How do I be a great SAHM for my baby?
August 1, 2012 5:23 PM   Subscribe

Can you give me your best tips, tricks, and general guidance for being a stay-at-home mom of an older baby? As of next week I will be caring for our 8 month old by myself full time, and I'm scared!

Whem we decided to have a baby it was expressly part of our plan that I not stay home with him - we planned for my wife to be home while I worked, and sort of amazingly, we have both been at home since he was born. However, various factors mean that I'll be the one caring for him in the daytime for the foreseeable future while my wife works full time. This really is the only way to do it right now. In a few months I'll be in school two days a week and my mom will have him those days.

I love this kid like crazy, but I am a lazy person who does better with a lot of personal space, grown up conversation, and time to think. I get frustrated and overwhelmed more than I would like. I think i am also having some mild PPD which is making me anxious and quicker to feel hopeless, i am trying to exercise and eat well. Please trust me that meds or therapy are out for now. He is a super smart and physical 8 month old who is close to walking and gets bored and whiny easily. He is only happy in a stroller for about 25mins before he has to be carried, and he doesn't nap for long if someone (and their boob) doesn't stay by him.

We are currently at a relative's house that is very messy and not at all safe for him, and I can't turn my back for a second, but we're moving in the next couple of weeks - am I right to think that this wil be easier in a clean and tidy environment I can control? Please tell me about how you handle(d) this -especially practically. Talk to me like it's my induction at a new job. How do you manage to brush your teeth (seriously)? Where do you go? What do you do? How do you handle bad days? What do I need to know? What gadgets or equpment have saved your sanity? FYI, we are in a big city (London) with no car.

Thanks! I want to make this unexpected role as awesome for all of us as I can, and I think it's going to be the hardest thing I ever do .
posted by crabintheocean to Human Relations (13 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best advice I ever got: leave the house and speak to another adult every day.
posted by bq at 5:52 PM on August 1, 2012 [10 favorites]

First of all, does the baby already have a schedule/routine? If not, I recommend starting one (doesn't have to be iron clad, but it is really, really helpful to know when the next nap is and I guard bedtime like a stormtrooper). It may not come together all at once, but keep an eye on the baby and use his/her natural rhythms. Knowing when my next break is has been a lifesaver.

I also get out of the house at least once a day. 8 months is a great time to go to a playground for the swings, and hopefully you'll also meet other SAHs. I'm not in London, but in NYC our libraries have scheduled readings for babies and they are free. Whole Foods (organic grocery) has new mom (parent/caregiver) group once a month, or more if you visit multiple locations:) I also use local parenting email groups to find out what is going on/meet people. If you have specific interests you should start your own group. Oh, and a lot of paid classes will let you do a free class to see if you like it, so that is a great way to meet people and see what is available to do with the baby. 2nd ing the zoo, galleries, etc. Once you start making friends and finding regularly scheduled things to do, your calendar can fill up pretty quickly and you'll have better support. It really helps.

If the baby doesn't like the stroller, have you tried body carriers? A lot of people like the ergo. I'm just thinking that you probably don't want to be limited to 25 min walks.

Also, expect it to get easier once you have your own place and can baby proof it. At home I just let him roam our small living room (baby proofed) and play with his toys as he sees fit, while I keep half an eye on him; when I'm at someone else's house I need to be eagle eyed.

It does get easier! Memail if you have questions or I can help!
posted by cestmoi15 at 6:36 PM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Like a few others above - get out of the house.

Get into the big wide world and share it with the youngster, but also get out so you can interact with adults too.
posted by chris88 at 6:39 PM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am a lazy person who does better with a lot of personal space, grown up conversation, and time to think. I get frustrated and overwhelmed more than I would like.

Plenty of imperfect people have been in charge of raising their children at home, alone. In fact, all them have been imperfect. These are not impossible obstacles, but your specific hurdles to overcome. Children do not require perfect parents, just someone who is emotionally tuned into them. Your kid sounds really lucky!

As for you: you're in London, which has lovely parks and tons of parents congregating around them. Trust me, there are far more parents who crave the company of other adults than parents who are happy to just babytalk to their kids. They will be DYING to talk to you if you just plop the baby in the swings or let him examine toys in the sandbox and strike up a conversation with an adult nearby. If all goes well, you can set up play dates, which are more about the grown-ups than the kids at this point, but that's fine!

