Forget Pintrest: Real Advice for New Stay-at-Home Parents
I recently made the transition from full-time working mom to “stay-at-home and occasionally get work done” mom, and I’ve never been happier. And by happier, I mean my life is pleasantly chaotic, and by pleasantly chaotic, I mean pleasant for at least 20 minutes a day, but mostly just chaotic.
Being a stay-at-home parent is fucking hard. When I worked outside of the home at a high stress job, in a high trauma field, I frequently made statement like – “I have so much respect for stay-at-home parents, but I could never do it.” And now that I am writing this from my living room, while my three-year-old watches Inside Out for the 100th time, I realize that statement is still true. Fuck.
But, to be honest, I thought the same thing before becoming a parent, becoming a single parent, writing professionally, and running a marathon. I realized that I just needed to get it together, do some planning and figure this shit out. So, I consulted Pintrest seeking professional help.
Pintrest: Have a daily schedule. Everything is easier with a clearly defined schedule.
Reality: Bwahahaha. Three-year-olds eat schedules for breakfast, while looking down their turned up noses at the beautiful Pumpkin Pie Pancakes you made them. Get used to a tiny dictator throwing wrenches into your schedule’s gears (sometimes literally). Time to leave the house? It’s also time for him to take off his shoes and socks because one of them “feels funny,” and when you get them back on, he’ll need to go potty, but not in the main bathroom, only in the bathroom that one of your other children is using. For number two. By the time he’s done flushing and washing and changing his socks again, story time at the library is over. Want spawn to play with Legos, while you clean the kitchen or make Quinoa Mango Salad for lunch? Threenager will spill the entire contents of the Lego bucket on the floor and refuse your joyful attempts to get them to help you clean up, no matter how many silly songs about cleaning up you sing, while the veggies for the salad sit unchopped on the counter.
The majority of sample schedules I found online included either way too much structure/detail for our lives or way too much cleaning ;).
My advice is to schedule the things that are important (school, meetings, yoga class, work from home activities, kiddo/parent naps, etc.) and include enough time in your schedule to get there or get them done on time, and try not to schedule or create ambitious plans for the things that aren’t as important. Create lists of weather appropriate outdoor activities and indoor activities that don’t involve glitter (shudders), and let the kids pick one or two things from each list each day.
We plan on doing a ton of science – like stomp rockets, art – like chalk dress-up dolls and pedicures, and fitness – like kids’ yoga and running through the sprinkler. However, this week looked more like: science – what happens when I mix an entire container of mommy’s drink mix with a little bit of water, art – painting purple nail polish on the table, and fitness – running away from mommy at the store. We also tried a new park, bought mommy a new pair of running shoes, and played on the escalator at the mall.
Include time to do nothing, to play on Facebook, or watch The Outlander, while your kids chase each other around the yard. Don’t over schedule yourself or set the bar so high each day that you feel like a failure. Try to save deep cleaning for the weekend, so you can have a nice base level of clean for the week and to not stress about it. And for the sake of all that is pasta, don’t try to clean your house completely everyday. You aren’t a maid (unless you are, then please check with your employer before making that call).
Pintrest: Meal Plan! It’s Fun and Time-saving!
Reality: Meal Plan! It’s Fun and Time-saving, until your quinoa boils over, while you are cleaning up the aforementioned Lego spill, and your children refuse to eat all foods that aren’t carb/melted cheese-based. Again, be gentle with yourself and honest with yourself about your time, your kids’ palettes, and your cooking ability. Learn to laugh at Pintrest fails and kitchen experiments gone wrong.
One type of meal planning that works for our house (with four kids ages three to ten) is “dinner-night” planning: Taco-night, Salad bar-night, Pizza-night, Indian-night. We make a weekly calendar and grocery list. We make many small plates that the kids (and we) can choose. We don’t do meal time fights. Rather, we offer choices, always including items we know they like, let them have a bit of control, and have had both epic wins and epic disasters. When all else fails and the quinoa boils over, get take out or have brinner. When your kids want cereal for lunch, let them have cereal. It won’t hurt them. I promise.
