I'm a stay at home mom.  Living the dream.  Well, it's my dream anyway.  I always planned to stay at home once I had children and would get the oddest looks sometimes when I would tell people.  Other women often said "I would get so bored at home all day!"  Too be fair, they weren't mothers yet, but I've always been happy at home anyway.  I'm an introvert and between my love of cooking and my work as an illustrator, I don't tend to get bored.  What I hadn't anticipated was how hard it is to be the full-time parent.  When children are tiny they need so much from you and it sometimes feels like you never get a break, not even at night.  Still, I've never regretted my decision to quit the day job (and really, I'm barely working at my freelancing either right now); it was so right for my family.  Here's how I stay balanced and happy:

Have childless time

I think it's easy to forget to take time to yourself when you're a stay at home mom, especially with a baby.  You might not need a lot of personal time, but it's healthy to have some parts of your life that have nothing to do with being a mother.  When Toddler Girl was a baby I volunteered with our church youth group one evening a week.  It was a great to have a way to contribute into people's lives beyond my little family.  I haven't been able to get back to that with two little ones at home, but I've made an effort to do something without my girls regularly, even if it's just running.  I refused to buy a jogging stroller because I wanted to run by myself.  Lately, I've been going out once a week for an hour or two to sit in a coffee shop and sketch.  It's not selfish to take a bit of time to remember that you are a person apart from your children, and if you are feeling overwhelmed, a small break can help you get back into a positive mindset.

Nurture your passions

What do you love?  Not who do you love, but what.  What do you love to do?  What makes you feel like yourself and sets you apart from everyone else?  For me it's being creative.  Creating art, specifically, but also sewing and photography.  I'm passionate about food, both cooking and nutrition, and I love to read (a lot!).  This is who I was before I had children.  It's who I'll be when they've grown up.  If the only thing you can think of that you're passionate about is your career, and you give it up for your children, I believe you'll be far more likely to feel unsatisfied and even resentful.  Think about the things that make you excited and find a way to incorporate them more into your life.  I recently took an online modern calligraphy course; it was so fun to challenge myself and learn something new.  It was hard to find time with a baby that sleeps poorly and a toddler who is so interested in everything that I do, but I carved that time out.  To be a stay at home mom, I think you need to have an identity apart from your children and apart from your career.  You need to be able to define yourself as your own person with your own interests, or your children can swallow your identity up and leave you feeling like changing diapers and trying to get everyone to nap at the same time is the sum total of what you can offer the world.  It isn't.  It's important, but it's not who you are.

Have a good attitude

Sometimes it's hard.  Sometimes you feel trapped at home with babies and everyone is grouchy and it's a world of slush outside (man, these photos have me missing summer!).  Remember that we can't always control what happens in life, but we can purposefully decide to be happy and calm.  If everyone sleeps badly and you don't have a car that morning, try to find something fun to do.  Set the toddler loose with paint in the bath tub.  Have a dance party in the living room.

Keep perspective

How long are you planning on staying home with your kids?  For a lot of moms the plan is to be home until they are in Preschool, or Kindergarten.  It feels like forever when you're in it, but it really is only a few short years.  Unless you have ten children (but I have chosen not to!).  I'm planning on working from home, and have even played with the idea of homeschooling, but even then I know life will be different than it is now.  Kids get older, they learn to dress themselves and find their own snacks.  The overwhelming little baby stage is so short when you're on the other side, so even if it wasn't your choice to be at home, try to enjoy the snuggles and remember that this is just  a season in your family's life.

In the end, I'm thriving because I remember who I am as an individual (and not just as an extension of my adorable girls) and because I choose to be positive.

Are you a SAHM?  How do you stay happy?