Stay at home Mom is not a label I ever thought I would have nor does it seem to suit what I do. I actually spend 80% of my time plotting how to get out of the house not stay in it. Not that House Wife or Homemaker is much better. But I guess how do you put a label on a parent who stays home?
I start my day at 5.30am. On a lucky day it ends at 8pm when I finally sit down or at least make dinner and put the toys away, but on those teething nights, sick nights, nights when the nightmares creep in it is a 24 hour job.
I am chief nurturer, playtime supervisor, meal planner, manner enforcer, argument negotiator, playdate planner, transportation enabler, nap organiser, nose blower, dresser, nappy changer, cleaner, toy picker upper, entertainment scheduler, teacher, medical care giver, all night hugger, pillow, toy builder, den maker, art project liaison, playground monitor, ice-cream limiter, cook, potty trainer, outing planner, tantrum defuser, photographer, falling child catcher, football coach, naughty child excuser, bottom wiper, teeth cleaner, bath giver, train track engineer.
No one title covers this.
As I have said before this is not the path I thought I would be on and when I was first home I felt lost, sometimes bored and often like a failure. All my education and years building a career and my own business and now I was just a Mum.
But as the fog has lifted and I realised how wonderful an opportunity it has been to be able to be home with my boys when they are so little, I started to really make the most of it. Of course there are days I long to be working, using my brain in a different way again and be around grown-ups more but I know this is not a choice I will ever regret.
I have been home with the kids for over two years now and I am slowly feeling prouder of what I have achieved and stopped making so many excuses as to why I don’t work. Like with any job the effort you put in is what you get out of it and here are my top tips for making the most of being home.
- Get out! Often. Even if it’s just to the corner shop. Staying in all day isn’t healthy for anyone. On the worst day even with the grumpiest kids a walk round the corner and some vitamin D can do you no end of good.
- Make plans, but not to many. In Brooklyn there are no end of classes, sing alongs, meet ups. You can easily fill your time but trying to get small kids to more than one activity a day can be carnage. Plan one thing each day be it a playdate or a class. I try and have one class and one standing a playdate a week and the rest we plan as we go along depending on weather, the kids moods etc. The older the get the more stuff you can do but when they are really tiny they genuinely just need you and any class is to get you out and with other people.
- Find your mums. The mums who have the same parenting philosophy, will support you and not make you feel a bit shit that your toddler had a meltdown and your baby is eating mud in the corner. Avoid the ones who clearly had half an hour to blow dry their hair that morning and whose little girl is sitting quietly eating an organic snack in the while she reads a novel. Most of all find the ones who will drink wine with you or hide with you in the kitchen to have chocolate while the kids are not looking.
- Get some sort of routine. Without the structure of a work day this can really help make the long days seem more manageable.
- At least once a month break the routine and go on an adventure somewhere new. Don’t worry about times or naps and just have fun somewhere different. It breaks the mundane repetition that can be the hardest thing about this job.
- Work really hard on naps. If you can get your kids to nap at home not just in the car or the pushchair it will be your savior because then you can have some time to sit down and breath for a minute. If you can nap, if not just sit your ass down and read or watch TV. Do not I repeat do NOT use this time to do laundry, cooking or tidy toys that will be thrown everywhere as soon as the kids wake up anyway.
- Get a cleaner. Yes this is not always affordable on a single wage but if you can stretch to one luxury this is it! Believe me it does not mean you will not clean, I clean at least 7-10 times a day BUT if someone can do all the floors and the bathrooms and make your house look good even if it’s only for a few minutes once a month then do it do it do it.
- Do a childcare swaps. Babysitters can be prohibitively expensive, so find a neighbour or friend to do date night swaps. They come sit in your house and watch your TV one night a month while your kids sleep and then you repay the favour. I also have a friend who’s little one I watch one morning every other week and then she takes my little one the other weeks. It means we can do chores, get a haircut, go to the dentist or just sleep! Costs nothing but means everything.
- Remember for every bad day where no one sleeps and there are tantrums, endless nappies, demand after demand and you forget to eat or go for a wee you will get days where you get to take your little ones on an adventure and run in the park and eat ice-cream while everyone else is at work. Those will be the days that stick with you.