Banishing the Stay at Home Blues
If you judge by the comments of many of my acquaintances, I have the personality of a pea. If youíre a stay at home parent, you know what I mean. People constantly remark, "I donít know how you do it. I would go stir crazy if I had to stay home with my kids." The inference, of course, is that I am some sort of mutant sub-species that requires far less intellectual stimulation than normal, and can survive for days on end with the praise from Barneyó"I love you, you love me".
Itís time to challenge this notion that staying home with your kids is akin to a prison sentence with an awfully whiny jailer. Certainly it can be tremendously difficult, draining and exhausting, especially since you usually walk around with banana mash on your jeans and spit up on your sweatshirt. But thatís not the whole story.
Many parents choose to work for a host of different reasons, and only you know what is right for your family. I know that for many, much as you may long to, staying home isnít financially feasible. But if itís possible in your situation to be home even part-time, Iíd like to put in a plug in for it, and to tell you that it doesnít need to be as difficult as it sounds.
First, I think we go about stay at home parenting all wrong. We start by buying tons of equipment (ExerSaucers, swing sets, trampolines) to ensure that we never have to leave the house. But what happens if weíre home alone all the time? Our kids may go stir crazy and whine, cry and vomit. Then we cry. Probably we whine, too. And if weíre pregnant, we definitely vomit. So letís take a step back and approach this stay at home thing differently. We commonly think it has to meet all our needs, because parenting is so great. We cocoon ourselves in our homes, thinking bliss will greet us, and when it doesnít and weíre ready to drop that hair dryer into that bathtub, we wonder whatís wrong with us.
Staying at home with your kids is wonderful, but it will not meet all your needs. You donít need to feel guilty about it. Yet if you acknowledge what your needs are, and plan for them, you can meet your needs while you stay at home.
The first thing we need is adult conversation (that Barney thing only works for so long). Take your kids to a playgroup, or organize one yourself. Join the local YMCA or another fitness club that offers baby-sitting. Just make sure you do something everyday!
How about intellectual stimulation? You definitely donít need a job for this! Start a new hobby, like gardening or quilting. Take your kids to the library, and visit the adult department while youíre there. Learn to trace your family tree, invest, or save money. Even if you only have time to read while sitting in the bathtub after the kids are in bed, youíre giving yourself something new to think about. (Just donít drop the book. Iíve paid the library big bucks for this transgression).
Finally, what about a sense of accomplishment? At work we get praise for finishing something. At home we get whines and piles of laundry that never get folded. If you want to feel like youíve accomplished something, volunteer. Meet your neighbours and see if you can lend a hand to some older people or other struggling parents. Invite people over for coffee. They wonít mind the mess nearly as much as you think they will! And the more connection you have with your community, the more youíll realize the difference you can make in peopleís lives.