Monday, May 26, 2014

SAHM Survival: 10 things to remember

I get this question very frequently: "So how do you cope? With 3 kids and homeschooling and no maid?" I have no tried and tested answer for this question. Staying home with little children is extremely rewarding: you get to be the first person to witness all the milestones, you get the sense of satisfaction seeing them grow up, and relish the sense of control over your household. However, it is also a crazy and tiring "job", where you are "working" 24/7, you don't get sick leave, and you basically juggle many roles while not getting paid in monetary terms.

When I first became a stay-home mum, I couldn't cook to save my life (ok, I could do some edible pasta and instant noodles, but that was it), I was a disorganized housekeeper, and I simply had no idea what I was going to do with the baby the whole day. It's been more than five years since I made that decision to stay home, and I'm still a work in progress. However, here are ten lessons I've learnt:

Staying Sane

1. You need to manage your expectations. 
There will be tough days, and there would be tough weeks or even tough months. There will be times of terrible twos and seemingly non-stop tantrums, weeks when they keep falling sick, days where all you want to do is lock yourself in the toilet and scroll through FB updates and ignore all the "mama! mama!"s that you've been having. I used to always get down in the dumps, and think of how difficult it was. Then I realized there will always be tough times, but I have to learn to be happy in the NOW, rather than spend my time wishing that things were better. (See some tips on how to be a happy SAHM here.) On days that are tough, just concentrate on doing the next thing.

With kids, mess is inevitable. Clean it up, get them to help, and don't let it get to you!

2. Do what you love, and play to your strengths.
You may be a bookworm, or you may be sporty. You may love to craft, or take walks in the park. Do those things you enjoy, and include the kids in it. Bake muffins, if you're the baking type. Go out on adventures if you're the outdoors type. I love to craft and read, so we do lots of that at home, and I get to enjoy it too.

Venture into social media, Pinterest, and blogs with caution. You may want to surf for inspiration, but don't compare: one mum may make lovely bentos, another may sew lovely clothes for her kids, but if arranging grapes and making rice to look like bunnies is not your thing, or you are the type that can't sew a seam to save your life, don't bother and don't feel guilty about it! We are human beings and not human doings, and the kids love you as who you are, and not what you do. (And anytime you need to feel better, take a look at how pins can go so so wrong.)

3. Use your gadgets.
There are many many gadgets and machines available these days to help ease your housework load. Washing machines and fridges are the norm these days (see here for a great guide on how to properly wash and store produce). If its the rainy season, or you have a neighbour that likes to put dripping laundry out to dry on your almost dry clothes, use a dryer. (Here's some things NOT to do when it comes to laundry.) Get an iRobot to clean your floors if you do not seem to have the time to do so (we do not have one, but many mums swear by it).

Consider getting a food processor or even a Thermomix, if you find that you spend a lot of time in the kitchen. The Thermomix is an all in one gadget that blends, weighs, cooks and stirs in the same pot, and the temperature and blending speeds can be adjusted. This means you can make French onion soup by pressing a couple of buttons and adding ingredients, no tears needed as you don't need to chop onions! The possibilities are endless: soups, bread, porridge, chocolate fondue, pasta sauces, pestos, nut butters, ice-cream... If you're interested, try getting this in Europe when you or your friends travel. In Germany it costs almost half the retail price in Singapore.

If you are going to renovate your kitchen or are moving to another place, install a dishwasher if you can. (A side note: We used to think dishwashers didn't wash cleanly, and we thought it was expensive to use one. We changed our minds after we were forced to use one in Germany, as the hard water made our hands itch, rash and peel. Dishwashers actually help you to save water, and do a great job in cleaning (and even sanitizing) your dishes. You can buy the dishwashing tablets off Amazon and save alot!)

Cooking doesn't have to be hard

4. Preparing and planning before hand makes the day easier
It's best to have a menu plan before you do your grocery shopping (see here for some tips on grocery shopping!). I used to struggle with menu-planning: it took a lot of time and I had no idea what I wanted to cook. These days I key in my meals into my calendar: this way I can take a look at my schedule in the morning, and know what I need to prepare, marinate and defrost, plus I know when I should start cooking (eg. stews and soups need to be cooked earlier in the day to allow for time to simmer, while stuff like veggies should be cooked just before dinner so that they can be served warm.). Meal planning is starting to be fun since I go by my cravings: if I feel like eating Korean, I start hunting for recipes to cook for the week ahead, and I can look forward to my meals. Planning also means I don't buy unnecessary groceries, which really helps to cut down on food wastage.

I also like to prepare our breakfasts the night before, since I cannot seem to wake up early. Overnight oats have been a hit and is a breakfast staple. If we are having pancakes, I mix up the dry ingredients the night before, so that all Junior J has to do is to measure out the liquid ingredients before mixing. (Hop over here for more tips and short-cuts for cooking.)

5. Your freezer is your best friend in the kitchen
When making pasta sauces, stews and soups, try planning for, and cooking a double portion instead, and freeze one portion. This way, you save on gas, and you get back-up meals which you don't have to spend time preparing on busy or sick days. Most of our lunches tend to be frozen meals, so that I can spend more time with the boys in the morning. I also freeze mini frittatas, meatballs and stock which I make on weekends. Remember to label your containers or bags, since sauces and stews tend to all look the same after they are frozen!

