Being a stay at home parent isn’t easy when you’ve never done it before. Here’s how to make the transition without losing your mind.
Making the decision to be a stay at home parent seems like a no-brainer to many. After all, when you have children (especially for the first time), it’s only natural to want to make sure to devote as much time to them as possible. What many formerly career-minded folk don’t realize is how difficult their new role will be, and how much they’ll miss the way their life used to be. In fact, some days, keeping sane seems like the biggest challenge you’ll face.
Part of the problem is that stay at home parents face a kind of isolation that they’re unaccustomed to, and most have no idea how to cope with it. They often feel lonely, and even a little bit trapped. Then the realization sets in that things are going to stay that way for the foreseeable future, and then all bets are off. The good news is that there are some tried and true methods to keep an even keel and maintain your sanity that just about anyone can use to survive being a stay at home parent. Without further ado, here they are.
The first thing that a stay at home parent needs if they’re going to preserve their sanity is predictability. Without it, it’s impossible to make sure to have time for all of the self-preservation tasks they’ll need to perform. To do it, it’s important to set and keep a precise routine for both themselves and their children. It’s no secret that children tend to thrive when they know what to expect each day, and that helps to keep them calmer and more manageable, as well. It also helps you, the parent, to understand what your child’s behavior might be indicating. For example, if your child is becoming fussy when it’s getting close to regular nap time, you’ll know just what to do to calm them down.
One of the best ways to avoid undue stress is to do as much advance work as possible. You’ll find that every little moment counts when busy times hit. For example, the simply gathering the needed items for the next day’s breakfast the night before will make mornings far more bearable. The same goes for gathering everything you’ll need if you’re going on an outing the next day, like a well-stocked diaper bag, snacks, and an outfit. You must resist the urge to procrastinate, or you will pay for it in the form of an elevated stress level later on.
One of the best ways that stay at home parents can help themselves feel a little normalcy is to take on some work in their downtime. It doesn’t have to be much (or even pay much), to be worth it. These days, the internet is full of companies offering stay at home mom jobs (and dad jobs, too), so it’s easy to pick up a side hustle to help you stay mentally sharp while you’re out of the regular workforce. You’ll find that working on any kind of productive task will offer a welcome break from your typical day, and whatever money you do earn is a nice bonus on top of that benefit.
One pernicious trap that many first-time stay at home parents fall into is an addiction to social media as a substitute for the normal interpersonal relationships they had at work and in the wider world. Unfortunately, it’s a poor replacement and may, in fact, be harmful. Studies have shown that social media is associated with poor physical and mental health outcomes, and increases feelings of anxiety, too. This is especially true for stay at home parents, who tend to compare their daily lives with the exaggerated, sanitized picture of their peer group presented on social media. It’s a much better option to avoid social media altogether, if possible, and if you can’t, at least limit your use as much as you can.
Once you master the day-to-day skills needed to be an effective stay at home parent, the whole experience will feel far less jarring and overwhelming. That’s when you’ll be able to relax enough to appreciate the joy and satisfaction that comes from taking care of your child and being there to experience all of their firsts. Those are the kind of experiences that you can’t replicate, and they’re worth whatever you have to go through to have them. So the best advice of all is to hang in there – it’s worth the effort.