So I'm staying home with a baby. What do I do now?
August 5, 2013 10:33 AM   Subscribe

My first child is turning 6 months soon and I've been home with him since he was born. It's finally starting to settle in that this is my job now. Other stay-at-home parents: what do you do all day, and how do you stave off the boredom, loneliness, and exhaustion that come with the territory? Some snowflake details inside.

I think what I'm the most stuck on is how to keep him entertained. There's only so much social interaction he can do, and he can't sit up or roll over on his own yet so I find myself just sitting with him on the floor handing him toys or flipping through board books. After a half hour of playing I've exhausted everything in my repertoire and it feels like we are both bored and fed up. Plus, babies are not great company so by the end of the day I've usually sunk into a pretty deep lonely funk.

I'm in a few mom's groups, and they are very helpful but only meet for an hour or two a week. All the playgroups I know of seem to be for older kids, not infants. I could wheel the baby around in a stroller more, but this too feels pretty lonely and unsatisfying.

I'm curious how the other primary caregivers on here deal with it (if you remember what it was like caring for a baby that couldn't do much on his own yet). What do you do all day? Is this just something I should tough out while he's small and it'll get better when he's older? Or is my discomfort with all this a sign that maybe full-time parenting isn't for me?
posted by annekate to Human Relations (35 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
Dance. Put on your favorite music -- and this is the best time for this, when you don't have to worry about cursing or inappropriate lyrics -- and pick the kid up and rock the fuck out. He will love it (so much so that he may well throw up on you, so watch for that), and so will you.

Take walks that are just walks. Just strolling around the neighborhood and seeing new things. And remember that when he's 0.5 years old, everything is new. That tree that you barely even remember is in your back yard? That is an endlessly awesome source of amusement to him, no matter how much he has seen it before.

Kids don't just need naps because they get physically tired, remember. They need naps because it's downtime to process all the amazing new stuff they experienced for the very first time ever (for the fourth time that day) and figure out what it all means in the grand scheme of things.

And remember that he doesn't need to be stimulated all the time. Let him explore, with all his senses, whatever he can reach. Let him re-explore, too. Don't think that just because he puts down a toy that he's done with it. Let him look around and realize that the toy still exists after he turns his head away from it, then let him explore it to make sure it's the same toy.

But most of all -- you are not a failure if none of this works and you just don't want to be a stay-at-home mom. Don't hate your life for the next five years, counting the days until he starts kindergarten. He'll pick up on that. If it just isn't coming together for you, find a job and put him in day care for a few days a week. Even if you're losing a little money on the deal (assuming your partner can support you), it'll be good for his socialization and your sanity.
posted by Etrigan at 10:45 AM on August 5, 2013 [24 favorites]

I'm not a stay-at-home parent, but I am a single parent, and so I have spent plenty of days alone with my daughter, even though I go to the wok during the week.

The most important thing I want to tell you is that a 6-month-old is just on the cusp of being a lot more interesting to spend time with. My daughter is just about to turn two and she does so many more interesting things than she did a year and a half ago. So if you just wait, and not even very long, your son will get more fun to hang out with on his own.

When I spend the day with my daughter, we can go to the beach or the park and she will play in the waves or go down the slides. She loves to water the garden and play with dogs. So, in a few months, as your son learns to crawl and then walk, things will get a lot more interesting. Don't give up yet, you're still int he hardest part, but it doesn't last that much longer. Here's my daughter playing. I know a few more months seems long now, but it will pass faster than you think.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 10:45 AM on August 5, 2013 [4 favorites]

Not a parent of any description. But I remember when my brother was very, very young, that my mother joined a cluster of other mothers with kids his age who all formed a "play group" - they all were stay at home moms who took turns hosting everyone, kids and moms, at their houses. When I was younger I thought it was to give the kids a chance to all play together - but I've since realized it was also to give the moms a chance to hang out with other adults as well. Try finding some kind of kids-and-moms group - or start one - which is as much for giving the moms a social outlet as it is for the kids.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:55 AM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

It's been a while, but i don't remember a whole lot of time when I'd sit there and just focus on him to play. We did it, sure, but not for sustained periods of time. What I did was take him with me when I was doing stuff. We'd go to the library, we'd go to the store, we'd do my errands, walks, etc. And when it wasn't venturing into 'crazy lady territory", i'd talk to him, a one-sided conversation about what we were doing, what we were seeing, and i'd ask him questions and answer them and just - do that kind of thing. Make jokes and funny sounds. not constantly, but enough to keep him engaged. The same when I was in the house. If I was in the kitchen doing dishes or doing meal prep, I'd pop him into the backpack or into the high chair and set him near so he could watch me while I did my stuff, stop to entertain him if he got bored or fussy, and then keep at my tasks. If I could, I'd put whatever I was doing down on the floor with him - fold laundry, that kind of thing. And between the usual necessities of his routine of eating and napping and bathing, we had pretty full days, even if they were pretty... uneventful :D I had a swing and a bouncy chair and then later a walker and a johnny jump up and those helped, giving him a different "venue", so to speak.

