Going Against the Grain - Staying Home with Toddler
Hello. My name is Lorna Balfour and I’m a full time mum to a 22 month old boy, Coby.
I was one of these women who drifted along, not sure if I wanted children, maybe sometime in the future. I think this a very common, too common predicament. Then I was pregnant, and everything changed. My pregnancy hormones were almost four times higher than average, and this manifested as a very protective mum-to-be.
I am self-employed so I decided I would take three months off work and then go back full-time. That was always going to be tricky as my hours were never 9-5, more like 6-10.
My child is 22 months old and I still haven't managed to go back to work, although I do work from home when he is asleep. I would worry too much about him; he is still very small and needs a great deal of attention. I would worry that he wasn't sleeping properly during the day as he is a light sleeper, not getting enough cuddles, and eating poorly. I personally believe all these things are very important to very small children.
There is a strong feeling that as a woman it is right and normal to go back to work, not to stay at home with your child. I met an old friend when my child was 18 months old and she asked me if I was on benefits. I was shocked. I do work, but just when he is asleep and the only benefit is child benefit. Her face lit up when I said I was on child benefit; I was one of these stay-at-home
There is also a strong opinion that it must be boring to be stuck at home with a small child, even with other mums. You hear people asking, "What do you do all day?" I definitely don't find it boring as every day is different. My child changes every month in significant ways. You have to keep up. I feel happy to experience all of these changes, first hand. I would feel cheated if I didn't see his first steps, hear his first words, or even witness his first tantrum.
I didn't expect my priorities to change to this extent, but I am glad they did. Before having a baby, it was all about me. Now, it is all about him. I want him to have the best possible start in life, and that is what governs my decision making, for better or for worse. It's not forever; as he gets older there will have to be more balance. But, for now, I think it is better for him:
He eats better - I am a very fussy eater, so everything he eats has to be good quality and healthy.
He sleeps better - as he is not in a tight schedule if he needs more sleep he has it, and if he needs less sleep, that's okay too. For example, when he is teething, he can wake up during the night in pain. But that doesn't matter because he can wake up later than usual as we don't have to get to nursery or the childminder by a certain time.
More varied life - every day is different and one day we might visit the zoo and the next day we might stay home. He has more stimulation like that. TV is limited and monitored.
Learning can be tailored to his needs - having one-to-one attention is good for my child as I know in detail his strengths and weaknesses. That means I can focus on his development more closely.
More secure and confident - contrary to what I thought, my son seems more confident than his friends who go to nursery school. He isn't scared of trying new things and isn't clingy. I think that is because there isn't too much structure to each day, every day can be different. That means he is used to change and being in many different environments.
Happier - there is lots of research that says young children under two years old have higher stress hormones when they attend nursery school. Having higher stress hormones is not good for your child's health: it can have a negative effect on their digestion, sleep, learning, and behaviour.
Being a stay-at-home mum is a very evocative subject with many women. One friend, without children, compared it to being a slave. That was a shock, I certainly wouldn't describe myself as a slave. Other mums who send their small children to nursery always promote its benefits. And, of course, there will be some benefits. The children will be more used to other children and better able to share their toys, for example. And I am sure, for older pre-school children, going to nursery can be very healthy. However, saying that nursery is good because when they go to school they will be better adjusted is a bit far-fetched when talking about a one year old toddler.
Of course, not all mums have the option of staying at home to look after their children, and for other mums it might not be the best option. There are lots of different childcare options and you have to select the one that works best for you and your child.
By Lorna Balfour from Passionate about Fitness