Will staying home with my toddler get easier?
by Rebecca Odes & Ceridwen Morris
September 16, 2009
I‘m a full-time working mom who just got laid off. At first I was excited about spending some time with my toddler while looking for a new position, but after 2 weeks I am FREAKING OUT. I don’t know what to do with him all day. Basic things are a mystery to me: is he eating enough? How do I get him to share at the playground? I’m bored and anxious and I feel like my kid is bored and anxious too! Am I the worst mother in the history of mothers? Please tell me I will get the hang of this one day. – All Play and No Work Makes Mom a Little Crazy
Dear All Play,
There are a few things going on here.
One: you got laid off. You’ve been handed a life changer without asking for it. Your ego may be smarting a little from the blow, or reacting to the lack of known means of gratification at the office. This is a rough adjustment, even if it ends up being the best thing that ever happened to you.
Two: You’re in culture shock. Your day-to-day is totally, radically different. You’re not used to toddler time. You’re not used to toddler work. There are strollers and sandboxes where there were CCs and staff meetings. You don’t report to anyone. It’s a bizzare new world.
And it’s a world you can’t totally evaluate while you’re in this state of limbo. Your head is still spinning. Maybe you will settle into toddler time. Maybe you won’t. But right this second you’re in the transit lounge, so it’s going to feel wrong (or at best weird) for a while.
Three: You’re looking for work. This means that the transition will remain a transition on one fundamental level. You are not settling into a new life as a stay-at-home mom. You are trying to enjoy a brief period with your kid before the next 9-5 comes around.
We think that you will probably get the hang of your life at home eventually. We’re all pretty adaptable. We’re confident you can figure out ways to get your kid to share. Or be okay with him not sharing. And you’ll find some comfort in the routines you create. But in order to do this you have to give yourself over to the moment just a tad. The fact that you’re in limbo is such a big part of the torture. We know moms are supposed to be “natural” multi-taskers but a little compartmentalizing goes a long way. Make time in the day to give yourself entirely over to the slow rise and fall of the swing. Then choose other times to get online or otherwise inhabit your workforce self. In our experience, childcare is a lot more enjoyable when you can let go of the idea of everything else you’re not doing while you’re doing it.
Another idea for killing – sorry, enjoying! – this time: Do stuff with your kid that you actually like doing. Meet up with friends if you have any at home during the day. Take your kid out to lunch. Or bake something at home. Go find a big field and play soccer. If it’s nice out, go out and breathe the air. If not, stomp in puddles. We have no idea what you’re into but there’s usually a way to find at least a couple things that both you and your kid will enjoy. It may take some exploration to figure out what those are, but hey, you’ve got all the time in the world, for now. There are no rules to being a stay at home mom (or just playing one or awhile). You get to make up your own job description, whether it’s a temp or permanent position. Make it as fun a job as possible.
All of this his may involve getting some help. Maybe your partner can be more involved. If you can scrape together some funds for help a couple/few times a week – some mornings or a couple hours in the afternoon – do it. Or pull in relatives if they are nearby. Having a break from full-time parenting is not just a money issue, it’s a mental health issue. You can even use snatches of this time for a little deserved R&R – a yoga class or good novel is only going to make you stronger.
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