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Sometimes "staying at home" is good enough

by Meagan Francis on October 6, 2011

This morning I woke up with great ambitions. After Clara and I picked Owen up from the bus stop, I planned, the three of us would go home and pack a picnic lunch. Then we’d walk downtown to the bluff overlooking Lake Michigan, eat our lunches, maybe go to the children’s museum, stop for an ice-cream cone, and head home.

But…it had been a late night followed by an early morning. By the time noon rolled around I was hungry – past “I could eat” to grumpy, cranky, low-blood-sugar hungry – and tired.

It’s a beautiful, warm and sunny day, and as I considered nixing the picnic plan, I felt conflicted. My go-go-go mom side urged: “Your kids need to be out! Doing stuff! Seeing sights! Having opportunities! Being enriched!”

And my normal, human Mom side groaned, “But I’m tiiiiired.”

Maybe I was just that foggy today, but I’m not sure why it took me a full twenty minutes of debating with myself to come up with this compromise.

I made some turkey sandwiches, sliced up a couple apples, grabbed juice boxes and a sheet and headed...to the front yard.

Maybe not the most exciting solution, but I just didn’t have it in me for a longer trek.

And you know what? We had a lovely time.

The sandwiches tasted just as good in our (slightly overgrown) (majorly under-landscaped) front yard.

Clara was so excited for our makeshift “pick-i-nick,” you would have thought we were going on a intercontinental excursion.

And I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone love a juice box so much.

For “enrichment”, Owen performed The Robot for us.

It was quite the experience.

…and he practiced his photography skills. I think he might be better than me. And that counts as an “opportunity”, right?

When I was a newer mom, I often joined other at-home moms to protest, “Why am I called a ‘stay-at-home’ mom? I’m never home!” The implication being, of course, that home was somehow not good enough, and that really successful, good moms would fill their days with activities, lessons, and play groups in order to give their child as many “experiences” as possible.

I still struggle with that go-go-go mom impulse sometimes, but along the way I’m learning that some of the most valuable experiences are the ones that happen inside our own four walls (and maybe inside the front fence, too.) It’s OK – even good – to prioritize quiet time, spent with the people who are most important to you.

Going places is fun. Activities are nice. But most of the time, staying at home is good enough.

More than good enough.

Have you ever felt pressured to be a go-go-go mom because “just” staying at home didn’t seem good enough?

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Ashley October 6, 2011 at 3:41 pm

I have a couple of friends who are go-go-go moms and sometimes I feel like I should be doing the same. But, honestly … does my 22-month-old REALLY care that we’ve been to the local children’s museum only once and that a typical outing for us is going to the grandparents’ house instead of the zoo? And would we be a happier, closer family if we tried to go to every event we’re invited to?

For us, the answer is usually no. We love our home and worked really hard to make it lovely, functional and (almost) perfect for us. So, staying home usually wins. I will say, though, that I still count walks around the neighborhood as staying home. If it doesn’t require driving, it’s close enough to feel like home. :)

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Tragic Sandwich October 6, 2011 at 3:50 pm

My mom was so amazing at activities that I say I was both public-schooled and home-schooled. But she also gave us plenty of downtime, so it wasn’t go-go-go. One of my fondest memories is from when I was six and my brother was four, and we had just moved to a new neighborhood. We wanted to explore, so my mom packed us some snacks in a backpack and told us not to turn any corners, because we weren’t yet familiar enough with the neighborhood to find our way back. So we walked several blocks to the far end of our street, where it ended in a cul-de-sac, and sat down on the curb for a “picnic.” We were really focused on not leaving any trash on other people’s lawns, so we carefully packed everything up when we were done, and then we walked home. It was simple and delightful, and often that’s what kids really like.

Yours just had an adventure in their own front yard–they saw it and experienced it in a new way, and it sounds wonderful to me.

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Emily October 6, 2011 at 3:53 pm

I think that some of the difference between the go-go-go moms and the stay-at-home moms is just personality. I have a friend who is a full-blown extrovert. She LOVES people, LOVES to be out, LOVES to be doing stuff. Her kids go everywhere and participate in everything, and she loves every minute of it.

I have another friend who is a complete introvert. She would be quite happy if she stayed home except for church and a weekly trip to the library. And that is basically what she does – because she’s a much, much better mom when she’s a happy introvert than when she’s a maxed out introvert! :)

I fall somewhere between those two ends of the spectrum. Realizing that it does seem to be a personality spectrum has helped me let go of some of the guilt over not doing enough “fun things” with my kids.

