Let’s face it, being a stay-at-home parent is challenging. I’ve been a stay-at-home-dad for nearly 8 years, with my two sons. I’ve had highs and lows, and learned a lot about parenting. I’ll share with you 5 of my best survival strategies.
You see, it isn’t all about drinking cups of coffee, playing on your phone or watching TV whenever you want, while your child plays by herself in the corner.
#1 Have a Routine
The hard truth is your days at home with your young child will feel very long indeed unless you have some kind of routine going on. I’m not saying you should schedule every hour of the day, but having things marked on your calendar makes all the difference.
Even things like assigning Wednesdays as laundry day, Fridays as food shopping day, or Monday mornings for trips to the local park help give your days structure. You will feel a sense of achievement, and see that you can escape from drowning in a sea of dirty nappies and burp cloths.
#2 Follow Your Child
When your child has discovered crawling (and, oh lordy, walking) then you will have to literally follow them around everywhere. But I’m not talking about that kind of following.
You should take your lead from your little girl; follow her interests, her needs, her sleep patterns. On a basic level, there’s no point dragging her along to story time at the library at 10 am if that clashes with her usual nap time.
My first son loved diggers and he wanted to know the names of the different kinds, like backhoe loader, excavator, skid-steer loader. I am not interested in diggers at all and had no idea what they were all called. However, we got books from the library, and fed his interest. It made him very happy.
So, if your little girl is fascinated by watching cars out of the window, then watch cars with her. If she wants to grab handfuls of dirt in the garden, fill a bucket with soil and let her explore it. Take advantage of what interests her, because it will make your life so much easier.
#3 Join a Community
I know firsthand how hard it can be to feel isolated, stuck at home with a newborn. I became a stay-at-home-dad when we were living abroad, and I didn’t really know anyone in our town.
My lifeline was joining a small group of other parents with young children, who met once a week for breakfast in a diner, followed by a visit to the local library. Most weeks this was my only social interaction, so I valued it highly.
Don’t underestimate the power of company; get out there and go to parent and toddler groups, library story times, church playgroups. Everyone there will be a parent to a young child, and chances are they will also be looking for new friends, so you will already have a lot in common.
#4 Have Fun
Being a stay-at-home parent is a tough job, but no-one said it can’t be fun. Never again will you have so much time at home with your child, so make the most of it.
Want to dance around to your favourite song on repeat? Do it! Want to dress your child up as The Gruffalo? As long as they don’t mind, do it! Want to blow bubbles all around the house? Do it! Want to sing silly songs at the top of your voice? Do it!
Chances are that if you’re having fun with your child, they’ll be having fun, too.
#5 Make Time For Yourself
For your own sanity, you must make a little bit of time for yourself. It is important for you to be you, not just someone’s mummy or daddy 24/7.
For me, this manifested as a small part-time job, just 8 hours a week initially, to get me out of the house and among other grown up people. For you, it could be going to the gym or an exercise class, swimming, meeting up with a friend, shopping, going on a bike ride, or gardening. Pretty much anything will do, something that gives you valuable time away and to be yourself.
Of course, it isn’t possible to do this most days, but once a week you really need a break. The nature of what you do will change over time; now that my sons are both at school, I have more time to invest in myself. I go to work twice a week, and have more time to focus on writing.
So there they are, my 5 top tips for being a better stay-at-home parent. Have some kind of routine, follow your child’s interests, join community groups, enjoy yourself, and perhaps most importantly, make some time for yourself.
Do all of these 5 things and you will become the best stay-at-home parent you can be.
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