This also has the benefit of giving you the naptimes for free time, mostly. When they're tiny, yeah, you sleep when they sleep, it's a matter of survival and sanity. But later, if you can get housework, whatever tasks you've set yourself done while they're awake, then that nap time is all for you, baby :D Get on the phone and talk to family, friends. Get on the computer and chat and email. Connect with people so you don't feel so lonely and isolated.
posted by lemniskate at 10:56 AM on August 5, 2013 [9 favorites]

I was mostly home with baby kestrel until she was 8 months old. it IS boring at the ages you're talking about. But it definitely gets more fun -- and more challenging and tiring, too. I'd say baby kestrel became MUCH more interesting at around 9-10 months.

I'd say: give it another 6-8 months before you decide full time parenting isn't for you. It's definitely not for me. But I would be waaaay more into it now (baby kestrel is almost 15 months.)
posted by kestrel251 at 10:57 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I went to law school when my daughter hit 10 months. Seriously, I couldn't take being a full-time mom.

Before then, I walked nine miles a day, along the sea shore, listening to books on tape when she slept and otherwise telling her stories and pointing things out. We went out no matter what the weather; I had a plastic cover to go over her jogging stroller for cold and rain. We stopped and sat on benches, played in the sand, touched the water. I read to her a lot, mostly from my own books. I had four baskets of toys (mostly things that I'd found, like ribbons, pretty shells, crinkly paper) that I rotated. Every four days she'd see the old box again, and it was like a combination of old favorites and total surprises for her.

When she nursed, I binge-watched The West Wing and the Tour de France. The theme songs to those shows make her swoon with happiness, now that she's 10, and she has no idea why.

I also travelled a lot with her, because until she learned to walk, she was the easiest thing to fly with. We visited my parents, my in-laws, friends in Alaska and elsewhere. Having new adult company was great for both of us. (Between ages 10 months, when she started walking, and four, she was totally impossible to fly with, because she wanted to move all the time, so I was glad to have gotten so much travel in before the toddler years, and also when flying with her on my lap was free.)

I signed her up to participate in early childhood development studies at the University of Washington, which earned her T-shirts and me time to sit quietly and read.

I also left her alone a fair bit of the time, so that she'd learn that being alone was okay. We started with very short periods (a minute or two) and built up over time, never letting her get panicked or upset, but stretching out the time between when she'd start to fuss and I'd respond just a little. She's great at entertaining herself now, better than many of her peers anyway. That's a nice thing.
posted by Capri at 11:01 AM on August 5, 2013 [35 favorites]

I would suggest getting the baby out of the stroller and into some sort of backpack or sling and spend more time doing things that *you* enjoy--or at least are more "you" oriented than sitting on the floor playing whack-a-xylophone. Carrying them around on your back while you go about your day is more stimulating for the baby (they've got an adult-level view) than a stroller and also IMHO helps you feel closer to the baby. lemniskate has some good specific suggestions.
posted by drlith at 11:02 AM on August 5, 2013

Best answer: Hello, me of four years ago! As you have discovered, first babies are BORING. Second babies are much better because you can play with the big one, who is now more fun, and the little one will be entertained by watching. With one baby there's just a limited amount of things to do, you know? Here's some things that worked for me:

1) At six months, you can start letting baby play by herself for ten minutes (five minutes ... two minutes ...) while you read a book sitting nearby. Kids need a little "bored time" to learn to entertain themselves, and you can start encouraging some self-sufficient playing now. You have to sit right there supervising, but it gives you a break to check e-mail or read silently.

2) Facebook and other social networking sites. I joined Facebook shortly after #1 was born just so I wouldn't tear out my hair from boredom and lack of adult interaction. I mean, there's a reason there's so many moms of young children pinning stuff to Pinterest like crazy.

3) Babies do not care what you read them, they just like to hear your voice. When you've fulfilled your daily picture book requirement, pick something YOU want to read and read it aloud. It doesn't matter how far above her head it is. It doesn't even matter if it's "adult material" at this age, although you have to crank that down when they start understanding things. I like poetry a lot, so I took the opportunity to read a lot of poetry out loud -- which is sort-of silly to do by yourself, but suddenly totally normal if you're reading it to a baby! -- and learn new poetry and experience it spoken instead of just read and so forth. My kids like poetry a lot now because I exposed them to so much of it. We also looked at a lot of art books, which you can borrow from the library. I would examine great works of art I'd never had a chance to look at, and the baby would look at the colors and poke at the pages and whatnot. I am sure your baby is just dying to read the Illustrated Encyclopedia of Star Trek or whatever your druthers is.