Pintrest: Treat motherhood as a job and get MORE done!
Reality: Treat motherhood like a job, and get fired for fucking around on Facebook, running through the sprinkler, and excessive sarcasm.
From the website tolovehonorandvacuum.com (It’s really called that. I can’t make this shit up):
Motherhood is a job, and when you treat it that way, you get things done. When you treat it like a big party with the kids, where you all get to goof off, you don’t.
Seriously, though, stay-at-home parenthood is hard enough. When we try to equate it to a job and make demands on ourselves (and let our partners make demands on us) to have a perfect home, a perfect body, perfect meals, and a perfect life, it devalues importance of simply parenting our kids. And as a culture, we start to equate the role of motherhood with so much more than one person can successfully manage, leaving a good portion of parents feeling inadequate, lazy, and/or pissed off for being human.
Being a good mom (or dad) has nothing to do with having a spotless house. It has everything to do with the love we have for the tiny humans we are charged with keeping alive. When your kids are grown, they won’t remember how you cleaned the oven weekly (They might remember the smoke smell from the sole time I tried to clean ours) or always folded fitted sheets perfectly (Can anyone show me how to fold a fitted sheet?).
Be easy on yourself. Make manageable lists and plans. Let yourself be human. Have fun with your kids. Let yourself be an adult and have adult interests, too. Don’t lose yourself in vacuuming (unless that floats your boat). And cook your quinoa in the rice cooker, because life is too short to clean burnt quinoa off of the stove top.
Pumpkin Pie Pancakes
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 1/2 cups milk
1 large egg
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt.
In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, milk, egg, and vegetable oil.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir just until combined. The batter will be lumpy.
Heat griddle and spray with cooking spray.
In batches, scoop 1/4 – 1/2 cup of batter onto the griddle form pancakes.
Cook the pancakes on one side until bubbles appear in the center, then flip them once and continue cooking until no longer doughy in the center.
Blueberry eyes optional. Serve with whipped cream.
Quinoa Mango Salad
1/2 cup dried quinoa (I like red quinoa best) cooked according to the package.
1 ripe mango, peeled and diced
1/2 red onion, peeled and diced
1/2 cucumber, peeled and diced
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 large tomato, diced
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 can black beans (drained) or 1 cup cooked black beans
1/2 cup prepared vinaigrette (I like mango chipotle, lime or balsamic)
Cook quinoa according to the package or throw it in a rice cooker on the brown rice setting. Cool to room temp or colder.
Dice and mince vegetables.
Mix everything together.
Can be stored in the fridge for up to a week.
Enjoy with tortilla chips, in a wrap or by itself.
Your threenager will not eat this.
Brilliant! My child has aged out of this, but just to reinforce your message: scheduling the minutiae will only make you irritable and stressed out. And triage the laundry and cleaning. If your partner doesn’t get their favorite shirt until they wash it themselves, they’ll live.
I can definitely show you how to fold a fitted sheet! It involves folding the pocket corners over each other, lining up the straight edges, and not attempting to square that which is curved. 😛
As for the rest, yes. Especially the “treat motherhood as a job” part. I find I build a lot less resentment over the lack of control I have and the slow assed, relatively invisible progress of parenting if I treat it as a journey, part of daily life, rather than an objective, clearly defined task I should accomplish in order to get short term rewards, which is what “job” means to me. Parenting is pretty thankless a lot of the time, jobs shouldn’t be– or if they are one is at least getting paid! My enjoyment at work stems from a feeling of accomplishment and progress. My enjoyment at parenting stems from moments of mutual human relationship building, not from finishing assigned tasks within clear parameters.
Of course my paid work was largely service/labor sector, and parenting is largely people management, so that could be why I see a divide there. Not a lot of people management in baking.