Inside: Studies show that stay-at-home moms are more likely to experience stress and depression – add on living with a chronic illness and you have a recipe for disaster. Read on to find the best tips for stay-at-home moms living with chronic illness.
I never intended on being a stay-at-home mom.
Setting aside my ambition to focus on raising a human wasn’t something I ever seriously considered until I developed the early signs of ALS.
I mean what would I even do anyways?
How would I feel a sense of accomplishment if I wasn’t completing a six-month project and getting promoted?
Could I manage not seeing faces of people my age on a daily basis?
What would I answer when people asked me the question, “So, what do you do?”
However, while I was dreaming of steady paychecks and after-work drinks, my body was making other plans. As my chronic illness progressed, adding “stay-at-home mom” to my resume seemed pretty inevitable for my future.
You see, living with a chronic illness takes an unimaginable toll on your body that’s hard to explain unless you’ve experienced it for yourself. I’m exhausted from doing the simplest, everyday tasks such as taking a shower and brushing my teeth. I was already struggling with work, so the idea that I’d be able to add taking care of a baby to my plate just wasn’t realistic—That’s when I decided to add stay-at-home mom to my resume.
I was anxious about the drastic life change, and I knew it wouldn’t be easy, especially while living with a chronic illness. The physical demands would be something that I hadn’t experienced in years.
So in order to save my sanity and avoid becoming a stressed out stay-at-home mom, I developed some coping strategies.
1. Stick to a Consistent Routine
One of the best things that you can do for yourself and your family is stick to a consistent routine.
Children crave routine. They need structure and predictability. With all of the internal changes going on inside of their little bodies, they need to feel secure with their external surroundings. Use the extra time you have to your advantage and incorporate a consistent schedule to help keep your family on track.
Benefits of Sticking to a Routine:
- Exposes children to healthy habits
- Establishes independence in children
- Creates a calmer household
- Helps alleviate power struggles between parents and children
Furthermore, developing consistent routines is not only good for the child, but important for stay-at-home moms, as well.
Sticking to a routine means:
- You can predict when your child will be hungry.
- You can predict when your child will be tired.
- Your child is more likely to have regular bowel movements.
- Your child is more likely to sleep better at night.
- Your child will intuitively learn to wait based on his/her routine.
Sticking to a consistent routine eliminates the guessing game when trying to figure out why your child is crying or cranky. Since your child is accustomed to a certain schedule, you can plan ahead; thus, reducing stress on families.
It’s important to note that sticking to a consistent routine does not mean implementing a strict regimen without room for flexibility. Creating a consistent routine means following a general guide for the way you will incorporate habits into your daily life.
2. Ask for Help
The sooner you realize that people who care about you want to help, living with a chronic illness will become a lot easier. I need help so often now that I actually rely on the kindness of strangers when I’m out in public. Asking for help felt strange at the beginning, but one of the unexpected things I’ve learned from living with a chronic illness is how nice other people can be.
If you’re tired and in pain, you may not feel like you have a lot to offer in terms of reciprocating, but the simple act of just listening can mean so much to people. Listening doesn’t require a lot of effort and it is something so powerful that you can offer to others when you’re living with a chronic illness.
Whether it’s your family, friends, neighbors, community members, other stay-at-home moms, etc., don’t be afraid to ask for help. Just remember to practice gratitude and always say please and thank you!
3. Don’t Compare Yourself to Other Stay-At-Home Moms
Growing up, my mom never packed a single lunch for me. Not. One. Time. While other kids were sporting Ninja Turtle lunch boxes and eating carrot sticks, I was scarfing down the three bags of Doritos and chocolate milk that I grabbed last minute from our pantry before heading to school.
And guess what? I don’t harbor one ounce of resentment. My mom raised me before Pinterest was a thing. Hell, even before household internet was a thing. She didn’t have a plethora of other moms to compare herself to, nor did she care.
I know this is hard to do, but you have to cut yourself some slack. You’re living with a chronic illness that causes exhaustion to levels never felt by someone with an able body. There are so many times throughout the day that I have to wave the metaphorical white flag and say, “This is the best that I can do.”
When your child is older, they’re not going to care about how well-decorated their nursery was or if they had a custom made Halloween costume.
But what they will remember is how you spoke to them, how you showed up for them and the words of encouragement that you used for them. It’s important to keep in mind the things that truly matter on a daily basis and refrain from comparing yourself to other moms.
4. Get Organized
Much like consistent routines, our brains crave organization. For instance, researchers found that the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, were higher in mothers whose home environment was cluttered.