4) Ask around for a mom's drop-in group, which is typically at a church or a community center, sometimes sponsored by breastfeeding organizations (but not limited to breastfeeding moms), where they camp out in a church activity room for three or four hours on, say, Wednesday, with coffee and cake, specifically so moms of young children can get out of the house for longer than a short playgroup. If you can't find one, start one.

5) Classes. Six months is old enough for some mommy-and-me classes. We did music-and-motion (Music Together, Gymboree) and swim, but there's also signing, dance, yoga, tumbling, you name it. Google. Once you find one they all cluster and advertise together. If you can't find one, ask someone. Say to your yoga studio, "Do any of your instructors have any interest in a mom-and-baby yoga class? Because I would be interested in doing it if you started one!"

6) Get a membership to your favorite museum, zoo, park, etc., near to your house. I found out the zoo was free in winter because NOBODY GOES when it's snowy and cold but you have to feed the lions every day no matter what. IT SAVED MY LIFE. We went sometimes daily, bundled up to the ears in heavy winter clothes, so that I could walk around the zoo with the baby. He slept through a lot of it but it saved my sanity to get out and look at something different. We went so often I know the rhinos' names and can recognize them by their ear hair tufts. I've memorized most of the docents' speeches. Anyway, we got a membership in the spring when they started charging admission again so we could go whenever we wanted to, and we could go for half an hour or the whole morning and I never felt like "FORCED MARCH OF FUN, I PAID SIX DOLLARS FOR YOU TO LOOK AT TIGERS." An art museum, a historic house, a state park -- I don't think it matters as long as it's close enough for impulse trips. Our zoo is really small (it takes me 90 minutes to do the whole thing at toddler speed, 60 minutes by myself), but it's something we can always go do.

7) Get on facebook (etc) and start groups. You're bored? So are other moms! It's HARD to be an at-home mom these days. When my mom did it in the 70s and 80s, half of the block was still at-home moms. There was always someone around that she could chat with or have a cup of tea with or trade babysitting with. Today, there are so few. You have to be really intentional about meeting other at-home moms, who are mostly as bored, lonely, disconnected, and flailing as you are. I started a Tuesday morning meet-up at a local park because there was just so little to do for under-5s during the week in my town. I announced it on facebook and asked people to pass on my info and the link to the group I made on facebook to anyone they thought might be interested. I met a lot of other moms that way who were in the same boat. Some would just bring a newborn in a stroller and sit in the shade, some would be towing three toddlers to get them to run off some steam, but it was nice.

8) Make at-home parent connections. (I need to do better at this!) Everyone else is bored too. Meet them. Reach out.

9) Undertake things you've always been interested in. Yes, you're tired and have the focus of a gnat. But a lot of things can be done in 20-minute chunks! I've started learning a new language using online vocabulary drills, which are excellently suited to bursts of 5-to-20-minutes. I've also been cataloging all my books, slowly (again, well-suited to short bursts of activity). You must have something you've always wanted to try or learn that you could do in little bursts.

10) Do your normal things. If you had a month of no work, once you caught up on sleep, what would you do with yourself? Almost all of those things can be done with a baby in tow, strapped on your chest or your back or in a stroller or on your hip. I went on a lot of nature walks with baby attached. I went to weird local sites I'd always wanted to see that I'd never gotten around to. I went to the grocery store just to entertain myself. People are extra nice to you because you have a baby.

11) Help out. I kept up various volunteer commitments and offered to make phone calls and drive things places, since it was hard for me to spend 3 hours folding mailers but easy for me to spend an hour round-trip picking mailers up from the printer, and I got to talk to people and feel useful -- and that's a HARD task for someone with a 9-to-5 job, so I was genuinely making someone's life better. I picked up silent auction items during working hours. I did a lot of making casseroles for people with new babies or serious illnesses, a lot of cat sitting, a lot of watching friends' kids for the afternoon when their aftercare was out for a few days. All of these things were hugely entertaining for the baby who got to see places and talk to people and be admired. You have essentially infinite time, as long as you can take the baby, so you can help a lot of people for whom time is quite limited.

Good luck! They get more fun after a year or so, I think. Six months is kind-of a hard age because they're big enough to sit up and stare but not quite big enough to ... well, DO very many things!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:06 AM on August 5, 2013 [31 favorites]

My wife and I basically split the child-care of the little Catalyzers (three, one 4 year old, and 1-year old twins.)

What we do it go out and interact with others - we're somewhat fortunate that we live in a walkable neighborhood and go to the park. Other ways are community groups or parenting groups (finally a real-world use-case for Facebook! - look up parenting groups in your area.) This does two things for you - it gets your little one some social interaction with infants their own age and while they are being entertained you get some Adult Interaction Time. Which I cannot understate the importance of for maintaining our sanity - it sounds like it will help yours as well.

After a couple of hours of narrating what you are doing to the little one, talking like a Big Person to someone else about nearly anything can be refreshing.

