Managing Your Work and Childcare
When Mom Stays at Home
Managing your days when you have school-age children can be just as difficult for mothers who stay home as it is for those who go out to work. The danger is that everyone will think you are available to do everything. Just because you do not leave your home every morning to go to an office does not mean that you do not have obligations and plans for your time. You are going to have to be very assertive about what you will and will not allow. If you want to be involved with the school, that is great. Schools are made so much better by the volunteer efforts of parents. In fact, many of the extras would not exist without the efforts of parents.
But do not feel that you are obligated to get involved with everything. Volunteering can be all-consuming. Learn to say “no” when you want to and “yes” when something comes along that's meaningful to you. Everyone gets recruited for a bake sale or two, but if you are very uncomfortable running certain types of activities, stay in the “call on me if you must” role. Stay-at-home moms have to be incredibly vigilant about protecting their time. Managing a family is enough work to keep most people busy without all the other obligations and expectations placed upon us.
On the other hand, if you can handle being involved with the school, many mothers say volunteering enhances their relationship with their children. They feel more connected to each stage of their children's development. Volunteering also gives you a close-up view of how well the school is providing for your children's education. Parents have a great impact on the way a school is run. If parents are directly involved, they can have more influence.
The most important word you can learn to say right now is no. If you can't use it judiciously, you may find yourself volunteered for absolutely everything the school needs to have done. Pick your volunteer projects wisely, or you'll quickly wear yourself to a frazzle.
Keep track of school notices about illness. If your child falls ill, you'll have something to tell the doctor that may speed up a diagnosis. This can mean a much quicker recovery, and less chance of secondary infections that will keep your child out of school for a long time.
Getting a Grip on the Guilt
If you are a working mother you are going to feel pressured by the conflicting responsibilities of work and childcare. It is difficult to work all day, come home and try to fix some kind of dinner, and then help your children stay on track with schoolwork. Depending on the demands of your job, your emotional state, and your organizational skills, you are going to be tired and stressed to one degree or another.
My evenings go so fast that I have to remind myself a million times to check my children's school bags at night. I have found trusting a child to tell you whether there is an important note or memo in his bag is as effective as waiting for him to give you accurate phone messages. It just isn't going to happen until the child is old enough to understand the hair-trigger limits of a mother on overload.
If you're self-employed, it doesn't always make financial sense to hire a baby-sitter to stay with a sick child. The temptation is to neglect having a backup plan—you may think you can just take off from work when the children are sick. But it's difficult to run a career with constant interruption. And there is always the guilt factor. You feel guilty about taking time off from work, and guilty if you can't be with your sick child.
You are going to get notices from school warning you of all the things your children have been exposed to. It's required by law: The school has to notify you if a child in your child's class has any type of communicable illness. Don't panic—a warning alone doesn't necessarily mean that your child has had direct exposure. If you try to anticipate problems every time you receive a notice, you are going to drive yourself crazy. You probably will see a lot of strep throat. All you can do is watch for symptoms and deal with it if it comes up.
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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Motherhood © 1999 by Deborah Levine Herman. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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