Staying Home Instead
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 16 No. 5 September October 1999 pp. 174-176
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.
Before my baby was born I worked at a university and my life was filled with intellectual stimulation. I don't regret leaving the academic world behind to care for my son, but I miss using my mind the way I used to. Even our leisure activities revolve around the children instead of the theater bookstore, and lecture and concert circuit we used to frequent. Sometimes I feel that if I hear one more "Barney" song I'll scream! How have other mothers at home met their children's needs and their own "grown-up" intellectual needs at the some time, especially when night outings aren't an option?
First, remember your child will be young only for a short time. Second, meeting your child's needs does not mean you need to neglect your own. Supporters of the arts will be happy to tell you how children who are exposed to the arts at a young age will benefit! Why not share some of your passion for art and literature with your child? Play the kind of music you like at home and dance with your child. Expose him to all kinds of music, from classical to jazz to rock and beyond. Check at your local library and see if they have some of your favorite theater productions on tape. Borrow a few and watch them with your child or while he naps. If your child is old enough, a children's theater production might be just the ticket for the whole family. Treat yourself to a good book, either one you buy or one from the library. A child who sees that a parent values reading will often develop a love of reading too. You can listen to books on tape while you are in the car. Correspondence classes can be a way to explore an interesting subject. A stroll through an art museum will give your son a chance to look at colors, shapes, and forms and give you an opportunity to share the art you love. He might just surprise you by telling you what that painting of squiggles really is! Taking care of your needs and "filling your tank" is not only good for you, it is good for your child too. What better example can you set than to show your son how to love himself?
Montevideo MN USA
One of the ways I have stayed involved with intellectual pursuits and still met the needs of my children is to get involved with La Leche League. My children are always welcome and if I need time off because of my family there is never any pressure. At the same time, I have been able to write for publications, speak at conferences, get involved with fundraising and managing the Group's finances, and participate in other aspects of the organization that are similar to working in a business or in an academic setting.
If university life and books interest you, why not take on the job of librarian for your LLL Group? Some librarians even present a book report to the Group each month, letting everyone know what books are available. The experience with reading and presenting information can meet the need to use your brain. I don't know if I could survive without all the extra support from La Leche League! And I thought I was only coming for the breastfeeding support!
Santa Barbara CA USA
I completely understand your quandary. I've heard many people say, "How can you stand to stay at home when you had such a good career going?" as if being a mother necessitated turning off my brain. My response has typically been that mothering is a far more difficult job than any 9-to-5 I've ever had. As for maintaining a sense of intellectual progress while learning nursery rhymes and lullabies, perhaps you can carve out a few minutes every day to read a challenging book or article, or listen to a book-on-tape. The trick is to find something that forces you to think beyond your current knowledge, if even for a few moments. You will come away with the sense that you are still growing as a person - and indeed you are. Feeding your mind in whatever subject thrills you will help you feel alive and even more available to your young child.
Another thing that might help is journaling. Spending a half- hour each day writing in a journal can open new vistas. The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron, is an excellent book on expanding your creativity that also has some wonderfully thought-provoking life questions you can write about. Reading this book about a year after my son was born sparked a renaissance in my life. It helped me feel empowered in my mothering and confident in myself. Good luck.
Palos Verdes Estate CA USA
I also come from a university environment and I understand completely what you mean. Being with the children is very emotionally satisfying, but it is not much of an intellectual challenge. I have several methods of attacking this problem. First, I remind myself that the children are small only for a short time. As they grow I expect that they will be my companions at the museum, the concert, the historic site. I'm already priming my older children, five-year-old twins, by sharing what I consider to be classic or better quality books and folk tales, art, children's music, videos, and computer activities. I also make sure to participate enthusiastically in activities such as puzzles, blocks, and building with Legos. Second, I try to use creativity and advanced problem- solving skills to handle the children. I challenge myself to come up with a novel approach, and I often invent stories, songs, games, or jokes, either to change the dynamics of a tricky situation or just for fun.