Labelling makes life simple: Just use a marker and washi tape!

Leftover cream, tomato sauce, wine and herbs (try chopping and freezing these in an ice-cube tray with olive oil) can be frozen too, to reduce the chance of it not being used and going to waste. We have a bag in the freezer filled with all the leftover bits of veggies: carrot tops, chunks of celery etc. After the bag gets filled, it gets dumped into a pot of water and voila! vegetable stock for free! (Here's a great guide to freezing produce.)

Loving your kids and not losing your temper (and mind)

6. Let your kids be bored
Your children need to be loved, and they do need your time and attention. But they do not need to be "entertained". Sometimes I find we feel the need to fill up their time with activities, and I admit there are days where I resort to an episode of Berenstain Bears to stop them from fighting while I am trying to rush dinner prep. However, I realize most of their best play times are when they are not given anything to do at all: they pretend they are riding a bus to outer space, they play school, they go fishing and prepare picnics. Sometimes they read or flip through books, or build things. (And if the kids complain they are bored and have nothing to do, give them chores. :p)

They were playing school, and set up their own classroom. They even packed lunch boxes and had recess!

7. It takes a village to raise a child
These days, parents have a lot less support when it comes to raising children. Get all the help you can: involve the grandparents, the neighbours, and even your friends. I admit it's sometimes not easy when it comes to relatives, since grandparents tend to be more lax in terms of discipline, but you can't do it alone. We have been so blessed because my mum previously used to pop by to help me with the kids on certain days, and my dad has been coming by to play with the boys so that I can spend time settling the baby or cooking. All this really helps to prevent things from becoming overwhelming!

8. Have rules and enforce them
Children need boundaries and they need rules. Have certain rules and be sure to enforce them. Some of these would really make life easier. For example, we make it a point to have all meals at the table, and the three main meals are for us to gather as a family to eat and talk, with no distractions from the TV or devices. Lil J does tend to wander and leave the table at times, being the restless toddler that he is, but he generally understands this rule and stays seated for most of the meal. This means less mess, since there would not be dropped food at other areas of the house, we don't need to chase him around the house to feed him, and we get family bonding over meal time. However, do pick your battles: it is not worth fighting with your toddler about certain things, like wearing clashing colours!

9. Everyone has an opinion, but you know your child best
You'll probably find that everyone, including friends without kids and strangers, would have some opinion about how you should raise your child, and might not hesitate to share their view with you, from how your baby might be squashed in the carrier, to how you discipline your child. Smile, acknowledge their concerns, but remember that you know your children best and try not to let any criticism get to you.

This goes for all the parenting books you read. What works for one child does not necessarily work for another. We managed to sleep train Junior J gradually, however the same method did not work for Lil J, and after awhile we realized that we might break his spirit if we continued trying to sleep train him. We were told about how the boys needed to learn to sleep on their own, but we decided to trust our gut instinct instead.

Shop smart and save

10. You can save a fair bit of money even though you are not bringing home an income
With a single income, we do try to be more frugal when it comes to our spending. We cook/prepare almost all our meals, which really helps us to save, as we realized eating out contributed significantly to our expenditure previously.

I tend to shop online for most household items, as well as books, learning materials, and clothes for the kids. Amazon has been great for books and learning materials (since they now provided free global shipping for purchases above $125 USD), and we also purchase other household goods like hand soap and mason jars there. iHerb has been great for certain baking items (like chocolate, cocoa and vanilla extract), as well as for vitamins and pharmaceutical products!

We also like to buy preloved items, from various FB destash pages, as well as during flea markets (the SAS White Elephant fair is great for books and kid's stuff!) and second-hand bookstores (Evernew bookstore is great for picking up popular books like the Magic School Bus series, Peter and Jane as well as Berenstain bears).

You probably won't need to spend money exercising, since you get to do lots of heavy lifting everyday (the kids, the groceries, the laundry poles), and you'll spend plenty of time and energy chasing the kids. But if you need the gym or pool, get an ActiveSG membership, since that gives you loads of benefits plus $100 to use!

Don't stress: smile and enjoy the journey!

All in all, if you do get to stay home, enjoy the journey. It's one decision I don't regret making at all!


This post is part of a blog train hosted by Gingerbreadmumwhere 31 stay-at-home mums share their tips and tricks.
Hop over to the rest of the posts by clicking on the button below, and be inspired! 


Tomorrow, Lynn would be sharing her tips over at her blog, Raising Faith. Lynn decided to be a stay-at-home mum when her daughter Faith was born. She loves to spend time with her 18 month old kid, and does baking and cake decorating to maintain her sanity. (You should see the cakes she makes. Amazing!)


  1. You couldn't have said it better! My sentiments exactly! ;)

  2. Thank you for the lovely post! I so agree that sleep training techniques that work for one child may not work for the next!!! Hugs Mama J, you are doing great!!

  3. Super like your thorough and thoughtful post!! Thanks for the deep and practical sharing! PTL!



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