Many mothers struggle with certain areas of cultivating a peaceful family life. Typically these areas are housecleaning and home maintenance, gentle discipline, and creating a rhythm for their family. Many mothers tell me that they start off well, and then they stop, and then they start and then they stop.
I have a solution for you in these areas, although it is not a very popular one these days: stay home! You need an unhurried pace in which to parent small children, and you also need time to work on yourself and your own development as a part.
Staying at home gives you the time to focus on the things that matter: connecting with your spouse and children without rushing around stressed; giving your children the healthy foundation of rhythm; and providing you enough time to be home to actually cook nourishing meals and clean your home and take care of your garden.
I wrote a post in May of 2010 that in part read:
I invite you to breathe and ask yourself this question: How often am I going out of my home?
- Is it every day and you have children under the age of seven?
- Is your home and your homeschooling and your parenting where you would like it to be?
- Could your time of lessons or classes or activities for your small children be better spent elsewhere at this point?
I understand if you are suffering from depression and really need that social connection and support of other mothers. I really do understand if you are extremely outgoing like me and just get filled up by being with other mothers and other people…I really do understand! I wrote a post about Social Isolation for Stay-At-Home mothers here: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/02/24/social-isolation-for-stay-at-home-mothers/
But there has to be a balance, and if you are going out every day and if your under-seven child is involved in a plethora of activities, I just gently am nudging you to explore this. Boundaries are important, and showing and modeling for your child how to set boundaries and maintain them is REALLY important as they grow up into a world that will most likely have even more blurred lines between personal and professional lives due to increased technology.
I invite you to try to discern what really are the most essential things in your life, and how the time you spend reflects what is most meaningful to you. I am working on this right now, and it really is challenging me!
Particularly for the parents of very small under-aged five children, it is easy to get caught up in lessons, classes, and other things. The ages under five (and under seven and yes, even under age nine!), to me, is an excellent place to experience an unhurried concept of time. They will never have these days again! There will be so many other years for classes, for lessons and for other activities and for rushing about on a schedule (which is different than the flowing rhythm of being at home).”
Some mothers tell me it is so difficult to stay at home for them. One post I wrote on this subject that was insanely popular was this one, take a look and refresh your memory: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/05/09/how-can-i-love-staying-at-home-with-my-children/ and this one: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/04/15/but-when-i-stay-homeeverything-falls-apart/
Are you worried about your child and their level of socialization? In general, for children under the age of 7, I feel less is more. I wrote about that here: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/07/social-experiences-for-a-four-year-old/
Look into your heart and see what is right for your family at this time, in this day. Your rhythm will change as your children grow, but being home is so important. You can develop your own will to do this (see here for help: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/04/30/the-adult-will-and-how-to-develop-it/)
This is a great post! I have found such peace in staying home. It is a struggle for me too with a very sanguine side, but finding things I love to do at home has been a real blessing – handwork I love, of course writing, reading when I can squeeze it in and my most fun, rekindling my own need and love for play. So often when we are running around crazy, we easily forget to play and then it takes us so much more energy to get back to that place.
As a mom with older children and little ones, I can say that what has often worked for me is to empower my big kids (over 9yrs) to be as active as a participant as possible in keeping their own schedule and helping me to find solutions to get them to activities they want to attend. I am also fortunate enough to be able to get my DH to help in many ways. It takes ME being sold on being at home to sell everyone else on it. I found the solutions for a cranky toddler and preschooler were to make sure sleep rhythms are not interrupted when possible, so that means limiting car rides where naps can take place.
It is very doable and so rewarding when everyone works together to make it happen. We have our big errand day one day per week and try to make it as fun as possible with a park stop to let off steam or get a fun snack if the park isn’t an option. Doing most of my errands on this one day allows us to stay home the others and limits my late nights because of unscheduled napping in the car.
Thanks for this topic Carrie! So important for moms.
You are a blessings. 🙂
Thanks for such a helpful and insightful post! I have struggled with housecleaning in the past and feel that I’ve finally gotten the hang of putting it into normal daily activities by slowing down.
I agree with you whole-heartedly! The biggest and best change for us was to just stay home. Everything improved after that. Once my elder boy got away from the expectation that we would go somewhere, his behavior steadily improved. Then going out would throw him off and I would see the value of just staying home. The last to come was me feeling content with less social life. Blogging and Facebook have helped some, but mostly, I’ve changed. It is a good change as I was too needy of other people before… It’s hard at first but oh so worth it. Thanks for the great post.
beautiful! thank you for this gem!
