As a young parent, you've probably heard this many times, I know I did. "Oh, those early years go so fast. Enjoy them while you can!" And you are thinking, "Are you kidding? My days drag, I'm exhausted. Taking care of kids is 24/7 and I feel like I will never be me again. How can you say they go fast?"
At least that was my unvoiced thought at the time. Please let me clarify what they are saying. It's not that the individual days are expected to fly by. I believe that any parent from any era has had the same experience of that dragging feeling when children are little and they take SO much time. They are SO dependent. We are SO tired.
What older parents are trying to say is that within the big picture of your life, these years are extremely short. Considering that you may have had twenty to thirty years of life before children and will have thirty to forty years after they leave home, the child rearing years are short, especially the infancy years when our children are so cuddly, needy and fragile. Even for me raising six children, I had thirty total years with children at home, and only 15 years of preschool-age children in the home. If I live to be 80, I will have had fifty years without children and 62 years withoutan infant or toddler in the home.
So here's the point. In the big picture, it really does go fast, especially those infant years when babies are so precious and need our love and support dramatically. There will never be a time with your children such as what you have with infants and toddlers. The joys, the magical learning, the sweet innocence and trust, the beauty of new life. It's all going to end because they do grow up. That means they get one childhood..the one that you give them. And you get one run at having children, the one that you either enjoy or struggle through.
With that said, I promote stay at home parenting for the solid reason that the one childhood a person gets is wholly dependent upon the parent's decisions. Children don't get to choose where they spend their childhood. And any parent who realized too late that they will never get to go back and do it again, will have to live with that. It's not an option to do over. I'm not saying that day care is bad, or that parents who don't stay home are making a bad choice. I am saying that one must be very clear of the choice they are making and if the choice is for a child to spend their childhood at another person's home with other people to parent them, that is their childhood. It may be a very good one, and it may not.
My stay at home experience was the opposite. I was determined to be the parent for my children at home. I knew I would deeply regret not being their primary caregiver. At the same time, I felt that I was never doing enough to help with the household income and that dragged on me for years. I didn't give myself the value of what I did at home and all that I contributed towards our finances by Creatively Not Spending and taking care of family, home, and budget. That is why I wrote my book: A Way to Stay Home: A Guide for Stay at Home Parents or Those Who Want to Be, in hope that it would help parents be confident in the role of SAHP. (Select 'Book Preview' from the above menu to read some excerpts from it or click here: BOOK PREVIEW
As an elder parent now, I have absolutely no regrets for the time I spent at home with my children. In fact, I wish I would have relaxed more and not worried about money so much. I had lovely times with my children and have many memories of walks in the woods, picnics, story times, long talks about fairies and monsters, play dough and crafts, exploring, cleaning house together, lots of celebrating and lots of tears. I made my decision over and over again to be a SAHP because I knew I didn't want to regret.
There are times when I go shopping and I have the most difficult time using my Creative Not Spending skills. It can be so much fun to spend! It's like being a kid in the candy shop... the lure of this huge selection of STUFF is tremendous! But today, I was focused. And this is the way I usually shop. I make sure I know what I need or want. I make my list accordingly and when I go to a store, I go in and get what I need and I leave. I don't wander, I don't even look around. Years ago, when Walmart first came to town, I loved going there. After a few years of shopping there, (I'm a slow learner) I realized that every time I went to Walmart, I spent about $100.00, even when I was just going 'to pick up a few things'. A hundred dollars! I couldn't believe it. That's a lot of distracted shopping. I decided to stop going to Walmart and it really helped. I spent a little bit more for some things, but overall I creatively didn't spend about $80.00 per month. That's almost a thousand dollars a year. This is important to know. Spending habits can be hard to break.
A Focused Shopping Example Today I went to town to buy a vacuum cleaner. I had shopped online and reviewed the price of a new one. So I decided to see what was available used. I knew I didn't need a new one as I don't use a vacuum that much any more. I have very little carpeting, mostly wood floors and linoleum. So the first stop was a thrift store. Sure enough, a great deal for $16.50. It was a Kenmore canister. I tried it out at the store and it worked great. Good suction, the filter was good but needed cleaning. The hoses and tools were all in good shape. Not too loud, not too heavy and it was clean. Done! Next was groceries. I love grocery shopping. I would spend hundreds of dollars if I could. But I stick to my list. I have a lot of food in my freezer from my garden. This is the time of year to use that up. For example, I don't want to have last seasons green beans in the freezer and then add fresh this season. I spent $25.00 on basic necessities and planned my food for the week around what I need to use up in the freezer and the pantry. Key word is necessities. I don't wander. I get what I need and go. Done. Next was gas. I don't go into the store, I buy at the pump. No temptations. I turn off the advertising at the gas pump, fill up and go. Done. Another stop was the big grocery store that I have to go to because Aldi doesn't sell everything I need. I bought Corn starch. That's it. Done A few things at the Hardware store. 3 items. Done. On to Hobby Lobby. I was especially proud of myself for not wandering there. I was going to buy a planner that was 75% off. But as tempting as that was, I realized it would not have served me and I would have wasted my money. So I walked out empty handed. Done. Focused shopping allowed me to go home to 'spend' time with my sweetheart and my lovely home, with money in my pocket to add to my dream fund.