Staying Home Instead
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 16 No. 1, January-February 1999, pp. 15-17
We provide articles from our publications from previous years for reference for our Leaders and members. Readers are cautioned to remember that research and medical information change over time.
"Staying Home Instead" 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.
We have been blessed with two very talkative children (seven and almost three) and a very sociable baby. Sometimes, however, I feel almost persecuted by all the little voices, especially if my older child has a friend or two visiting. The voices seem to close in on me with all the requests for food and help. Sometimes conversations with my toddler are precious, but sometimes I get tired of all the child-like wonder. The older children invariably start to roughhouse, which just adds to the noise level. I don't want to destroy communication, but I cannot deal with all the chatter all day long. How do other moms cope?
I hear you! I also am blessed with two very verbal children who must tell me everything and never wait for an answer to a question. One way that has helped me deal with this is to look at all the other noise in my life. There is a very good chapter about noise and the stress it causes in Motherhood Stress by Deborah Shaw Lewis. You may be able to find it in your local LLL Group Library. (It is currently out of print.) The author talks about all the things that mothers must listen for, from the delivery truck to the buzzer on the clothes dryer. I thought that my apartment-sized washer and dryer would save my life, but instead the noise of it running constantly nearly drove me nuts. Think about what would be the least stressful time to run the appliances like the washer, dryer, and dishwasher.
I had to make myself turn off the radio. I love listening to discussions on public radio programs, but it made me feel like the children were constantly interrupting. But I can turn on a favorite music CD for us all to dance to and that keeps the kids busy for half an hour and gets me moving too. It's a stress reducer.
Consider having just one friend over at a time for your oldest. Go outside with your children as much as you can, even if it means moving out a chair and tray table for you to work on while they play. Just being outside keeps them busier and reduces the sound level.
When you get to the point where you don't know if you can cope for one more minute, get out some educational videos. Story tapes and books on tape from the library can provide quiet entertainment. You might also look into books about gifted children. Such children are often verbal and sociable, have high energy levels, and need less sleep. Gifted children can be a real challenge to raise and the more you know, the better prepared you will be.
Candace M. H.
I can really relate to this situation, as I enjoy solitude on occasion. I have three children: 17, 6, and 2. Some days I just long to go to the bathroom without a little voice tagging along! These are some of the things that have helped at our house. When daddy is not traveling on business he is responsible for bath time/bedtime routine. He takes the little children off for at least half an hour while I do the supper dishes in heavenly silence. I actually look forward to doing dishes--I never thought that would happen! My husband has come to enjoy this and relishes his time to be the main parent. When my husband is traveling I try to plan at least one meal out at a restaurant with an indoor playground or at a park where the children tend to find other children to play with and I can manage to read the newspaper without interruptions.
There are many things children can do for themselves. Look for things you are doing for them that they can accomplish on their own. This is also a big self-esteem builder when they know they are capable individuals. We have a snack area in our pantry with parent-approved snacks that the kids are allowed to help themselves to anytime they are hungry. Plastic glasses are down low for drinks. This cuts out the constant requests for snacks and drinks.
Also I have often found that putting on a CD (usually classical music) will soothe them into quieter play. When I am at the very end of my rope and afraid psychological damage is going to ensue (either for myself or the children) I put a video on. I really do nor like using the TV for a babysitter, but I feel it is better than resenting my children. There are many high-quality videos out there. Some public television and educational programs are good options.
When my husband is home to take over I have also been known to put myself in time-out. I simply tell the children, "Mommy is feeling cranky and needs a time-out for awhile. Daddy is here to take care of you." Then I take a breather.
I believe it is much better to acknowledge our needs as individuals and work within that framework rather than feeling that everything about ourselves must be put second to our roles as mothers. It is healthier for our children if we work from a base of honesty, and let them know mommies are people too, with feelings and needs. You will not destroy communication by addressing your needs, but you may destroy it if you let this go on to the point you are resentful and your children pick up on that. Here's wishing you moments of silence!
I too share the feelings regarding all the "little voices." I have let my children know that sometimes mommy needs quiet time, which I usually ask for while driving. I have let my two little ones know that to drive safely I need to be able to concentrate and to do that I need to be able to pay attention to the road. I ask for quiet in the car when I really can't handle one more question about where we are going and why. It seems that explaining the seriousness of my reasons (i.e., I could get into an accident if distracted) has been enough for my two chatterboxes.
