You’ve decided to stay home with your children. Congratulations on making a very important, yet often difficult decision. And welcome to your new role as CEO of a cottage industry called: Your Children Ldt.
No matter how thrilled you are to be with your children, going from the boardroom to the playroom can be a drastic change. Much of stay-at-home parenting is harder than any other job; can you think of any other profession that has 24/7 shifts, no lunch breaks, and no holiday or sick days?
Our tips can be very useful for people making the transition from a full-time professional to a stay-at-home-parent. (Tip: They may also work for all you full-time nannies.)
Set a schedule
Suddenly the day is over and you haven’t showered, left the house or had an adult conversation. It’s easy to get depressed. Time can go quickly when there is no external pressure to get things done and you don’t have a deadline. You need to structure your time so that you can use it productively while still allowing for flexibility.
Why it works: A general schedule will make getting from 6 a.m. to bedtime a lot less stressful. It gives some shape to the day and tells children what to expect — children love consistency. You might like to leave morning activities open but have set times for meals, naps, art a trip to the library, a visit to the park and watching a special TV programme. Whatever the time frame, consistent blocks of time each day and week will work in everyone’s favour.
Network in your industry
It’s essential that you talk to others in your line of work to vent, swap strategies, have a good laugh and realise that you’re all in the same boat on good days — and bad.
Why it works: Getting out of the house for any form of adult interaction will stave off loneliness and give you a support network. Stay-at-home parenthood can be extremely isolating, especially when your children are babies, or when you’re brand-new to it. You will meet other parents who know what you are going through at places such as the library, the park, parent-and-toddler groups, nursery school drop-off and pick-up and school volunteering. Think about it like dating — and start picking up other parents with the best thing you have in common – cute children!
Strive for good enough
Every professional has room to do better at their job, even parents, but you need to be realistic. Children want TV, chicken nuggets and chips? Go ahead — if it will make the next hour easier for you. If your children are healthy, loved and taken care of, don’t doubt your ability. Work on being a great parent, not the perfect parent.
Why it works: You’ll never be a perfect parent, because there’s no such thing; but chances are your ‘job performance’ is good enough. The more you obsess over the right and wrong ways to parent, the more time you waste that you could be enjoying your children or coming up with a new way to spend rainy afternoons inside. If on most days you can say you truly love your job and your children, then you really can’t do any better than that.
Hire a co-worker, aka, a nanny
It used to be that extended families all lived in the same house or in the same area. Childcare was just an easy 5 minutes away. Having your mother-in-law move in is probably not an option (or safe for your marriage), but neither is being a totally solo stay-at-home-parent all week.
Why it works: At the office, you worked with a team of people to get a job done. The same goes for your home. With an extra set of hands, there is someone else to wash the bottles, make meals and go down the slide for the 100th time. And you finally have a chance to take a nap, go to the gym or run some errands, peacefully. Sweet joy! Whether you hire a part-time nanny, housekeeper, Au Pair or find a great babysitter, you’ll find that the break and extra assistance helps you be a happier Parent.
Socialise after hours
Step out of the role of parent: join a reading group, work with a charity, attend an art opening at the local library, or meet up and do something nice with a friend. Do anything where people expect you to show up and it will serve as part of your motivation for getting out. Sprinkle these after-hours activities across the week — like Monday and Thursday – to break up the week.
Why it works: Maintaining your adult identity outside of being a parent will stimulate your mind, body and give a boost to your self-esteem — all of which will make you a better parent and partner. You’ll connect with fulfilling people, create a role outside of your home (Zumba superstar, book club regular), and energise yourself.
No, your children won’t set up your direct deposit. And they won’t be praising you for your most recent project (finding that lost fire engine under the sofa). So without regular payment and an occasional sense of feeling undervalued, what’s to keep you from quitting? You need a salary — as well as positive reinforcement. Remind yourself that you’re doing some of the most valuable work there is, even if you’re not getting paid for it. Feeling undervalued comes from inner ambivalence, or a lack of validation from a spouse or partner.
Why it works: Any self-doubt is just making your job of stay-at-home-parent more difficult. You need to change the way you speak to yourself and start appreciating your own worth and hard work as a parent. It will actually make your job more fun. Don’t feel shy in asking your partner as well as your children for more appreciation — a hug, a thank you, breakfast in bed. Getting paid can help you feel better about spending money without making it. Remember, you are doing a job. Payment can also come as an occasional treat like a weekend morning to yourself, a new pair of jeans, an extra day with a babysitter — there are plenty of little ways you can feel rewarded.