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Meagan Francis October 6, 2011 at 4:30 pm

You’re right I think, Emily, only as a naturally go-go-go kind of person I’ve found that I just can’t keep up that pace with kids and still have enough downtime and just hanging out at home time, too. And the total introvert might find that she’s climbing the walls being home with her kids all the time because it’s just different from being home alone! So I think sometimes we have to push ourselves a little bit to find that happy medium, you know?

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Meagan Francis October 6, 2011 at 4:32 pm

Oh, and I think that sometimes we have to move past the way you see ourselves – I think of myself as an “out and about” kind of person, so it’s easy for me to feel like I’m “slacking” when I just don’t have the energy or motivation to go on The Big Outing. And, you know, I guess in a way I am, but slacking isn’t always so bad. :)

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Monica October 6, 2011 at 4:07 pm

You have no idea how refreshing it is to check Facebook and find something sooooo personal to read! I am TOTALLY a “go-go-go mom.” In fact, I frequently say “go! go! go!” when we’re out and about. :) Today, I did the same thing. I forced myself to stay at home. I really wanted to go somewhere–the local tropical garden, the zoo, the park, the mall, etc.–I thought of everything. Then I decided to stay in our cozy condo, read books (we even did Jumpstart’s Read for the Record–www.readfortherecord.org), order pizza, watch a family movie together, play, and relax. I was able to clean and organize my home, cook a new dish I’ve never made before, AND even be home for the UPS guy’s delivery (he’d missed us several times before). So thankful! This was a great, uplifting article. Oh, and I LOVE your non-photoshopped, REAL pictures. Keep it up! :)

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Meagan Francis October 6, 2011 at 4:13 pm

Monica, I tried to use Photoshop once and got SO confused, I gave up after the first try. I just crop and, if needed, brighten them up a bit. I do admire really skilled photographers and photo editors, but we can’t do it all…and I do like showcasing what real, untouched life looks like.

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KPK October 6, 2011 at 4:09 pm

I think for me it would be a balance. I love to be out but I easily get burnt out. I love to be at home but I easily get bored. So I have to find a middle balance so I am not bored or burnt out. I can’t be like my friends who go, go, go! I don’t feel guilty for it either. I am a Christian and in Titus 2 it says we are to be at home, if we are rarely there, then our home will feel empty. If we are always there it will then feel like a warm home.

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KPK October 6, 2011 at 4:11 pm

I also think a lot of it has to do with discontentment to always have to go go go.

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Stacey K October 6, 2011 at 4:51 pm

I struggle with this because my eldest girl & husband are go-go-goers & my littlest two & I are home bodies, it makes school holidays hard. My best friend is a go-go-got mum & we find compromises to get together, she will get her going out fix by coming over to visit me & her home body daughter feels at home at my home so she isn’t overwhelemed by another outing. One of my favourite of her visits was when she came in & said your front yard really needs weeding, let’s have a picnic & do some weeding. We got a blanket out & took a platter out for the girls to graze on, we found loads of ladybugs & other creatures & got most of the yard weeded while the girls ate & explored.

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Carrie Cotton October 6, 2011 at 6:05 pm

I think it can also be seasons of life as well as personality. I would say normally I’m in between the “go go” and the “homebound” Mom. But right now with 4 yr old twin girls, a 1 and 1/2 yr old boy and being newly pregnant I’m feeling very much like being a stay at home as much as possible Mom :). I’m guessing it will continue until the Holidays when we naturally start getting out more to do things. Then back home again with a new baby for spring then back out and about for summer. So maybe for me its seasons, and Seasons :)

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Jessica @ Quirky Bookworm October 6, 2011 at 6:45 pm

I have a couple of days a week of “go-go” and playdates, but at least 1 or 2 days a week of home days. We go to the park that’s 1/4 of a mile from our house a LOT, so we’re not necessarily “home” all day, but they’re what I call car-free days.

On a side note — your yard is ADORABLE! I guess this is the Arizonan in me talking, but I didn’t even know people in real life had white picket fences! :)

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Megan October 6, 2011 at 6:53 pm

I think your solution is perfect! What we think kids need and what they need/want can sometimes be different. Being together anywhere is always more than good enough.

