, what balance strategies have you found helpful?


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48 thoughts on “Five Balance Strategies for the At-Home Mom

  1. I’m thankful to have a husband who recognizes my need for time alone and away. I get a time out (much like your Dad Night) most every week, and I even plan for a weekend or two away during the year. Most of my friends can’t believe I do it, but I Priceline a hotel for 2 nights in a nearby city (Nashville, Cincinnati, etc.) and spend my time doing whatever feels refreshing to me — reading, shopping, eating out (wherever I want and without cutting up anyone’s food!), spending time with God, surfing, and writing. I come back SO refreshed and ready to jump back into daily life.

  2. Very good tips!! I love the idea of trading a day off and I think I have the perfect mom friend for it!! We have babies the same age (4 days apart) and we have similar aged preschoolers. I am worried about getting through today at home, I have a terrible head cold and just want to sleep!! I think I’ll be resting on the couch while kids play for most of the day 🙂

  3. Much needed and helpful advice. I’ve been at home now for just about 4 years. Most of the time I still do not know what “Me time” is and what it can for me. LOL I have twin 3 year olds (almost 4) and the sleep when they sleep did not work for me as they weren’t on the same schedule. It always took one a bit more time to sleep then the other and one was up before the other. As a matter of fact, they are still like that. LOL The hardest thing for me is to take time for me and to change my expectations. It’s difficult to find a good devotional time as my kids get up between 6 and 6:30, but I am trying. I am also anal and a perfectionist. Something that does not go well with raising kids. But, I am trying.

  4. I have been a stay at home mom for almost 6 years now and every year is different. I often find it the most helpful when I can plan to go out for a night every now and then, even if it’s just to the store after the kids go to bed. My husband is extremely helpful and understands that staying at home can be stressful and wearing some days. It’s nice to know he doesn’t always think I am exaggerating when it comes to taking care of our precious children. 😉 Taking a few minutes to chill and regroup is definitely needed in order to be the mother my children need. Not being selfish about ‘me’ time but being able to sit in a chair for ten minutes to breathe is a huge benefit to keep the day running. 🙂 Thanks for this. It’s a good reminder during busy /crazy days. 😉

    • Aimee, I agree that every year is different. If we don’t realize that, we’ll forget to recalibrate and figure out what we need this year.

  5. Having lunch with other moms. It is great to hear “mom talk” and know I am not alone in this. I also like to do things for others in need. Today I am taking an older lady out to lunch. She does not have much in this world and struggles with health issues. With no car, she really enjoys when I can come and pick her up and take her out to lunch. With my kids in school all day (for the first time in 16 yrs), I have more time for our lunch date.

  6. Thank you for these- I think so many moms have guilt for taking time for themselves that such a post as this is a great reminder as to why it is important and okay to do so! 🙂

  7. Thanks Jill! My kids are 2,3,12,12,15 17 and this season can be tough sometimes. Tonight is a.much needed date night with hubby!
    You spoke and encouraged us many years ago at MOPS in Gilbert AZ.

  8. I love reading these types of tips & ideas, but struggle so much with accomplishing any of it when it comes to time for myself. We have four children of our own. Our baby is finally in 1/2 day pre-k, so I have a couple hours to myself a couple days a week (I also provide in-home daycare on a pt/back-up basis but always seem to stay busy with other children). I’m reminded that I can return to work at anytime I want, no one is forcing me to stay home, therefore, I feel I can’t vent about how much there is to do at home or how tired I am. I feel guilty when I want to get away & have time for myself. Or, the idea of taking a nap or sitting down to read a book. I’ve tried this several times & my mind just races with all the things I need to get done instead of resting or focusing on my book. Please keep posting & blogging & one of these it’ll all click with me!!

  9. I really enjoyed the 5 tips to being a good stay-at-home mom! It is so hard to find that “me” time. I feel so guilty. I have been a SAHM for almost 10 years but hardly go out and when I did last week for the first time in YEARS …. I met a girlfriend for a movie & dinner …. my car broke. Of course I was an hour away from home!! Husband was mad, don’t think I will be going out to play any time soon!!!

  10. Great tips and advice! I think it’s very important to have that “me” time to just get away and get refreshed. I try to plan at least one full day a month to just get away and shop or have lunch with a friend. Also, my husband and I try to have a date night to refresh our relationship also. I feel so blessed to have a husband and family around that realize how hard being a mom can be at times. Best thing in the whole world though:)

  11. Jill,

    I am a SAHM and the obstacles I face with this is that I feel like I am not respected as much as my husband, who leaves for his work everyday, even though, being at home is just as demanding as a “job”. I worked outside the home for years, and, I know for a fact that this is more demanding, but, it is also more rewarding ( in most ways, anyways.) I have really struggled with this the past year. I would LOVE to win this giveaway!! I need all the help I can get! Thank you for the opportunity!!

