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Making It Work to Stay Home

If you've decided to stay home full- or part-time, let's assume you're using the skills of inner competence to manage your stress, stay as relaxed as possible, and take in all the delicious rewards of this time. Additionally, your husband needs to understand that your role is not a piece of cake, and to be helpful when he's home. Perhaps most important of all, you need community, especially with mothers. That's what will break up the monotony of your day, give you emotional support and a helping hand, and satisfy the tug in your heart for the company of other moms.

With these as a foundation, let's look at practical steps you can take to have staying home work for you:

Leave your work mind behind.
This point is obvious, but it's so important we have to say it anyway: Mothering is not like working. Just like your job calls for a specific set of skills and attitudes, so does staying home with children, which has totally different activities and priorities. You just can't do motherhood like a day at work. The same pace will frazzle your nerves. Nor should you demand the same kind of concentration or memory from yourself. A lack of mental clarity is natural when you're fatigued, depleted, or surfing big hormonal waves. But a deeper intelligence will replace that businesslike acuity, a maternal wisdom that naturally knows what to do most of the time.

Use your work skills.
On the other hand, there's no sense in forgetting the work skills you've got that could be useful at home, including creating policies, putting things on a calendar, and so on. As one mother said: When I have to deal with the outside world, even just talking with the pediatrician, I kind of put on my business mind and let it do the talking. I'll even imagine that I'm wearing my business clothes. It helps me be more organized and confident.

Take it easy and let yourself enjoy this time.
No doubt, there are the hard parts of staying home with children. Yet there are all the wonderful parts, too. Some mothers feel guilty about savoring these, as if they ought to be suffering the whole time, like everybody else is (supposedly) at work. But each day, you handle situations that are harder than anything most people deal with in a day of work, so when you get a chance to put up your feet and relax, grab it and linger. You don't have to keep the house spotless or prepare a fabulous meal every night in order to justify your (supposed) "vacation" as a homemaker: it's not a vacation, as anyone well knows who has taken care of young kids all day. You earned this time with your children, and it won't last forever. Finally, you need to rest and even laze about during the few times each day when you actually get the chance, in order to settle down the stress chemistry in your body and nurture your health and well-being.

Feed your mind.
There are lots of ways to keep your mind alive while tending to children or doing housework. Many women pursue a natural subject: child development, health, and family relationships. With the Internet, this knowledge is just a click away. Alternately, you could return to an interest or hobby you had before children, such as playing a musical instrument, writing letters to help free political prisoners, reading about history, or gourmet cooking. Or take up a new interest, even if it's only to the extent that you subscribe to a new magazine or spend more time in the local library. You could also take steps to stay current in your field so that any future reentry to work goes as well as possible, by maintaining subscriptions to trade journals, looking at Web sites, or going out to lunch with a friendly colleague every few months to catch up on the latest news.

To be sure, some of these activities are hard to do with children nearby - unless you really like duets on the piano with a two-year-old! - but you can always find slivers of time for them, perhaps by enlisting your partner or others. And some things that feed your mind can be enjoyed with kids close at hand, such as listening to public radio or new kinds of music, or doing certain crafts. Reading books to preschoolers (especially older ones) can capture your imagination as well as theirs, especially with the intellectual challenge of simplifying vocabulary and dropping in necessary background explanations as you go along; we've enjoyed doing this with our own kids, and favorite books included Peter Pan, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and Watership Down.

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From Mother Nurture: A Mother's Guide to Health in Body, Mind, and Intimate Relationships by Rick Hansen, Jan Hansen, and Ricki Pollycove. Copyright © 2002 by Rick Hanson. Jan Hanson, and Ricki Pollycove. Used by arrangement with Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit amazon.


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