Being a stay at home parent may sound like a dream come true to many of us but you soon find out its no walk in the park. People often picture stay at home parents as spending all day shopping for clothes, sitting in cafes, having their nails done, chatting on Facebook and playing computer games - but unfortunately this is so not the case.
The reality of the zero pay, the no knock off time, no over time pay, no sick days ... and The Wiggles, Thomas and Giggle and Hoot songs that you hear over and over can turn most humans insane. Coupled with the fact that you are alone with child/ren who are yelling, screaming, crying, having tantrums, refuse to do anything you ask them to and throw their food for about 12 hours straight until one's partner returns; it's easy to see that this is no easy task.
The days are long if the child/ren hasn't slept the night before, and if you are unwell, the days can be really, really long. You start to realise that you don't even know what day it is, let alone the date. You sing 'Hot Potato' in the shower instead of a Top 40 song and won't have the chance to watch an adult TV show for a number of weeks. And you crave to talk to an adult, even if it is a door to door salesman!
But don't panic, your life isn't over - this won't last forever, you will remember how to talk to adults and you are still your own person - baby dribble on your top or not.
Here are ten tips that I have for any stay at home parents out there:
1) Have support networks- family, close friends, people that are close that you can talk to or even get to babysit so you can do the grocery shopping on your own is fantastic.
2) Try to get out of the house- if my son and I stay at home too many days in a row we both start to go stir crazy. Some days are too hot, too cold or too wet to play outside. So have some other ideas ready of where you can go. It doesn't have to cost anything to be fun. Great play areas can be found inside some shopping centres, libraries, public pools and even your local Hungry Jacks or McDonalds. If you have been up all night with a little one these things feel impossible so what about going for a late afternoon walk?
3) Have regular time outs for everyone's sake- don't feel guilty we all need it to stay sane. If you can get a friend, relative or child's other parent have some time to do things you want to do. Read a book, have a coffee, go to the bathroom without an audience (wow really?), watch TV, channels that are not for kids still exist! Do what you enjoy. Doing the grocery shopping or picking up the dry cleaning is not a time out.
4) Have both parents involved as much as possible- I know these days that is getting harder and harder. Let's face it, no jobs are nine to five anymore - my husband is out of the house 12-13 hours a day providing for us, it's a long day. Then he will also get work calls at any time of the day or middle of the night. My husband wants time with his little boy and vice versa so we have things they do that are special things they do together. We made our son's swimming lessons on a Saturday so that Daddy can take him.
5) Have other interests- when you have a child you become a parent and it can feel like that's all that you are, it defines you. But who were you before you we're a parent? What did you do, what hobbies or interests did you have, could you think of new ones you would be interested in trying? I have recently started to do blogging, journaling, card making and meditation. It's hard to find the time but even if its 10 or 15 minutes it makes a difference. Do something whilst your child sleeps, eats or is watching their favourite show.
6) Provide a safe area and safe toys where your child can play alone- you don't need to entertain your child non stop in fact it's important that they learn how to keep themselves amused. This will promote their independence, self esteem and problem solving skills. Remember not too long, check up on them and stay close.
7) Most importantly have fun with your kids- children thrive on routine but they also need free play and to have fun with you remember, they love you! Turn on a fun music CD or DVD and dance, teach them silly nursery rhymes and songs. Get covered in textas and paint with them. I am constantly amazed at how much you can learn from your child like, how to stay in the moment and what's really important in life. They don't care if the house is messy or if the dishes are clean, they want you. Allow some flexibility.
8) Have a night out- get your friends together and plan to have a great night out. Dress up, do your hair and forget that you are a parent for the night. Dance, drink and laugh the night away. Have a designated driver or a taxi organised. Try to do this once every couple of months it's a great thing to look forward too.
9) Join a parent group- it is scary at first but try before you buy, it really is worth it for both of you. Gets you both out of the house to socialise and have some fun. Find a parent group and/or playgroup that is close to you and on a day and time that suits. Become a member of the Playgroup Association you pay about $30 a year to be a member and then around $20 a term to your group leader. This covers paying to rent the space, insurance and toys and equipment for the kids. It's great fun for kids and adults, you can make some lovely new friends as can your child. You can be involved in fundraisers and nights out to raise money for the group to go on excursions etc. I have met amazing parents through this!
10) Have a plan- create a little timetable for you and your child/ren. Do this for the whole week. First add the things that are routines that must be done like eating, a bath, cleaning teeth etc. Then think about what other things you would like to do in the week. Write in sleep times, free play times, story times, music times, playgroup time and what days you will visit friends or family. Remember this is not set in stone it just helps to give you ideas on what to do on those days that are just boring! It can really help the day go faster and run smoother. To do lists are also really good make one each day or once a week and you won't forget what needs to be done. Plus it feels great when you can cross things off.