A friend of mine recently shared that she is struggling at home with her toddler. He is an amazing child, but definitely falls into the “bit of a handful” category. If you are parenting a toddler, I think you’ll understand her plight. Would you reply to this job posting?
Parent wanted for full-time work daily from 4:30am-8pm. Supervisor is likely to scream at you for some of the day; fluency in Tantrum-ese is a plus. Duties include cleaning poop off a variety surfaces, removing blueberry stains from clothing, and eating standing over the sink. Short bathroom breaks may be taken, provided your supervisor can accompany you into the bathroom and empty a drawer full of make-up while you pee. Overnight shifts are often required, with no prior notice and your daytime shifts will continue even if you worked the overnight shift.
Now that’s not to say it isn’t wonderful to be home with your kids, and many working parents would love to be home. But it is HARD. It’s monotonous and unpredictable all at once. Your day is at the whim of a tiny person with immediate needs, a low frustration threshold, and the ability to scream really loud. Whether or not you get downtime during the day largely depends on if your child chooses to nap… and then they may not nap alone, or without touching you. It’s cruel irony to watch your toddler fighting a nap when you would like nothing more than a nap for yourself!
We spend 3 days a week with two toddlers. Maya is just about 15 months and J is about to turn 1. Simon is working from home and able to help with wrangling them when they are out-numbering me! Most days the girls nap at the same time, which gives us a much-needed break. And they do keep each other occupied to a degree (5 minutes here and there). Plus having just one toddler the rest of the time seems super easy! Well, unless she’s teething, but that’s a whole other story!
Here are my tips to keeping your sanity while staying home with your toddler:
Routine – Toddlers really do thrive on routine. I find that when Maya knows what will come next, I can avoid a lot of tantrums! And when we have J here too, it’s a good way to remember when I last changed their diapers, fed them, or put them in bed. Everything happening in a predictable order helps the day pass by faster too.
Get Outside - Outings are a little tricky with two toddlers, but we do try to get out for a walk whenever the weather is nice. It has been a very rainy winter around here, so we don’t go out as often as I would like. My method for walking with two toddlers is putting Maya on my back in the Boba, and J into the stroller. The fresh air really does work wonders and it lifts my mood too! I guarantee once you get OUT you will feel more energized. Invest in a great babycarrier so you can just toss your toddler into your back and go!
Meet Other Parents – We’ve attended a weekly parent’s group with Maya since she was a couple months old. Some weeks, looking forward to that group was what kept me going! I would write down questions to ask the other moms (and the health nurse who runs our group!) It feels great to be able to give advice, or to talk to someone who has been where you are… and came through it okay! Just this morning I took a very grouchy Maya to our weekly group and she was entertained for 1.5 hours by watching the other kids play. She still wouldn’t leave my side, but it’s nice to be surrounded by parents who understand. I highly encourage moms AND dads to attend these groups! And if you can’t find a group near you, make your own! Facebook is a great way to organize parents groups.
Schedule an Outing - Check your local Parks & Rec for programs designed for toddlers. There are lots of options: swimming lessons, gym time, the zoo, the aquarium, children’s museums, etc. Many communities will put together a calendar so you can quickly see what’s going on that day in your city. If you’re just starting with outings, pick something simple and nearby. Work around naps and the usual routine. I think you will be impressed at how much your child enjoys getting out, and how having something to look forward to each week gets you through the rough days.
Take Care of Yourself - Feeling tired, run down, frustrated? Check if you’re taking care of yourself as well as your child(ren). You make sure they are eating well… and so should you! Are you getting enough sleep? Maybe you need to go to bed earlier, or nap when your child does. When was the last time you had a glass of water? As parents, we are so focused on raising our kids that we sacrifice our own mental and physical health. PLEASE STOP sacrificing yourself for your child. Running yourself into the ground, and then trying to do even more is a recipe for disaster. Put “self care” into your schedule each day and stick to it! Pass your kids to your partner, a friend, a sitter, grandparents. And go “off the clock”. You are not allowed to do the dishes during that time, or plan the week’s meals, or fold laundry. And please don’t feel guilty.
Have FUN – Put on some music and dance with your child. Build a tower of blocks and then knock it down like Godzilla. Your child is learning from you, so show them that there is fun to be had using our imaginations and what’s around us. So start a tickle fight with your toddler, chase her around the house, or roll a ball between you. This is one of those “fake it til you make it” type situations: once you get going, it IS fun! And your reward is huge: smiles, giggles, and special time with your kid. I love the ideas on Click.Pray.Love’s blog for entertaining your 12-18 month old! That’s a great place to start if you’re not sure what to do.
Be Realistic – Parenting isn’t all giggles and kisses. It’s hard work, and it’s okay to admit that you are struggling. Deciding to go back to work doesn’t make you a terrible parent. You aren’t abandoning your kid and you aren’t selling her short by not spending every waking moment with her. Different things work for different families. Talk to you partner, be honest with yourself, and choose what works for your family right now. If people judge you based on your choices, that’s their issue.
Are you at home with your baby or toddler? What challenges do you face?