Making It Work to Stay Home from Work

Making It Work to Stay Home from Work

“I love my time with Josh (3) and Sam (9 months), but I miss talking with the people at work and using my mind in a different way. I don’t really want to get a job, I just want some kind of change at home.”

You’re bringing up a widespread and complex issue, and here’s a brief summary of suggestions:
Cultivate community, especially with other father and mothers. That will reduce monotony, give you emotional support and a helping hand, and satisfy the tug in your heart for the company of other parents.

Leave your work-mind behind. You just can’t do parenthood like a day at work. The same pace will frazzle your nerves. Use your work skills. On the other hand, there’s no sense in forgetting the work skills you’ve got that could be useful at home, like helping organize events for a parents’ club or preschool.

Take it easy and enjoy this time. Some people feel guilty about savoring the wonderful moments at home. But you’re entitled to! Each day, you handle situations that are harder than most work problems, so when you get an opportunity to relax, grab it and linger. You don’t have to keep the house spotless in order to justify your (supposed) “vacation” as a homemaker: it’s not a vacation, as anyone well knows who has taken care of young kids all day. You’ve earned this time with your children, and it won’t last forever. Plus you absolutely need to rest whenever you actually get the chance, in order to settle down the stress chemistry in your body and nurture your health and well-being.

Feed your mind. Many parents pursue a natural subject: child development, health, and family relationships. You could return to an interest you had before children, such as playing a musical instrument, writing letters to help free political prisoners, etc. Or take up a new interest. You could also stay current in your field, so that reentry to work goes well.

Manage the boredom. Taking care of children is often amazingly BORING. Paradoxically, what works is to pay closer attention, noticing details you’d normally overlook. This makes an activity more interesting and draws you into a peaceful awareness. Also, look for the nice parts in your activities, or nudge them in a more enjoyable direction.

Find respites. Every day, you need relief from interacting with your child, such as your partner giving her a bath while you watch TV, another parents coming over with a child who plays with your own, or formal childcare. Study what drags the needle on your internal stress meter into the Red Zone, like four hours in a row alone with an oppositional three-year-old, and do everything in your power to change those things so you never “redline” with stress.

Nurture your sense of worth. Staying home means finding new sources of self-esteem. The first place to look, of course, is your role as a parent: it’s the plain truth that you are making a great contribution to your children, and the honor legitimately due you for that is magnified by any sacrifices you’ve made to be a parent. Next, you could get involved in your children’s activities or other kinds of community service, giving you a greater sense of making a difference in the world.

Finally, try to use important abilities within yourself. For example, if you enjoyed using your analytical intelligence at work – perhaps you were a CPA or computer programmer – you could read fascinating but challenging books such as A Brief History of Time. If you worked in TV, try volunteering with community access television. If you liked public speaking, consider joining Toastmasters.

Check in with yourself – Keep paying attention to how it’s really going for you. If you try some of the suggestions above and you still feel something important is missing, it could be a sign that you need to shift gears, perhaps by returning to or increasing your work.

This is an article adapted from the book Mother Nurture by Rick Hanson, Ph.D., Jan Hanson, M.S. and Ricki Pollycove, M.D.

Dr. Ramani Durvasula is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, and expert on the impact of toxic narcissism. She is a Professor of Psychology at California State University, Los Angeles, and also a Visiting Professor at the University of Johannesburg.

The focus of Dr. Ramani’s clinical, academic, and consultative work is the etiology and impact of narcissism and high-conflict, entitled, antagonistic personality styles on human relationships, mental health, and societal expectations. She has spoken on these issues to clinicians, educators, and researchers around the world.

She is the author of Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving a Relationship With a Narcissist, and Don't You Know Who I Am? How to Stay Sane in an Era of Narcissism, Entitlement, and Incivility. Her work has been featured at SxSW, TEDx, and on a wide range of media platforms including Red Table Talk, the Today Show, Oxygen, Investigation Discovery, and Bravo, and she is a featured expert on the digital media mental health platform MedCircle. Dr. Durvasula’s research on personality disorders has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and she is a Consulting Editor of the scientific journal Behavioral Medicine.

Dr. Stephen Porges is a Distinguished University Scientist at Indiana University, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, and Professor Emeritus at both the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Maryland. He is a former president of the Society for Psychophysiological Research and has been president of the Federation of Behavioral, Psychological, and Cognitive Sciences, which represents approximately twenty-thousand biobehavioral scientists. He’s led a number of other organizations and received a wide variety of professional awards.

In 1994 he proposed the Polyvagal Theory, a theory that links the evolution of the mammalian autonomic nervous system to social behavior and emphasizes the importance of physiological states in the expression of behavioral problems and psychiatric disorders. The theory is leading to innovative treatments based on insights into the mechanisms mediating symptoms observed in several behavioral, psychiatric, and physical disorders, and has had a major impact on the field of psychology.

Dr. Porges has published more than 300 peer-reviewed papers across a wide array of disciplines. He’s also the author of several books including The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-regulation.

Dr. Bruce Perry is the Principal of the Neurosequential Network, Senior Fellow of The ChildTrauma Academy, and a Professor (Adjunct) in the Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago and the School of Allied Health at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. From 1993 to 2001 he was the Thomas S. Trammell Research Professor of Psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine and chief of psychiatry at Texas Children's Hospital.

He’s one of the world’s leading experts on the impact of trauma in childhood, and his work on the impact of abuse, neglect, and trauma on the developing brain has impacted clinical practice, programs, and policy across the world. His work has been instrumental in describing how traumatic events in childhood change the biology of the brain.

Dr. Perry's most recent book, What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing, co-authored with Oprah Winfrey, was released earlier this year. Dr. Perry is also the author, with Maia Szalavitz, of The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog, a bestselling book based on his work with maltreated children, and Born For Love: Why Empathy is Essential and Endangered. Additionally, he’s authored more than 300 journal articles and book chapters and has been the recipient of a variety of professional awards.

Dr. Allison Briscoe-Smith is a child clinical psychologist who specializes in trauma and issues of race. She earned her undergraduate degree from Harvard and then received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. She performed postdoctoral work at the University of California San Francisco/San Francisco General Hospital. She has combined her love of teaching and advocacy by serving as a professor and by directing mental health programs for children experiencing trauma, homelessness, or foster care.

Dr. Briscoe-Smith is also a senior fellow of Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and is both a professor and the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the Wright Institute. She provides consultation and training to nonprofits and schools on how to support trauma-informed practices and cultural accountability.

Sharon Salzberg is a world-renowned teacher and New York Times bestselling author. She is widely considered one of the most influential individuals in bringing mindfulness practices to the West, and co-founded the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts alongside Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein. Sharon has been a student of Dipa Ma, Anagarika Munindra, and Sayadaw U Pandita alongside other masters.

Sharon has authored 10 books, and is the host of the fantastic Metta Hour podcast. She was a contributing editor of Oprah’s O Magazine, had her work featured in Time and on NPR, and contributed to panels alongside the Dalai Lama.

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