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stay-at-home parenting

I’m currently caught in an epic power struggle, also commonly referred to as nap time, with my two year old.  Maya is getting to the age where she wants to assert her independence and feels like she no longer needs to bother napping anymore.  I, on the other hand, can see that she definitely still physically needs to nap and I absolutely still mentally need it.  And so ensues our power struggle every afternoon.

I’d love to be able to blame this phase on the big switch to the toddler bed and her getting used to the change, but sadly it was happening before we made the switch.  For the last month or so Maya has been fighting her naps like nobody’s business.  She’ll go down okay, I don’t really have to fight her too much to get her ready for nap and into her bedroom.  But, once she is in there the gloves come off and she is ready for a fight.  Some days it takes her up to 2 hours to actually fall asleep, which means she isn’t asleep until 3 or 3:30 and I then have to wake her up at 5 because she’s still sleeping.  The fact that she will easily sleep for 2 hours once she does fall asleep tells me she still needs to nap everyday, but I’m at a loss as to how to get her to fall sleep at a decent time.  Nap time is a very important to her, and to me, I’m so not ready for it to go away yet.

Being a stay at home parent is awesome.  I love it and wouldn’t trade it for the world.  I feel so lucky to be able to part of Maya’s day to day routine.  Being with her and taking care of her everyday is exactly what I want to be doing.  That being said, being a stay at home parent is incredibly challenging and exhausting.  I don’t get the benefit of a lunch break or, on a bad day, being able to leave my work behind me and head home.  I don’t get to take vacations or get a weekend to regroup.  My work is with me all the time, 24/7.  Therefore, I put great importance on nap time.  Those couple of hours every afternoon are a godsend.  It is my time to relax, to work, to write, to regroup, to do whatever I want alone and in the peace and quiet.  On days when Maya doesn’t, for whatever reason, get a nap I can see a huge difference in myself.  I am more edgy, less patient, less together.  I need that time and I’m just not ready to part with it.

Since those lovely hours in the afternoon that my daughter slumbers are so important to me I fight harder for them.  Maybe if those hours weren’t so important to me I would give in, I’d let her stay up (even though I know she still needs the sleep).  But right now I know she physically needs that sleep and I need that quiet time for my emotional well being, so I will stay in this battle for as long as I can.  I will win this one.

parenting

Parenting requires a lot, and I do mean A LOT, of patience.  It requires the kind of patience that doesn’t come naturally for most of us.  It calls for the kind of patience that definitely requires a conscious effort.  Do you have the patience for parenting?

I’ve always considered myself a pretty patient person.  There are times that I can be extremely patient but, of course, there are other times when I just don’t have it in me.  I think we are all a bit like that.  Patience has always been a big part of my daily life, even before I became a parent.  My career, before becoming a stay-at-home mom, required a lot of patience.  I dealt with the public during times of trial, during times of anger and frustration.  It required that I listen patiently to my clients and gather the patience necessary to work with them to find a solution.  My clients, given that they were going through something frustrating and annoying, were, needless to say, not very patient with me or the process.  They expected results yesterday and were quick to become agitated and angry.  It took a lot of conscious effort to find the patience necessary to get the job done.  I prided myself in the patience I had under fire.  When I was pregnant with Maya I thought that my job skills would come in handy during parenting, I mean how could a child be any more difficult to deal with than some of my clients :)

Well, I quickly found out that being a parent requires more patience than I have had to use in any other area of my life.  There are days I question my ability to do this job.  Days when I question if I have the patience to make it through to bedtime.  Parenting is hard work.  Parenting a toddler is more challenging than anything else I have ever done.  It takes more skills, patience and creativity than any other job I have ever had.  It is also the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.  One little smile, a big hug or even just hearing the work “mommy” makes it all worth it and makes those moments when my patience was lacking simply disappear.

