stay-at-home parenting: where’s the intellectual stimulation?


(There’s still time to enter the giveaway! Free book, anyone?!)

2013-02-14 15.37.44This is not an advert for stay-at-home parenting. It’s not even an argument against those who might suggest that parents who stay at home with their kids run the risk of becoming bored. It’s actually just me asking myself a question: How is it that I don’t feel bereft of intellectual activity? Because on paper it looks like I don’t have much of it – and yet, three-and-a-half years in, I don’t feel intellectually inactive as a stay-at-home parent. So here’s me trying to figure out why that might be.

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1. I’m still me. It sounds obvious, but I have the same kind of thoughts and ideas as I always had. My brain, albeit a little slower and more forgetful, still runs through discussions and arguments in the same way. I’m interested by the same news articles, the same ethical debates, the same life philosophies.

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2. I’ve met a wider range of people. Parenthood, for me, has been incredibly social – I’ve not made this many friends since Freshers’ Week. And I meet new people every week. When I was in a paid job, I had many colleagues – but, largely, my work was independent. And the colleagues I socialised with were from a similar background to me – mainly white, middle-class, university-educated. As a mum, I’ve met others from all around the world (Japan, Korea, China, America, Mexico, Spain, Poland, Romania, to name a few places). I’ve met people with PhDs, and people who left school at 16. I’ve met people who were raised in a whole variety of different situations – and who are raising their kids in a whole variety of different situations. This has made my life and conversations rich in diversity and, I believe, intellectual interest, as I’ve absorbed a whole new set of ideas about life, as well as other countries’ histories and ideologies.

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3. My kids stimulate my mind. It might sound mind-numbing to hang out with pre-schoolers and do nothing but slot shapes into holes or read picture books – but the development of my children is fascinating, and requires a good deal of thought. I don’t tend to do a lot of reading on parenthood and child development, but I pick up bits and bobs, and simply how my children respond to things causes me to form ideas about what will be beneficial for them in the future, and how I can encourage their interest in different areas. I’m not a ‘natural’ when it comes to parenting – I’m pretty slow on the uptake, and so it takes a lot of brain-power to keep my kids alive…or that’s how it feels!

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4. There’s a lot to do if you’re available. Society can’t function at its best unless some people do things voluntarily. There just seem to be a lot of things needing to be done which can’t be paid. I’ve been in the fortunate position of being able to engage with a bit of voluntary stuff since being out of paid work, most recently running a toddler group. In the last few months I have: worked in a team, led initiatives, chaired meetings, organised rotas, communicated with a variety of people by phone and email, used social media for publicity and negotiated discounts. It’s intellectually stimulating to have an idea and see it take off, regardless of whether or not you’re being paid for the work. Yes, these jobs do eat into my evenings, as I try not to short-change my kids by doing them in ‘their’ time, but these other commitments do help me keep my brain active in different ways.

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5. Work wasn’t always that stimulating. I need to remember that, much as I enjoyed my paid job, it didn’t stimulate me every day. In every job there is the humdrum routine, the tasks you repeat over and over, the lack of variety and the days which drag. Likewise, some aspects of my life now are dull. Some days seem really long, and sometimes I get fed up. But, overall, if anyone asks whether I’m bored since leaving paid work, I’m confident in answering with a resounding ‘no’!

What stimulates you about the time you spend at home with your kids, whether all the time or part of the time?

Do you empathise with any of my feelings about being at home with kids? What’s mind-numbing? What’s interesting?

Oh, and did I mention the giveaway?!!

11 Replies to “stay-at-home parenting: where’s the intellectual stimulation?”

  1. I totally agree Lucy! The whole ‘lack of intellectual stimulation’ argument is rather flimsy – I have met some fascinating people since becoming a f/t mum, from a far greater variety of backgrounds than I ever would have met through my previous life route of private school, university, profession. (And anyway, now that I can’t go out to the pub much any more I have more time in the evenings to stimulate my grey matter by reading and listening to Radio 4!) Through doing voluntary stuff I have loved being able to use the skills you describe above – skills that professionals use all the time, which are keeping my CV in very good shape. Oh and just to reassure you – NONE of us are ‘naturals’ at parenting! We are all just muddling through, making it up as we go along. Survive the day intact, and you’ve done fine!

    1. Hi Izzy! For me, you epitomise what it means to be an intellectually-stimulated f/t mum! I think you have an amazing balance of different voluntary things you’re involved with, as well as socialising around the mums network, and of course the time you spend with F. Keep it up! x

  2. My kids are 17 and 13, in the past 17 years I have worked part-time, full-time and been a full-time stay-at-home Mum. Currently I run my own Cake business and work for a team-building company as a contractor. This means some weeks are hideously busy and others are quiet, but unless I’m working away I’m around when they come home from school and in the evenings. I also help run our village community cafe and am involved in lots of other voluntary groups. All these times throughout the past 17 years have been varied and offered different opportunities for my personal development and for my kids development and independance. I don’t think there is a right or wrong way, but for me being at home offers more diverse options and I am happier than working in a 9-5 job. I really wish every family were able to try one parent being at home full-time to see how it might benefit them. Various studies have shown that children fare better long-term if in the early years if they stay at home with a parent. I wish I had taken the sacrifice of less income to be at home full-time with my two until they went to school.

    1. Hi Tash, thanks for contributing to the discussion. It’s great to hear about your different experiences, and especially your positive views about what it’s been like to stay at home. Your life sounds full and busy and fun! Yes you’re right – different things suit different families. It’s great to put forward a positive view of stay-at-home parenting I think because, whilst it’s not for everyone, we’re constantly hearing the media/government bang on about how important it is that parents work, i.e. contribute financially to the economy, as if that were our main function in life! I think some people don’t even realise that there ARE ways you can stay intellectually alert even when you don’t have a paid job. x

  3. Sometimes I struggle with the idea of being ‘just’ a stay at home mum – particularly as both mine are now at school and I wonder what to do with my time during the day (there’s always stuff to do, but housework isn’t very stimulating and I feel a bit guilty if I’m not doing something house wifey!). I sometimes miss the purpose of work, but am trying to embrace life at home. I have recently taken up sewing which has filled a gap in giving me something creative, enjoyable and practical to do while the boys are at school. I too have met some great friends through having kids and have been able to do some volunteering. Some days I get bored, but mostly I enjoy it!

    1. Thanks Theresa, you sound like you’ve been really thoughtful and creative on how you’ve spent/are spending your days. I’m glad it’s (mainly) enjoyable! Funny to think that just a couple of generations ago we housewives would have had to spend our days doing housework, as everything would have been done by hand and been so time-consuming. I don’t like housework either, so I’m VERY glad we have gadgets and gizmos for most household jobs nowadays, and can spend our time getting on with more interesting/stimulating things! x

      1. Thanks for the lovely reply, Lucy. I also meant to add that Lucy is one of the “fascinating people” that I’ve met via becoming a parent, and she helped lead me to Jesus and to understanding the Bible – which IMO is the greatest source of wisdom and the major reason I’ve thankfully not struggled (too much) with brain rot! Theresa, it’s wise words that there is no right or wrong way! It was interesting to hear how you make it work and I hope you continue to enjoy it!

  4. I remember how when my last child went off to school (and who was that, I wonder?), people said “what are you going to do now?” as if it was some magic cut-off point! I had never thought of doing anything other than what I had always been doing, voluntary work of various kinds, being in the lucky position of not HAVING to earn another salary. I agree it can be stimulating being the one at home: you have to be an economist, a teacher, a needlewoman (nearly said sewer!), a cleaner, a cook, a taxi driver, and just someone who is there at all times. Nuff said?

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