How Can I Love Staying At Home With My Children?

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you!  I hope you had a wonderful day with your children and family! 

Mothering, and this process of becoming the designer and architect of your own family’s culture,  can be wonderful and joyous but also challenging and daunting.  Mothering can be like a yoga pose that one cannot get out of, and must stay in and stretch.  Mothering can become a catalyst for one to learn more about oneself, about one’s biography and history.  Mothering can be a catalyst for developing oneself further as a human being, and for nurturing the qualities of goodness in ourselves. 

One question that I have heard over the years and that recently came up in a comment,  is this idea or question of “How can I be happy in my mothering? How can I be happy with my children?”

I think this is a very valid question!  In our society, there are very few models for mothering.  Many of us have had mothers who were/are  either physically or emotionally unavailable, or who  modeled  mothering for us in ways we do not wish to repeat.  

Many mothers I meet are trying to juggle many different roles in their lives, and feeling frustrated.  They are working outside the home and thinking about their children and trying to juggle work and sick days and teething days, or they are with their children and thinking about their outside work and feeling as if they are not doing the best job in either world.  This  is a true challenge, especially in the US, where we do not have a paid maternity leave, and many mothers are back at work before their infants are twelve weeks of age.

To me, this question is actually  not a question of happiness or love, but a question of satisfactionAre you satisfied being home with your children and would you change that?  Most stay at home mothers I speak with talk about how they would not change that for anything, even on the “bad” days.  These mothers may not be joyously happy every minute of the  day, but will find moments within the day to be happy, moments to smile and laugh with their children, and they feel satisfied being home with their children.  Even on the sick days, the teething days, the days when there are sibling fights, there is this sense of satisfaction that they are the one dealing with it.  Every day at an outside job is typically not fabulous, and neither is every day at home, but is it satisfying to be there.

1.  One thing  that goes with satisfaction includes having unhurried time.  If you have unhurried time with small children instead of rushing about, you have the time to catch those cute moments, the funny moments, the silence of being together that I mentioned above and they often redeem the time when things are not going so well.  If you can be present you will be available to catch these moments.   So my first piece of advice in terms of how to be happy at home is to try not to wear so many hats so you can have this time.

Here is an example from my personal life: many of you know  I am a highly specialized physical therapist in neonatal feeding and development.  There are very few of us in the country, and it was hard for me to think of not treating patients and using those skills to help families who were so desperate.  Yet, there will always be patients and families.  My children are only here once.  That is the only shot I get with them.  Can you slow your own life down enough to really be present?    Here is a  post that speaks to this subject: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/08/22/how-do-i-take-off-one-of-these-hats/

Many mothers I know who seem most satisfied with being with their children are ones who have a profound connection to a sense of Higher Purpose in their mothering, that this is a calling.  This also requires unhurried time, to be able to sit and think and listen.  You can get this even with small children running about, usually by being present and in those moments outside when your wee one is digging in the sand box.    This attitude can take time to develop, and I hope some of the mothers who feel this way will leave a comment below to help other mothers. 

2.  The second thing that goes with satisfaction is having confidence.  If you know developmental stages and have a proper view of the infant, the toddler, the child at different points in the developmental cycle, it helps you weather the stormy periods in a satisfied and calm manner.  You feel calm, you handle things, you feel satisfied that you are handling the more challenging things.   You don’t feel so defeated and take it so personally when things do not go well.  There are still two parties involved in mothering – you and your child.  It is not all you and some children really are more sensitive than others, or more challenging than others.  Confidence grows with time, but I think one way to gain confidence is to read about developmental stages, about gentle discipline, about where you are and to come up with a “box of tools.”  What tools do you have?  What do you use?  Are you using what is effective?  Do you beat yourself up if you use a tool that is not effective, and what does that gain for you?  What is the payoff of beating yourself up and being negative?  Is it helpful, does it make your family life wonderful?  Sobering questions, but ones to ponder. 

