Sunday, January 25, 2009

Oh, what do you do in the summertime?

Tyler was trying on some clothes, and Lillian wanted to be just like Daddy.

I need help.

See, I've really only been a stay-at-home-mom for 7 months. Sure, I stayed home for a year when Lillian was born, but from 0-12 months, she was an infant. I'm finding out that staying at home with a toddler is much, much different. People would ask me what I did all day when I was at home. Mostly, I did what I wanted to do: I read a lot, I taught myself basic Spanish, I went for runs, I chilled out. I could give Lillian a piece of tape or a box and she'd be good for at least an hour. However, chilling out is no longer an option.

I hold two diametrically opposing views of myself and parenthood. The first view is one I came up with when I was learning to drive stick, namely: people dumber than me do this all the time. 'I'm smart, I can do this.' I've used this little mantra many times in my life to coach myself through a difficult task. The second view I hold is that for some reason, I think that everyone is doing a better job than I am. Whenever I screw up (like last week when I gave Lillian a spoonful of peanut butter and as soon as I turned around, she fed it to Nora. Turns out, Nora is not allergic to peanuts), I think, 'other mom's don't do that.' I don't berate myself, and it's not one mom in particular that I think is so super. I just have this prejudice that other moms, in general, are more together than I am.

Which brings me back to what I need help with. One of the things that (for whatever reason) I fixate on is how much TV Lillian watches. I can't break myself of using that as a measure of how well I'm doing as a mother, and of course, other moms don't let their kids watch that much TV (my brain tells me, but statistically, the average toddler watches about 5 hours of TV a day, so I know this isn't true, but I can't help thinking it). I used to very strictly limit Lillian to about two hours a day: Sesame Street in the morning, and two episodes of something else in the afternoon. Since Nora was born, this has gone out the window, mostly because I've been too tired (or I've been glued to the couch nursing) to do anything else. But now, my problem is that I don't know what else to do.

Say we go to the park in the morning. We'll get home around noon, eat lunch, and Lillian will go down for a nap and sleep for two hours. She's up at 2:30 and there's still 3 hours until Daddy comes home. What to do? Color: 20 minutes. Make a small craft (like, unrolling cotton balls and gluing them to paper): 15 minutes. Play blocks: 10 minutes. Um... color again? You see my problem? I feel like we do this cycle of coloring, reading books, playing play dough, and emptying the dishwasher. What else is there? Is it just that my child isn't very good at entertaining herself?

I ask you moms out there the same question so many asked me: What do you do all day? What kinds of things do you do that are semi-structured but don't take too much time/effort on your part to set up/run? Or do you just say, "go play"?

What kinds of things do you do when you don't have any errands to run, you've already watched two episodes of 'Little Einsteins' and there's 2 hours left before you can reasonably begin making dinner?


Jill said...

Go on a walk - if the weathers good. We love this. The kids (mostly) just sit there. Mom gets some exercise, and can have her own thoughts, talk on the phone, listen to music. And it usually takes us 30-45 minutes.
Ryan also loves to help me bake... I'm working on teaching Ryan to play more by himself - yes, he needs to be taught! Good luck!

allison.plummer said...

ok... first of all... chill out. I think you're rating your entire mothering skills based on these few weeks/ months of difficulty. So what if Lillian watches a lot of TV for a few months. Not going to hurt her. Soon the baby will go longer between feedings, etc. Next, I let my kids "help" me do whatever I am doing: folding clothes, washing dishes. I also make up chores they need to do. For example, fill a spray bottle with water and give Lillian the spray bottle and a towel. Tell her you REALLY need her to spray and wipe the floor, bathtub, etc. Give her a job painting the porch with a paintbrush and a bowl of water. Go on a walk... everyday. find the best rock, leaf, etc. Does she have a tricycle? They never tire of riding something. Have her make her bed, etc. As you can see most of this you will have to re-do, but they think it's fun.

allison.plummer said...

I thought of another idea. The computer. You would have to do it together, but there are several fun sites that Lillian would love.,, etc. There are games she could help with, stories, etc. Amy used to have a computer game that you loaded and a child could press any key to play. It was for toddlers.

Carrie said...

Ah Amanda. This is the part of motherhood that kills me. The tired part is bad, but it's the BOREDOM that really gets to me sometimes. Here are some ideas. They pretty much still require your presence, so it's not perfect, but maybe it will help:
1) bathtub. kids will entertain themselves better in the bath than other places. and you can sit on the toilet and read. kinda.
2) 'freeze-dance' game. All you have to do is sit there with your finger on the pause button while she jumps around.
3) enroll her in some kind of toddler gymnastics/dance/kindermusic where you can go twice a week.
4) educational computer games/alphabet. ditto for
5)go to the library

That's all I got. Hang in there.

Carrie said...

Besides, all you have to do to be a good mom is feel GUILTY about your kid watching television- and you're already doing that!

Bridget said...

Ditto on the computer games. I think it's a step up from TV because it can be interactive.

And like Jill said, yes, kids need to be taught to play by themselves. Sometimes I would just set a timer (so I could work) and tell Miriam that I would play with her when the timer went off. She picked up on that eventually.

Good luck and I totally feel for you.

Bluebell said...

She will slowly get better at entertaining herself but you have to encourage it. You might set certain items aside for that time of day. Play-doh is great, you can help her get started and leave her at the table for bits at a time on her own. I know when my kids were younger (like Soren is so much older than Lillian, but having an older brother makes it easier) we spent a lot of time outside. A lot. If they're getting antsy and we don't know what to do with ourselves we make cookies, have a dance party, wrestle and tickle..but then I say, "go play". But usually if I've given them some serious time and attention they're much more ready and willing to play on their own. Also try rotating the toys in and out. And don't get down on yourself. Think of how lucky your children are for the mere fact that you have chosen to be home with them, even if they do watch more TV for a few months while things are settling down.

heidi nielsen said...

Look forward to Nora getting older so that they can entertain eachother more. For us, it started at about 18 months. I had a friend that always reminded me we're constantly changing stages in life. Just because you're currently in a "watching too much TV stage" doesn't mean you'll be in it forever. So don't let a couple months of feeling like you're slacking get you down because you know that's not the lifelong you.

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