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kate October 6, 2011 at 7:15 pm

I struggle with this, mostly because my son is always wanting to go, go, go, but we see a noticeable difference when we can keep him at home more often. He hasn’t yet learned that he needs the down time. On the other hand, I’m a homebody, so I have to push myself sometimes to go out because I know I’ll enjoy it once I’m out there.

I notice the external pressure when it comes to organized activities. Just this week I refused to take my son to a weekly early morning choir practice, knowing that it was too early for him, and was hard pushed explaining why it didn’t work for us. I feel like there is a lot of pressure to involve your kids in a lot of enriching activities, and to actively choose not to is sometimes viewed oddly.

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SusanP October 6, 2011 at 10:21 pm

kate, I agree with you on the external pressure. We get it A LOT, but doing extra curricular activities (especially at very young ages) just isn’t for us. I do feel like we are viewed as odd but I try to ignore it.

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evanzuenda October 6, 2011 at 9:50 pm

I can relate to you but being a mom itself is a fulfilling career, though being a stay at home mom is more a bit better but with a wrong notion. I have been a stay at home mom until the Junior years of my two sons and so far no regret of tackling being a stay at home mom. I have two wonderful and kind heart sons.

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Tiny Blue Lines October 6, 2011 at 10:12 pm

Absolutely, being home is good enough. I agree with Ashley–I’ve worked hard to make our house a home, and by darn it, I’m going to enjoy it. I’ve been at the hospital every day this week (delivered my first baby today!!) and I am soo looking forward to just being home with my girls tomorrow–doing absolutely nothing. :)

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SusanP October 6, 2011 at 10:30 pm

My husband (who is the SAHD/WAHD) is a total homebody. He loves just staying home and enjoying our home and yard with the kids. We are blessed to have a very large yard full of big shady trees, a nice patio we put in after our 2nd was born, and a big playscape. He’s always having “picnics” in our own back yard :-)

I’m 50/50… our kids are 7, 5, almost 3, and 17mo — If I’m able to go places with just the big ones, I’m a total go go go type. But if it involves taking a baby / young toddler I shy away from it because of all the logistics. I feel like I’m getting close to the cusp where I will feel more comfortable packing up the whole crew to go to the zoo, big parks, children’s museum, movies, bowling, etc. But for now, with the youngest two still in diapers, and the baby needing a good solid nap after lunch… we end up staying home most of the time.

I also work full time out of the home M-F, so while I have great intentions to want to go go go come the weekend, the reality is I’m usually too tired and my at home to do list long. So I find enriching things to do at home like baking and cooking with the kids, and hosting friends on a Saturday night.

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StephJ October 7, 2011 at 10:22 am

I feel like I am in-between as well. If I have a week where I am go-go-go every day it is way too exhausting, but last year when I was too pregnant to leave the house basically, it was so frustrating and I felt trapped. So I try to have a balance, and get out at least once a day even if it’s just to the local library. Once a week I try to have a stay-at-home day that’s usually when I get my laundry done. Even then I usually still get to the park if it is nice enough.
The hardest thing for me about being a “stay-at-home” mom is the lack of adult conversation. So I find opportunities in my writing groups for that adult interaction, and try to get together with friends for playdates once a week or so. Getting out in public with my kids by myself doesn’t satisfy that craving for adult interaction for me, talking to strangers doesn’t do it for me.

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Adventures In Babywearing October 7, 2011 at 10:38 am

Oh yes yes yes. Today we had a ton of plans taking up our day and now they’re all mixed up and I’m actually really relieved to be able to stay at home afterall. We will make do!

Steph

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Claire October 7, 2011 at 10:42 am

I totally relate to this! I tend to be a homebody, but I’ve noticed that my appetite for going out has increased as my son has gotten older. But I think that balance between outings and downtime at home is so important.

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Jo October 7, 2011 at 10:59 am

Doing a front/back yard picnic is the perfect way to avoid the stress of going out and to switch it up a bit. When I was a kid, at family gatherings my grandmother would set up picnic blankets in the living room for the kids (I think this was really because there wasn’t enough room at the table, but it was exciting!!!!).

It sort of falls into both ‘routine’ and ‘exciting new activity’.

Also, just have to say that Clara looks just like you.

