Updated: Nov 2
So it's been almost 5 months now since I stepped into this Stay and Home Parent role. There was definitely a learning curve and I am still learning every single day. I wanted to share some of this experience that really stood out for me and what I have learned along the way.
For some back-story, I worked in the foster/adoption world for the last 10 years and during our recent move, we decided it was best for me to stay home with our daughter while my husband completes school and works full-time.
Here is what I have learned:
ITS A JOB
I knew this, but it didn't fully set in that it is 12 hours+ a day, 7 days a week. No days off. There are definitely perks to being at home and essentially being your own boss. You get to be with your child and make your own schedule(for the most part). I enjoy cooking most of our meals and having time to take care of the home. You also have to figure out what works best with your family. In this season of life we decided this is the best option for our family with my husband working full-time and in school full-time. We've prayed about it and it feels like this is where God wants us right now.
STRUCTURE AND ROUTINE ARE KEY
It's helpful to have a good idea of things you do every day and certain days of the week. For example, we always go to the library on Thursdays. We also have our MOPs group twice a month. Daily there is a 2-3 hour nap for Nora. This is the time to get anything done I can't do when she is awake or maybe I just take a nap if I need to. It also helps to have things to look forward to. When my husband has a day off we look forward to doing something together and put it on the calendar. With the holidays coming up schedules can get a little crazy with extra activities, but pick and choose the ones important to you. You don't have to rush around doing everything.
SCHEDULE A "DAY OFF"
When you are a mom(or a dad) you don't really get days off. This might just mean it's a day you don't do any cleaning or maybe you go out to eat instead of cooking. Maybe it's just sleeping in! If you have someone to watch your child, you might get a couple of hours to yourself. This is so important for your mental health. If you are not 100% you cannot be 100% for your child. Your child can sense when you are anxious, stressed, upset, and other emotions so even if you feel guilty for leaving your child for a few hours you will be able to return refreshed and present for your child.
OTHER PARENTS CAN BE A SUPPORT SYSTEM
Living far from family I have found so much support in my community. My MOPs group has been wonderful! If you are a mother of a preschooler you can find your local MOPs group HERE. My group meets twice a month. We do fun crafts and activities and it also includes childcare! 2 hours(child free) to hang out with other moms and support each other through this journey. If there aren't any support groups near you try finding some groups on Facebook to join. Hearing another mom say "me too" when you are struggling with something can mean the world.
HOBBIES ARE HELPFUL
As much as I'd like to be 100% focused on my child 24/7 that's just not realistic. While we love our children dearly it's good to have a couple of hobbies that you still get to do as an adult. Needless to say mine is crafting. I also love going for walks and reading.(Yes, I am 80 years old - old soul here) Fortunately, I can do some of these while my daughter plays or sleeps. Going for walks was a lifesaver over the summer. This will save you on those days that you feel tired, stressed out, anxious, or whatever else you might feel. Working from home can be stressful, but maybe that is a creative outlet for you and you also get to make some extra money.
BE REALISTIC - EVERY DAY IS A NEW DAY
Be realistic about what you can get done in a day and what you can maintain over time. I like excel sheets so of course I created a sheet where I could track cleaning tasks. I wanted to see what tasks needed to be done daily, weekly or monthly and what was realistic for me to keep up with. I came up with a very simple list to keep myself on track. This is not an exhaustive list, but was helpful getting started. I love lists because I like crossing things off my list. So satisfying! And guess what? If I don't complete the list...ITS OKAY. It's just a guide. You have the opportunity to start again or do something different tomorrow.
EVERY FAMILY IS DIFFERENT
I learned pretty quickly that there is SO MUCH advice out there for parents. From sleeping to eating to bathing and more. My point is, you have to pick and choose what will work for you and your family. It helped me to think of people's advice just as options. There is no pressure to take it. It is just there if I want it. There is no guilt for doing something a different way from someone else. Communicate with your partner or others in your home to see what really fits during this season.
LASTLY, DON'T FORGET TO ENJOY THE TIME TOGETHER
Enjoy the time you do spend with each other whether you get a lot or a little. The days are long, but the years are short. There will be stresses, exhaustion, and other emotions. You will experience many seasons so enjoy the one you're in.
Do you have additional advice for stay at home parents? I'd love to hear your experiences below. Thanks for reading!