Also, at 6 months you can still pretty much have some adult time by putting the little one in a carrier (we like the Ergo carriers, they are easy on our backs) and just go out for a walk, to the coffeeshop, to the park , wherever. Your little one will probably have a nap but if you see something you want to point out (maybe a friendly dog or cat!) they can interact with them.
posted by BustedCatalyzer at 11:07 AM on August 5, 2013

Some babies don't like these, but my sanity was saved by having a baby swing. Back in the day you had to wind them up but these days I think you don't.

Also, they need time on the floor to do their own thing. Which is how they learn to roll and to crawl and to sit up.

If you have a car during the day absolutely grab your stroller or sling and kid and go out walking or windowshopping or to the library. Trust me, one kid is portable. If you have more it gets geometrically harder to go and do (I had three, oy vey.)

Also, do talk to your child. In complete sentences. Some baby talk of course, but not ALL.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:12 AM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

I was on maternity leave until my daughter was nine months. We went for a long, long walk every day, rain or shine. Like three hours, every single day. I carried her in a forward-facing sling so she could see what I saw, and she slept when she needed to otherwise I kept up a running commentary of all that we saw. The advantage of the sling, apart from her being close to my eye-level, was that I could just wrap a big coat around us both when it was cold and only needed an umbrella when it rained.

Otherwise, we went to two music and movement classes each week, as well as two playgroups. We also danced around the living room a lot, and I always had music on when she was just playing/ exploring in the house. We also had some daytrips - she loved the aquarium and the zoo (still does!) and we saw the ducklings at the wetlands centre in spring. Again I think being in a sling, and thus close to my eye-level, made these better experiences for her than if she was in a pram.

I have to second Etrigan in saying that if you don't think being a stay-at-home mum is the best decision for you and your child, explore other options. I loved and valued the nine months I spent at home with my daughter, but for the long-term we are both better off with me at work and she in daycare.
posted by goo at 11:12 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

When I took care of my infant daughter, I basically did the things I wanted to do, but with her in tow -- either in arm, in a sling, or in a stroller. We went to the library, to antique shops, went out to eat, went to various town meetings and social events. We did a fair amount of exploring in old cemeteries and wandering the streets of our small suburban/rural town.

She cried a lot, unpredictably, so we tended not to do things where we couldn't extricate ourselves pretty easily, but in general, people are super tolerant of an infant fussing, and will cut you a huge deal of slack if you are a responsive and responsible parent about it.

Doing what you like to do will get much harder over the next few months, so take advantage of it now.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:13 AM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

When I went back to work after 9 months at home with my new baby, I was so relieved. Compared to baby, work felt like a relaxing, fun activity, almost like taking a nap at the beach. Mothering a newborn is tough, even if you have a healthy baby, no money worries, a wonderfully supportive husband, etc.

All of the above notwithstanding, here are a couple suggestions of things that worked for me.

1. Moby wrap. Both myself and my little one loved it. It doesn't give you forever but you do get about an hour of walking time where you walk like a normal person, not tethered to a stroller. Take a walk every day and you'll feel much better!

2. Gym with childcare. They literally take your child for two hours while you work out (or just sit in the sauna, or read a book in the lounge area).
posted by rada at 11:14 AM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

Take him for walks. If the weathers nice it's fun, heck even in rainy or colder weather if you bundle them up it's fun. My SIL used to go biking in the middle of winter with her 6 month old in a seat behind her bundled up and they had a great time. Talk about what you see "Oh look there's the post man, wave at the post man." Chat to any old ladies you meet, they love that stuff.

Go to coffee shops, sit outside with your child in his stroller/pram, let him watch the world go buy while you drink a cappuccino and feed him the froth with a teaspoon (or get him a babychino).

Babies think jobs are fun, do errands around the house and prop him up in a bouncer or swint or something and talk to him while you jobs. "So I'm washing the dishes, sooo many dishes, look at all the bubble." Doing this while he's awake means nap times you get to sit and put your feet up with a good book and a coffee.

Do whatever you want to do, and take him with you.
posted by wwax at 11:16 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Coming on three and a half years. Here are the things that saved my bacon:

1) Etrigan mentioned walks: oh my FSM YES. I used to sling my daughter and schlep around the neighborhood for miles and miles. Things got even better when her neck was strong enough to use the Bjorn. Bjorns are the shiz. The kid gets to see stuff, you get to see stuff, and I found the walking to be a major stress relief for me. Used to be the only way to get my kid to sleep, too. Walk walk walk.

2) Around six months, we started RIE. Think of it as an age-specific moderated playgroup: the kids are left to their own devices in a safe environment while you get to talk with other parents about what's going on with your kids. We did it from 6 months until she turned two, and it was great. It was reassuring to see my kids playing with other kids and know that it was my job to sit back and observe, to let the moderator run things. It was great to watch all the kids grow and develop. I miss it.

3) The library! Story time! Singing and clapping and all that stuff is a blast.