The other arm of building confidence is to have a MOTHERING MENTOR.  Pick someone who has children that you like, whose children are older than yours, and ask her to be your mothering mentor.  The Internet is wonderful, but there is nothing like having real flesh and blood people who know you and your children and who can support you.  Every mother needs a friend that is encouraging and supportive.   It is always amazing to  me to see mothers being snide to each other instead of loving and supportive.  Those “back-handed” compliments have nothing to do with support!  Every mother is doing the best job that they can in the place that they are with the information that they have.   

For those of you without a mothering mentor or a special encouraging friend, make a list of the qualities of a friend you would love to have, and pray and meditate over that list.  You may be surprised whom you find in your life!

3.  The third thing that goes with satisfaction is feeling as if you are actually not just reacting to everything, but that you have some sort of overall vision and plan. That is why I encourage mothers all the time to think about a Family Mission Statement, to think about what the rhythm of the day might look like (because the rhythm is for YOU even if your small children don’t fall right into it!)  Think about having a menu plan, and when you will clean your house and when you will shop.  Think about how you will handle things that come up as far as guiding your child; if you know developmental stages anticipating these situations and thinking through them is easier;  talk to your mothering mentor about these situations. 

Also, what would be FUN for you with your children?  Do you make time to snuggle, play games, sing together, be outside in nature together, laugh, tell stories, read?  These are the things that build those happy moments rather then the end of the day with exhausted children who are crying through dinner because they really just need to get off to bed! 

4.  The fourth thing to add to your satisfaction is developing yourself and your own inner qualities.  Many mothers do this through a spiritual or religious life; some mothers find this through artistic work, through meditation or  through certain activities that they do.   Taking a bit of time every week to really ask yourself, “Where I am this week and what am I striving for?”  can be really helpful… That person that I was before I was a mother, am I still really that person or am I finding a footing in a new world and changing into being a new person with new and different interests?  Motherhood can be the catalyst to developing yourself further in ways you were not open to before; with different interests that were not there before motherhood.  However, this too, takes time.

Also, please remember to ask for help.  On Mother’s Day and every day, you deserve some time to just think.  Your spouse really does want to help you, tell him what you need.  Time to think will help you process your own growth and lead to increased satisfaction and joy in being home.   If your lack of joy in being with your children stems from a developmental stage that they are in or something going on with your spouse, there are so many posts about sibling fighting, challenges  in marriage and each developmental stage on this blog.  I encourage you to check them out and I hope you will find them helpful.

I hope you have found this encouraging. 

Many blessings and much love,

Carrie

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24 thoughts on “How Can I Love Staying At Home With My Children?

  1. Dear Carrie,
    I had one of those days…We had a guest for lunch and she was really naughty all the time. Sometimes she begins and ends a day refusing and fighting.
    I read about develompmental stages but it’s not only about ages: my little girl has a very strong temperament.
    I’d have lots more to say but it’s late at night here in Italy so only one point I’m struggling with. I know confronting with her head to head it’s not the right tool but other tools are not mine. Ehat if like me you understand intellectually you should be pictorial but you just can’t do it? I’m her mom but I have to admit I lack some qualities that would be so good in dealing with children and I cannot pretend too much of being different.
    And what if some of things I’m really passionate about aren’t good for her age yet ? (Cinema, theathre, travelling, dance and music performances). Regarding this point I think Waldorf theories affected me too much and took away some spontaneity to my relationship with my 5 years old daughter.

    Don’t know if I succedeed in explaining.

    Ciao
    Federica

    P.S. It’s a pleasure to read you.

    • Federica,
      All you can do is to pick one thing, start small and congratulate yourself for your success….Ask yourself, when my daughter is fighting with me I am going to try “X” (re-direct, get her off to bed, use humor, help her to useher hands in helping me in the kitchen, whatever you choose!) and try that for forty days until it becomes a habit!
      As far as the things you are passionate about, is there a way you can enjoy some of those things just for you? And then are there some ways you can bring your passion to your daughter in a way that is appropriate for her age?
      Lots of love and so nice to hear from you!
      Carrie

  2. Great list. I especially like #4. Often mothers forget themselves and don’t take time to develop their own interests. It’s important! :) Happy Mother’s Day!

