Bored or stimulated?

Remember when Mem Fox made headlines when she likened putting babies into childcare as child abuse? Well you can imagine the public outcry at the unfairness and inflammatory nature of her comment. Is she right? Well that’s for others to decide.

Now my youngest is no longer a baby. He’s about to turn 2 in a month. And I’m a WAHM. I use that term loosely because I engage in contract work, so there are times when I’m just a SAHM.

But the for last few weeks I have been undertaking some contract work that not only took longer in terms of weeks to complete, but also the daily hours that it required. For the first time in a long time I was working full time hours.

Yes it was all here at home, I didn’t need to travel anywhere and my toddler remained in my full time care. Now I use the word care loosely too.

Because while he may be have been here, I may as well have been somewhere else for the amount of time I spent with him. Mostly, he was left to his own devices. And often, when his siblings were home, they would be the ones to look after him, allowing me to get on with my work.

When I say look after him, for example in the morning because they all get up before I do, they would put some dry Cornflakes in a bowl for him or give him a biscuit if he felt hungry, or get him some water.

I just couldn’t get a handle on my hours and running the household and looking after the kids. Mr M stepped up where he could but he too works full time hours. And to be honest, I was totally unprepared for the onslaught full time work would bring.

So what kind of effect has this had on my kids? Well the older 3 are fine. They’ve always been pretty good at getting themselves ready in the morning or getting their own afternoon tea. And they understood that this was a short term contract and everything would return to ‘normal’ soon.

But for my toddler, well I really dropped the ball with him. It’s not his siblings place to replace me as primary giver and he felt largely ignored. How do I know? Because now when he’s feeling frustrated he just screams. Loud! Now I know all toddlers have their tantrums and maybe this is just coincidence, but deep down I don’t think it is a coincidence. I really believe that this is a direct reaction to feeling left out, ignored and possibly bored.

So now I need to spend time to develop new habits with him. I know I can do it.

But I realised, that if I were to work full time hours, even if it is from home, my toddler would be better off in childcare. He would be better off in a place where there was someone there dedicated to looking after him, playing with him, feeding him.

I mean I fed him obviously, but I didn’t stimulate him at all these last few weeks. The ipad became my babysitter. And yes while he worked out how to play Angry Birds, which you could argue has some mathematical and scientific merit, it’s not really the best form of stimulation; not for an extended period of time.

My toddler also learned to climb onto the kitchen counter and even started ripping pages out of books; all because I wasn’t watching him closely enough. While he was in the next room, I was on my computer.

Now I’m not going to say that this experience is true for everyone; but I know for my toddler these last few weeks I did him a disservice. I don’t know if any of my other kids would have reacted in the same way at the same age. I don’t know if my toddler would have reacted differently if he was say closer to 3 years of age and not 2.

But I do know that for him right now is a crucial time for someone to be here just for him. It could be me, it could be a carer. Which ever it is, his needs have to come first.

And there are no hard and fast rules, one size does not fit all.

Related post: Childcare; Heartbreaking


  • At 2011.10.13 12:32, Michelle said:

    Mem Fox wrote some lovely books, but seems to have lost her mind in recent years (and months) and should probably retire gracefully while she still can.

    I’m with you, childcare is an absolute blast compared to being ignored and no parent should feel guilty for choosing something in the best interests of their child.

    • At 2011.10.13 12:45, Maria said:

      Hi Michelle,

      Thanks so much for the comment. The guilt factor is huge isn’t it? I don’t know what Catholic guilt feels like but I’m sure Mother guilt gives it a run for its money.

      Love & stuff
      Mrs M

    • At 2011.10.13 12:34, MadamBipolar said:

      Don’t be too hard on yourself. I am sure you are doing a great job. I also think Mem Fox was very misguided with her comments – how many six week old babies are in care?
      My daughter at 5 is in childcare four days a week. As you know, Maria, I have been very ill, so we have had this arrangement since last year, to help with my part-time job (which I no longer have) but also with my illness. We have kept the childcare now that I no longer work because my illness makes it difficult for me to care for Molly all the time. She needs the three days of pre school but the Thursday daycare is an indulgence for me (mental health time) because caring for her can ware us both down. I have her at home on Fridays. I also do contract writing from time to time as well but primarily I am a SAHM, who would love to have her old career back.
      Thanks for raising this.

      • At 2011.10.13 13:08, Maria said:

        Sawhole you are so lovely. I think you raise another point regarding time for ourselves.

        Take care of yourself Sawhole. I hope you come back bigger and better than before because you ROCK!!

        Love & stuff
        Mrs M

      • At 2011.10.13 12:47, Kleonaptra said:

        I think you are thinking too much. My little one is 6 months now, Im back at work, partner works full time hours. We play with her but she also spends plenty of time playing on her own in her play pen. I loved playing on my own – it developed the great imagination I have now. When her grandma babysits she gets full on attention for 4 hours and I think it wears her out.

        If I had as many as you my dear, they’d hear a lot of ‘mummys resting now! SHUSH!”

        • At 2011.10.13 13:12, Maria said:

          Kleo darling,

          I’ve got your blog opened up as one of my tabs and I realise I have alot to catch up on. I saw the photo of your little one with the cat. So cute.

          I think Lucas is just at a particular age when he’ll explore because he can; he’s currently fascinated by my collection of handbags.

