Staying Home Instead
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 16 No. 3, May-June 1999, pp. 90-92
We provide articles from our publications from previous years for reference for our Leaders and members. Readers are cautioned to remember that research and medical information change over time.
"Staying Home Instead" is a regular feature of the magazine NEW BEGINNINGS, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of NEW BEGINNINGS to help parents who choose to stay at home with their children. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's life-style. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.
Before I had children, I dreamed of days when I would have time to repaint the kitchen and fix the crack in the ceiling while they napped peacefully. Now that I have a two-and-a-half-year-old and a six-month-old, I find that I am barely able to get the dishes done at night, let alone work on home improvements. But sometimes, while I sit and nurse my baby, I daydream about decorating possibilities. My best friend, whose children are older, has even offered to help me. I'm trying to decide if it is safe to paint over the pencil marks on the walls yet. I wonder if I would be able to manage a messy job like painting, even with my friend's help. But the crack in the ceiling is getting wider and I am embarrassed when friends come to visit. I feel we have to do something. How have others managed home maintenance while their little ones are small?
I have three children and spend a lot of time looking at all the decorating I would like to do! Teaming up with a good friend has worked well for me. She'll watch the kids in another room or the back yard while I try to get as much done as I can. When my little one needs to nurse, I'll take a turn watching the kids, and she'll see what she can do with the project. We take turns at each other’s houses, so it's a good barter for us both. The biggest thing to remember is that your babies are babies for such a short time! A smiling, happy nursling is far more important than how your house looks. Your work will wait; babies grow up too fast. Good luck!
I can totally relate to your frustration. I was a sewing, painting, wallpapering machine before I had my two boys. (They just turned three and one.) But on occasion, I still manage to get major projects done. The most important thing is to organize. Plan the job in detail on paper first, using two columns. List all the steps of the job, no matter how small, on one side. For example, if you were painting a room, the first step might be to measure the room, the second to remove everything from the walls and windows, and the third to spackle and sand any holes or cracks. On the other side, list the materials and tools you need to complete each step.
Make sure you have all the supplies you need before starting. If you're on a tight budget, you can watch for sales for the specific tools and supplies you need.
Many jobs can be done in steps over several days or even weeks, and preparation is the major part of all jobs. The actual painting, wallpapering, or whatever usually doesn't take very long. Some steps can be completed while your baby is napping and your toddler is awake. Depending on your situation, you could either have your toddler playing in the room with you or in an adjacent, baby-proofed and secure room (always where you can see each other), with a gate placed in the doorway to keep him from getting underfoot. For example, removing mirrors and pictures, applying spackle to nail holes, and putting masking tape around doors and moldings can usually be done with a toddler in the room. Save the messy or dangerous jobs (such as sanding and painting) for when your children are both in bed, or consider having a mother's helper come and play with your children while you do the actual painting. A preteen who isn't old enough to baby-sit on her own can be hired for quite a bit less than a seasoned sitter, and they welcome the experience! If this is not an option, perhaps a trusted friend could take the children for a few hours while you complete a good part of the messy work. While in the thick of a project, let some nonessential household tasks go. Expect to be interrupted, and plan accordingly. Keep your work area orderly so you can stop in a hurry if you have to. Never play the odds and try to squeeze an essential step that shouldn’t be interrupted. Those are the days your baby will wake up early from his nap or not sleep at all! Finally, enjoy both your children and your projects. There is room for both if you plan carefully and are willing to take some extra time to finish the job.
Before my first baby was born, I dreamed of turning our home into a beautiful showcase. Since I would be staying home with our baby, I assumed I would have plenty of time to make my home look as if it belonged in a magazine. And since I would be spending so much more time at home, I thought it would be very important to me to have a well-decorated, beautiful home that I could enjoy and show off. I was in for a shock when I discovered that caring for an infant took most of my time and energy. I had to concentrate on just keeping up with the basics-food, laundry, and rudimentary housekeeping-and never had time to get around to redecorating or refurnishing.
