Staying Happy as a Stay-at-Home Mom

Photo: Thinkstock / The Bump Photo: Thinkstock / The Bump

I recently read about a poll that suggested stay-at-home moms are more likely to be depressed than their working mom counterparts. This was doubly true in SAHMs in lower-income households. This does not surprise me at all. What’s more, I think this situation applies to more women than just those who label themselves SAHMs. After all, aren’t most new moms at home in the beginning, at least as long as our maternity leave lasts?

When I was a new mom, a feeling I remember well was dread at the start of each day. I adored my baby, and I don’t think I suffered from anything more than a normal case of the baby blues. But each morning I would drag my sleep-deprived self out of bed at the last possible minute before my husband left for work and think, “Now what? How am I supposed to fill the day?”

Being at home with a needy, nonverbal person was a huge change from getting dressed and going to an office every day with other grownups. After the novelty of being a new mom wore off, I was lonely at home. And bored. Every day was exactly like the one before, give or take a diaper or two.

At first, I tried to force myself to go out — to mother’s groups, baby yoga, the mall. But this was exhausting, not to mention expensive. I once saw another study about how new moms often rack up credit card debt. No shocker there: shopping is one of the few things you can do while pushing a stroller and not being too far from a bathroom or coffee shop. And it’s easy to shop online during 3 a.m. feedings!

Eventually, I settled into a better routine. I started going to the gym regularly. It was great to be able to drop off the baby at the gym daycare for an hour and take a yoga class and take a shower by myself. Or to just sit on the mats and read magazines. I also joined Stroller Strides, a mom-and-baby exercise class that had social benefits as well as physical. The moms would often hang around after class and chat. Plus, classes were held outdoors in nice weather. Getting out of the house helped a lot, and I realized it didn’t always have to be to the mall or Starbucks or somewhere that cost money. A nearby playground or library is just fine, too.

My advice for new moms who are unhappy at home is to think about what would make you feel better. If you’re craving company, can you invite another SAHM in the neighborhood over for lunch or coffee? If you’re desperate for some solitude, can you swap childcare for a hour or two with a friend or relative? If you just want to get out of the house, is there a kids’ storytime or sing-along at a local library?

I found that having a few things to look forward to each week made a big difference in my happiness. And in my credit card bill.

Did you deal with baby blues? What did you do to help yourself stay happy as a new mom?