Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Stay-at-home-parent advice needed

A good friend of mine recently moved to another state and became a full-time SAHM. She has 2 young children and a third on the way. She's finding it challenging at times, and I offered to solicit some advice for her. Here's what she has to say:
SAHM-ing is really tough. I didn't think it would be so hard, but I haven't yet figured out a good system. I get frustrated really quickly, and can't seem to get much done. We usually do some sort of activity (park, zoo) mid-morning -- maybe 3 times a week? But besides that, I'm kind of lost. I think I have to come up with a better routine. It's sad, but I don't actually enjoy my kids right now -- I mean I love them dearly, they amaze me, but I haven't figured out a way to just plain enjoy being with them 24-7. I keep hoping as we get more settled it'll all smooth out.

Please share your wisdom and tricks of the trade!


  1. Friends doing the same thing are so important,I find playgroups are great regular outings especially in the winter and the rainy months. If there isn't one available I'd start one, I've done that in the past and found it very fulfilling for myself and a great way to meet other mums. When I first started staying at home I often found myself trying to do everything with my kids but then I realised that they were getting sick of me, so I do a few things with them, or start them on a project and let them get on with it. Its important to have your own interests as well, a project for yourself to work on and time away from your kids no one can put up with someone else 24/7. My friends and I take turns each week having all the kids so that the other can do something unhindered, even if its just going to the grocery store or having a two hour soak in the tub. One friend and I are both in need of some added income, rather than sending the kids to childcare we jobshare sort of, at the moment we work at the same place if she needs a sitter so she can work I have her kids, she pays me back by looking after mine for what ever reason or cooking us all dinner. I suppose the most important thing of all is try not to become too isolated that can really be the biggest prob with being an SAHM.

  2. I have discovered that a routine is key - especially in the summer when everyone is home. We get up and get ready first thing in the morning. I have found that getting my kids to do chores is easier BEFORE breakfast because I tell them that they are welcome to eat as soon as everything is done. In the mid-morning, we go to the park if it's warm, or to a playdate, or to the local indoor, free playground, or maybe even do something fun in the house together. Lunch is around noon, and then it is naptime. This is NON-NEGOTIABLE! Even my 6 1/2 year old goes into his room. If he's not tired, he is welcome to play quietly. This is my time. I love to eat a quiet lunch with a good book after all the kids are in bed. Or, I'll work on scrapbooking or jewelry making (I have 3 little boys, so I make sure I do lots of girl-y stuff to make up for my occasional testosterone overload). I highly recommend a hobby or something you really like to do. If I'm not doing my crafty stuff, I work on my business. I am a WAHM, and I have a business that I do in my free time. This keeps me sane since I love my kids, but I also need adult interaction.

    Afternoons are more open. The kids can play or watch a movie or play outside if the weather permits. Dinner when Jon gets home, and time as a family before bed.

    I highly recommend coming up with a loose schedule - something your kids can count on so they know what is coming up next in their day - and making sure you have outside interests, as well.

  3. Is it the 24-7 aspect and not enough grownup interaction that's getting to your friend... (our friend?) I'll second the playgroup idea; eventually even a babysitting exchange situation! The kids think of it as a playdate and mom can get away for a morning or two per week -- as soon as she finds other mothers she's willing to barter with.

    On my local craigslist, I see ads for babysitting exchanges/coops regularly. She may look into this. I bet she's tried finding her MDC local 'tribe' thing already?

  4. I think the best advice someone gave me about parenting was to "not sweat the small stuff". Kids make messes, and they require a ton of work. Give yourself a break, let the poop stay on the floor for awhile. Lock the door and walk away!

    I was really bored my first years as a SAHM, and I am even a homebody. I started doing simple school type stuff with my kids about when my oldest was 3. I found I really loved it. I liked that I was the one to hear my kids sound out their first words. I have continued to home school since then. We have been going strong for nearly 6 years.

    I guess really what I am trying to say here is: you need a hobby. The hobby I picked up was home schooling. It fit for me. I see my other home school buddies once a week....and we chat about....home schooling. It is just as consuming as a full-time job, sometimes. My house is a mess (except my husband is a cleaner so that helps), but I must say I enjoy being with my kids (somedays).

    We have strict morning and evening routines. We always have. The kids go to bed early. They get up early. We have 4 kids ages 8,7,5,and 2-so it is essential for them to have some predictability with all the craziness that goes on at our house.

    Also...pregnancy was the hardest time for me as far as parenting goes (except with the first..hee hee). I was a very cranky mom. I yelled more than I would have liked. I felt at my wit's end almost every day. I would send the kids to play in the basement to watch a movie just so I could be alone. Parenting is hard even when you aren't pregnant. Take and deep breath and give yourself a pat on the back for all you do.

