Finding yourself as a SAHP has endless pros, such as spending quality time with your children; saving money on commuting; saving money on childcare costs; and having time to manage your household. However, it can also be a huge challenge on even the most patient person. Here are some tips to help keep your sanity as a stay-at-home parent.
Every now and again, having children at home can create havoc. Picture the scenario: you have five minutes to get out the house for an appointment. It’s that moment that your toddler up-ends the dog bowl and your pre-schooler manages to cover the floor in toothpaste. Don’t worry about the mess. It will keep. Being a SAHP is all about prioritising. When you get to the end of the day, ask yourself three questions:
If the answer to these three questions is “yes”, you’ve nailed the day.
Although it sounds like extra work, children can help out with chores, or at least you can pretend they’re helping out! Try filling an empty spray bottle with water and hand your child a clean cloth to help clean the kitchen or the bath. Soapy water in a basin on the floor and they can help scrub the floor. Let your child pull the wet washing out of the washing machine. Set up a low washing line with his or her own pegs. There are lots of ways to incorporate child-friendly tasks into daily chores that don’t include chemicals!
Every SAHP has found themselves near breaking point, even if their patience rivals that of Mother Theresa. This is fine. This is human. It’s incredibly important to try and recognise when you reach this point. There is absolutely nothing wrong with putting your child in a safe place, such as a cot, with a couple of toys, while you go into a room and take five minutes to calm, vent, cry. Being a SAHP is tough. You get no lunch/loo/sanity breaks. Your boss is demanding and unreasonable and there are no sick days. Of course you’re going to find yourself right at the very end of that tether. It’s amazing how a few deep breaths, taken in an empty room can help just enough to get you through the day.
Now and again, there are tasks at home that need to be done. They can’t wait and you need a few minutes to get them done. In these situations, you can really do without your child screaming down the phone at the bank or hanging off your leg while you’re scraping poo of a potty-training toddler’s pants. We all know that too much screen time isn’t ideal, but a few minutes of decent children’s programming is a saviour. Netflix and other subscription services do a great line in varied cartoons and shows, as does BBC iPlayer.
Most children, with very few exceptions, enjoy being outside under the right conditions. It doesn’t matter if it’s a back garden, balcony or a local park, getting outside can help both a fractious child and parent. The local park can be great for getting toddling and walking children out for a bit of fresh air and into nature. Try having a scavenger hunt for different leaves or sticks. Jumping in puddles of piles of leaves can be heaven for a small child. Just remember the wellies and puddle suits!
If you’re staying closer to home, a basin of water and some plastic cups or toys can provide entertainment or a small sandpit and a spade. A teddy bear’s picnic can also go down very well. These ideas are useful for a potty-training child if you’re looking for both fresh air and a nearby toilet.
Some days, every SAHP dreams of having a clean and tidy house and a nutritious home-cooked dinner on the table. On those same days, your children may have other ideas. On those whinge-filled, tearful days, does it really matter if the kitchen’s a mess or you have to reach for the takeaway menu for the third time that week? Some days the only thing you can do is give your children the undivided attention they’re looking for. Illness and teething generally don’t last forever, so take some time out from the chores and don’t give yourself a hard time.
Having a rough schedule for the week can help bring some structure to your day. These can be in and around your house or could include toddler groups, library groups or private classes. Ideas for sessions at home could include half an hour after lunch looking at books together or finger painting. Messy art sessions can be daunting to organise off the cuff, but if it’s planned in, it’s easier to cope with!
Having some alone time booked is such a motivational way to get through a busy week with children. Negotiate with your partner or family or baby sitter to get some time alone for a few hours. Whether it’s to do a supermarket shop without the distraction of a child or to go to a cafe to drink a whole hot cup of coffee without interruption, the activity isn’t important, alone time is!
An array of snacks produced at a second’s notice is a SAHP’s saviour. Snacks are a good way of keeping children occupied in the car/at the supermarket/during your older child’s school assembly. Keep your changing bag/cupboard/glove compartment stocked with easily transportable items such as mini boxes of raisins, ricecakes, oat bars or even little tubs of dry cereal. It’s amazing how a well-timed snack can buy you a few minutes!
If someone offers you help, take it. Being a SAHP is hard enough without refusing help when it’s offered. If no-one offers help, ask for it. People sometimes forget that being a SAHP is a full-time job that doesn’t end at 6pm. Just because you aren’t going out to work every day, doesn’t mean that the other occupants of your house can’t help out when they are here. If your home is your workplace, manage the tasks where possible. Delegate bathtime to a partner. Share the responsibility of cooking and the clean up afterwards. Bins can be done in the evening after the children are asleep.
SAHP need to speak up for their needs as no-one else will do it for you! It’s one of the most rewarding, fun jobs in the world but every SAHP needs a helping hand.