It is more common in this day and age for both parents to be working outside of the home. However due to the rising cost of child care, there are also a number of families who opt to have one parent stay at home because the cost of child care eliminates the benefit of the second income. And then there are a number of women (and men) who feel more of a moral conviction to be at home with their children. Whatever the choice, the arrangement has to be what works well for that particular family. Early in the life of our little family we needed for me to work outside of the home for financial reasons. It was not until recently that it become a possibility for me to become a Stay At Home Mom (SAHM) to our 2 year old. As the day drew closer I was in the clouds excited about the idea of being at home with my little girl. So when I found myself faced with long days, frustrating moments, exhaustion and continually dirty house I wondered if I had done the right thing.
Does any of this sound familiar? Those first few weeks were quite an adjustment. Don’t get me wrong, even in the most frustrating of moments I still loved my little girl more than anything in the world. I also still felt with deep conviction that I was supposed to be staying at home, pouring in to her life. But even with that passion I found myself thinking “I don’t want to just survive this! I want to enjoy this!” So after banging my head against a wall, figuratively speaking, for weeks I decided that I needed to refigure how I was doing things if I wanted to truly enjoy this experience. From that came the following insights and thus guidance I would give to other new SAHM’s or Dads. Please learn from my mistakes and triumphs!
1. Set a schedule or structure to your day, but do not be married to it. It is helpful and healthy for kids to have structured days where learning activities and exersize is strategically included. However, if you are too stuck on the schedule, you are likely to become intensely frustrated with your little ones when it cannot be followed due to their needs. Kids are great at throwing a wrench in things and we have to allow for that.
2. Stop and smell the roses. Really, slow down. When a parent goes from the work-a-day world to staying at home, they are still used to the pressure of getting lots done. Suddenly you are at home with no agenda and it’s normal to get stir crazy. So we get busy with at-home tasks an ignore the most important task-time with the kids. Quality time with the kids. We need to slow down, look them in the eye, hold them, snuggle them and love on them. They are only little for a short time so we can’t let it pass us by!
3. Use nap time wisely. Nap time is a great opportunity for you to regroup and you need that time. So resist the temptation to get lots down during that time. You need a break too! You are human after all. Use the fist 15 minutes or so to get some things done, but otherwise use that time to refill your energy tank. You will feel more balanced and less burnt out.
4. Never discipline in anger. You will find that now that you are the one with them al the time, you are doing the lionshare of disciplining. You will start to become bitter about it if you see it only as managing chaos. If you instead see it as teaching young minds to become responsible citizens,it becomes less of a task and more of a mission. However, if your “teaching” moments are only done in anger, your children will learn nothing and you will feel a great disconnect from them. Instead, take a few moments to have a breather and decide how you want to logically and lovingly explain their misstep and what they should do differently next time. Correction should always involve love and grace so that the child is motivated to do better next time.
5. Network, network, network. There are other SAHM and Dad’s out there and they can be a great source of support. So use it! Reach out to stay at home parents you know or join a local group to meet new ones. You will need healthy social support during this transition time due to the culture shock of going from spending all day with adults to all day with toddlers. Lessen this shock by engaging a few times a week with other parents. Play dates are a great way to get this accomplished!
I am now in the thick of it and loving this SAHM thing much more than I did at the beginning. I wish that I had know these pieces of advice at the beginning. Hindsight is 20/20 after all!