He is a super smart and physical 8 month old who is close to walking and gets bored and whiny easily. He is only happy in a stroller for about 25mins before he has to be carried, and he doesn't nap for long if someone (and their boob) doesn't stay by him.

8 months is a great age to start breaking him of these bad habits. It's another issue that you don't exactly ask here, but you and your wife should sit down and consider a game plan for breaking him of this boob -> sleep routine, if possible. An 8 month old is perfectly capable of getting 2 naps a day without nursing, which should leave you with a decent amount of alone time.
posted by zoomorphic at 6:46 PM on August 1, 2012

The Ergo baby carrier is such a great tool, especially as the hot weather departs. We are based in NYC and I'd just give myself little missions -- outings by bus and subway to shops for gifts, the farmer's market, art galleries, etc. If you do use the stroller, try it around nap time. With some babies, they'll nod off in the stroller and then you can park it in a cafe and meet with a friend or read. My child loved cafes and restaurants at that age -- a little finger food and lots of smiles from other customers, and he'd stay as long as I needed him to.

I'd also recommend baby sign language (we used Baby Signing Time). It's much more interesting to talk to a baby when you can tell that they understand you!

Our family's actual schedule at that age: awake at 6. Dad and baby go out (with Ergo) to coffee shop. Dad gets egg sandwich and coffee. Baby flirts with staff. Baby swings in the playground, opening and closing playground gates, etc. Meanwhile, Mom at home showers and gets organized for the day. Dad/baby return, Dad gets ready and goes to work.

There will be lots of baby classes available to you. Look for baby movement classes (crawling, early walking, bubbles, dancing), library readings and singalongs, parent-baby yoga. Many Waldorf schools have parent-baby classes for crawlers on up.

Here in NYC we also have indoor playspaces that are great in wintertime -- maybe you have them in London also? They have crawl areas and sorting blocks and entertainment for up to toddler age. These places are good spots to make friends. You can also do swimming classes at that age.
posted by xo at 8:00 PM on August 1, 2012

Oh, yes, baby carrier. I like the Beco Gemini.

1. Do something outside with the baby every day. Best scheduled. Start with something like Gymboree. (Site plays music, why, why??) The fact that Gymboree is kind of lame is actually a feature, not a bug. While your kid ogles the corporate clown, you may be able to find another parent who is quietly snickering. That person could be a mom friend! Also, having a set time you need to be somewhere is a small blessing. We also do: baby sign language, music classes, playgroup through the mothers club, library storytime.

2. Be bold socially. Mefi's own Eyebrows McGee and The corpse in the library are my role models for this (eg, this comment from Eyebrows and this one from
. I am the most introverted introvert who ever introverted and I spent a solid couple of months being aggressive about joining mothers clubs and going on playdates and everything is 100 times better. (Meanwhile, I was fighting back social anxiety like whoa. Nothing bad happened, though, and quite a lot of good things have.)

3. Wake up early and exercise outdoors in the morning. This has been more important for me than doing laundry during that hour, the dishes, anything else I could do. I go to a class with other adults and it has been a lifesaver.
posted by purpleclover at 9:05 PM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hi! I am currently a SAHM to an 8 month old. Thus far it has been a trying and awesome experience. Here are the things that helped me to manage my sanity, but YMMV:

1. Routine
My kid is a pro at micro naps. She sleeps about 12 hours/night, but during the day her (three) naps are about 30-40 mins long. Her first morning nap is my breakfast/shower; her 2nd nap in the afternoon is my lunch and her 3rd nap is usually me holding her and reading a book while I am at it. She has her evening playtime, bathtime, foodtime ritual before sleep. I am sticking to her bedtime religiously. And she rewards me by waking up at a predictable hour.

2. Jumperoo/excersaucer
Our has been a life-saver since about 4 months. She is still not too big for it, and it provides her with an ability to be active and yet confined one (safe) place for a short while, and I am able to either take a break or do whatever exciting chores on my to-do list.

3. A safe play area with steady rotation of toys
We have hers gated off from dogs/guinea pigs. It is big enough for her to be active and safe enough for me not to watch her like a hawk. Toy rotation is key for mutual happiness, since she gets so easily bored with anything and everything.

4. Outside time
My daughter is seriously a fan. We are fortunate to have lots of parks and playgrounds around us, but just walking around with her observing already a win. She naps better, eats better. Playgrounds are also key for running into adults, and while parents end up talking about poopy diapers anyway, it is still a very welcome distraction.