4) Swimming! Even if you're holding your kid and doing all the work, you're getting your kid used to water. And it'll set the stage for future swim classes, which are the key to a good night's sleep. My motto has been that if my kid isn't dragging her ass to the dinner table, then I haven't played her enough that day. If you have a YMCA nearby, look for a class called Gym 'N' Swim, which is 30 minutes in a gym to sing and clap, then 30 minutes in the pool.

Things were rough for me, seeing how I had gone from fifteen years of officework to being home with an infant. It was easy to go nuts, to get greedy about any non-parenting interactions with adults. But I got to see all the amazing things that are coming your way: the first rollover, the first sitting up, the first crawling, the first playing with toys on her own. I made some good friends with the other parents in RIE and Gym 'N' Swim, and I think it's been a good setup for my daughter starting preschool in the fall. Make sure to use naptimes for YOU time. If you have chores that can slide, let 'em slide. You need to recharge your batteries for the post-nap times.

Oh, yes: make a playlist of music YOU like that you think is appropriate for your kid, and have it going. Fuck that Kids Music bullshit (except for Justin Roberts); we listened to jazz, classical, some Beatles, a lot of stuff from the American Songbook, and she's none the worse for it.
posted by RakDaddy at 11:19 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, I just remembered another thing -- a lot of movie theaters these days have special weekday Mommy Matinees where you can bring your baby to a movie with a bunch of other moms and babies, and no one will complain about anyone else's baby crying or having to change a diaper during the good part.
posted by Etrigan at 11:23 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm no expert, Minipenny is only 4months old and I am going back to work part time next week, but a few thoughts. First of all, I love babies, love them, before having mine, getting to hold a baby would be at the top of my "fun things to do list". And I have ALWAYS wanted kids. But damn after a few weeks, it is really isolating and boring (interspersed with adorable sweetness of course ;). So a few things that I've liked or possible ideas (these are mostly just short term coping mechanisms)
- Encourage visits from any baby loving family whose company you enjoy. I like my parents and loved having them visit, they doted on the baby, gave me much needed breaks and it was nice having some adult company. I really enjoyed the stay at home thing while they were here and it pretty much got boring and tedious as soon as they left. Conversely short visits from less pleasant relations could make you appreciate being left alone ;)
- Find someplace that provides some mild adult entertainment that's kid friendly, we've been working our zoo membership but a mall or children's museum coould work too. Invite someone, or everyone, from the mommy group to join you sometime ("does anyone want to check out the outlet mall up in north county?" Or "I have a free pass for the zoo/museum with my membership if you want to get out of the house"). Chances are many of them are suffering the same cabin fever you are.
- I like listening to audiobooks, I can still hold the baby, hand him toys, make eye contact and talk a bit. It helps to listen to books that are a bit fluffy and easy to follow even if you zone out for a bit.
- Smartphone of course, with said audio books and netflix for naps (mine sleeps best when held), and metafilter :) and stupid games.
- Try to nap with them when you can. Yeah yeah I know but I know Minipenny is SO much cuter and entertaining when I'm not exhausted.
Oh, gotta go, nap time is done!
posted by pennypiper at 11:37 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Don't entertain the baby! Entertain yourself, mostly by getting out of the house as often as possible. An Ergo carrier is nice to have.

What you do with your baby will be what's normal to your toddler; if you want a kid who is not fussed about -- eh, take your pick, long drives? art galleries? swimming pools? etc -- going there regularly now gives you good odds of being able to do that thing with minimal bother in the future. Do not restrict yourself to baby-oriented, or even child-oriented, things.
posted by kmennie at 11:45 AM on August 5, 2013 [15 favorites]

I'd cast out feelers and see if anyone of those moms from playgroup would want to get together for coffee while-the-kids-shove-their-fists-in-their-mouths-and-drool. Or even see if any of your mom-non friends would mind! I spent most of graduate school hanging out with friends who were parents, and six month olds are pretty much fine for socializing. Kids hit a rough patch for that just around 2, but by 3.5ish they're pretty good about it again.

Keep in mind that "entertaining the baby" is very much a Western notion, and that the baby will learn just as much--and be just as fascinated by--your adult life as baby-directed play. Put the kid in a swing and do housework; put the kid in a sling and go for walks or run errands. Lots of interactions with adults is actually great for a kid' verbal skills.

Also this is literally the reason Sesame Street was invented--especially the old episodes were designed to be palatable enough for stay at home moms but entertaining for kids (I mean, little toddlers don't usually understand complex song parodies, you know? But they get muppets.) Don't know if you're anti TV, but a half hour of Sesame Street a day saved the sanity of one mom I know.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:46 AM on August 5, 2013

Is there a local MOMS Club in your area? I belong to the local one and they have a good number of activities for SAHMs and kiddos. There is also a monthly night out just for moms.

Also, I totally agree that at 6 months you are still able to focus on entertaining yourself rather than the kid. Walks are great as is maybe meeting friends for lunch - sandwiched in between AM and PM naptime.
posted by tafetta, darling! at 11:51 AM on August 5, 2013

Aaaaand, just saw that you are a member of several moms' groups. Sorry!

