Never A Dull Moment
From New Beginnings, Vol. 31 No. 1, 2010, pp. 32-35
"Staying Home" is a regular feature of the magazine New Beginnings, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of New Beginnings to help parents who choose to stay at home with their children. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's life-style. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.
I am expecting my first child in a few months and my husband and I have decided that I will leave my job and stay home with the baby. I am worried because my job has me on the go all the time, with new things happening every day. How do other moms deal with the monotony of being at home when they are used to a busy, lively job outside the home? How can I best prepare myself for staying home with my baby?
My husband loves to say, "Nature abhors a vacuum." And it's true! I had a busy, lively job, too, before I became a mother. I had been a sales director for a company based outside New York City, traveling to trade shows and visiting clients from coast to coast. I was literally on the go all the time, so much so that for over a year I had a hard time conceiving. My husband and I decided that I would leave my perhaps-too-exciting job and stay home, and four months after I resigned, sure enough, I was pregnant.
After being a career woman for seven years, I was afraid that I would be bored staying home. But I also welcomed my break from the daily stresses of the workforce. Through the local recreation department, I took an art class on Chinese brush painting and made a now dear friend. I visited the library often, checking out countless books, DVDs, and CDs, all for free! I went to the municipal swimming pool to temporarily forget about my growing belly while floating in the soothing water. I took low-impact fitness classes for the first time -- tai chi and prenatal yoga while I was pregnant, and then mommy and me yoga after my son was born. I also volunteered as a tour guide for children and made friends at a local museum. To prepare yourself for staying home with your baby, take the time now while you are pregnant to explore interests and make friendships that you can pursue and maintain even after the birth.
I must admit, my life as a stay-at-home mother has been anything but boring. There is something new every day, or so it seems, and nature does indeed abhor a vacuum! Soon after my son was born, I found support groups for new mothers through my midwives' office and later I attended mommy and me classes at a children's play space nearby. And, of course, I joined my local La Leche League Group and found there the support and friendship of other nursing mothers. Is there a local chapter of the Holistic Moms Network, Attachment Parenting International, or another parenting group nearby that may interest you? You can attend meetings, read up on different parenting philosophies, make friends, and soon enough schedule play dates for your little one.
Don't forget that mother-sized volunteer work can be just as challenging and rewarding as paid employment, plus you have the satisfaction of helping others as part of a greater cause. Find something that is family-friendly and that allows you to stay close to your baby. Perhaps you can take on a group job or eventually pursue leadership with your LLL group. And who knows? Maybe you'll even find yourself responding to questions from mothers-to-be and new mothers in an LLL publication such as New Beginnings!
Congratulations on your pregnancy, and good luck to you!
Colleen Rachele Read
Eastchester, NY, USA
I went from working in a full-time job to being home all day. I had no idea what looking after a baby really involved and it was quite hard. So, my first tip, if you don't have much experience with babies, try to spend time with some before yours is born.
Secondly, I found going to LLL meetings, moms and tots groups, anywhere there were other new moms with new babies, to be helpful. Sharing your tale of a sleepless night with someone who has been there helps to put it in perspective. Sometimes it seems like far too much effort to leave the house, but it is worth it.
I remember reading that babies start to get into a routine at six weeks old. Jacob turned six weeks old on a Monday. Sunday night I wrote a schedule for the next day. In hindsight, I don't know what I was thinking. By lunchtime on Monday, I was in floods of tears, so tip number 3 is don't expect too much of yourself or your baby and go with the flow. After the structured nature of work, I found this reasonably difficult.
Sometimes it felt like a day had lasted forever and then before I knew it, months had passed. I wish I had spent more time enjoying my first son, rather than fretting. The second time around the time went much more quickly and I enjoyed it so much more.
Congratulations! Be proud of making the commitment to your child to stay home. My partner and I made the same choice, and it wasn't easy. I have friends who returned to work because an outside job seemed less stressful!
Get out of the house as many days a week as you can, even if it's only for a walk around the block, and make new friends with other like-minded stay-at-home moms.
