My 8 pieces of advice for all stay-at-home-parents

April 12 | Guest post by Julie
Stay At Home Boss Flour Sack Kitchen Towel by Etsy seller RoseCrownCo

I've been a stay-at-home-mom for nine years. We relocated across the country when my children were ages two and three months old, and the energy to re-enter the workforce was in short supply. Every time I feel like my kids are less needy, I consider employment and get side-tracked — another relocation, my kid needs extra help with math, one's having an emotional attachment issue, etc. It's always something. I'd like to think that I've provided my kids with stability at a time when life gets crazy for one reason or another.

So here's my advice for others who found themselves to be stay-at-home-parents:

1. It can be very lonely

So get out and do stuff. Meet people. You can learn something from everyone — even if it's as minimal as what not to do, or how not to behave.

2. Hire someone else to clean your house, if possible

When I clean my house, I must get emotionally too invested, because I get upset when everyone inevitably messes it up. At least once every two weeks I get to breath a sigh of relief the minute my hired cleaning help departs. It's a true sanity saver.

3. Find an outlet that is truly yours

Find a book club, exercise club, part-time paid work, adjunct professor at a local school, etc. I am highly supportive of volunteering for a child's activity (e.g. school PTA/PTO/PVO, Boy/Girl Scouts, sports, etc) however, that's not your own thing — it's too closely tied to your kids. Stay-at-home-parents really need something that is their own — providing self-worth, social connections, and a personal sense of doing/being.

4. Make the time to be informed

I spend much of the day reading news (local, national and international), learning the issues, having an opinion about current events. Being informed can give you an idea for your own business or product. Bring the news to your kids' level — ask them for their opinions. It takes time to figure out what news is legit these days. Just because it's online or in print, doesn't mean it's accurate. It feels good to be informed.

5. Spend time nesting

Paint a bathroom, build a garden (kids love it), digitalize your old home movies/pictures, keep a journal, write letters (or emails) to friends and family, etc. What have you been putting off but have been wanting to do around your house for awhile?

6. Regular exercise is important

Stay-at-home-parents tend to forget about ourselves, as we spend all day consumed with wiping butts/noses, making meals, etc. If we don't take care of ourselves, it's hard to take care of others.

7. Involve the kids in what you're doing, however young

They can learn how to separate laundry as a preschooler/toddler into lights, darks, and colors. They can wipe off the table, scrub the toilet, sweep the floor with a broom, etc. (By the way, there are online recipes for making non-toxic homemade cleaning supplies.) They can do so much more than what society allows them to do in recent years.

It's hard, very hard to do this — kids usually do a terrible job, and it takes time to explain these simple tasks to them — it's akin to writing detailed instructions for toasting bread. However, if we don't teach our kids basic life skills, how can they ever leave home? Stay-at-home-parents are lucky to have the time to talk to our kids ad nauseam about life topics.

8. Get away from the house and your kids regularly

Go on a trip with friends, have your spouse spend time alone with the kids when you shop, exercise, attend book club, etc. Your partner probably parents differently, and that is a good thing. It allows the other parent to bond with your kids in their own way. He/she will do things differently, forget important stuff, irritate the living hell out of you because they're not doing what you think is best. But really, you married your spouse for a reason — let your kids see those reasons without you hovering.

As part of this, you need to get out of the house and away from the kids WITH your spouse — keep the spark alive without mentioning the kids all the time. At some point, your kids may try to manipulate your relationship — keeping your partner close mentally can reduce the impact of this. My daughter recently told me in a huff, "Gosh mom, why do you and dad always have to be on the same page about stuff!" I shrugged my shoulders and internally smiled, thinking, Sounds like I'm doing SOMEthing right!

Though each day will feel long — the years will fly by, I swear. There will be ups, there will be downs. Ya need 'em both to appreciate the journey.

And you also need lots of advice to get through it. What's your advice for stay-at-home-parents?

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  1. Thank you for this 🙂 I'm currently 7 months pregnant with our second child and we agreed that this time I would take a longer maternity leave and stay at home for at least the first year of the baby's life. Although it is something that I've been wanting to do for a long time (it was very hard going back to work the first time) I'm happy every time I can find advice on how to enjoy this special time in our lives because I'm so used to being a working mom I am just as scared as I am excited so thank you !

  2. I'm 6 months pregnant, and upon a recent layoff that will take effect in June, I'm facing my future as a stay-at-home parent. It's something I always wanted, but when faced with the reality, I'm starting to get nervous about it! Your tips here are what I've been trying to prepare myself for. Thank you!

    Here's a question for more-experienced stay-at-home-parents: how do you find other stay-at-home-parents? My husband and I have only lived in our city for a year and have some friends, but no other parent friends. I looked on Meetup, but the mommy groups in my area are ~*~super exclusive~*~ and I was already rejected for one and told that if I want to reapply, I should realize it's a ~*~BIG~*~ time commitment. ::insert a million eye rolls:: I just want some mom friends who want to sit at Starbucks for an hour, ya feel me?!

    2 agree
    • This will more apply in a few years, when your kid is almost 3 years old, but find a Co-Op if you can. We did Co-Op preschool for both our daughters and it was a life saver, for ME. Having other parents that were raising their kids similarly. It was a place to vent and play with kids, to be part of a community, and now that my kids are growing out this year I am super sad.