Coral Gables FL USA
The Internet! I love message boards, because they challenge me to express my often-opposing views in a respectful, logical way. Both of my children have spent several naps on my lap as I type away. I realize that there is expense involved; however, it's not hard anymore to find an affordable used computer.
Union City TN USA
I can relate to your need for intellectual stimulation when staying home with young children. I was not prepared for the boredom that faces stay-at-home parents. My children are aged four years and 18 months, and I have been researching ways for at home moms to avoid brain mush for three years. I hope some of my suggestions will be helpful to you.
I also enjoy writing and have begun submitting a critique of local children's play places to my community's web site. I go out for a great day with my kids, then in my spare time (which I have to create!) I write the critique of the day. I feel good about getting the chance to write and I also feel that I am offering something to my community.
Getting involved in your community is a great way to ease brain freeze. What about joining the Friends of the Library, the town history committee, or the local arts council? Many of these groups are eager for members and could use your expertise. Is there an issue in your area that you support or oppose? Find out who is heading it and ask what you can do to help. I am currently working on funding for a community pool and find that just making phone calls for the group and writing a few articles for the paper have given me immense intellectual stimulation, and I can do it from home while my youngest naps.
If the town you live in doesn't offer a group you would like to join, why not start one yourself There is a great satisfaction in creating something that will benefit you and others like you. After taking the Systematic Training for Effective Parenting (STEP) course I found that a monthly refresher would be very beneficial. No such thing was available so I placed a free listing in my local paper and asked others interested to join me at a meeting. The response was fabulous! I wish you the best of luck and many happy (and intellectual!) thoughts.
Monroe NY USA
This wasn't much of a concern to me, but my sister-in-law kept pestering my husband, telling him that I would grow resentful and "unpleasant" if I didn't get out and do something more valuable with my time. He saw no evidence of this, but I know it was in the back of his mind. One day we were talking about the things we hoped to pursue "one day " and I admitted to a lifelong desire to learn to play the cello. My husband said, "Do it! Why wait? " So since October 1997 I have been taking cello lessons once a week on my husband's day off. Relearning to read music, practicing when I can (some days, I just can't), and the sense of accomplishment when I master a new piece have given me such pleasure! I get such a feeling of contentment coming home to my beloved family after a lesson that has gone well.
As an added bonus, my son loves the cello and never fails to clap for me! I am 10 weeks away from delivering our next child and this boy has spent his gestation with the cello nearby; I hope he has enjoyed it.
So my suggestion is to take up a hobby, like playing a new instrument, to stimulate your mind and free you, however briefly, from "Barney Syndrome."
Hemet CA USA
I am a musician, so my life before the birth of my first child was naturally filled with numerous cultural activities. My son is now three and I also have a five-month-old daughter. I have learned that my life does not need to lack intellectual stimulation. In many cities, local bands and orchestra offer Concert in the Park series. These are most frequently held in the spring and summer months. Parents can enjoy a concert without the concern of a young child disturbing other concert-goers. I have also found that breastfed babies are extremely portable and are usually quite content when carried in a sling. This opens a whole string of possibilities including indoor concerts, museums, art exhibits, poetry readings, and lectures.
Some special tips can make your outings more enjoyable for all involved. When attending a concert or lecture, sit near an exit and be prepared to leave early if your baby gets too fussy. If there is a university nearby, they may offer low-cost or no-cost events. If you haven 't paid much to get in, it won't be quite as hard to leave if you have to. The best times to visit museums and art exhibits are weekday mornings when there are fewer people there. Try to go after your baby naps; he'll be in better spirits. Also, you may want to nurse before you go in and always wear something in which you can easily and comfortably nurse. Snacks for older children are an absolute must.
With a bit of thought and preparation, your intellectual needs can be met while you are meeting the needs of your nursing child. Finding ways to attend cultural events will not only fill your need for such stimulation but will benefit the intellectual growth of your baby through exposure to a variety of experiences.
Alice J. Webb
Farmville NC USA