5. New parent groups
I am not big on socializing with other parents but I attend these in my area anyway because I love watching her play with other babies.

There are many more but these few are the first ones that come to mind. Mail me if anything. I am always happy to talk about it.
posted by mooselini at 9:11 PM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

When I lived in London with young kids I relied on finding things to do using the website mumsnet. I agree with everyone else, have a routine, get out of the house, make other sah parenting friends. There were amazing classes at the local y for kids, and swimming lessons guaranteed a tired out kiddo- they always slept so soundly after class. Finally I also explored all the parks in London-some of areas just for babies and some even had scheduled activities.
posted by momochan at 5:22 AM on August 2, 2012

So very much agree with the suggestion to get outside, especially to parks. I have always been a little bit socially shy, more of a listener/observer who doesn't really enjoy making small talk or the meeting part of meeting new people. As a function of my touch of social anxiety, I tend to view everyone as happy to do their own thing and that if I talk to them they are going to be bothered by it, like, Leave me alone, lady, I'm just trying to push my kid in their swing in peace! This kept me out of the parks/play places for a long time (my oldest is 3.5 now!) but this summer I have just been going so stir crazy indoors in the AC and so sick of taking the kids places where I have to be actively involved in some activity with them when the truth is I just need a little break from kid talk. So I started taking my two to the park about three mornings a week during my baby's naptime. I pop my little one in the baby backpack thing or umbrella stroller and he conks out and my three year old goes hog wild playing and running with other kids. And I comment on other people's kids, how cute they are, wow they are tall, whoa those are some beautiful dark eyes, blah blah blah. And wouldn't you know, other moms and dads are suddenly talking up a storm! Even when I kind of leave of the conversation to give them an opportunity to quickly gather their child and run from this obviously sleepy mostly-SAHM who is hungry for adult conversation, these people keep talking to me! Turns out they're happy for a little adult company too! After a few weeks, I see the same people and we chat and it really makes the mornings go by and tires the kids out for naptime. It's perfect.

All this makes it sound like you will go batty as a SAHM but the truth is that just like any job, there are exciting and busy times where time flies and there are monotonous times when you really wonder why you didn't pick a more exciting profession. The other thing is that I just want to encourage you not to get discouraged during those quiet times... From 8-15months I find it to be a time of watching kids learn and chang exponentially, but it's also a tough time because they want what they want and they're not always able to tell you what that is. They are also learning to be super independent but can't do all the stuff they would like to so I find it to be kind of a tantrumy time where I want to be all, "Whyyyy do you not understaaannndd." So don't be discouraged if you end up thinking, "Man, this is a little bit tedious." at times. It can be. But it's not because you are a bad parent or you aren't the right personality to be a SAHM (most of us would say we don't have that perfect personality), it's just because kids, especially at this age, can be a lot of work. :) Good luck! Have fun watching your kid do something new and awesome every day and being there to see it first hand!
posted by takoukla at 7:49 AM on August 2, 2012

How do you manage to brush your teeth (seriously)? Where do you go? What do you do? How do you handle bad days? What do I need to know? What gadgets or equpment have saved your sanity?

As the book says, Don't Panic. It's not as hard as it looks.
General advice first - Every kid is different, you need to learn the method that works for you and your child, don't focus so much on "doing it right" or what all the other parents are doing.

So, specific advice -
8 month olds are perfectly capable of spending some time on the floor while you brush your teeth/wash your face/do whatever you need to do. They don't need to be held all the time.

Go everywhere you'd normally go. Shops, library, whatever. It may take you longer to do these things than it used to, but that's ok, you've got all day.

The key to handling bad days is to avoid creating them as much as possible. Learn the triggers and conditions that cause them. Of course, sometimes they just happen despite your best efforts. So find people that can sub in for an hour (relatives, babysitters, play classes, etc.)

The one gadget my wife couldn't live without was a baby timer ( She found it incredibly useful for keeping track of the various "housekeeping" tasks you need to do with a baby, so much so it's become our default baby shower present.
posted by madajb at 9:25 AM on August 2, 2012

Regarding brushing teeth: Yes, having your own space will help immensely. We made one room absolutely babyproof (well, I guess it's never going to be 100% but it was probably at least 95%) so that we could leave him in there for 15 minutes to shower/brush teeth/take a breather. That was a huge thing that made life with baby so much easier. If you can do that, totally do that.

