My Personal Rules for Making Staying-at-Home Work

Wednesday July 27, 2016

I feel like anyone who stays at home develops personal rules over time to make sure they don’t go absolutely crazypants in the process.

It’s not that the job is hard (why, I just took a run on the beach this morning. My life is pretty incredibly good.) It’s just after 8, 10, 12 hours of someone (or multiple people!) speaking nonstop unintelligibly at your face, your mind just buys a ticket to CrazyTown. It’s very hard to come back from CrazyTown. It’s not a one-way ticket exactly, but it’s also not an easy return trip to Normal Sane Adult Land. Mama lost it, kid, it’s going to be a long afternoon.


So, here are some of the personal rules I’ve come up with, to stay away from CrazyTown. It’s not always enough frankly. But, at least I stand a chance.



1. Get Dressed in the Morning

A few months into Bean’s life, I realized I was carefully and preciously putting her little cute outfits on every morning. While I sat in old pj’s, face unwashed, hair a total mess. This makes no sense.

Starting then, I made sure to get dressed into proper clothes I’m ok with wearing outdoors. I wash my face, brush my teeth, put lotions on, like I’m a real put-together adult.

It feels good to wear real clothes, and look how you want to look. Plus, once you’re in real clothes, it’s easier to step outside for some fresh air, which brings me to…



2. Have a weekly plan.

By Sunday evening, I have to have a mental plan for every day for the week ahead. This helps me see big-picture, what we’re up to this week, make sure that everything I want to do (library, museum, beach, lunch with friends) is penciled in, and be able to plan and space things out accordingly. If I want to meet up with friends, I know which days are good for us and so meeting up is more likely to happen (related to point 4)



3. Get out every day

This is critical. The weekly plan above is composed of classes, story times, events, museums, hikes, and other outdoor activities. We’re usually out the door by 9am.

Bean gets overstimulated sometimes, being home all day, and then it’s a smooth descent into preschooler-induced CrazyTown for me. We both do better with some fresh air. Plus, this is the fun part of staying home. I don’t have to go to an office! I don’t have to be stuck indoors all day! I can do whatever I want. Collecting seashells at the beach with a 3 year old. Hiking through Lands End. Or heading to the SFMOMA when it’s empty. How LUCKY I am to be able to do this, you know? Might as well get the most out of these fortunate years.



4. Figure out which friends (working and stay at home) are available for lunch, walks, and play dates

This goes to the isolation that staying home can breed. You need to talk to adults at some point. I have a mental list of working friends who either have flexible schedules, or who work near the library or museum or any of our other weekly destinations. We may just meet up for coffee downtown, but it’s a highlight of my week.

And then there are your fellow stay-at-home parents, who are basically your new work buddies – the ones you pull into your office and shut the door behind, and spill what just happened with The Boss. The one who surprises you with cookies just because.



5. Hand over the reins once the other parent comes home

You might think it’d be the first thing I’d do when Dave comes home. HERE SHE IS, TAKE HER, I’MMA BE OVER HERE BY MYSELF. Actually, it’s complicated.

An inherent issue crops up when there is a stay-at-home parent – you have (or feel that you have) a lot more experience at this gig. I had a lot more experience putting Baby Bean down for naps, so I’d struggle to have Dave do it on weekends. It’s easy for me to just do it, I do it all the time, she goes right down because she’s used to my routine, just let me do it. As the stay-at-home parent, you know how the kid likes her peanut butter sandwich, you know the routine with the milk splash in her oatmeal, you know where her hairband is from yesterday, you figured out the trick to get her to brush her teeth with minimal tears.

But, then, you get stuck doing everything. It is very very hard to hand over the reins and let someone else screw up and figure it out, just like you do all day long. But, it’s essential if you don’t plan on being the caretaker every minute you’re awake.



6. Exercise when I can

Otherwise known as the 20 minutes a day that I’m not a mom or spouse or responsible for anything other than running and listening to Fresh Air. (I’ve written about how difficult this is to schedule, of course. But, it’s a priority and I find minutes wherever I can.)



7. Enforce a weekly separation

Once a week, Dave takes Bean to swim class without me. Back before preschool started, this weekly break was essential. Hanging out with someone 12 hours/day, even your own kid, gets a little close. Because you are both all up in each other’s business all the time. You need a break from each other. Yes, even your own kid.

The weekly time is a time to think big picture how this parenting thing is going. Are you spending your days and weeks the way you like? Is there something you’d like to improve upon? Maybe this is just a time to look into what soccer classes are available nearby, or whether she’s going to need new shoes soon. Being in front of each other day in and day out, I often feel like I’m stuck nose-deep in the leaf of a tree and have no idea I’m in a forest. The minutiae of handling a person’s demands, wants, needs pushes out all other thoughts. (At least for me. Maybe I have trouble multi-tasking? I have no idea if other parents feel this way.) I need that space in order to better see our lives.


Other stay-at-home parents, what rules and patterns have you figured out to help you through this time in your life?

Motherhood, You

2 Responses to “My Personal Rules for Making Staying-at-Home Work”

  1. I think I’ll use some of these tips for myself- working and sans kids.


    7/27/2016 at 5:33 pm

  2. Interesting! I do think the getting outside bit is probably universal.


    7/27/2016 at 10:01 pm