Now that I am the mother of three, our home is even less of a showcase. When your children are little, it seems that as soon as you wipe the crayon off the wall or clean the spilled juice from the carpet, you have another mess to contend with. My husband agrees with me that when we have spare time we should enjoy some extra quality time with our children rather than do extensive home repairs. Because we are both so busy with our baby and children, we have found that we hardly notice the way our house is decorated. If I need a boost, I find that some well-placed fresh flowers, rearranging our family pictures in new frames, or lighting a beautifully scented candle allows me to concentrate on something pleasing to the senses without a lot of effort. I hope someday, when my children are older, I can get our home looking the way I envisioned it before my first baby was born. But until then, I will concentrate more on the beautiful little faces around me and less on the walls and furniture.
My husband and I bought a “fixer-upper” house when our youngest child was six months old and our oldest was three. We had to replace the roof right away. My husband worked on it evenings and weekends for four months. When he came in for lunch and breaks, I was out there hauling away old shingles and doing other jobs. It was very hard work, and while my husband was concentrating on getting the roof done, I felt like a single parent. I get depressed sometimes looking around at all the things that still need fixing, but then I remind myself that children can be rough on walls and furniture, so we don't really want to replace everything right away. I suggest that you get your husband involved so that one of you can work while the other one cares for the kids. It might be best to start your renovations in places where the children can't reach. When friends come to visit, remind yourself why you have made financial sacrifices: so that you can stay home. Good luck.
I, too, am a home improvement nut! It seems that when my home is in shambles, I feel like my life is out of control. When I look over a freshly painted room, I feel a sense of pride and accomplishment. Luckily, painting has come a long way since the days when my mother used to dream of painting her kitchen. With the new latex paints a room can be painted quickly and easily. There is also far less smell to contend with. When my son was about a year old, I painted my hallway by blocking off his entrance to it but doing it in such a way that he could still see me, and then talking to him while I worked. Just open a window and turn the heat up if it's cold outside. Latex paint dries quickly (great when a toddler wants to “feel” the new color) and washes up with soap and water. Between coats, just put your brush, roller, and tray in plastic bags and put them in the refrigerator. Take them out about a half-hour before you are ready to paint your second coat. I have also found that painter's masking tape, which has far less glue on it than ordinary masking tape, is worth the extra price. Give the masking tape to a toddler to play with! For a mother who stays home, the small home improvements are a welcome change.
During my first pregnancy, I too daydreamed of the things I'd get done once my baby was born. I wanted to decorate the house, make crafts, and sew baby clothes. Reality hit once she was born and I could get only the basics accomplished. The best thing I learned was to accept help to accomplish the things I really wanted to do. Sometimes, this meant my grandmother would come spend a Saturday with us so she could entertain the little ones (between nursings) while my husband and I worked on a project. Other times, several LLL friends would come over for a work day. We'd tackle the fun and messy projects like painting or wallpapering a room, stenciling, or putting in a garden. As our friendships grew, we learned many new skills from the projects at each others' houses. Plus, our children made new friends and learned about teamwork at the same time.
I have avoided this issue entirely! Either my husband gets handy or it just has to wait. We moved into our home when my first child was two years old and I was very pregnant with our second. I managed to get the windows covered and that was it! Now that they are four and two I am starting to think about what we can do to the house, especially since I've been watching all of those home improvement shows on television. Thankfully, my friends have children too, and they understand about having to live in the moment and dream about the future.
Lisa C. B.
The way to tackle home maintenance is to break the job down into 30- to 45-minute parts. Maybe one day, you make a list of supplies, the next day you go get them at the hardware store, the next day you patch the cracks, and the next day you paint. The jobs are always easier to do if you have all the supplies, including disposable gloves, ready for when your child takes a nap or daddy takes the child out. You need to be able to look at your task as a work in progress so that you don't get discouraged if you only get a small section of a job done in one day. If your children are older than two and you have the patience, get them involved in projects like sponge painting. Some children really get a kick out of decorating the walls with something other than crayons.