  3. I LOVE being at home with my kids. For the record – I work, but mostly from home. I have a hard time having confidence in myself though. Funny you were going to write about this today – I actually spent most of the day yesterday pondering this, I felt like I fully realized that my biggest parenting difficulty actually is confidence – or rather, the lack thereof.

    I guess I hadn’t realized to the extent that this really affects me and my mothering. I just never feel like I’m doing the right thing. That is the most exhausting thing about mothering and making choices for our children that are “outside” the norm (“No, he’s not in daycare/kindergarten/whatever and yes we are at home and we all love it thank you”).

    Anyways – I am so grateful for the time I have with my children. The unhurried time, the discovering of the world and all its wonders, being outside, being present without feeling like there are a zillion other things I *should* be doing. After all, what is more important than being with my kids? (Hee hee, other than maybe a date night with my lovely husband LOL)

  4. Thank you so much! This is wonderful to read. I’m looking for a mentoring mother online, since we are in a remote area. My challenges are my own insecurities! My strengths are organization and creativity. My ideal mentor would be patient, wise and kind and have raised boys.

    Federica – One of the things that has really worked well for us is to offer choices, like when he has something he’s not supposed to have – Do you want to put that on the counter or in my hand?, or, do you want to put that in this hand or that hand? (somethings I sing “this way or thatta way, this way or thatta way, this or that” and point to one hand and then the other. I don’t do this in public by the way…) and often we can use, do you want to do this with mama or papa? Then he has a choice of what he wants to do, and not what he HAS to do. Even I don’t like that! :)

  5. Hi Carrie

    Once again you have put things in focus for me.

    For the readers who talked about not having confidence I am re -eading “The confident women” by Joyce Meyer (a Christian Minister.) I have found it to be excellent to identifying the secrets of confidence.

  6. Balance is always difficult – but your advice is so very true. While I only work part-time, I find I’m wearing too many hats, as you say, and therefore my time is never really mine, nor is it time to focus on the children. I’m at a crossroads, trying to decide if I can take a break from my practice (pediatric health care provider) and just focus on home and the children. It’s scary and I feel a bit lost. I love my “work” with children and families, but I love my children and my family more. Of course, there is the fear that if I leave practice for 3-5 years, I may be hard pressed to find work again.

    Carrie, how do you find the professional/personal balance?

    Many thanks for your wisdom and insight. My husband and I both love your blog.

    Blessings,

    Sarah

    • Hi Sarah, Such a difficult decision when you are in it, but for me when I personally look back I see the path was very clear and not so difficult at all. If you focus on your home and your children I don’t think you will regret the skills you will develop in doing this. You will stretch, you will grow, and when you go back to work someday in the future you will be a better person for it. I found the balance by volunteering my skills at a non profit breastfeeding organization, I have gotten my IBCLC since “staying home”, I keep up with continuing education courses in my field, I treat a private patient here and there when my husband can take the children and the family doesn’t mind if I bring the baby along, I write, I take long-distance education courses. I think you will find ways to continue to develop your skills, explore new passions and be with your family. Homemaking and mothering are truly spiritual tasks and require quite a bit of dedicated time to really get into the flow…

      Many blessings, thank you for your kind words,
      Carrie

  7. Pingback: Fields and Fire » Gratitude Friday

  8. Carrie,
    This is a wonderful, nourishing post! What a great thing to read to start my day – love it, love it, love. Thank you thank you, as always.

  9. Because I don’t have 2, I don’t really feel like I’m “qualified” to do 3. I have 4 – but for me, that is working outside the home (because I have #2 there and usually get a lot of praise there). But because I have 4, I cannot get very much #1. :)

    The funny thing is that I actually feel like I have 2, but my mom and my husband always question my #2, which makes me question it.

    …sigh… I need to quit leaving little posts all over your blog.

    Carrie – I love you posts. You’ve given me a lot to think about and a lot to talk to my therapist about. :) LOL

    • Stephanie – It will all get to where you want it to be! Trust in your own intuition!
      Thanks for reading,
      Carrie

  10. Thank you Carrie. After pondering your words and doing some reflection, I’m letting one of my part-time positions go. I already feel a sense of relief and excitement. We’ll see what the summer brings.

