Stay-at-Home Parent Strategies – How to Stay Happy and Healthy at Home with your Children
Being a stay-at-home parent is anything but easy at times. It can be monotonous, emotionally draining, isolating and even (I hate to say it) boring. The good news is that there are some great strategies for staying sane and maintaining the joy in your life at home with your children.
- Create a schedule that really works for you – and stay on it! A child’s life has a natural rhythm to it. When you learn to follow that flow, instead of forcing your child into your rhythms, you will all be happier and healthier. Spend a couple of days simply noticing when your child is naturally hungry, tired, energized and needing the bathroom. You will begin to notice a pattern: write it down and fill in the times that are good for errands, creative play, big-energy play and quiet reading and cuddle times. Following a predictable schedule will have several effects on you: 1) Time will go by faster because you aren’t simply looking at a blank stretch of day, not knowing what to do in it. 2) Every child responds extremely well to being on a schedule. It makes them feel secure, in control and well-loved. Children like predictability and stability when it comes to the structure of their day. 3) If you are overly busy – like 95% of us these days – being on a schedule will keep you and your kids centered in the busy-ness. The more centered and grounded your children feel, the less chaos they will contribute to your home. And make sure to get outside every single day. (If we can do it here in rainy Oregon, you can do it where you live!)
- Take a class for adults. Get yourself out of the house every week for a little grown-up time. It’s really important for you and your children that you don’t isolate yourself. You need mental and social stimulation in order to be a fully functioning adult. For me, taking piano lessons has been a wonderful way for me to get out of the house and have a little time on my own every week. It’s also something that I look forward to sharing with my children as they grow.
- Take one evening off every week. I learned this one from a stay-at-home mom who knows, without a doubt, that she is a better mother because she takes a few hours off every single week. She schedules this special time months in advance and holds it very sacred. By the way, her husband also takes one evening off a week and they schedule date nights almost every Friday. This couple is a great example of the idea that in order to fill another’s cup, you have to fill your pitcher first. They are able to be more present to their daughter when they have the space to fill up their “love tanks” away from her.
- Volunteer. Whether it’s at your church or your older child’s school or another organization that you are passionate about… If you don’t get out of the house and help someone else, your life will get way too small and you will most likely begin to obsess about any problems you have. It’s one of the great paradoxes of life: when you are feeling most drained, go help someone else. You will begin to feel energized and gain some perspective about life and an appreciation for all the good you have.
If you begin to feel like you have a thankless job, that drags on 24 hours a day and that you never get relief, it’s time to start talking to your spouse about what’s going on. Remember that you’re a parenting team, even if you are the one spending the majority of time with the children. Make sure your partner has a say in what’s going on and that s/he really understands the dynamic that you’re working with. I’m not talking about complaining: I’m talking about communication and problem-solving.
Being a stay-at-home parent really is a true blessing, for you and for your children, as long as you approach it with a good understanding of how to stay happy and healthy.
By: Shelly Walker Shelly@ParentingKeys.com