Monday, February 20, 2012

More on how to Not Go Crazy as a Stay at Home Mom

When I had just one child who slept ten to twelve hours straight a night, just getting out of the house pretty much every day was enough to keep me sane.  But now with the addition of William to our family and Natalie working on accepting his arrival and her place in the world as a two-year-old, it takes a bit more than a walk around the block or a trip to the library to keep me going.

You're being such a baby!:
While this is an insult for adults, it is very grounding for my husband and I to say to ourselves sometimes.  When one of the kids is driving us crazy we just remember they are a baby and a toddler!  That is how they are supposed to act!

Turn your frustration into something silly:
When your baby is squirming instead of letting you change him, go with it and wrestle.  Find yourself growling as you struggle with the car seat straps, pretend to be bear.  Feel like throwing things?  Do it in a silly way.  Throw all the diapers up in the air so they can rain back down on you.  Dump all the toys on the floor and make a big mess.  You'll feel better to let it out. 

Trust Daddy:
It doesn't have to be the kids' father, it could be grandma, or a friend, but let someone else watch the kids and stay out of it as much as possible!  I have a hard time with this sometimes.  If I can hear what is happening, I can't help but want to butt in.  To help with this, I recommend blocking out the noise by taking a shower or using headphones.  These help me not hear what is going on so that I can truly get a break.  Headphones are especially great in the morning when you want to go back to sleep for a bit.   With my daughter, I didn't sleep in until she weaned off her morning nursing at almost a year old!  Looking back, there was no need for that.  With my son, I feed him, and then ask my husband to get up with him for a while.  The only job my husband can't do is breastfeed the baby.  Everything else he can do just as well as I do all week long by myself. 

Get out of the house by yourself:
About 6 weeks before William was born, I had my first Mom's Day Off.  For the first time since Natalie's birth, I left the house for pretty much Mike's normal work hours.  I visited a friend, went shopping, got a hair cut, and spent some time just sitting in a Starbucks on the computer.  Now that William is here and nursing exclusively, I can't leave for a full day, but I can leave for 2-4 hours at a time.  Sometimes I leave just to do a quick errand that is easier to do without kids along.  But, twice now I've just left and spent time sitting in a Starbucks writing blogs, playing on line, and listening to music.  We try to plan these times for me to get out alone after particularly difficult weeks, but there is really no reason why you couldn't have a little outing to yourself every weekend.  Remember, if you can handle it from 8-5, five days a week, Dad can handle it for an hour while you go for a run, get your nails done, or get a cup of coffee.  Another way to get out of the house is to join some kind of adult group.  I am now part of a book club, so about once a month, I have a guaranteed reason to go out by myself for a few hours.  Another option is to take some kind of adult education class.  But, don't forget about your spouse!  Dad also needs time away that isn't while he is at work, and you need to find some time as a couple, too. 

Join a play group or make one of your own:
If you have lived in the same area for a long time, you might not need this as much as I did.  I moved to Maine after graduating from college, and I only knew my husband and colleagues from work.  Once I started to stay home, I knew no one who was home all day long excepting my mother two hours away in Massachusetts.  Joining a play group at our community center and going to our public library story times allowed me to meet other moms, some of which were stay at home moms, too.  Play group was a great venue to see how other kids grow and behave, but the best part was an outlet for me to talk to other moms.  Now that I've gotten to know a few moms and their kids well, we've started our own meeting once a week rotating between our houses.  The play date keeps the kids busy and happy (for the most part, two-year-olds do have a bit of a trouble sharing), and we moms get to talk, which leads to ...

Somehow share your thoughts and frustrations:
 There are many ways to do this.  Of course, there is your husband.  Sometimes Mike doesn't fully understand what I'm trying to say, but much of the time he does, especially just after he's spent a lot of time with the kids.  What a relief it is to hear him mirror the same frustrations I've been dealing with during the week.  It validates me and generally makes me feel less crazy.  No matter how understanding your husband is, I recommend having at least one other way of venting your mothering feelings.  Sometimes there will be things he just can't get because he isn't the one getting his nipple bitten or falling into snow banks getting the car seat back into the car.  You might confined in other moms or friends.  Your mom, sister, or mother-in-law might be a great person to talk to about motherhood.  For me, I often write about these things, as I have most of my thoughts since adolescence, hence having a blog.  And, try to share all the good things as well as the bad.  Take a moment to write about a great day you had with your children or to share a big family accomplishment another mom at play group. 

Find a way to give back:
Maybe this is just the teacher in me, but sharing what I've learned these past few years really does help me cope with being a mom.  I enjoy writing this blog because I can reflect on what I've learned and put it out there for others to learn from if they are in need.  I also enjoy helping other moms I meet because so many of them have given me advice.  Another way us moms can support each other is swapping clothes and toys.  It is a huge relief when a friend just hands you a perfect winter coat for your child or two laundry baskets full of clothes for your newborn.  I try to return the favor as much as possible by giving our extra clothes, toys, and linens to those in need, be them friends or anonymous members of the community.  And even though its more work, I find it recharging to open my home to other moms and kids. 

Get a baby sitter!:
It was about 15 months before we had a real baby sitter for Natalie.  It wasn't that I was overly protective of her, but that we didn't have any connections to find a baby sitter.  Most people have their relatives watch their children, or they swap services with other moms, or maybe even ask a neighbor with whom they have bonded.  We didn't have any of these connections in our area.  Finally, I found a baby sitter by visiting the high school where I used to work.  Later, we found our current baby sitter through the recommendation of another mom.  (Our current baby sitter is a former student of mine, so that was a huge character reference!).  However you find one, just do it!  There were so many other times we could have gone out if we had just focused on the task sooner.  And a small baby sitter tip: College kids are great choices.  They are a little older and thus more responsible, drive their own car increasingly their availability without taking more of your time, and they have time during the day free, not just evenings and weekends.  

Use a baby sitter as a mother's helper:
I've done this several times and I wish I had done it sooner.  It is especailly helpful before a trip, holiday, or company.  Our baby sitter played with the kids while I cooked or cleaned.  I got a ton done that I would have had to try to squeeze into a couple hours after bed time otherwise.  Its also a great way to get your kids used to a baby sitter if they have separation or stranger anxiety. 

Embrace volunteers' offers to hold the baby:
Unless your child is going through one of those phases where he cried at all strangers, let other people hold the baby if they ask!  Over these past holidays, my daughter was struggling with torricolis and accepting no longer being an only child.  We passed little William around like a hot potato.  He didn't mind one bit and everyone got to get to know him some.   Its good for your child to interact with others to see how they are different from you and your spouse.  You never know, Grandpa might find a new game at which your son can't stop laughing, or he might just take a nap right on your sister's shoulder.  (Both of which happened with William).  And while you shouldn't let total strangers hold your child in the grocery store, let other moms hold the baby while you pay attention to your older child.  I'll never forget how a woman I hardly knew played with William for half an hour one play group so that I could give Natalie my undivided attention. 

Take your aggression out on inanimate objects:
While this is not the best advice, when I really can't take things and need an outlet, I let the cabinet doors and the stroller have it.  I slam those cabinets shut as hard as I can.  I let the stroller hit ever stair carrying it out to the car.  The physical release is just what I need to refocus sometimes.  I don't suggest doing these things where your kids can see, though.  Not only might it be scary for them (twenty-five years later I still have a very clear memory of my mom throwing a toy stroller), but you don't want them to copy you. 

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