A spike in cortisol can lead to a feeling of fight or flight. If you’re a stay-at-home mom living with a chronic illness, chances are you already know how stress affects the body. Keeping your home organized can help reduce anxiety and leave you calmer to face the tougher challenges.
The Negative Effects of Clutter:
- One study found that people who sleep in cluttered rooms are more likely to have sleep problems, including difficulty falling asleep and disturbed during the night.
- The visual distraction of clutter increases cognitive overload and can reduce working memory.
- Research shows cluttered environments negatively influence the perception of our homes, and ultimately our satisfaction of life.
Sometimes maintaining a clean house isn’t possible when living with chronic illness (and that’s OK!) However, focusing on creating healthy habits is a small thing that you can do on a daily basis that will lead to big changes.
Nowadays, every single thing in my house has a place where it goes – everything. If it doesn’t have a place, I either create one or I throw the item away. Simple as that.
5. Find a Support Group
Easily, one of the best things that’s happened to me through searching for a diagnosis is meeting other people who are living with chronic illness.
In the beginning, I felt alone and didn’t want to burden my friends with calling them 20 times a day crying. When I started reaching out and finding people who were dealing with similar challenges, I instantly felt happier and more confident.
I can promise you that whatever it is that you’re going through, there’s more than likely someone else going through the same thing. It feels good to build comraderie and relationships within a group of like individuals.
How to Find a Support Group
- Ask your physician or mental health therapist for suggestions
- Visit advocacy websites dedicated to your issue
- Use social media to follow hashtags related to your issue and don’t be scared to reach out to people
I can be pretty shy myself and get nervous in front of groups. If you want to start small before signing up for an in-person meetup, follow my Facebook page, Disability Dame, to find more stay-at-home moms living with chronic illness just like you.
6. Let It Out
Speaking of finding a support group, don’t underestimate the benefits of venting. Oftentimes, we can ruminate on negative emotions until we eventually lash out in anger. Keeping anger and frustration inside leads to resentment that inevitably manifests itself in different areas of our lives.
Have you ever felt a weight lifted off your shoulders immediately after telling someone about your frustration? Simply venting to someone is a cathartic way to let go of negative emotions and a great way to gain additional insight that you might
If opening up is hard for you, then journaling is another great way to release frustration.I first started this blog as a way of venting after searching for a diagnosis for years. Living with a chronic illness was taking its toll mentally and emotionally, and I needed a way of letting go without necessarily having someone on the receiving end to hear. I decided to go public with it, because I felt it could help to know that others are struggling with similar issues.
7. Find Shortcuts Where You Can
As a stay-at-home mom living with a chronic illness, I know firsthand the importance of conserving energy. The spoon theory is a way of explaining the limited amount of energy that individuals living with chronic illness have to expend each day.
Because I’m easily fatigued, it’s important to find “shortcuts” anywhere I can.
Ways to Conserve Energy:
- Use laundry detergent pods instead of heavy, liquid bottles.
- Prep smoothie bags every Sunday night and leave them in the freezer for the rest of the week. Each morning, grab a bag and add some coconut water or milk for an easy, quick and nutritious breakfast.
- Add an Alexa to the house to instantly check the weather, add to a grocery list, order items online and play music all from voice activation.
- Invest in the August Doorbell and give visitors access to your home from the touch of an app or simply telling Alexa to “unlock the door.” It also features an auto lock and unlock option where the door will automatically lock or unlock when you’re within 200 yards of the sensor.
- Meal plan and order all of your groceries online.
I’m definitely a “work smarter, not harder” type of person, so finding ways to save energy comes natural for me. Down to the types of bottles that we use for soap and shampoo, I’m always looking for ways to make my life easier.
Final Thoughts on Helpful Tips for Stay-At-Home Moms Living with Chronic Illness
Parenting is hard and parenting with a chronic illness is even harder. If there’s anything that I can offer you, it’s to know that you’re not alone in this. I hope these tips can make even a small part of your life just a little easier.
Are you a stay-at-home mom living with a chronic illness? Comment below and share your tips for surviving life as a stay-at-home mom.
Allie Schmidt is a rare disease advocate and disabled mom living with motor neuron disease. She founded Disability Dame in 2020 to provide tips to other moms living with disabilities and chronic illnesses.
In her spare time, you can find her traveling with her husband (she's been to 38 states and 16 countries!), watching reruns of Survivor, or tending to her near-constant sunburn from spending too much time outside. You can follow her adventures here.