Perhaps it's my Type A personality. Perhaps it's the elementary teacher in me. Or perhaps it's just my neurotic need for every minute of the day to have a "purpose" or plan. Any of those reasons may be describing my need for a schedule now that it's just Mommy and baby home alone...from 7:30 a.m. to about 5:30 when Nick comes through that door. People, that's a lot of open time for a mother who is used to having every minute filled with "something". Stay-at-home mothering is not always a cakewalk (in case anyone thinks it is). There are times in the day that just fly by (naptime) and others that seem like they have taken hours, but really only 10 minutes have gone by when you look at your watch (go down the slide again?). I also think I am still trying to convince any naysayers that stay-at-home moms don't just sit watching hours of TV eating bon-bons while their child plays with toys for six hours a day. There is work involved that perhaps doesn't provide a paycheck or daily recognition, but serves a purpose just the same.
Day two of staying home with Noah has been filled with activity...but I continue to have the nagging feeling of "what are we going to do next?" I am sure not every mother feels this way if they have a 16 month old that plays independently for hours at a time or is content playing with the same toys for four hour stretches. If you are that mom...well, congratulations! Your child is also most likely the one that carefully turns book pages, stops immediately what they are doing when mom quietly says "no, no", or even begins to pick up after themselves when they scatter building blocks all over the floor. My child, on the other hand, is "100% boy" as many people describe (actually my kind, elderly neighbor Mary said "150% boy"...still letting that sink in as a positive comment). Noah is just active and enjoys hands on interaction at most if not all times of the day aside from eating, sleeping, or watching his daily Baby Einstein video (God Bless the creators of those masterpieces!!!). So, my day and week is stacked with activities in order to tire my little one out for a long afternoon nap (still working on getting down to one long nap instead of 2 small ones).
Things that Noah and I enjoy to fill up our day~
Other popular hangouts...our driveway pushing garage sale toys, The Flint Children's Museum (wonderful!), the mall play area, Target, the library, and Kroger (yes, Kroger, where I get to buy groceries and Noah gets to see balloons and ride in the car cart. It's really a win-win).
Some wise advice I heard through the grapevine is that it's not good to schedule too much in your day...and I think that makes a lot of sense. Babies and toddlers need a good balance of downtime and stimulation. Scheduling event after event after event will not only burn the child out but also the mom. Also, I have things to do during the day that Noah can't or doesn't need to be part of (like laundry, making dinner, cleaning the house) so I have been incorporating lots of opportunities throughout the day for him to be independent with his toys in the living room. Although his favorite activity in the living room is opening and shutting the baby gate...he can do this for about 20 minutes at a time :-)
Some reading this may still be asking, "Michelle...you only have one child to watch, so what is it you exactly DO during nap time for instance?" Well, right now I'm updating my blog. Other things I enjoy are reading, scrapbooking, or baking. I may load the dishwasher or take care of something small around the house...but right now I am using his nap time as MY TIME to enjoy something. My day begins at 6:30 really (I'll write about THAT later...) and ends around 8 p.m. when Noah goes to bed. I know once baby #2 comes...there will be no more MY time to speak of for the next 25 years, so I am going to cherish it while I can.
In closing, while I stress about filling our days with activities to keep Noah happy and me sane, I am posting this quote from Pulitzer Prize winning author Anna Quindlan in my journal and on my fridge. This quote was at end of Melissa Stanton's book The Stay-At-Home Survival Guide. It really sums up why I am staying home this year...and perhaps longer. I also think it is a helpful quote for ANY parent, working or staying home. Noah is only going to be small once. That is it. There is no rewind button in life and we are not young forever. There is an end to everything...even childhood as we all know too well. Anna Quindlan, with three children now grown, wrote this in a column from Newsweek in 2007 for Mother's Day:
"The biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three of them, sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4, and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept at night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less."(excerpt from Stay-At-Home Survival Guide: field tested strategies for staying smart, sane, and connected while caring for your kids by Melissa Stanton. Seal Press: 2008.)
So while Noah and I have the time to do fun things like go to museums, playdates, and malls (and I'm around now for the diaper changing, temper tantrums, and messes)...I am going to pay attention to the little things as well a bit more just like Noah does when I am distracted. Just the other day he was amazed at a leaf blowing by and scraping the driveway, picking it up carefully and inspecting it. He also will stop whatever he is doing if he spots a rock or group of rocks and makes a surprised sound as if he just won the lottery. Another simple pleasure I get while at home...eating lunch with him every day :-)