If I could go back in time to when I had one kid who was 6 months old, I would basically make a bucket list of things I would want to go see while said kid was still portable, relatively easy, and non-verbal (as in, can't say, "But I don't waaaaant to goooo!"). It actually sounds quite heavenly - antiquing, walks in the nature preserve, general exploring, window shopping, in short whatever I wanted to do. They grow opinions as fast as they grow upwards, so use the time when they are perfectly content to be with you to your advantage!
posted by tafetta, darling! at 12:01 PM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

The solution to being bored about staying home is this: don't stay home. I don't mean go back to work and send your baby to the sitter. I mean: make it a point to get outside of your house at least once a day, weather permitting. Do things that are fun for BOTH of you, not just the baby. Take a walk to the park. Go the library. Go to a coffeeshop. Go to the zoo. Sign your kid up for some silly baby class (those "Gymnastics for 6-month-olds!" classes aren't really for babies: they're for bored moms).

If you don't have the money / transportation to go far, at least make a point of walking your baby around the block in a sling or a stroller once a day every day. You might get to know your neighbors and make some new friends. When I was bored and desperate with a baby and no car, I would just put the baby in a stroller, go out the door, and start walking even with no particular destination in mind. He got fresh air and I got exercise. And I could make it educational by pointing to things along the way and telling him what they were, which means he learned which flower was a "dandelion" and which bird was a "cardinal" by looking at the flower and the bird, not just pictures in a book. (Not that we did not also read books all day long, but there are only so many times you can read the same damned board book before you start to go insane.)
posted by BlueJae at 12:04 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

(Oh and should add-- I did see that you said that the idea of taking the baby for random walks in the stroller seems lonely and unsatisfying, but for me it was definitely not as lonely and unsatisfying as sitting around with the baby doing nothing inside.)
posted by BlueJae at 12:06 PM on August 5, 2013

Oh something else I've remembered! My daughter and I went camping when she was six months, just overnight, and it was great! That was also the period when Occupy London was happening so we spent a few days baking banana bread in the mornings then hanging out at St Pauls with the protesters in the afternoons. We also went on another couple of protest marches, and she loved the excitement and the atmosphere. Having a baby strapped to your chest is also a guarantee against being kettled by police, which is definitely a bonus - I would have left immediately if I thought there was any risk to her or myself.

Another thing she loved was, again in the sling, swinging gently on the swings in the playground (I sat on the swing with her strapped to me, if that's not clear).
posted by goo at 12:42 PM on August 5, 2013

Best answer: I'm not nearly as social as most people, and the couple play/activity groups I tried were... not really comfortable for/with me (I'm a stay at home Dad, which really weirds some people out in play groups, same goes for library sing-alongs, etc.). Since we only had one car, that also put a bit of a limit to what I could do. Nap time was "interact with other humans online" time for me, and that was the a large percentage of my social life for awhile.

One thing that helped me A LOT was making sure to set aside time every day for something that didn't involve the baby in any way. That often meant getting up early and walking the dogs, or making up an errand at night, or whatever, but just that little bit of recharging myself as something that exists outside of "taking care of kid" was huge. Trust me, everything "kid" is much better when there's a "not kid" part of your life to balance it.

Also, the earlier advice about not having to entertain your kid is right on the money. Babies are wired to find what you do fascinating, watching you is how they learn how to be people. Everything is new and interesting, they'll find you cleaning hypnotic (well maybe not vacuuming, that always scared mine). Oh and if you want to pick up an instrument, now's the time. Watching you practice is going to be the coolest thing your kid has experienced ESPECIALLY if you give them something that makes noise for them to play along with you. They're the least critical audience you'll ever run across. For that matter, when I'd get tired of board books, and my son wanted to be held and talked to, I used to just read my oldest whatever book I was reading at the time.

I think that part of encouraging your kid to learn about things and explore the world is letting them do that on their own, and starting that habit young. As long as your floor's clean and your house safe, there is absolutely nothing wrong with letting them lie on the floor and play with their toys while you do something else nearby.
posted by Gygesringtone at 12:53 PM on August 5, 2013 [7 favorites]

During the first year of my daughter's life, I finished up the last few classes of a degree program on a very part-time basis (less than 8 hours/week away from her). Juggling baby, babysitter, class attendance, studying, etc, while my husband was working crazy hours was really tough. Now my daughter is a toddler and I am home "full-time" and holy crap, it is so much harder than what I was doing before. My kid is quite delightful and fun, but it is just damn hard to be mano a mano with a baby/toddler all the time. I really miss those class hours where I was intellectually engaged in a topic with my peers.