Look into your local library. Most have "story time" during the day, and many are geared towards kids' ages and development. My library has "Book Babies" ages 0–1, "Mother Goose Story Time" ages 1–2, and "Toddler Tales" ages 2–3 and they are free! There are also programs out there such as MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) that have minimal membership dues, and offer friendship and support.
Finding a hands-free baby carrier or sling can help getting out feel less overwhelming. Ask other moms if you can try out their slings so you don't have to spend money on something that isn't right for you. Ask your LLL friends what kind of things they do to get out -- they can be a great resource.
Houston, PA, USA
I wonder whether you will actually find being at home monotonous? Many stay-at-home moms find we have so many things we enjoy doing that life becomes busier than ever before. It is true that housework can be tedious but there will be little more of that than there always has been. Some moms get together to complete boring tasks.
Learning about your new baby, understanding the psychology behind his/her development is fascinating, especially when you have a daily practical demonstration. Your baby can be included in a lot of things you enjoy, and some things may need to be put aside until your baby is older.
Start looking at things you would enjoy doing while you are looking after your baby. Hobbies such as reading, handicrafts, gardening, photography, keeping pets, or studying through a correspondence course can be interesting. Volunteer work can offer a challenge without the stress of a work commitment. Added to that, you may find a whole new bunch of friends doing the same things and have little time to worry!
One thing, though, allow time to enjoy your baby. This is such a precious time and one you only experience once! It is too exciting to miss.
I have tried both being a full-time working mom and staying at home. I decided to go back to my lively job but I often felt guilty not being able to spend more time with my daughter. It is difficult juggling both and doing both as well as you would want. Every mother has to find what suits her and her family best.
Staying home is a 24/7 job but very rewarding. I feel privileged to be able to be with my children and I try to make the most of every day.
Gudrun Oddsson, Hertfordshire, GB
I struggled with staying home until my son was at least 18 months old, and I had wanted to quit my job! However, the commitment I had made that I, not a stranger, was going to raise my child helped me through long, dull, and often frustrating days.
Joining and participating in an online mothering/parenting forum was my saving grace. Surrounding myself with beautiful music and listening to interesting podcasts helped.
Going from a job to staying at home with children is a big transition, but you will eventually enjoy the relative freedom and appreciate being able to be with your baby as he hits all the precious milestones.
Emily Jacques, Plano, TX, USA
When my daughter was born my heart was bursting with love and I could no longer imagine that I had ever said having a child was a "take it or leave it" option. I love being a mother. My daughter is with my husband or napping when I am at the computer working. We do, however, spend most of her waking moments together. I have found a group of friends through La Leche League and we meet for play dates most days. We also spend time helping each other (we call them work dates), when one mom works and the other two moms watch the three children. It is not at all monotonous to be home! In fact, we are rarely at home! I have found a world of endless possibilities and enjoyment. I often wonder why I was so career-oriented before.
Guelph, ON, Canada
I left my job when my daughter was born. It was an office job, but I interacted with lots of people every day, and missed that when I was at home. I was a bit depressed at first, but began to meet other stay-at-home moms and began to find reasons to get out of the house. This helped so much. Of course, the most wonderful outings were always to LLL meetings, where everyone was so supportive and encouraging.
Indiana, PA, USA
Monotony is not a word I have ever used to describe my life as a stay-at-home mom. Not once in over four years have I had time to sit and ponder the monotony of my life. I'm busy!
My "job," like you described your employment, has me on the go all the time, with new things happening every day. Some of my duties include breastfeeding, changing diapers, changing onesies, changing my clothes that have been spit-up and pooped on, trying to get the spit-up smell out of the couch, doing laundry, cooking meals, looking for new meal ideas, doctor visits, researching vaccines, attending LLL meetings, more doctor visits, taking care of the car, taking care of our house, play dates, visiting grandparents, reading stories, trips to the park, trips to the zoo (my life is a zoo!), trips to the store, patching a hole in the knees of blue jeans, creating a budget, paying bills, coordinating insurance benefits, researching schools, more breastfeeding, tying shoes, wiping tears, taking care of my husband, teaching songs, praying, attending meetings, washing the dishes, putting away clothes, playing games, celebrating milestones, trying not to worry about milestones not met, desperately trying to carve out time to do something just for me, taking walks, calming a crying child, preparing our taxes, volunteering to lead our church's youth group, breaking up sibling fights, planting a garden, enjoying cuddles, savoring every sweet little kiss, and the list goes on and on. Some of the things I do not have time for are time alone, time with my husband, and leisure activities. It is the hardest "job" I have ever had, but I would never trade it in for another!