      I know that doesn't help you now, per se, but for a young baby I would make sure to frequent the same places regularly. Go every Wednesday to the library storytime, and you are bound to see the same faces over and over. I actually picked up a mom at a park once, who went on to be one of my best friends. Sign up at your local Parks and Rec for a class with your baby. Find something to do regularly, then throw a party and invite the moms you like! Or arrange a group playdate/craft/outing and invite them along. I'm a big fan of potlucks, and it feels so weird to invite near-strangers (honestly, most folks don't show) but it's a nice gesture and you might make a few friends. We are known for our relaxed but fun-for-grownups kids parties, and it's helped make some friends for sure because you can invite the folks you like around town. (key note: make sangria)

      It's hard, you are in the loneliness trenches but it does get better the older your kiddo gets. I had joined a MOMS group but man, there be some b*tchy ones out there. So don't give up, I am sure there's some offbeat groups somewhere but myself, I've had a hard time finding people like me. I opened up myself a lot more and ended up making a handful of very church-y friends, which normally isn't what I'm looking for. I had to set some of my own barriers down to realize that we actually had a lot in common and enjoyed each other, and drop my own pre-conceived notions of the "type" of friends I wanted. They've been some of the best people, even if I'm an atheist, and that's thrown me for a loop.

      If you can join or organize or be on the board of something, its a great way to meet other parents.

      2 agree
    • I'm a work-at-home mom, which I know is a little different, but I feel like it's close enough for me to chime in with my thoughts.

      I'd recommend looking for parent/baby classes (music, gym, dance, etc.) that you can sign up for. Those can be a great way to meet parents with kids the same age as yours. You can also make a point of frequenting a nearby park or playground, if you're bold enough to strike up a conversation with the other parents there (I'm not). Churches and other houses of worship can also be a good resource, if that's your thing. A lot of them have nursery care during services and/or parents' day out programs during the week that can help you find other parents.

      The first several months with a new baby can be lonely. Between eating, sleeping, and diaper changes, there's not a lot of time for other activities, and you might not feel like dealing with any of those things outside the house. But as your kid gets older and more independent, things will start to get easier. There will be more opportunities for both of you to do things and find friends who are in a similar place in life.

      1 agrees
    • i found that just hanging out at the neighborhood farmers market and/ or coffeeshop brought the other new parents straight to me. Between 8am and 10am the big market near my house in DC is almost 100% parents. And everyone is looking for a connection, either to find another little kid to play with their kid or a new parent to sit and talk with. I've made some great connections with other families this way.

      1 agrees
    • Join a new moms group or PEPS group through your local hospital. The Swedish chain in my area has them. Simply sign up for one of these support groups and meet new moms. They aren't exclusive. Swedish are also has dad groups.

      Also story time at the library!

      • Thank you for mentioning the library!

        I am a branch manager at a library, we have multiple storytimes, a baby playgroup, toddler crafts and as children grow so much more programming. Many parents meet each other at these programs and they are all free!

        4 agree
    • I am not generally a very social person, but I have never had so many friends in my life before as I have now as a mother with young children.

      I lived in a new state with no friends I hadn't met through my husband (none of whom had children) when I was pregnant. I began by attending La Leche League while I was still pregnant. (this was an excellent resource; if you have any interest in breastfeeding, I really recommend them!) There I learned about Babysaring International, and joined a local chapter (I'm not a huge fan of babywearing, but they also ran lovely social event.) We went to baby storytime at a few local libraries. Through these groups I met so many people, who then invited us to playdates and other events, and we met more. Some of these groups have Facebook groups, through which we met yet other people.

      None of these groups required an application! Or even a fee (technically, LLL and BWI do have a yearly fee; you can attend LLL mtgs without paying it, though, and you only need to pay it for BWI if you want to borrow carriers from the library.) I have never heard of any mama group requiring an application! That sounds dreadful.

      I agree with a previous commenter about being very open to new people and things … motherhood sometimes brings an odd assortment of people together, and I have enjoyed socializing with other mothers I really didn't have a lot in common with (as well as making some very deep friends). Good luck to you!

  3. Not a parent, but find this thread useful and interesting. Katy Bowman has a concept that is pretty awesome called "stacking your life". It's killing multiple birds with one stone, so to speak. She's got a podcast on the topic on her show Katy Says. I *highly* recommend a listen. Also the one about community. The are relevant to the conversation. 🙂

  4. About point #2: I'm all for outsourcing the house cleaning! However, I'm really passionate about warning people not to use maid-service type companies who send someone to your house, but instead to hire a self-employed person. The book "Nickel and Dimed" by Barbara Erenreich really delves into the unacceptable work practices of these companies. For the same price or cheaper, you can hire someone who will get to keep all of your $$ for their hard work, rather than forking over 75% to their pimp (I mean the maid service).
    Getting recommendations from friends is always a great way to start looking for a house cleaner.

    1 agrees
  5. Here's another great tip: If you are at home with your kid or kids and don't enjoy it and want to go back to work, that's ok too! Even if it's just part time. I am self employed and have the most amazing job: teaching movement and performing arts to kids and adults. When I got pregnant, I knew I would miss working so we decided I would go back to work after about 9 months and my husband would take the rest of our year long leave (we are in Canada). We knew he would have an easier time being at home than I would. During that nine months, I forgot that I knew myself well enough to know that staying home would not be my thing. It was hard and lonely, with no family in town and every friend with kids 20 minutes away with a baby that hated the carseat and wouldn't nurse anywhere but at home, in bed, in the dark. She also couldn't sleep without touching me, so I was attached to her 24/7. I was mildly depressed.

    When I went back to work, the clouds in my mood parted and I felt like myself again. I could truly enjoy my daughter when I was around her. Now I will be the primary caregiver through the summer and I couldn't be more excited about spending some time with her.

    Don't beat yourself up if you don't love staying home like I did for months. I thought I was a terrible mother and human being for not enjoying it like I should. We really aren't designed to be so isolated in childrearing. The way most people have to do it now is so much harder than what nature intended!

  6. Absolutely true! We are moms and we are new parents and we need someone to help us to clean our house. Good thing, I found Maids in Dubai, they are very professional and they can also help to take care of my baby when I'm busy.

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