Obviously get out of the house all that you can, but is there some sort of work or project you could do that's not about chilling out with a baby? Especially if it's work where you could work with other adults. Another thought I have is do you have any home improvement or organization projects? Those are pretty difficult to work on once the baby starts walking.
posted by stowaway at 12:53 PM on August 5, 2013

I started a blog, wrote and published a book, freelanced, promoted my business and projected managed renovations to our home (saving us a bundle in general contracting costs). The rest of the time, I joined and started every baby group I could. We stayed home on Mondays, usually. Tuesdays and Thursdays were baby group at the community health centre drop-in. Wednesdays were the library baby group. On Fridays, the main library had singing and story time. I made a lot of friends and we then came up with things to do with our babies, like going to art galleries, museums, parks, Skytrain rides, bus rides...and a lot of coffee. But there were also postnatal mom and baby fitness classes, baby gymnastics and the like. I mainly did free things. When I was at home, we did lots of "tummy time", read books, sang, clapped, played with toys. I tried only to work when my babies were napping or sleeping or their dad was home at night.

Some days were really long. But, at the end of that year, I had improved our home equity (allowing us to buy a bigger place) and I had some really interesting work experience for my resume and I had a business I still run now. And I made really strong friendships that have helped throughout my parenting journey. And I believe the Baby Chaussettes had a much richer experience than if I hadn't been at home

However, if you feel like it's more than you can do, don't feel you have to do it! When mama's happy, baby's happy! Go with your gut. I lived in the heart of a busy urban centre with great parent and baby programs. You might not.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 1:11 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Babies do not care what you read them, they just like to hear your voice. When you've fulfilled your daily picture book requirement, pick something YOU want to read and read it aloud. It doesn't matter how far above her head it is.

Oh, seconding this - I somehow got drafted into a babysitting gig when I was in college (I REALLY am not the babysitting type as a rule), and had to study for a theater history class that same day. I'd brought along the book in the hopes that I could read it when the sprog had a nap; but the kid was not calming down as fast as I'd hoped. So out of desperation I brought the book into his nursery and ended up reading him literary theory essays about Ubu Roi and Grand Guignol theater as his naptime story. They worked. (And I got an "A.")
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:12 PM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Oh, man, I remember those New Mom days! Life really can be strange and isolating when you are a new Mom, and the yearning for thoughtful, adult conversation can nearly drive you mad. Don't be surprised if, when your spouse comes home, you find yourself assailing him with a barrage of words, chattering away about trivialities for the sheer pleasure of conversing with someone who can actually answer back.

You know what is awesome to a new Mom stuck at home all day with the baby? Mail delivery.

Your mailman is like the courier of the gods these days. He brings you daily wonders, to be discovered anew in the treasure chest of your mailbox every single afternoon. The arrival of a package? Oh, boy. Now it's CHRISTMAD! It could be a pair of sneakers or a toilet plunger and you would still be just as thrilled to hear that big brown truck drive up. It's absurd, but true.

Every new appointment becomes a party, too. Other adults will be there! People to talk to! A chance to not just dress your baby but actually get dressed up yourself! Woohoo. You may even put on makeup today.

And the pediatrician's office becomes your surrogate cocktail party. You mingle, mingle, mingle with the healthy kids and their Moms, trading anecdotes and casting resentful glances at the sick children, party crashers trying to Infect Your Baby. Wine and cheese is supplanted by baby bottles, rice cereal and stewed carrots. You make important social connections, becoming tight with the "good" nurses.

This one swoops in like Superwoman when your baby needs a shot. Fast and efficient, she never panics him*.

That one slips you free samples of baby tylenol. You hoard them like a miser hoards his gold.

Before your baby, you weren't really a fan of the dentist's office. Naturally. But now, somehow, getting your teeth cleaned is not at all the chore you remembered it being. Even the waiting room--where once you fretted as the clock on the wall tortuously counted away the passing minutes--is delightfully cool and quiet and there are no crying babies there. Your dentist must have fixed the clock, too, because the time just flies by these days! Even the threat of cavities holds no terrors for you; he can not initimidate you with that puny whiny drill now that you've had a little live human being removed from your body.

Of course, I'm exaggerating, but believe me, I know where you are coming from. Anyone who has been there understands that boredom 100%.

First piece of advice: don't feel like you have to entertain your baby! Everything is already stimulating for a baby, from the sound of your voice to the wiggling of his own toes. He will be just fine. What you need to do is make sure you still get stimulated, too.

The key is to mix things up and be flexible. Routines, while admirable for baby rearing, quickly become boring drudgery for an adult with a discerning mind. And your baby is like a sponge, soaking up all your experiences, too, so use that to your advantage!

Talk to your baby as you do things, even if you are just cleaning the house or grocery shopping.. Don't feel like you have to use cutesy or made up words, either--Your baby naturally loves the sound of your voice, and you are helping to develop his vocabulary early on.

Get out of the house. Go places you want to go, and take baby with you. Visit the museums, libraries, the mall even. Anywhere.

