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This 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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?!!