Hold on tight because you are getting ready for the wildest ride of your life!
Sara Brown, Troy, MO, USA
Invest in outerwear for every condition. Then get outside as much as possible for a walk or yard play. Your own four walls can play mind games if you look at them too long. Even when you are nursing frequently you can sneak in several small blocks of time and a half hour here and there can make the difference. The fresh air gets your imagination and lungs working and gives you a purpose every day. It's great for the baby. With the right umbrella, mud boots, bathing suit ... there are no excuses not to get moving, get out and see the sky.
K. Wilbur Colchester, VT, USA
I used to have doubts about whether I could survive being totally immersed in child's stuff all day long. For a while I felt as if I was losing my identity to the needs of my family. I found a couple of books through our La Leche League library, Learning A Loving Way of Life, compiled and edited by Virginia Sutton Halonen and Nancy Mohrbacher, and What Is a Smart Woman like You Doing at Home? by Janet Dittmer, Linda Burton and Cheri Loveless. Both helped me put my feelings into perspective and cement in my own mind that it really was okay for me to stay home instead of having a career.
I totally enjoy being a stay-at-home mom. Best profession ever.
Billings, MT, USA
You seem to be experiencing some trepidation about becoming a stay-at-home mom. If you're not sure, perhaps you could ask for a one-year unpaid leave from your boss and then reassess how you feel about staying at home. Are there ways you can remain involved with a professional association perhaps by doing contract work to keep one foot in the door?
But back to your real question -- how do driven, professional moms deal with the "monotony" of being home?
- Be open to a major shift in thinking. Before I had my daughter, no one in my close circle was a full-time stay-at-home mom. I thought that any woman with any brains in her head would naturally choose work. Why else would she have put in all that time getting an education and climbing up the career ladder? I assumed that stay-at-home moms probably were not abandoning fulfilling careers. Then my baby came along and made me reassess all of my priorities and preconceptions. The more books I've read on the subject and the more brilliant stay-at-home moms I've met, the more I’ve realized that the most important thing I could do for me, my family, and the world is to put my career on hold for five or ten years and return to it when my daughter is older. I have to admit, though, that I am still struggling with this shift in thinking and just inching my way toward being a stay-at-home mom (I currently work reduced hours). It's hard to change a lifetime of ingrained values.
- Don't try to play with your baby all day. When I hear moms on maternity leave (maternity leave is typically 12 months in Canada) say that they can't wait to get back to work, they often mention how boring it is to try to entertain their babies all day. I have never felt it is my job to entertain Nora, and as a result I never find spending time with her monotonous. I carry her on my back or in a sling while I cook, garden, shovel snow, buy groceries, wash the floors, go for walks, or visit with friends. It's a great way for her to see and learn about the world while being close to me, and I get to do adult things. I even brought her along while I volunteered teaching English as a second language during my maternity leave. Okay, and I do play with her sometimes -- just not all day!
- Get involved. There are tons of resources and activities out there for stay-at-home moms and their children.
- But don't get too involved. My first few months at home with Nora I had us signed up for volunteer work, mom and baby yoga, baby salsa, swimming, and gatherings with my prenatal group. After a few months of this I realized that I was running from appointment to appointment, and I cut most of it out. As my local La Leche League Leader pointed out, one of the pleasures of having a baby is slowing life down to a baby's pace. Even though you enjoy your hectic work schedule now, you may enjoy a slower rhythm of life paced around feedings once your baby comes.
- Learn about gentle discipline. I've noticed that positive parenting techniques vastly improve the experience of spending all day with a child.
- Remember that your child will never again be at the stage he or she is at today. This is your one chance to cuddle your newborn, be endeared by your cute toddler, and indulge in the curiosity of your amazing preschooler.
Calgary, Alberta, Canada