The best time to be a stay-at-home parent isn’t what you think…
Being home with your children when they are babies is full of cuddles and cuteness. It can be a great experience for mom and child. But, if you are forced to choose a time in your child’s life to be home with them, or even to cut hours at work to be more available, it’s not when they are babies.
I hear the shock and awe—and maybe even anger—at that statement but before you get all hot and bothered at the idea that I am recommending you skip the extra cuddles and kisses, hear me out. Yes, when our children are babies it is a beautiful, wonderful time in their lives and if you are able to be home with them that can be a wonderful gift. But, when it comes to your child’s needs, safety, and your mental sanity, the best time to be home with them is the middle and high school years.
Middle and high school is a rough age. There is a lot going on with your child’s body, socially, and mentally. They need you more. They are becoming teenagers, daring kids. They are breaking boundaries, stepping outside of comfort zones, and defying your wishes. You are likely beginning to worry quite a bit about what they are up to. You are concerned about their health and their behaviors. The reason to stay home with your child in middle/high school is to protect them.
Babies are adorable. They are cute. They are cuddly, and yes I encourage you to soak all that up. Cherish those moments. But, if you are a forced to choose a time to be home more, think about what might impact them more as adults, think about all the realities they are being faced with as teenagers and choose to be there for them. These are crucial years in your child’s life. They are likely feeling a lot of uncertainty and confusion. They are trying to fit in with their peers, be the “cool” kid, and they think they are smarter and more mature than they really are. It is a fantastic time to be on top of them. To teach them valuable life lessons. To make sure they are sticking to their word. And, to show them you support them, you love them, and you just want the very best for them. They may not engage with you fully, the way they did as a kid, but be present with them and catch them when they fall.
Let me be clear—if you don’t need to make the choice about when to be home, then great, and if you have no choice but to work, that is ok too. Don’t kick yourself if you can’t stay home, and if you don’t want to give up your career entirely you definitely do not need to be home full-time. There is nothing that says you have to be home with your child but regardless try to be present with them as much as possible.