  5. i guess i have a totally different opinion.

    in 4 1/2 years, i have not been away from my children for any significant amount of time. when i have been separated from one child, it has been because he/ she is out with daddy briefly. my children have never been watched by anyone else. i dont say this to brag or be proud, it is just what has come naturally to us.

    i think that the answer is one of perspective: raising children, being in their lives from day to day, is undervalued and i believe that is the cause for so much unhappiness in mothers like myself. because our work is not valued, we do not value ourselves, we feel like we should do more and be something outside of mothering. truth be told, this is a short time in our lives where we are doing the most important work we will ever do- that *anyone* will ever do.

    i am not suggesting we should not have friends, activities and identities beyond mothering. but i do seriously question the idea that we need to 'get away' or get a break from our children. i think of more help would be a change in perspective. our children can be our companions, time spent with them can be healthy and fulfilling. new activities to help a mother transition from premotherhood can include our children- learn to cook a new cuisine, to sew, to sculpt, a musical instrument, a language! volunteer with your kids in tow. even with 3 kids, i still mourn the loss of my freedom from time to time. usually when i hear from old friends who are doing different things with their lives. i feel jealous because society values what they do. i am 'just a homemaker.'

    i would never suggest that i have it down, but when i lose sight of what i believe to be the truth, i try to remember that my children are my great work. while i am busy wishing time would fly or i could escape and live life as before children, their fleeting lives in my care are passing by.


  6. Tabitha, that was a beautiful post. I agree that mothering (and fathering for that matter) are undervalued. So far I have found mothering to be deeply enriching and rewarding. It's actually something that took me by surprise: the enjoyment.

    My biggest frustration isn't taking care of Zari, but the fact that I have my dissertation to write. There's always this nagging feeling that I should be working on it. Ugh, I hate that. As you all know, you can't get a lot done with a new baby! I am used to having hours of uninterrupted time to focus when I need to write, and now the most I get is 30-45 minutes while she naps (and even then I am always aware of her, partly because I do EC and am keen to take her to pee). This is, I really DO want to write this dissertation--it's about unassisted birth after all, so it's something I love to think about--but I feel overwhelmed at all of the work I have to do before it's finished.

    Well gotta needs to eat.

  7. I totally agree with Tabitha. I love being with my children. My youngest daughter is in public school this year(for many complex reasons), and I have missed her like crazy everyday since September.
    I think many women think of mothering as something that you HAVE to DO(ie responsibility) instead of something you GET to ENJOY. Right now, I ENJOY seeing my little guys naked bum as he is potty training. It makes me smile every time I see it.

    I feel many SAHM's are always searching for the 'perfect' mommy experience....why not just ENJOY what is your own. Do it your way. No comparisons.

    I am reminded of what my two year old said the other day. He had his arms out in front of him like he was Superman. My husband asked him if he was flying, to which the reply was " No dad, I don't have a cape!" I think that we can all 'fly'--even without a cape.

  8. Tabitha
    You have brought up such an important point, motherhood is the most overworked, necessary and yet undervalued role out there. With out first child I didn't have any choice but to work, it was that or go with out food and shelter. At the time we lived far from family that was able to help with caring for our little one and few friends who were able to. Putting our child in a daycare much like the ones I spent most of my early years in was heartwrenching to do but was a necessity for survival. We live in a world which undervalues not only the work of the mother but the bonds and support of extended family and community. We learned our lesson and live close to our extended family who love and cherish our children as much as we do. In that extended family I include my close friends, my sisters in motherhood. When my children are cared for by my mother, my sister, or my friends they are cared for by women whom I know love and value them as much as I do, women who are able to share with them their knowledge and skills as mothers providing my daughters with even more knowledge to take with them on their own future journeys through motherhood than I alone can give them. These are women who value the role of motherhood as much as I do and together we work to rekindle and repair that broken chain of mother to daugther to mother bond that has been so badly damaged over recent generations. I could not travel down this path alone, those times when my children are cared for by these women enable me to to support their needs not just financially but emotionally as well. My time with my children is all the more enriched by the time I spend away from them. As mothers we can often spend so much time giving of our selves we can often forget that what we give needs to be replenished. While my children give back tenfold what I give to them they are not the only recipients of what we as mothers give out on a regular basis. We need at times to find that means to recharge, to fill ourselves back up so that we are able to continuing pooring our love to our children, it can be so easy to undervalue our selves as mothers and ourselves as individuals with needs of our own, its very hard to look after the needs of others when our own needs are not being met. I hope I've written this in the right tone and with out any offence, nap time is pretty short around here as well ;).

  9. Thanks ladies, keep this great discussion going PLEASE! I'm soaking in every word :)

  10. If she's not a routine person, why worry about it? We never had much of a routine. We just play, or I do my thing while he does his, play everything by ear. Just recently, though, we decided we needed a bit more structure so we made big word signs that tape to the wall, then we put them in order to organize our day. No times, just a general outline of what follows what. So it might say "Breakfast" then "reading time" then "play by myself" then "go places" then "exercise," etc.


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