It’s 8 a.m. and everything is happening all at once. The baby is crying because she’s hungry, and her poopy diaper is leaking onto my shirt I just put on. My 4-year-old has been in time-out already, and I’m ordering her to get dressed and to stop poking the baby in the face. She whines about wanting her breakfast this very instant and insists that I play Disney characters with her all day. I’m tripping over toys splayed across the floor and have a monster pile of laundry lurking downstairs, and I realize it will be at least eight hours before my husband comes home from work, which in stay-at-home mom time feels more like 14 hours.
Staying home with my kids is the best.
|Me and My Girls|
Therefore, I present a few tips for those days when you feel like the walls of your home are pressing in close around you.
1. Get out of the house! Even if it’s just a walk around the neighborhood, and even if it’s 35 degrees outside. Bundle up. Your kids can handle the cold, and the fresh air will instantly improve your mood and give you an energy burst.
2. Explore your community, especially the free stuff. Go to library story time or take advantage of your mall if it has an indoor playground. (Avoid the temptation to shop, but if you must buy something, treat your kids to frugal sweets from the 25-cent candy machines.) During warmer months, make it a fun goal to try to visit as many different parks as possible, and bring a picnic lunch. My personal favorites in the St. Louis area are the zoo, which is always free, and the Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House, which has a monthly free day.
3. Make friends. Knowing that you aren’t alone in dealing with pouty preschoolers and baby diaper blowouts helps immensely. My husband grew up in the St. Louis area, but I am a transplant of five years, so it’s taken a little time to find my own friends. Besides a few ready-made friends through my husband’s own network (including fellow blogger Elizabeth), I’ve met some great friends at library story time (like other fellow blogger Heather). Our family also struck up a friendship with a family in the neighborhood that regularly takes walks past our house. Their daughter was hugely envious of the swing in our front yard, we began chatting, and now we frequently hang out at each other’s houses. Other friend-finding spots include church, your child’s preschool or other extracurricular classes, or the park. See if you have any local moms’ clubs or MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) groups. Don’t forget your network of mom friends on Facebook and Twitter, too.
4. Entertain the kids with help from the internet. One of my favorite sites is http://dltk-kids.com, which offers free printable preschool projects. We also enjoy free activities on pbskids.org, where my 4-year-old is a Mr. Rogers junkie, and starfall.com. Also, never underestimate the power of Google on a rainy or wintry day. A search one day for “online coloring pages” yielded the site, http://www.coloring4all.com, which kept my daughter occupied all morning.
5. Take some time for yourself every day. No other job requires you to work 24/7. This is perhaps the hardest thing about being a mom, and especially a stay-at-home mom. It’s important to get some time to just breathe. Take this opportunity when your children nap, or if your child has outgrown naps, insist that she spend 30 minutes to an hour having quiet time and playing calmly or reading books in her room. It will do you all some good. Resist the urge the do housework. Sit. Read. Think. Enjoy a hobby (see below).
6. Find a grown-up hobby or project. This is a huge boost for my own mental health. For me, it’s writing. Doing something I enjoy, and doing it well, reminds me that I am more than just a person who changes diapers and plays with princess dolls all day. I have a bright mind and I am doing something meaningful with my talents. Delve into your passions, whether they be knitting, painting, researching your family genealogy, gardening, playing an instrument, or skydiving.
7. Remember that these years are a short part of your life. Your children will not be little and underfoot at home forever. This, too, shall pass, and someday we will be the grandmothers in the grocery store checkout line who smile wistfully at all the moms with young children in tow.
8. Finally, pray. A lot!