Stay-At-Home Parents and Stress Relief
Some may think that being a stay-at-home mom or dad is a piece of cake—a vacation from a "real" job. But those of you who have been there know that this is not the case. Being a stay-at-home parent can be stressful for a variety of reasons. Planning ahead and remembering to take time for yourself will go a long way in reducing your stress.
What Causes Stress for At-Home Parents?
One of the biggest stress factors for at-home parents is leaving a paying job. More mouths to feed and less money coming in is a definite recipe for stress. But, besides the financial issue, the new position is very different and takes some time to get used to.
Some other stress factors are:
- Isolation - The at-home parent spends a lot of time, well...at home with the kids. There is not much opportunity for adult conversation and pursuing special interests.
- Lack of sleep - This is a big one, especially if there is a baby in the house
- Multi-tasking - There never seems to be enough time to get everyone and everything taken care of.
- Meeting expectations - Your partner wants a clean house, nice supper and extra time together.
So, what can you do to stay sane? Consider the following tips to avoid and reduce stress.
Better Communication to Eliminate Stress
When a couple decides that one parent will stay at home with the kids, there really needs to be excellent communication to avoid unnecessary stress. These are some points you will need to discuss and agree on:
- Now that only one parent is working, how will you handle money?
- Who will feed the baby at night?
- Who takes older kids to school or preschool?
- Who will be responsible for keeping the house clean?
- Who will be responsible for keeping up with the yard work?
- Who will be responsible for cooking meals?
Once you talk and make a plan, things will run much more smoothly. You may have to go back and revisit this discussion if one parent feels overloaded.
Build a Support System to Battle Stress
If a stay-at-home parent spends all day at home with the kids every day, the isolation and stress may get to be too much. It is important to reach out to others and create a support system. Look to your friends and family for help.
Grandparents may be able to spend time with the kids one morning a week so that you can get the grocery shopping done, go to a doctor's appointment, or enjoy some time to yourself. You may have siblings or cousins that are also stay-at-home parents. See if they want to take turns watching all the kids at once. The adults will get a break, and the kids will build stronger bonds with their extended family members.
Look for a stay-at-home network or support group in your area, or start your own. Many parents meet during the weekday at parks so the kids can play and the adults can talk. I belonged to a Moms group that even planned field trips and holiday parties for the kids to enjoy together.
Get Enough Sleep to Reduce Stress
If I am fed and well-rested, I am generally a happy camper. Lack of sleep is a huge contributing factor to stress. Your body just can't handle as much if you are exhausted. Here are some tips for getting enough rest:
- Set a strict bedtime for your kids and yourself.
- Turn the television and other electronics off at least one hour before everyone goes to sleep.
- Once in bed, try to clear your mind. Don't make to-do-lists in your head for the next day!
- If you have a baby or child that naps during the day, sleep when he sleeps to catch up on your rest. The dishes can wait.
Relaxation for Stress Management
Every day, make sure you are spending some quality time with yourself. This would be beyond the two minutes to use the bathroom. Here are some suggestions:
- Take a relaxing bubble bath once the kids are asleep.
- Listen to peaceful or inspirational music.
- Take a yoga class or use a yoga video at home.
- Read a good book before you go to sleep.
- Get up 30 minutes before the kids to enjoy your coffee or tea and read the newspaper.
- Go for a walk or bike ride before your spouse leaves for work.
Exercise and Stress
Exercise is a great stress-reliever and can be done with or without the kids. If you have little ones, invest in a jogging stroller. Make a spin around the neighborhood part of your daily routine, or venture out to the zoo or park for a change of scenery. You don't have to run or jog - walking fast is great exercise as well!
You may consider joining a gym that has a children's room. An hour a day will do wonders for your body and peace of mind, while your children get a chance to hang out with other kids. Most gyms will let you try out their facility for free to see if it is a good fit.
If the gym does not fit your style or budget, try some video workouts at home, or form an exercise group. There may be other stay-at-home parents in your neighborhood that might want to meet in the morning for a walk. You may have friends that will meet you on certain days for a nature trail walk.
Consider Volunteer Work or a Part-time Job to Relieve Stress
A second job may be too much for some stay-at-home parents, especially when the children are very young and need more care. But, some at-home parents have found stress relief through volunteering or taking a part-time job. The new position offers an outlet for the parent who spends most of his time isolated from other adults.
Some ideas and examples for volunteer work are:
- Schools - mentoring, library assistance, reading partners
- Hospitals - working the front desk
- Churches - stuffing the church bulletins
- Charities - deliver meals to poor or disabled individuals
Your schedule may permit you to go in to work on a part-time basis, or to even work from home. The extra income is always a good thing, but you may decide to work as a way to come up for air and connect with the rest of the world. Once my children started school, I started blogging and writing for HubPages. Writing gives my brain some exercise, provides for a little extra income, and I am still here when the kids get home from school.