    Best,

    Sarah

    • SARAH! I am SO proud of you! That kind of a decision takes bravery and courage!! Congratulations!!
      Many excited blessings,
      Carrie

  11. Carrie – this juggling of hats was EXACTLY what was frustrating me a few months ago. but, the economy took care of it for me. my PT consulting business has trickled down to nothing and now…now i am home! i never ever thought i would be but i feel so peaceful about it. i also have started writing again, when the kids are in bed or when they are peacefully playing (sometimes it does happen!) this is my time to be ME, i may do a course in writing soon too.
    as far as tools. i love thinking of having your own personalized tool box. humor is the best trick for my “spirited” four year old. and it also helps to stop what i am trying to “achieve” whether laundry or dishes or an email or whatever and just be fully there and down on the floor listening to his needs. interacting, playing, whatever. even just 10 minutes of this changes things up so we can go happily on with our day.
    thanks so much for your blog and these words!

  12. Pingback: Back To Basics: Staying At Home and Loving It! « The Parenting Passageway

  13. Carrie

    For the past month or so I started a real rhythm finally at home and i find it works wonders. I feel more confident and can say for sure that i am more connected to my son. i think he feels that too and is more clingy to me , in the sense that its me who know best and no one else. i am also succeeding in having my husband’s full support as is seeing the difference himself at last and it is so wonderful to see. We are now trying to transfer some of greg’s confidence in me to his dad. Not easy but i am sure we will manage :) thank you for your ever inspiring and herlpful posts. you are my mothering mentor in a way :) i have none here in malta

  14. Carrie, I have recently discovered your blog and I love it! I was a Waldorf student for 10 years and I love learning about the Waldorf theories from the “other side” now that I’m a Mom. I was hoping that you could recommend you favorite book about the developmental stages of children? I have a 4 year old son :)
    Thank you!

    • Jasmine — A good guide to general development for the four year old would be “Your Four Year Old” by Bates and Ames, used copies on Amazon are very cheap or your library may have it.
      For Steiner, I would say try Kingdom of Childhood. :)
      Many blessings,
      Carrie

  15. Frederica,

    This may be late in coming, but we try to really limit the activities with my 4 daughter (soon to be 5) to time with her grandparents and a few home school art classes with her friends, but…we live in a very urban area and my mother began taking her to the theatre last summer (maybe once every 2 months).

    At first I thought it was too much for her to handle-some were just dance performances at the local Buddhist Centre, the ballet, and even a couple were major children’s Broadway productions-these were the ones I was most concerned about.

    A friend of ours is in the cast of Billy Elliot as a main character-he’s actually one of the child performers and is in her art class. His mother got us tix and we got a chance to see my 4 year old respond to theatre in a way WE may have missed otherwise. She was completely enthralled. She was mezmorized by the music, the dancing, and the costumes. She wanted to see where the conductor was and the orchestra pit. While much of the lines went over her head-thank goodness, since there were quite a few swear words, she absolutely loved every minute and we saw it! And…she saw her friend in a whole new way.

    A few weeks ago I took her to a small local homeschool theatre production of Charlotte’s Web in the basement of a church, and she loved that just as much. Now she’s wanting to perform at home, and really getting into “character” in her creative play with her own ‘made-up’ roles. She sings Broadway showtunes in the bath and while getting dressed in the morning that her grandfather has played for her, and it’s opened up a whole new world for her.

    I say this just to let you know that spontaneity can happen with a 4-5 year old. Who knows…share what you’re interested in and you might just be opening up a whole new world for her, and a connection the two of you can share at this point in your lives.

    And, by the way…she still has tantrums (as do I, so I need to read the recent post on anger) and we still struggle to find rhythm, so this is not necessarily a solution, but we do enjoy the fact that she enjoys theatre and music so much. And isn’t that one of the basics of play under Waldorf theory? That play comes in the form of verse, fantasy, and music. Watching her face and her actions in all of this has allowed us to be present with the moments where she’s living in joy.

    Hope this helps,

    Cecily
    Maya y Mariposa’s mama

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