Keeping my cool under pressure can be tough sometimes.  I admit that I have my moments when I’ve had enough and yell because I just can’t take it anymore.  I’ve started with time outs when necessary to help Maya learn about consequences and they seem to working for the most part.  But we still have those days when nothing works.  On those really rough days when I feel like there is only one tiny string holding it all together there are a few things I try that help keep my cool, like:

  • Breathe and consider the action.  Is it just me be impatient or is this really something worth getting upset over?
  • I try to engage my daughter in activities that I know don’t usually end with trouble.  For example, my daughter loves coloring, so if things are going south I’ll suggest a coloring session or a painting session to help ease both our nerves.
  • We head out.  Some days our only option is to run an errand or do a little shopping but getting out of the house helps us both.  A change of scenery can work magic for a frustrated toddler and a frustrated mom.
  • I try to have at least 2 or 3 little adventures planned for each week.  Fun activities that can be used to encourage good behavior.  Things like our weekly playdate with our good friends, or a trip to the zoo or park if the weather is nice, or a mommy and me class.
  • If all else fails we spend a little time doing our own thing.  I’ll do a little house cleaning and she’ll watch a movie, play with her toys or read a book.

The nice thing about these days of toddlerhood are that toddlers are very distractable, change from being really mad and frustrated to be happy go lucky again in no time flat.  So even in those moments when things aren’t going so well and we are both frustrated I know that better times and big smiles are just around the corner.  I have found that keeping my cool and being patient are keys to successful, frustration-free, days for both of us.  It is sometimes easier said than done, but I do my best and that’s all we can really do in this job that has no handbook.  At the end of the day when my daughter and I are snuggling up together reading a bedtime story I know I’m doing something right.

What tricks to do you use when frustrations are high and patience is low?  How do you and your kids get through those tough days?

winter

During these long winter months it can be hard to keep things fun and interesting for your toddler, especially when the weather is too bad for any outdoor fun.  Toddlers can get bored (and so can we stay-at-home moms!!) so it is important to have a few tricks up your sleeve.  The idea is to keep your child interest in what you are doing, making it fun and educational, and of course not too expensive.

So, while you are sitting around playing yet another game of peek-a-boo or singing the ABCs again, or building a block tower for the millionth time this week consider some of these fun, toddler (and mom) friendly activities that will help those winter days fly by and keep you both having fun and laughing.

  • Swimming in the bathtub.  Throw on your bathing suits, grab a few pool toys and go for a dip.  Your kid will love playing in the water, especially since it doesn’t involve any washing up :)  For something a little extra you could even use food coloring or those bathtub colors to change the color of the water or add lots of bubbles.
  • Art class at home with things like: finger painting, cut and paste, markers and stencils or stamps.  This can be messy so you’ll need to make sure you are prepared with lots of paper to put down, maybe an old shirt for both of you to wear and a place to clean up when you are done.  You can then display your child’s art projects around the house.
  • Play-doh creations.  My daughter discovered play-doh last week when Santa left her some in her stocking and she just loves it.  It is amazing how quickly time flies when you are making creations with play-doh.
  • Make up a winter-day bag of special toys, books, crayons, etc (similar to the rainy-day bag I’ve talked about before).  This can be your go to trick when things get really rough.  Your child will love exploring the new items you have stowed away.
  • Play dress up.  When you are putting clothes away for donation consider keeping a few for a fun dress up day, old Halloween costumes work well too.  Get all dressed up and create little stories.
  • Take a trip to your local library.  Many libraries offer story time for toddlers and preschoolers.  This can be a great way to get out of the house, meet up with some other kids and parents and enjoy a nice, warm, free activity.
  • Take swim lessons or a gymnastics class at your local YMCA or recreational center.  Although these will cost you some money they are usually fairly inexpensive and, again, a great way to get out of the house and interact with other kids and parents.
  • Set up a scavenger hunt around your house.  This can be great if you have kids of varying ages.  Hide some things around the house, make lists for the kids (picture lists work best if your child can’t read) and set out to find the treasures together.  This can be a great way to teach kids new vocabulary words and help them perfect their ability to follow directions.
  • Have a movie day.  Rent a couple of movies (or borrow some from the library), make a big bowl of popcorn, and cuddle under warm blankets together.
  • Have a pajama party.  Pick a day and spend the whole day in your jammies.  Let the kids pick out which jammies they want to wear and plan some fun activities that will make it feel like a slumber party.
  • When it isn’t too cold head outside and get some fresh air. Fresh air is always good for making us feel better.

Your children will love having some new activities to enjoy.  When things feel too monotonous or you just can’t think of what to do on a freezing cold, stuck inside day give of the above activities a try and see what your kids think.

What do you do with your kids when the days get long and you feel like you’ve been stuck inside forever?