As a stay-at-home mom, my official job title can range from breast milk dispenser to dust bunny obliterator, depending on the day. While there’s no shortage of tasks to keep me busy, it can be a challenge to balance spending quality time with my child while still feeling productive.
Here are a few suggestions for mamas to work on their infant or toddler’s development while still taking care of the needs of running a household:
Set a routine: Establish a daily routine, to help keep both your child and you on track. For example, after breakfast or the first feeding, put your baby in a swing and do the dishes and start a load of laundry. Every day. That will help your kiddo to anticipate what’s coming, and it will keep you on track so the kitchen sink doesn’t pile up with dirty dishes.
Vary play with rest: In order to provide your baby with adequate stimulation and rest throughout the day – and to give you time to get a few things done – alternate time spent together with quiet time apart. After reading, playing or singing, set your kiddo down – in a safe place, like the crib or a play mat – and let him play quietly alone. This will teach him to entertain himself, while letting you answer a few e-mails or fold a load of laundry.
Have a game plan: Research where your child should be developmentally, so you’re aware of where to focus your time and energy. The U.S. National Library of Medicine has information on gross motor, fine motor, sensory, language and social developments. Plan on tummy time or games of peek-a-boo and track your baby’s growth as he changes, day-by-day.
Be flexible: Even with a set routine and plan for monitoring growth, you can’t control everything. Sometimes babies just need some extra cuddle time, a longer nap or a few extra rounds to sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” You’ll maintain your own sanity and keep your baby happier if you listen to his cues and take them into account.
Incorporate others: Motherhood can be isolating. Set up play groups, invite other moms and their children over for lunch or just go to the park and strike up a conversation with someone new. We mamas share struggles, and while we might not have one-size-fits-all solutions, finding camaraderie in the journey can be encouragement enough. Socializing your child and introducing him to new kids and parents will help develop his relational skills, as well.