  12. I 100% agree with finding a mothering community. I love my MOPS group and the friends I have made through it. We set up playdates which are as much for us moms as for the kids. 🙂 When I’m having a rough time I can call them up for a sympathetic ear. Or if I need someone to watch my kids last minute during the day, they are there to help. 🙂 Developing those mommy friends is such a huge blessing. I also try to do a mom’s night out once or twice a month where I get together with other moms while the dad’s watch the kids, it really does recharge my batteries. My husband’s good about giving me some me time at night, so I can go take a bubble bath or read or just get a bit of down time.

  13. Jill this comes at a perfect time for me!! After 11 years of having kids at home, my youngest started all day kindergarten this year. I’ve really struggled adjusting and realizing my role. Thank you so much for your words of encouragement and validating my thoughts : )

  14. Thanks for the post about continuing to be a stay-at-home mom now that the kids are in school. I work at our local elementary school 2 hours a day during the school year (helping kindergarteners and first graders with writing). I feel like I get paid to do something I love! After only a couple of weeks on the job, my then 9-year old daughter told the principal, “Mom has her dream job!” It has been an ideal situation for our family. I’m able to make a small contribution to our finances. I don’t have to worry about snow days or not being available when one of the kids is sick. It’s understood, and even encouraged, that if my child is sick, I’ll be home with him or her.

    Being home when the kids get home took on extra meaning last year when I was available to listen to my daughter as she navigated through a sticky situations with some friends and the adjustment to junior high. So thankful that she was able to unload all that emotion to me as soon as she came home.

  15. I’m a working mom with a child in full time daycare, but would love to transition to being a stay at home mom when he starts school in a few years. This post and your other link will help me explain what I want to do and why to friends and family who ask. I hope I can get the support I will need to make this happen.

    • I highly recommend you get a hold of a copy of Professionalizing Motherhood and even Living With Less So Your Family Has More. Both of these resources will help you move in that direction!

  16. I read your book “Professionalizing Motherhood” right after I quit my job to stay home with my then-4-month-old girl. I’ve thought about it many times since as I continue to establish habits and routines that are good for my family and me personally.

    I’m thankful we established sleep habits that continue to stick so my husband and I get some down time after the kids go to bed. I’ve also been blessed to use some of the skills I acquired while working outside the home full time to become involved in some other groups as a volunteer. I choose things that also benefit my kids, such as a multi-church VBS-type activity during the schools’ fall breaks.

  17. Thank you so much for including the older post about being at home and my kids are at school! After being home with a preschooler in the family for 12 years, I find myself in that new stage with everyone questioning me “what will you do now?” It has been a week and I certainly have not been bored yet! My kids are in 6th, 3rd, and K. They are involved in activities and my husband’s job requires several evenings a week. I’m glad to be home and take care of things so we can go and do as needed and not feel quite so flustered and spread thin. The balance I’m trying to find is getting with other moms in the middle of all of that.
    Once again, thanks for the encouragement that what I’m doing is important and valid!

  18. I find it so very difficult to ask for the break time I need. It just seems easier to stay put at home than to navigate the logistics of time away. When I do get away by myself I usually feel guilty for being gone, do some sort of kid-related errand, and rush home anyway. And getting personal time is far easier than getting any sort of date time with my husband. We are both too worn out to go through the effort of arranging childcare. These challenges are why its difficult to willingly accept the advice of “seasoned” moms who advise cherishing these years with young children. I wish all those moms who told me at church or in line at the grocery store to enjoy every moment had volunteered to babysit!

    • Christine, I know it seems like such a hassle to arrange the care for you to take time for yourself and for you and your hubby, but it is worth the hassle. I promised you it is worth the hassle! One of our jobs is to model balance for our kids—balance of taking care of yourself with taking care of others is one thing our kids need to see. I encourage you to get a once a month date on the calendar with your hubby. Can the grandparents watch the kids for that once a month? Then put a once a month time for you to take an evening off. No one will “give” these to you…you have to plan them and make them happen. But it’s worth the effort!

  19. Jill-

    I am a SAHM of twins…just turned 2 this past weekend! Before I went to your Hearts at Home Conference last year, I felt bad for needing time to myself. However, after that and reading your book, Professionalizing Motherhood, I don’t feel as guilty. My husband knows that I need time away from our kids and he is usually pretty good about taking them out of the house for me for a while. Of course there are periods of time when I need to remind him (or I’m gonna lose it!), but he understands. I have not established a regular time off from them as it is hard because my hubby works a full-time intown job and then helps his dad “part”(full) time outside of that over at the farm. So he takes the kids when he can (they are getting older so it is becoming easier). I just have to remind myself to do something for me during those times…not necessarily just clean the house.

    Thanks for the reminders Jill! As always, very encouraging!

  20. Wonderful post! When my oldest started to outgrow naps, I still felt everyone needed a little quiet time. So while the younger two are napping, she plays quietly in her room for 45 minutes or so. I have found this quiet, alone time to be so beneficial for both myself and my daughter. It gives everyone a chance to regroup, plus I think it is good for children to learn how to play on their own. And every once in awhile, after a busy day, she will end up falling asleep and catching up on a little extra rest! Good for everyone!

  21. 4 girlfriends and I have a weekly girls night. We start at about 8 and sometimes talk until the wee hours of the morning. I may be tired the next day, but it’s so worth it to have some time with friends who are in a similar life stage!