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Rachel @ Busy Mommy Media October 7, 2011 at 11:49 am

I would honestly prefer to stay home most of the time but that often leaves me feeling guilty. The thing I’ve realized though, is that my kids have had some wonderful experiences and they’ve been able to form really close relationships with their siblings because of some of that unscheduled time that I’ve had so much guilt over. I’m a much better mom when I’m not feeling the pressure to get out and do something every single day and now the things we do away from home are less stressful on everyone because we aren’t so rushed to get everything done.

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Lisa @Granola Catholic October 9, 2011 at 9:35 am

When my kids were younger and even now that some are teens we schedule “AT HOME” days. These are days with no agenda, days that we use to catch up at home whether that is laundry or rest. It is a day to recharge our batteries.

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Lindsey October 9, 2011 at 2:43 pm

Your kids won’t remember not leaving the house that day. They’ll remember that you had a picnic with them.
There are definitely (many!) times when staying at home is the best choice for us, and there is nothing that makes me want to take a nap more than thinking about being a go-go-go mom.

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Rebecca October 30, 2011 at 9:09 pm

I just wanted to say, as a late-comer to this post, I really liked it. I actually drove by a family having a picnic on their lawn a few days ago, and it made me smile. They looked they were having a great time!

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Julie - One Lucky Mama April 16, 2012 at 2:29 am

Thanks for a great reminder that if the kids are happy – we are doing enough. I am a single mom caring for my terminally ill mother while taking care of my 3 year old and juggling the demands of a home-based business. There are days where the ONLY place I go is the post office. My daughter is getting old enough to guilt trip me about not playing with her all day (she plays with grandma while I work). It takes a lot of patience with myself to step back and realize that she still gets more mommy time than she would if I had to work outside the house.

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Chante June 8, 2013 at 2:47 pm

I needed this post. Thank you for sharing. About a week ago I came upon this realization. After a week of fussing to the kids “hurry get your shoes” or whatever needed to be rushed, just to get out and “experience” something, I realized they would probably rather a “happy mama” than a “go go go mama”. It helps to hear that other moms go through this too. Yes, I found you through ETST and Im so happy I did.

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Sharon April 27, 2014 at 1:22 am

Emily I totally agree. I think there is a huge difference between being active and being an extrovert. I study full time at home and have an autistic child so we are always busy but I genuinely loathe constant socialising. I think we actually add to our children’s ever diminishing attention spans (our son with autism also has adhd) by insisting they are constantly “enriched”. Enrichment does not need to be packaged or external. Enrichment for me as an adult still involves, mostly, music and reading. They have been my primary stimuli since I was very little. We were taken to the beach once a week to go fossicking, taken on an overseas trip once a year and other than that our entertainment was self made. We were allowed a “lesson” of choice once we’d turned 7. I chose ballet, my sister, violin. both have remained long life passions for us both. Because, I think, we were not overloaded, nor forced to keep up the lessons for our parents self-satisfaction and both were choices we made very independently. I think we run ourselves ragged as mothers and as human beings by feeling pressured to come up with new “activities” constantly. We stultify their natural creativity by filling their lives (and by default, ours) with constant, organised, activity. Down time is not only nice, it’s vital for mental health. Frankly its condescending to your child to assume they don’t have the wit required to make their lives meaningful and fun without our constant intervention. All too often the constant procession of socially acceptable “lessons” small children are made to endure are a very thinly veiled extension of the parent(s)’ ego rather than a genuinely “enriching” experience for the child. While YOU may like your child to be a multi-lingual, prima ballerina whose a dab hand at horse riding and chess it is very unlikely your exhausted child has made the (aspirational) connection between ballet lessons and a coveted place on the invitation list of the country’s most celebrated. I think we all need to take a huge intake of breath, step back and realise that while we can do our best to guide our children we are not our children, nor are they our property and frankly its not of our business to socially engineer their future existences due to any closely harboured and ill dealt will insecurities of our own.
So yes, by all means, stay home!

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Erin June 24, 2014 at 2:13 pm

Thank you for this post. I really struggle with this too. If I stay home all day with my daughter I often feel bored and depressed (she can’t talk yet so that makes it extra tough I think). But going all over town every day doesn’t feel right either. One of the best things I’ve been doing is getting to know my next door neighbor better. She lets us come to her house and go swimming or just talk. It’s nice to be able to have a little bit more sense of companionship and still not have to drive anywhere.

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