Lisa C. B.
One solution that I use is to call a grandparent or close friend on the telephone and ask them if they have time to listen to Jim, seven, or Abby, five. That gives me a chance to take a break from listening, keeps relatives and friends in touch, and meets the children's need to be heard. I have also encouraged them to talk into a tape recorder when they have a lot to say and I am all chattered out.
I am surrounded by five children in a rural home. I can't send the children to the neighbor's or to play anywhere but here. Sometimes when I can't stand the talking, playing, happy screams, mad yells, and questions, I chase them all outside. These feelings are completely normal, and they usually come at times when my energy is low. When I take a look at why I might be feeling overwhelmed, I can find an appropriate solution—put on the video and take a nap if it's lack of sleep, play a good song if I feel down or depressed, get some fresh air outside if I'm feeling claustrophobic. Do pay attention to what your body and brain are telling you and take some action. Good luck!
I cope in several ways. I wake up at least an hour before everyone else does (which means I go to bed very early). This gives me time to prepare for my day in silence. When I don't have that quiet time the rest of the day feels much more stressful to me.
When the noise level rises, I've learned to fight my instinctive response of running into my room and hiding. Whenever possible, we head outside, even if it's just to the front yard. Even better is heading around the block or to the park for a walk. If we can't go outside, I try to introduce an organized activity that doesn't need a lot of my intervention—dancing with scarves, building with blocks, drawing pictures to mail to grandparents—to at least direct all the noise in one direction.
Recently, I've hired a slightly older girl from down the street to come be a mother's helper two hours a week. She plays with the children while I'm at home folding laundry or some other activity that takes me slightly apart from the family. I pay her a little but mostly she views it as a chance to prepare for babysitting later on. My children are thrilled to have an older child's attention, and she brings all the energy and freshness that I wish I had on Friday afternoons. If money is a problem you could try offering a trade: many 10-year-olds that I know would be happy to help out in return for a cooking or craft lesson. And even though I try to fight it, I have on occasion disappeared into my room to hide after all. Even a five minute break helps a lot. I take the baby with me and let my two older children know when I'll be back. (I do not do this when other children are at my house.) I'm careful to let my children know that it's not anything they've done, it's just that I'm particularly tired that day. Now I've noticed my oldest heading off to her room for a break once in a while: I'm pleased that she's learning how to rest when she needs it instead of staying out in the maelstrom until she falls apart screaming.
In the years since my three children were born, I have developed a real appreciation for quiet. It's a rare commodity when there are children. There are days when I really mean it when I tell a child "This noise is hurting my ears!" Mothers I know who do home day care often have a "quiet hour" in the afternoon, a time when everyone must rest or look at books or play by themselves. These women acknowledge that this time is important to their own sanity.
I made a point of taking advantage of any quiet time that came my way. Sometimes I stayed up very late, after the whole family was in bed, just to enjoy thinking my own thoughts without interruption in a quiet house. Even if I was tired the next day, I felt calmer inside. Getting up earlier than everyone in the family is another way to store up quiet time.
Roughhousing seven-year-olds will make a lot of noise, but if their play is going well, leave them to it and head for the other end of the house with the baby and three-year-old. If requests for snacks are driving you crazy, make a point of offering a snack to everyone at the same time, so you get it over with. Encourage the children to sit down with you and eat their snack at the kitchen table, using mealtime manners, talking one a time. This kind of focused conversation will fill their need to communicate and will be much more enjoyable for you. It's also a way to teach children to listen as well as talk. As it gets dark in the late afternoon or early evening, lower the lights and set out a few candles (in safe, out-of-reach places). For some reason, children tend to be quieter in dim light.
One of my friends, the mother of a preschooler who lets no thought go unexpressed, says there are times when she looks at him and says, "David, we're just not going to talk for a while." I've tried this, too, at times, when childish chatter is getting to me, and it does work—for a while.
Sometimes, when it is quiet. I point it out to the children as something to wonder at: "Oh, listen to the quiet. Doesn't that sound nice?"