Every parent wants their children to be happy, both in mind and body, and many times this can be the first priority in a family’s life together. But it is very important to remember that a parent’s happiness and health should be a priority, especially if they are staying at home to be the primary caregiver. If a parent is transitioning from a workplace outside the home to be the caregiver, this can be especially difficult. Given some time, patience, and tools, it can be positive change in lifestyle.
Finding a playgroup in your area has benefits for parents and children. Everyone has something in common (i.e. having children AND being a caregiver) so there are already topics for conversation. Playgroups are a place to share stories, frustrations, questions, and friendships while children get to develop motor and social skills. There are variety of caregivers that belong to them – moms, dads, grandparents, daycare providers – so they are not just a group for moms. If you have moved to a new city, this is a great way to make new friends and get to know the area, especially if the group participates in field trips. Search the internet, ask friends, or look in the local newspapers for a playgroup in the area.
Friends who stay at home with their children are a valuable asset to other stay at home parents. Besides the obvious support and communication you receive from a friend, having a play date gives adults grown-up conversation while children play and have conversations about toys and cartoons. Also, offering to watch each others kids for and hour or two can provide a window of time to run errands, have a doctor appointment, clean without interruption, or just have some down time.
Take time during the day to exercise. Find fifteen minutes at a minimum a couple times per day, or if there is a window of an hour during nap time, take it to get the body up and moving. This may be one of the hardest things to do at home, but getting exercise into a daily routine does the body good. Fitness clubs or the YMCA offer childcare with a membership so it is a wonderful thing to take advantage of for the adult and child if it is within your budget.
If a parent is struggling with their child’s behavior, illness, eating habits or all of the above, find a friend, your spouse or counselor to speak with to help deal with issues. Sometimes a spouse doesn’t see or go through what the caregiver is dealing with, so a third party can be very helpful. Keeping these topics to one’s self is harmful mentally and emotionally which can lead to physical issues. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to talk about it, because there is always someone else who is going through or has been through what someone else is dealing with at any give moment.
On the other side of the coin, be able to say “No” to social gatherings from time to time. While socializing and play is important for children and adults, having a balance of time at home and away is essential. Housework and other responsibilities can pile up, adding an element of stress. Children can become stressed, bored, and tired if they are running out and about too much with their caregiver. Time at home playing, reading books, doing easy crafts, baking, or absolutely nothing is good for adults as much as children. Finding a balance is important.
Lastly, finding time for one’s self doing something enjoyable is maybe the most important thing a caregiver can do to stay healthy mentally, emotionally and physically. One hour or an afternoon can give a person a much needed boost and reviving, so having the spouse or friend take care of the children is the cheapest option. Spending a small amount on a babysitter for an hour or two will be a worthy investment if need be.