There are some parents that I know who can’t go out due to health reasons, parent of micropreemies who are now home for their first or second winter. The isolation is terrible and many of the above are not options. I’m curious what mindset you would recommend for those parents.
Do you mean the things in the post about Social Isolation for stay at home mothers?
Please let me know if that was the post you were referring to…you know my NICU background, and I am always eager to help families that are dealing with family life after a NICU stay.
Thanks so much for this post. I stay at home with my 18 month old and 3 year old and so far we haven’t really gone out much. But like you said, I so struggle with house cleaning and gentle discipline and having a rhythm. And then I wonder why I struggle with all of those since I am home all the time! And sometimes I’m not sure what to do with the kids all day. We haven’t let them watch tv or videos at all until just recently (we just started watching some Bible videos on the weekend only). My kids really seem to need my attention most of the day, which I know is developmentally appropriate, but it makes it hard to get cleaning done. Ahh…I don’t know. I’m just rambling. But thanks for this post so much. Maybe I’ll be able to come up with things to do during the day that will help us have a better rhythm.
Oh, I also wanted to add that it seems like so many people around me lately are telling me that they don’t know how I do it. And I think they mean that I stay home with the kids all the time and don’t go out much. They think I should have my kids watching tv during the days and that I should get a job. I tell them that I’m happy doing this, being with my kids during the days, that I think they need this, that I’m happy doing this and that I CHOSE to do it. It’s hard not having that support, but it encourages me to do what I think is best for my family too. 🙂
I’ve been reading more about slowing down and staying at home lately and I must admit I do have trouble maintaining a rhythm. The problem I have is that with 3 children of various ages (and big age gaps) we always seem to be going somewhere. Even if it’s just a class or something for one of them everyone has to come along. I’m not sure what the solution is really as even with just two classes each (for my two eldest) that’s still 4 different trips out a week. And that’s before we add on social meet ups and field trips. Any advice or ideas?
Emma, I think you are doing the best you can do. THe experience of the third child is not going to be the experience of the first child and depending on the age of the first child, he or she may really need those classes and really need to participate in the community. Is there anyone that can help you drive your children/carpool somewhere to cut down on the driving overall? Can you combine those classes to make it one day or two days out instead of four? (I know how hard this can be with sports and such). I think Melisa Nielsen’s comment to you in these comments may be helpful. Sometimes when we have older children we have to rely on our community to help with them. 🙂
You are doing great!
I am so thankful that Waldorf taught me to appreciate and protect staying home. I had never given the concept much thought before, but now I see it is the answer to so much stress and frustration and business that modern moms experience. Being home together is blessed!
I couldn’t agree more about the need to stay home and stay true to our rhythm. I have a 4 year old daughter, a 2 year old daughter, a 5 month old son and a 12 year old son. Right now, our family is facing many challenges because my husband has deployed. As a family, we keep our activities with the kids to a minimum (walks, playing in our house or yard, etc). We try to keep our kids out of stores as much as possible because there is so much stimulation and such. Now that my husband is gone for the time being, I have to take the kids out to the Co-Op and our health food stores on occasion. Plus, we live in an isolated part of New Mexico and have to drive an hour to get to these stores. I know doing this really disrupts our routine and almost always upsets my kids. I will say I do not have a lot of support. Family is critical of our parenting choices (Waldorf, no TV, organic food). How can I maintain the peace and serenity I know we need during this stressful time?
HI Kim, it sounds as if you are doing the very best you can under challenging circumstances. Not only do you have a husband who is deployed, which is an incredible stress and sadness, but you live in a rural area. Can you cut down on your errands by ordering things on-line? Can you combine your errands to town with doing something fun — stopping at a park and having a picnic for the little ones, and doing something for the twelve-year old? Visiting friends? I would think community would be so, so important right now…Do you have a place of worship? A group of friends? Any other homeschoolers in the area that could help you with getting food or running errands or just giving you any time at all to yourself? Can any family come in and help you during this deployment?
I don’t think there is a magic bullet and you are doing the best you can do, Kim!
PS> One thing that struck me though was your 12 year old son who may really need support during this time. Please do pray and meditate about him and his needs. That can be so challenging to have a father deployed when you are that age! Also, at 12 his world should be opening up a bit…he only has 8 or 9 years until he will be off doing things on his own…..So what are his needs? Because he is at a very different place than a 4 or 2 year old, which can be challenging.
