I have heard lots of reasons why it is difficult to stay home from mothers with children under the age of 7. “When we stay home, all my older kids do is fight.” “My kids are bored and don’t know what to do.” “The nursling whom I am trying to wean just wants to nurse and if we are out he doesn’t nurse at all!” “My oldest just seems to need to do something more!” “I will go nuts if I stay home every day!”
As you can see, many mothers have a hard time being in their own homes. Some mothers insist their children have a hard time being home as well, but I often wonder if the children are just reflecting the discontent their mothers feel.
It is hard work to be home sometimes. It is hard to not be on the computer, to not turn on the TV, to be present in working with our hands and to be a warm presence for our children. It is hard to listen to children fight and know when to step in and when to not step in. It is hard to distract an older nursling and set a gentle, loving limit that right now is not a nursing time, but in a little bit it will be time and here is a snack for right now. It is hard to set limits in general, it is hard to get out of bed, it is hard to make dinner every day and it is hard to muster up the energy to get everyone ready for bed after a long day.
Did I cover it all?
The challenges, however, do not negate the fact that the best place for a child under the age of 7 to be is HOME. If we can help a child under the age of 7 be happy in the home environment, to be creative at home, to learn to understand that feeling of not knowing what to do and then finding something to do, we provide that child a great service indeed. These are the children that grow up with strong creativity, strong problem-solving skills, and the ability to be happy by themselves. These are remarkable and sought-after skills in this age of teenage depression and boredom.
Your child under the age of 7 does not need a myriad of play dates, field trips, and trips to the store. You may disagree, but if your oldest is right now 4 , you will see a large difference in patience, comprehension, understanding and memory when you go to places when they are 7 or 8. Many times your 7 or 8 year old will not even remember your trip to the zoo when they were 4! They may, but they may not. It doesn’t mean we don’t ever go places as family, but it does mean we look carefully at IMAX movies at the museum for a four year old, at going to a crowded zoo on the weekend when they child is usually home napping, and we look at the long car rides and other things that are involved in these activities for the young child. Remember, what your child really needs is a strong home rhythm, a strong loving presence of a parent, enough sleep and healthy food and outside time, and walks around the neighborhood.
Mothers say: What about socialization for my 3-6 year old? Everyone knows this is a prime time when they need friends!
That may be true, and some children are more social than others, but sometimes I feel WE as parents drive this need ourselves more than it initially comes from the children themselves. (and then the children hear US talk about how they need friends and then they really NEED friends, you know?) If you read any traditional childhood development books, they talk about how three, four and six are often rough ages for getting along with other children. This does not mean that we don’t ever have play dates – but it might mean we consider a play date that is one on one with a planned activity to start the play date as opposed to a “just go play” kind of thing. It does mean that perhaps we look at our group activities more closely and evaluate are they really needed and who needs them – us as the parents or our children? It may also mean that we need to consider our OWN needs as adults and parents – could I get together with another homeschooling mother WITHOUT our children for lunch or tea and talk and finish sentences and get support that way without involving my children in my own need?
Having children under the age of 7 may also mean evaluating the need for classes. There has been entire build-up of business and marketing to the under 7 child and parent dyad in our country. In past generations, many mothers did not even have transportation to attend anything while their husbands were at work, so there was no chance for activities geared solely toward children. I am not saying we want to return to this, but I am saying we do not know the long-reaching effects of all this stimulation on the under-7 child. Were these classes and activities truly started with the benefit of the under 7 child in mind or to make money? Would going outside and being in nature and doing arts and crafts at home and singing at home be just as good, if not better, than all these classes?
I feel many mothers turn to these activities to 1- meet other mothers who also stay at home, since in their neighborhood they may be the ONLY ones at home and 2- they do not feel confident in their own abilities to do these sorts of activities at home with their small children. It is ironic in an age of more and more information, ideas via the Internet and books that mothers feel LESS confident and not more confident, isn’t it?
As far as finding other mothers who stay at home and who are interested in homeschooling, La Leche League meetings, especially the daytime meetings do often have mothers who are stay at home mothers (especially if these are Toddler Meetings held during the day). Attachment Parenting International Support meetings also tend to have stay at home mothers there. These organizations also support working mothers as well, but there tend to be stay at home mothers as well. Post natal yoga classes may put you in touch with other stay at home mothers. Once you have a few friends that stay at home it may blossom from there.
I am here to encourage you completely that you can do this! You can create a stronger rhythm at home. Start with your daily rhythm with a lot of outside activity and then look at your weekly rhythm – can you bring in activities on certain days? Look at the festivals for that month – May is coming and bringing with it May Day, Ascension and Whitsunday. Perhaps these are festivals you would like to celebrate in your own family that you could take time to prepare for. Depending upon your religion, perhaps there are other festivals you could celebrate in place of these festivals or add to these. Start a bit of planning now – ten minutes a day after your kids go to bed or before your kids get up. It can happen!
The more you are at home, the more you will like being at home. You will have time to create and dream and so will your children. Take it from a Former Queen of Going and Doing, it can happen!
Make your home a warm, joyful place to be and your kids will enjoy it too,