Your job as a new Mom, by the way, is vitally important. It can be easy for the spouse who si still working outside the home to see your time as, for lack of a better term, less than. there is an insidious assumption that because you are not on the clock, you are free to run all the errands, do all the chores. So your reward for staying home without pay to raise your child is...more drudgery? Yay.

So, next piece of advice: Your spouse gets the occasional day off, right? You need one, too. Have a set day, or at least an evening, once a week or so if you can swing it, where you go off on your own. Give yourself permission to be indulgent, even childish yourself if you want on these days. Have an ice cream sundae, go to the movies, ride a merry-go-round. Or spend the time with some friends who are also childfree for the night.

Even if you have no plans on your scheduled night out, do something for just you. I used to shortchange myself on the "me" time out of guilt. there is NO reason to feel guilty! Close the bedroom door, take a bubble bath and read a book! Not George R. R. Martin, maybe, because you WILL get interrupted andyou will never keep all the characters straight. Lots of action and short chapters is what you want.

Finally (sorry this is SO long!), remind yourself that you are not "just" a Mom, but a woman with a life of her own. You are still smart, and sexy, and fun!

It does get better as your kid(s) get older, too!

Hang in there. And if you ever need to vent, feel free to Memail me.
*Of course, you still feel a little panicked every time. He's so little! The needle is so big!
posted by misha at 1:56 PM on August 5, 2013 [5 favorites]

I went to the playground as often as I could, weather permitting. Even though my baby couldn't participate, I was sitting around with other parents, who would start conversations. And often they'd have an older kid who was running around and a baby on their lap, so then there I was with other parents (or nannies) with babies.

I did in general feel quite isolated and sometimes depressed during that period.
posted by DMelanogaster at 4:10 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I read about someone who's part of a group of three mum's who take turns to get together in pairs with all three kids, whilst the third mum does whatever she wants. I thought it was a cool idea.
posted by kjs4 at 4:50 PM on August 5, 2013

Best answer: I keep thinking about your question and I wanted to come back and emphasize two general strategies.

First, keep reaching out to other stay-at-home parents. It is HARD to build a community outside of work, and extra-hard for parents of small children. People are afraid of rejection and not very sure how to go about building mom-connections, as they're new at it (by the time they're no longer new at it, their kids are in school and they have school-parent friends). Be the aggressive one who keeps pursuing other parents for friendship, keeps suggesting plans, keeps forming groups. Sure, you get rejected by people who just aren't interested (mom-dating is the worst!), but my experience has been that people are often RELIEVED you're reaching out to them because they're unsure and lonely and shy about reaching out. And then they flake on plans twice in a row because naptime is in chaos and then they feel embarrassed about trying to make plans a third time because of the flaking, so you have to do it! Be EXTRA diligent about reaching out to stay-at-home dads, who are even more lonely and feel awkward about intruding on groups that are women-only.

Second, keep reaching out to your non-parent friends and working parent friends. Babies can be pretty entertaining lunch companions once they can eat finger food ... you can easily get a 30- or 45-minute adult lunch while baby is carefully picking up cheerios one-by-one and grinning at the general atmosphere. Eating out not in the budget? Pack a picnic and meet a working friend at a downtown park for lunch. Invite non-parent friends to go with you to the zoo or the children's museum or on nature walks ... most people are delighted to go with you, and many haven't done these activities since they were kids, and secretly want to go to the zoo but never have a "good reason." Tell people if they come to your house for drinks and must-see-TV-watching you can hang out forever, but if you go to the bar you have to bug out after two hours. People have been surprisingly willing to go do kiddie things with me and to move at the speed of baby, even riding the commuter train two stops down and two stops back for my train-crazy toddler ("totally! I haven't ridden a train in years!"). But I have to suggest it because people who don't have kids don't really know what sorts of things kids do, or what another adult might be welcome at.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:04 AM on August 6, 2013 [5 favorites]

Eyebrows McGee is (as usual) dropping some major wisdom in this thread. Hospitals and midwives should print this thread out and give it to every parent they work with.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:03 AM on August 6, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, this thread has been very helpful! It sounds like getting out of the house is a very common thread, which is something I need to work on doing better anyway. Especially now that I don't have an effortless social network baked into work.
posted by annekate at 9:46 AM on August 6, 2013

Around 5mos we started at a Mommy & Me class through the local parks & rec dept. We met once a week, for about an hour and a half. At that age, the babies don't do much but look at the toys, and maybe each other a little bit. It was really more of a social hour for the moms more than anything. It was great to have a regularly scheduled outing though.

I work outside the home and my kid is in daycare now, so I don't get to keep up with the group as much. But for the moms that don't work, they have been great at organizing one or two playdates a week (at the park or the beach, and now that the littles are a couple of years old, other outings). I think for a lot of them it turned into a great way to make friends, as well as a support group (that's something that's been harder to find, as working parents).

A lot of classes start in September.
posted by vignettist at 3:54 PM on August 6, 2013

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