Yes Carrie! This is what we do. If there is an activity they would like to be involved in that is not within walking or biking distance from our home, I will ask the other mothers if we can set up a car pool – this means I’ll have to drive some of the time but not disrupt us all of the time. I am fortunate enough to have a grandma to help now, but I haven’t always had her near, we made a conscious choice to move to a smaller town to be near to her so we could help each other. We also are VERY limited on activities – my rule has always been one activity other than scouts. My boys are in the BSA scouting program and have goals there but also have another activity each. One son takes guitar – they are private lessons so I asked the instructor if he minded coming to our home, it cost me a bit more but keeps us from driving! My daughter was able to find a piano teacher from church that lives right in our neighborhood. It can be done, it takes a little more effort upfront, but is very worth it.
Also, my biggest MOM thing as they get older is the family calendar. They have to be responsible to write something down on it or to me it doesn’t exist. My mother used to say “Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.” It helped me so much as a teen to make sure I always had my schedule straight with my mom so we employ the same – of course we are talking about over 9yo, closer to 12 and up children. If there is an activity that isn’t on the calendar then I don’t know it is going on and I won’t plan for it. They have only had to miss something once and then they never forget again. Our calendar is one of those wipe of scrapbooking type ones. We have it on our fridge and everyone is sure to help keep it up to date. I offer a reminder Sunday morning to put anything on it that I need to know about. In the afternoon when I sit down to do my weekly school planning I can then slip anything into my rhythm that needs to be. Did I mention I’m a planner? Planning sets us free and allows us to really enjoy free time because we are not running in chaos. Occasionally things come up and we have to adjust but I am pretty protective of keeping our 4yo home.
Hope that helps.
Thanks again for this topic Carrie! We have a baby coming in May and it has made me think even more about how we’ll be slowing down more than we are now. I am very blessed to live in a tiny town and can imagine we will be using our feet more and more.
Hi Carrie. There are a group of expat moms living abroad who follow your blog. We live far away from family and being that we are a transient community, we don’t have the support of a settled community or good friends or family. To say the least, we are overworked and very tired. We are under a lot of stress and burden and isolated more than others who live in or near their home towns. We are moms who stay home with our kids, who do not take them here and there to activities. Some mothers follow your advice to what seems to be unhealthy in our circumstance: they are alone with their children all day, seven days a week, with only their father in the mornings and evenings and irregularly on weekends. You have written in passing that children need more than their mothers, that they need the whole community of the family so perhaps it would be helpful if you balance a post on staying home with a post on the importance of a family community for the children. Humans were never meant to live in isolation, they are suppose to live interdependently and I think it would be good to hear from you about living interdependently in a simple home environment. I write this because I know a few moms who follow your thinking rather religiously and really don’t see any other people for the sake of home and simplicity. I just don’t see this as healthy for anybody.
Elizabeth — I totally AGREE with you! I also think it is sad when children who are over six and half are not seeing friends consistently…I especially have a hard time with the nine year olds and older having no friends, they need friends! I will write a balancing post!
I read/lurk here like its a religion 🙂
I agree about staying home, and with that doing less. I tend to stay home but still feel hurried because of how much there is to get done.
Also, I notice that all of us are a lot calmer when we do get out of the house here and there. When we have a day we can get to the library, it affords me at least 2 hours where I have no floors to sweep! With a 5 and 1 year old, it seems like I am always on my hands and feet cleaning messes and I begin to feel like that is literally all I do – keep us from being under a foot of debri each day! The peace I get from taking a drive or being at a public place where I’m not obligated to be cleaning or doing chores is often a major way I can stay sane. If I could afford to leave home for 2 hours a day, I think I actually would. And I never thought I’d say that because I’m totally about simple living and daily rhythm, but the house chores part gets so overwhelming and repetitive for me. Don’t you ever feel like you JUST finished sweeping up from breakfast when you have to start planning snacks, lunch and dinner – just when meal prep is over, meal cleanup begins, and on and on it goes! A snack out is sometimes the only time I just to get a break, lol.
Thanks for all of your wisdom – it is often so very helpful at just the right time!
I’m in the same boat at the mothers Elizabeth describes. We live in a VERY harsh winter climate and are a one car family. We stay home every day and while I am content with this, my older children are bored and constantly complain that they want to have friends. My other SAHM friends likewise do not have access to cars during the week. Saturday is our car day and we go grocery shopping and to the library and maybe squeeze a playdate in too but by then everybody is tired. Activities for my older children, get togethers with other families, not an option.
