Lessons from a repeat part-time stay-at-home mom

The challenges and rewards that come with being a stay-at-home mom again.

Anna
Anna is back at home with mom part-time during the week. Photo: Tara-Michelle Ziniuk

“Is today a daycare day, or a Mama-and-Anna day?” is the new question that begins each of my mornings. Some days, it’s hard to remember. After two years in full-time, subsidized daycare, my daughter, Anna, who starts JK in September, is home with me part-time.

In a turn of events I didn’t see coming, I was recently cut-off from our subsidy. I freelance, and have work I’m expected to do, so I made the decision to keep her in daycare part-time. Anna is also very social and used to being around kids all day, while I’m accustomed to forgetting to speak for entire workdays at home. With two weeks’ notice—and piles of deadlines, articles and job applications due—I was about to become a stay-at-home mom, for the second time, with the same kid.

A few weeks in, we’re both still getting used to the new routine. Some days are the quick rush in the morning to get dressed and out the door. Some are lazier, and we’re able to plan what we want to do for the rest of the day. A major factor for me is that I didn’t use to handle Anna’s morning routine (her other parent did breakfast and drop-off.) I’m lucky this happened when it did seasonally, because we have many more options for outings given the nicer weather. I’m also lucky in a sense because I know that once Anna is in school, I’ll get far fewer quality daytimes with her. All this said, having a preschooler at home is very different than having a baby at home—which is my only experience being a stay-at-home mom thus far.

Read about Tara-Michelle’s journey to parenthood: Single mom, donor dad: An unconventional pregnancy story>

Here are some things I’ve learned in my short time as a repeat part-time stay-at-home mom to a preschooler:

What goes out must come home
I thought we’d get to the bus stop faster if Anna brought her scooter (we did). And it seemed like it might be funny for her to ride said scooter around the pillow section of Ikea (it was). But once I had armloads of plastic stools and hooks and toy storage containers, and we were on the Ikea shuttle bus, and Anna was asleep… I also had a helmet, backpack and scooter to juggle on top of everything else. I did not learn this lesson the first time, and repeated it last weekend. Maybe writing it down will help.

Lunch exists
I happen to have a kid who is a really good eater, which I appreciate. Working from home, I sometimes make a sandwich at 2 p.m., or graze throughout the day, or buy an overpriced sandwich when I’m too hungry to make one. But with a kid at home, planning and orchestrating lunches is a necessary part of the day. Turns out preschoolers don’t like when you offer them weird cold leftovers an hour after they should have eaten. (I joke, but we do eat quite healthily generally.)

The weather forecast is always wrong
This may be an overstatement, but it sure feels true. Last week, we vetoed a splash pad, day trip and farm outing because of thunderstorms that didn’t happen.

Appointments are impossible
I took my child to a doctor’s appointment I had once. She charmed everyone, but I will never do this again. Workdays will have to double as appointment days (please send coffee.)

The Internet is a thing of the past
Truth be told, I’m terrible at answering my phone. But I like the option of answering it. Let it be known that your child will need something from you for the entire duration of any phone call or an attempt to check messages. Likewise, if you dare open your laptop, prepare for Elmo. (I’ve been checking email on my phone data while Elmo is on. Really it’s usually Miffy, if you must know; I’m just still bitter about Elmo from the toddler years.)

Wednesday is not the weekend, so budget accordingly
One of the major pros to having my daughter home during the week is that we can go on outings to places when they are far less crowded. (Though, noteworthy: your child will find fewer kids their own age at said places, and many one-year-olds.) That said, I’m not used to spending money on activities and treats out of the apartment during the week, and at the end of the day, a day home should not cost what a daycare day would have. My solution will probably be to splurge a bit more during the week, and stick to parks and such close to home on weekends.

A consistent sleep schedule would be nice
This is true always, but has become especially confusing now that we only need to be up and moving on alternate days.

Read more: Sleep solutions for all ages>

My child needs naps
Who knew? I knew they napped at daycare, and some days I can tell when she hasn’t. But at home she’s never been a consistent napper, and on weekends she naps pretty exclusively in the stroller en route between places (I really used to try, but the daily two-hour fight for a 45 minute nap wasn’t worth it to me.)

Kids who are used to “kid time” should get kid time
My daughter is very social with children and adults, and we do pretty well just the two of us. But at some point, I need to reboot, and she needs to keep going and the park is a very important middle point. As mentioned above, it means she interacts more with babies and toddlers, until the school-aged kids are out of class for the day. But even a bit of daily kid time, whatever the age, seems necessary.

Have you had your kids at home after having them in full-time daycare? What were the biggest perks and challenges for you?

Tara-Michelle Ziniuk is a Toronto-based queer mom to a preschooler. She started off as a single-mom-by-choice, and now co-parents. You can read more of her posts here and follow her on Twitter @therealrealTMZ.

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