  22. Jill, I have most of your books, and I re-read them now and again to remind myself of how important my job is and how I won’t see the “fruits of my labor” for years to come. I am blessed to be the mother of 2 boys ages 7 and 4. I have the most awesome husband who recognizes the need for me to “go away” to help me be a better mother. In fact this weekend he went up to his mom’s house with our boys and I had the house to myself for 3 WHOLE days! I went to a huge festival with family and friends and had dinner another night with other friends. I think it’s the only reason I stayed sane through all of the trials today brought. I was refreshed!

    Moms who think it’s too much work. I am wondering why? I know not all husbands are hands on, but I would guess that most wouldn’t “break” your kids if you left for a few hours? And if he really can’t then find a friend! We are blessed with another couple that we trade date nights with. No ticking of a babysitter’s clock as we enjoy ourselves. When they are all together there are 5 kiddos ages 1, 3,4, 7,7, but they enjoy each other’s company so much it’s actually easier some nights than just having our 2 😉 What a difference in our marriage to get a night away in our own house! It’s totally worth it! I PROMISE!!!!

  23. I have a 9 month old son. After being so tired for so many months I started using the naptime as Mommy time and sometimes I just take a nap as well! I felt that I am to get the recharge that I needed to finish the day and have energy and love to give my husband at the end of the day. I also trade childcare with my neighbor so both of us can do errands without extra hands. Thanks for the encouragement you bring!

  24. AHH! How TRUE!
    I am a mom of a 2 yr old little girl. She is my first. Boy, did I go through it this past year. If there is one thing that has brought me through this HUGE transition of being a stay-at-home mom it has been a MOM’s group. I have a small group leader and a team of amazing woman that have committed to the Lord, to their families, and to each other. Being surrounded by such great women has made a huge difference not only in my parenting, but in my personal growth as well. I would encourage any mom to GO OUT and find that support system in your community of other moms. If there isnt one available, step out in faith and start one. You are NOT alone in this. There ARE other moms that are feeling the same way you are, and other moms that NEED the encouragment just as you do. God created woman to be relational people, so GET OUT there and encourage one another!

  25. I recently enjoyed my first child-free day in 15 years, 3 months and 3 days (my husband counted). Three friends took me shopping out of town and I was child-free for a whole 12 hours. I was amazed at how mentally refreshed I felt after such a long day. Now we do this every couple of months. Reading your posts about taking care of myself has (almost) taken away that feeling of guilt when I enjoy me time. Thanks Jill

  26. Great advice! As a homeschooling mom of 5 with health challenges that require all of us to be flexible, I’ve used them all at one time or another! It’s really important that I get time to myself and my “mantra” is “This, too, shall pass.” The Mom’s Group to which I belong is wonderful and invaluable!

  27. I’m really not sure which group I belong to as I SAH 3 days and work outside the home 2. Working in and out present lots of challenges. My kids do not go to daycare (I’m blessed that my sister watches them those 2 days in my house). Because they are still at home those 2 days the mess is worse then when I didn’t work. So it feels like there is never any time but to always pick up messes. Feeling frustrated:(

  28. My biggest hang up is that my expectations are too high. I don’t know WHY I think I have to be superwoman, but sometimes I really need that reality check! I needed this post today! 🙂 I decided to take some ME time, and I needed it. Wonderful post!

    • So glad it was helpful, Julie. In my new book No More Prefect Moms that will be out next year, I talk ALOT about changing expectations. That is so important!

  29. It is definitely a challenge to find balance as a WAHM/SAHM. I have a chore chart so everyone is part of making the household happen. I also take time out to go for spa treatments and window shopping. Sometimes I take a nap in the middle of the day to keep going through the evening when everything starts to happen.

  30. Jill,
    Thanks for the reminders! As a stay at home(seldom at home) Mom, I have found that the evenings, after my boys have gone to bed and my husband has gone to bed (he is up at 3:30am so early to bed) is MY time. It is the time that I can do what ever I want, scrub the kitchen floor (it will stay clean for a few hours) read my eamil, quilt, craft, whatever and it helps clear my mind and gives me a little peace.

  31. Wonderful suggestions! That “alone time/mom time” is of the utmost importance and will make you a better mom, wife, friend, etc. Even just a few minutes will give you a new outlook on your day.

    And I so agree with finding a support group–I was part of the first MOPS group in our area, almost 20 years ago. Those meetings still stand out as a highlight of my years of motherhood when my kids were young, and I’m still friends with many of the moms–only now we’re talking about the empty nest.

    Overall–ENJOY that time with your kids! I’ve never regretted a moment of my time home with my kids. Now they’re both at college so that season of my life is over, but I want to encourage other moms to enjoy the time. A MOPS mentor told us (I think it was originally said by someone “famous”) “The days may be long, but the years are short.”

  32. Wow! I wish I could give up my son’s naptime to do something for myself. As it stands now, this is when I get EVERYTHING done. Why is it so hard, I wonder? Thanks for the tips!