Thursday, June 30, 2011

How to not go crazy as a stay at home mom

Its important to say right away that your personality has a lot to do with what you will need to "stay sane" when staying at home with your child. I have a rather reserved personality. While I enjoy being around others and the outdoors, I'm pretty happy curling up with a book or watching a movie. So, these suggestions are what worked for me. If you are someone who is used to going out on the town several nights a week or skiing, hiking, or kayaking every weekend, then you probably will need a bit more.

  • Get out every day. This is huge for me. Once we started to go out often, it really made the day go by faster and more smoothly. First, you use up some time getting ready to go out. Next, you both get to experience a new environment while you are out. Depending on where you go, you might even get to interact with other adults! Lastly, it starts to help bring routine to your day.
  • Have a plan for the day. This does not have to be a big plan. It might be: Today we are going to get these things at the grocery store or I'm going to make that important phone call. Or: Today we are going to try to read more or play more outside. Sometimes I have a lot of plans for the day. We might go for a walk, go out to the library, and then have a play date in the afternoon. Either way, knowing what I want out of each day helps me to feel like I've gotten something done instead of just drifting through the day.
  • Evaluate your priorities. Decide what things that need to be done are most important to you. How important is it to you that the floor is washed every day? How important is it that you get time read? How important is it that you have time completely alone? Once you've thought about these things, you can use your time in the way that will make you the most happy.
  • Don't do "work" during nap time. Whenever I can, I do things for myself during my daughter's nap times. I might read or write or nap. I don't rush around doing dishes, laundry, or scrubbing toilets. These things can wait and be done while my daughter is awake, after she goes to bed, or on weekends.
  • Try new things. Every once and a while you need to try something new. It might be something small like inventing a new game. Or it could be trying out a new place to go, like story time at the library, a play group, a baby class, or a new park or museum. Whatever it is, you need to do new things. You become bored with your child's same games and routines, and so does your child to some extent.
  • Plan ahead. Whenever doing something new or big, I do a lot of planning ahead. It might be that I pack a diaper bag very thoroughly before a day trip somewhere new. Or, it might be that I set out breakfast dishes and clothes the night before a busy morning. I always check the weather and directions in advance. These things allow me to deal better with the small stresses of just getting out of the house.
  • Allow limited TV. Now, if you are an adult who never watches TV, I wouldn't suggest this. But, if you are like most Americans, you probably watch some TV for entertainment and relaxation. Well, your child is going to follow suit eventually. It is not evil of you to let your child watch half an hour or an hour of TV so that you can rest a bit. You should pick the show based on your child's age and interests. I really recommend watching it with your child. TV or movies are a great time to get some snuggles while you watch together and talk about what you see every so often. I've often sat next to my daughter with one arm around her while I read a book on the other side. And, sometimes your child needs the quiet time, too. Often when we go visiting, my daughter is so overstimulated by all the people and new things, that we need to put on a video for her to remind her to relax for a little bit.
  • Allow independent play. This is especially important as your child gets older, but even young babies can play on their own. You don't have to talk to your child and stimulate him all the time. I've learned as my daughter gets older that sometimes she just wants to explore toys on her own, and only needs to check in with me every five minutes or if she gets frustrated. While your child is playing independently, you can just enjoy it from a distance, or you can use some of that time on other things. You can use that time to go start dinner, fold some clothes, wash some dishes, or you can do something for yourself like reading, talking on the phone, or using the computer.
  • Feed the meter. I got this term from The Happiest Toddler on the Block. The idea is that as you and your child go about your day, deliberately have many small, positive interactions. For example, in between chores, check in with your child for a quick book, game or song. Or, when walking past your playing child, give him a quick kiss, pet, or tickle. All of these add up and help the child feel loved and attended to, thus making him less likely to throw a tantrum for your attention.
  • Have set times everyday when you give undivided attention. For me, these are typically breakfast, lunch, bath, and bed time. I try to be distracted by other things and conversations as little as possible during these times. This is also a great idea if you have more than one child. When the baby goes down for his first nap, it could be your special time with your older child.
  • Find a baby sitting, the sooner the better. A baby sitter allow you to get out and do the things you need to do as well as the things you used to do before you had children. These are important for you to retain who you are, instead of becoming completely consumed by motherhood, (which is bad because eventually your children will need independence and space and you'll be left confused about you are). I find that when I get to be away from my daughter for a little while, I enjoy coming back to her so much. I not only feel recharged and rested, but sometimes it makes me stop to really notice all the small things about her and how she is changing.
  • Don't forget about your spouse. One thing I struggle with is that my husband works all day, then comes home and does the "work" that is child care on nights and weekends. I feel like this is necessary to give me some relief and also for him to have a relationship with our children. But, it doesn't give him much of a break. So, I try to encourage him to relax during her naps on weekends (instead of doing all the odd jobs around the house) or try to take our daughter out so he can be alone in the house. Letting him sleep in is also one of the ways I try to acknowledge that he works so much, especially since I'm naturally an earlier riser.

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