Laurence sometimes gets a kick out of reminding me of what a lovely time I’m having staying at home with Talitha: “You got to go to the zoo today. You get to go to the zoo as part of your job.” It is in jest, though, because he knows that as wonderful as we both know staying at home with our two-year-old is, it’s incredibly hard work too. The hardest I’ve ever done.
And if I had the earning potential so the roles could be reversed, I’m pretty sure he’d not want to exchange with me. Which works out well because I wouldn’t want to exchange with him either. I’ve (mostly) moved beyond the place where I need a paycheque with my name on it to make me on it to make me feel valued. The identity crisis of my very early motherhood is no longer in sharp focus. Some days it’s not even there anymore. I’m finally becoming secure enough to admit not only that not only do I really enjoy being at home with my daughter but, sometimes, I’m even good at it.
There has needed to be a plan action, though, to keep me from falling apart. This is what’s been working for us so far. I’d love to know what works for you.
Balancing our desires
Most days, we try to do a little of what she enjoys…
A little of what I enjoy…
OK, well it’s not what I enjoy but it’s what I do like done! She one the other hand actually does enjoy “cleaning” so maybe it’s all what she enjoys!
And something that we both enjoy…
Some days this doesn’t work because I’m too tired or because someone very important is coming over and I need to de-trash the house. But, realistically, on a day-to-day basis, this is how things run most smoothly between us. It helps to structure it. At the beginning of the day, I’ll make a list with her. She suggests what to put on the list and I put what I know needs to be on the list. This helps her move from one activity to another more smoothly as I can remind her before and during an activity of what comes next. There’s also less incessant pleading to “Watch something” throughout the day.
I know this will probably have to slow down and take a different form when the new baby arrives and that’s fine. Today we had a pyjama day because we were both unwell. I kept our at-home routine vaguely the same but didn’t try to be overly ambitious about what I would get done. In fact, we haven’t done much at all other than read a lot of books and listen to music.
Getting out and staying in
It is so valuable to work out what’s going on around you and figure out some sort of weekly routine for where you go. It means you always have somewhere to go, which helps break up the week. Otherwise, every day can hang before you with no pattern. The undefined space is utterly daunting. When Talitha was a baby, this meant groups – breastfeeding group, baby sensory type stuff, Sing & Sign. Nowadays, it’s the zoo, a local toddler group, a women’s group at my church. It’s meant too that we’re meeting other mothers and children which meets important needs for both of us.
The proviso, though, is that I give us permission to stay at home when I think she, I or we need to and I try not to feel guilty about it. This has become more important as the pregnancy has progressed. My body simply insists that I slow down.
Prepare & Organise
Neither of these come naturally to me. But I’m having to learn them for my own sanity. The discovery that, if I organised Talitha’s play area so she could find everything easily, it would lead to more independent play was just gold. It’s such a big one too because her boxes have become a bit crowded of late and she’s getting less likely to initiate getting things out on her own. Time to sort again! Preparation has meant thinking ahead to the next day – what will we eat, what will wear, what will we do – and packing the bag ahead of time, writing down a reminder of what needs cooking and when, that sort of thing.
Let someone else help
I really struggle with letting Laurence help because I sort of feel like if he’s at the office all day, then surely the home is my responsibility but the reality is that we’re both having hectic days and by the end of it, we’re both tired. He’s been amazing at reminding me that we’re in this together.
I also think there’s a lot to be said for being realistic. So much of our frustration comes from believing things are not as they should be. Our children “should” be doing this by now. We “should” be able to tick all these boxes. And actually, whenever I really par what needs to done to the essentials, we end up having a far more productive and happier day than if I overshoot my expectations of us both and end up daunted by the sheer amount that needs doing.
Over to you – any ideas on how to stay home and stay sane?
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