As a mother who was determined to stay at home and look after my son, I clearly recall the difficult early days. It seems utopian to some, but if you struggle, like I did, to conform to everyone else’s idea of what a perfect Stay At Home Mum should be, then read on. These are five things about how to be a good mommy I wish I had known at the time.
“Stay At Home Mums Should…”
There seems to be an unwritten expectation that Stays at Home Mums should have perfect houses, dinner on the table at six and a child with an IQ of 150. After all, what else is there to do all day? It was pointless trying to explain to people that just being dressed by eleven was difficult some days.
As a first time mother, I felt overwhelmed and frequently out of my depth with my new baby. In a typical optimistic young parent moment, we had taken the bizarre decision to move house not long before I gave birth. Suddenly, almost overnight it seemed, I was there on my own, surrounded by unpacked moving boxes, and a screaming baby who demanded my undivided attention every minute of the day.
Focus on what you can manage. The most important thing you can do as a first-time mother of a young baby is to get through each day. A happy baby is one whose mother is not stressed by the unrealistic expectations of others. Or even the realistic ones! Some days just don’t go to plan. Let it go! Your job is just to do your best and do what you can manage that day. Be the Stay At Home Mum you are, not the one everyone else thinks you should be.
Pay attention to your relationships
I used to envy my friends who had everything under control. Some mothers seem to be able to cope with it all. “Oh yes, I am up at five preparing the vegetables for the evening meal” said one friend, in all seriousness.
I could have wept. And whilst it is important to remember rule one ‘Focus on what you can manage’, it is equally important not to allow yourself to disappear into Motherland never to reappear.
Set aside one day per month to go out with your husband/partner. My mother gave me this advice. It sounds great, but it was difficult in practice. Babysitters, money, tiredness – all these things stand in the way. But I think it was great advice and I would say the same to any new parents. You and your relationship matter too. Even if it’s just a walk in the park together, it will remind you why this whole situation occurred in the first place! If you are a single parent, then it’s also important for you to go out, just for yourself, or in search of Mr. Right.
It is so easy, amidst the chaos of the day, to be consumed by stress and lament the mundane round of chores our life has become. I used to tell my husband that my day was like digging a very big hole, only to have it filled by the next morning. Unless you have experienced being at home with a young baby this will seem like an exaggeration. It’s not! Washing (stuff gets dirty in moments), cooking (everything gets eaten), cleaning (where did that banana come from?!) all have their equal and opposite and there is no escaping it.
Try to take one moment in the day to be mindful of all that is positive about being a Stay At Home Mum, and how lucky you are. I used to do this at bath-time when the day was nearly over and my baby was happy and playfully splashing in the bath. As I watched him play I would bring to mind all the good things about that day, and live in the moment, enjoying the pleasure and love on my child’s face. I was thankful that however hard and difficult the day had been, we were both here, safe and well. It became a sort of mental reckoning I did every day, and it really did help.
Do you want this or that one?
As parents, we get so much conflicting advice about how to bring our children up. When you are at home on your own with your baby it is easy to chat away about all sorts of things. But don’t ever forget that your baby is not your best friend – that doesn’t mean want to be. By this I mean remember that you are in charge and not your baby. Babies need stability and security, and being offered endless choices about things is sometimes confusing for them.
By all means, let them make small decisions, but don’t let that extend to offering them endless choices about everything. I wish I had listened to this piece of advice, instead of feeling like I was restricting my child’s ‘freedom of expression’, or whatever nonsense I had read at the time.
In the end, ‘Put your boots on, we’re going to the park!’ is much better than, ‘Would you like to go to the park? No? You’d rather stay home and watch cartoons? Well honey, Mummy would like to go to the park…” After a twenty-minute discussion and potential tantrum flashpoint, the walk in the park is likely to be a grumpy affair, whereas a cheerful exhortation to just come and have fun will always win out.
It’s not your baby’s job to make decisions. It’s yours. Never forget who is in charge. Kids like firm parenting; it makes them feel secure and loved.
I beg your pardon?
Pester power. I never suffered from it, and here’s why. I resisted, with all my strength, the impulse to spoil my child. It was hard. Spoiling children is fun. But it is, as the saying goes, a rod for your own back! When asked if we could go to a toy-shop I would reply ‘Just to look’. That was the deal. Any nonsense and we left.
If I was asked for anything I would simply reply, in a slightly mystified way,”But it’s not your birthday is it? Or Christmas?” as if the request was a sum that simply did not add up. It amazed me how quickly children accept what they are told when you handle things this way. Your response frames their expectation. Exceptions to no spoiling rule were last day of the school term or injury/upset. After all, everyone needs to treat sometimes. But that’s it!
Be the adult: consistently resist the temptation to spoil your little one and it will save heartache for both of you.
I hope these pieces of advice are helpful to others. I know how difficult it can be to stay at home and look after children. It’s a heroic endeavor and one you should be justly proud of!