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?