My husband started staying at home with our son when he was 6 months old. For the first couple of months, there were days when I wouldn't even make it completely out of the car before he would shove the baby at me and take off for some alone/decompression time. So prepare for that -- and let your wife know to expect to take over as soon as she gets home.

Yes, absolutely, outside every day, talk to people, go somewhere. Ours loves going shopping, seeing all the people and riding in the cart, so maybe that can be part of your rotation, to do the shopping for the household. Library storytimes are also awesome. Other stay-at-home parents can be great, if you find a group that you click with (or even one). We've found that to be MUCH more challenging than expected, I hope you're more successful at this than we have been.

He will be changing so fast! Once he's walking he will probably want to practice a lot, so anywhere you can go that has space for walking around safely is going to be your friend. Then, running. :) My son is 20 months old now and I asked my husband which was harder, being at home with him as a baby or as a toddler. He said in some ways it's easier now, and in some ways it was easier then. So... at least the challenges change.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:38 AM on August 2, 2012

Babies get bored if things are boring. If he doesn't like sitting and playing with the toys you have, try some different types of toys. I've also found that are kind of like clockwork toys. If you wind them up by playing with them for a few minutes you can sneak away and they'll keep going on their own for a while.
posted by that's how you get ants at 10:41 AM on August 2, 2012

am I right to think that this wil be easier in a clean and tidy environment I can control?

Try and have at least one room in which the kid can roam about without being in danger (where most of the drawers are locked and the rest are full of non-dangerous things like plastic soup ladles and tupperware, where all detergents are locked away, nothing can fall over and break etc. etc).
This is important for your sanity, so you don't have to say "no. No. NO." all the time.
Also, have one room into which the kid is not allowed and you can leave your dirty underwear and whatnot lying about if it pleases you.

How do you manage to brush your teeth (seriously)?

I taught the kid to brush her teeth by doing it infront of her. Kids love to imitate. Now we brush our teeth together every day (actually, she mostly chews on the brush. When she is done I go over her teeth again).
To speak to the question behind that question: You need to decide which things are important for you - important enough to ignore his crying. I'm talking about things like taking a shower alone or using the toilet and locking him out. He will cry. Get used to it. It won't kill him. And it's kind of important for him to learn that Mommy sometimes expects him to entertain himself and it won't kill him! Not only that, it's important for YOU to know that you have your little islands of time for yourself, otherwise you'll get resentful.

Also, always explain what you are doing and what the plan is and why. "After we eat, you are going to take a nap." Kids understand more than they show.

He is a super smart and physical 8 month old who is close to walking and gets bored and whiny easily.

The whining will get a LOT better once he learns to walk. On the other hand, he'll be getting into lots of new scrapes. But I've always preferred scrapes (and bruises) to whining. Our girl liked pushing the stroller around outside by herself for up to an hour at a time while she was learning to walk. You could try that.
Try googling baby sign language. Some kids get frustrated because they can't communicate yet and it gets a lot better once they can sign "food". That said, I never knew how to sign while carrying the baby, so I kind of gave up on that one.

he doesn't nap for long if someone (and their boob) doesn't stay by him.

That sounds annoying. If it gets too annoying you could try training him off the boob=sleep connection. But if you find you can handle it for now, let him. You being at home with him will be a major change for him and you don't want to change everything at once.

Which leads me to the most important thing I learnt: Stay flexible. If it turns out you don't like things the way they are, try to change them. Experiment with ways to do things differently. Fail. Fail again (fail better etc.). Until you find something that works. On the other hand, as long as it's going ok, let it be! Don't change a thing, don't listen to people who tell you you'll run into problems later on and therefore you ought to wean the kid now / stop carrying him everywhere / feed him something different / whatever.
Kids are extremely flexible and they change the game on you all the time. Be flexible yourself. Try things out on a whim. Follow his lead in what grabs his attention and use that.
You're allowed to make TONS of mistakes. At least 25 mistakes a day! You're allowed to have grumpy days and bad days (after which, btw., you decompress with your poison of choice.). As long as he makes you smile and you make him smile you are doing something right. You're not alone. All these other moms are blundering along just as you are.
posted by Omnomnom at 2:26 PM on August 2, 2012

« Older How can I stop traumatic flashbacks linked to my...   |   Help my friend eat out on her trip! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.