Our lives have definitely calmed down since we started staying home more! But for me it’s about balance. We need time at home but my 3-year-old and I also enjoy playdates and museums….I’m just careful not to pack the schedule because rushing around does not make for good parenting!
I recently re-read the whole “Little House” series. Maybe I am seeing the romantic view, but my impression is that the children had far too much play ~and~ real work to do to be bored. They enjoyed seeing others, at church and town events, but everyone was really too busy working to worry much about not socializing outside the family every day.
I recommend those books, in any case. Our children are too young to hear them yet (some scary bits for little ones) but the books have many ideas for work and activities. The Little House cookbook alone would keep you busy for the winter..
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Carrie, great post. I was dering how staying at home fits in with the 4 hours of outside time that you have written about elsewhere in your blog. My 2 year old really needs to get out and run around a little to brun off energy, so trups to the park are a must (museums in inclement weather). We have a small home so she does,kt get the full body movements at home. Thanks, Serena
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Hi Carrie, I have always stayed at home and nurtured my little ones, they spend their days in the garden and never get bored. We are blessed and the children confident, happier and calmer this way! (my eldest is 10).
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Hi Carrie (and everyone whose commented)
I read this post just last night and today I couldn’t stop thinking how true it is. My family and I had to run errands again today (seems an endless list for a few weeks now and always takes hours longer than I think it will), and my daughter was playing up again. She’s been out of sorts for a while now and we couldn’t figure out why. Until today, when I looked at her and your post came into my head. Of course! We’ve been out and about doing stuff which isnt necessarily child based for a while lately and she just wants her routine back and some home time. She would always sign when she was ready to go home from a toddler group and thats when we would leave but thats hard to do when you re often away from home and need to get things done. Ive decided to cut back on needless errands or even take it turns with my husband to do errands whilst the other stays home. Thank you for opening my eyes and also for relieving my guilt of staying home, thinking I should be getting her out all the time to groups. Xx
I am proud of you! I think you, as the parent, can best figure this out. Children often give us cues, but many times it is indirectly and we need to put our detective hat and look at things from the consciousness of the child, which is so different than an adult consciousness.
Love that you did that!
I read your blog since 2009 and was very inspired by what you share.
I have a 4 years very energetic boy.
WE livre in a very small flat, with no garden, top floor, no elevator. Small is 50 m2, one room.
My husband works full time, 10 hours per day. I work part-time since my son was 3 months. My work is mostly from home but i work out at least once a week and sometimes need to travell a cross the country for one or 2 weeks. When i work my son stays home with the baby sitter, when i travel they go with me.
If i stop working i will havê no money to basic expenses so that is no an option.
Se dont have any familly in the city se livre in. Se dont know any familly around who as a garden, the closest public garden is até 1km from our house with no public transports and it is full of dog POO (se live in a poor country).
In the last 4 years there where 13 big construction works on my building por around with noise from 8 AM to 4 PM. I had to go out with my baby boy on the sling, with cold rain in the wi ter por burning sun in the summer, the entre day.
Until now, to get a bit of fresh or garden play, i need to be out at least 4 hours.
If se go out in the morning se cant make it to go black on the top floor before lunch so se finish há ing lunch outside. If se go out in the afternoon se only go back with my husband, around, 7pm. Its to late, to much time ouside, to late for dinner and so on.
We havê no money to another house/flat unless i work full time and that is the end of homeschooling. Plus, se have no familly to help picking children até school por with meals what means, if i work full time, ouro son will be with caregivers from 8 AM to 7 PM, monday to friday.
So, the only option is to make a happy life in a very small flat that is noisy, extra cold during winter and extra hot during summer.
I tryed hear plugs, soft natureza music, winter covers, heaters and oven cooking, dance, jumping in bed to warm up… and air conditioning, baths, long days até the sea por extendend periods at friens por familly in summer. Summer means 6 months with around 40 degrees celcios inside, i even forget the shape of my house during summer.
I need help, more ideias on pratical things, ideias on how to keep pacefull even if outside is no ideal, ideias on how to bring “home” with me everywhere. I falso need help on how to let go the ideal everiday garden work and play. It’s no my reality, it will not happend to us, at least during my sob childhood.
I also need help to understand if it is crasy por not to havê another Chile. I’m feeling afraid now but maybe someone as ideias on how to build a happy and calm life with 2 children, in this situation.