          And my strategy is if my mug still has tea in it, Mummy is off limits 😉

          Love & stuff
          Mrs M

        • At 2011.10.13 13:02, Nicole said:

          Three words: Good. For. You. x

          • At 2011.10.13 13:13, Maria said:

            Three words: Thank. You. Muchly. x


            Love & stuff
            Mrs M

          • At 2011.10.13 13:06, Kirrily said:

            It is such a hard one. And comments such as Mem Fox’s have contributed nothing constructive in terms of alleviating the angst so many mothers already feel about this topic!
            I took up a position (working from home) to complement the home business I already run and while it was only 20 hrs a week, I found it ate too much into the time with my child I knew was precious (the year she was 2 turning 3). I gave away the position after 4 months because for me, personally, it didn’t feel right that I was putting her in care for up to 19 hrs a week. Mind you, in the following 2 yrs I’ve gnashed my teeth (particularly this year) over the fact that we are only apart for 11hrs a week while she’s at 4yo kinder…. the impact on my mental health that it has had has given me a great lesson that I needed to experience. I will never pass judgement on another’s home/work life balance, where once I used to (before child, before challenges of growing that exploring mind while also protecting my own sense of self and wellbeing).

            I think Mem Fox was well out of place putting that into the public arena.

            • At 2011.10.13 13:18, Maria said:

              I think we’re all guilty of passing judgement before we’ve really had a chance to experience what it’s really like.

              And I also think that many WAHM do it with the best intention and you really can’t know how it will affect your family until you try it. We have to be able to try and fail without someone breathing down our necks saying “I told you so”.

              Thanks so much for the visit Kirrily.

              Love & stuff
              Mrs M

            • At 2011.10.13 14:27, Trish said:

              It is great advice Maria and topic , many times I have feel guilty not so neglecting my boys (who had each to play with) but for not stimulating them myself when I had business (Dh & mine) or blogging stuff to do. They also got into loads of mischief when my back was turned. They did attend daycare 1 day a week and sometimes 2. I loved those days.

              I think day care is a much better option than a child left to his /her own devices at any age if mum cannot for various reasons care for them herself. I do not ever pass judgement on mums who have their children in full time care or 3-4 days even if they are working from home or SAHM. I think as long as we ensure the centre is caring , engages with children & their parents and has good facilities it is the next best option to home.
              Go easy on yourself too , ipads are very educational and entertaining – the imum has some great recommendations for specific age related apps too for 2-3 yrs – just saying it is an option for those days when you need 5 mins for MUM !

              • At 2011.10.13 14:50, Maria said:

                Thanks Trish. Such a great comment. I will have to check out iMum and get some new apps. He actually likes using the iPod app and listens to his brother’s music. So I rationalise that the music is helping wire his brain 😉

                I watched Heather Armstrong’s vlog (www.dooce.com) on how to work at home but her circumstances are a little different to mine.

                My mother worked from home and I was left to amuse myself and I remember just listening to ABBA records or going outside by myself. I also do remember feeling incredibly bored and lonely. Though the upside is that from as early as I can remember I used my imagination; I had to do alot of pretend play. And I had no-where near the same amount of gadgets my kids have. But that’s a whole other post.

                Love & stuff
                Mrs M

              • At 2011.10.13 16:33, MummyK said:

                I put MiniMe in childcare once a week because she enjoys it. If I have too much to do for work sometimes, I put her in there more. It’s just practical for me and frankly, I don’t listen to anyone else about it. It works and that’s it 🙂

                • At 2011.10.13 17:25, Maria said:

                  “It works and that’s it” and that’s exactly the attitude we all need to take. You MummyK are a genius.

                  Thank you muchly for your comment.

                  Love & stuff
                  Mrs M

                • At 2011.10.13 21:46, Danimezza said:

                  I’m in EXACTLY the same position at the moment, Aidans just over two and has started “school” once a week. Now he loves school more than home and I’m considering two days a week. I get so much more accomplished and he has a BLAST, he wont shut up about it. It took me forever to make the decision, guilt and all, but I wish I’d done it sooner.

                  • At 2011.10.13 22:18, Maria said:

                    It’s good when they’re happy to go. It makes it so much easier for everyone.

                    And I never felt bad when my kids preferred to go to preschool than be at home. Whatever makes them happy. I’m good with that.

                    Thanks for the visit.

                    Love & stuff
                    Mrs M

                  • At 2011.10.16 00:24, Denyse Whelan said:

                    That post certainly got everyone thinking. I know it’s hard from personal experinced with a toddler & a pre schooler. We have had them coming to us ( grandparents) up to 3 days a week. I always try to have nothing that’s too distracting for me ( eg MacBook!) open & ready to tweet…. Because as soon as I do, I’ll hear “my turn” ” I wanna see Spiderman”
                    Each of us makes the choices of care out of home or staying home with us where possible, and none are perfect. *sigh* this parenting (read mothering) gig is the gilted guilt trip.
                    BTW. I can highly recommend iPad Apps from my 540 ( yes, 540 appaholic) . Want another guest post from me for you & your readers. The book apps by Sandra Boynton are the secret to my success getting 2 ppl ( see above) into bed for sleeps after lunch. Then I can go on-line !!! Love Denyse x

                    • At 2011.10.16 11:51, Maria said:

                      I’d love another post from you Denyse. And I am more than happy for some app recommendations. And Denyse I think you’ve hit the nail on the head when you said ‘none are perfect’. I think we’ve conned ourselves into this bubble mentality that if we control all factors, internal and external, we can produce the most well adjusted, positively academically exposed, trauma deficient child in the world. And that’s just not possible. Considering Maslow says we never reach our potential anyway. I can feel another post coming. Nobody steal my idea; it make take a few days for me to get to this 😉

                      Love & stuff
                      Mrs M

                      • At 2011.10.16 22:47, Denyse Whelan said:

                        I would never steal that idea…but I will do a guest post on Apps – the educational ones.. No problem. XX

                    • At 2011.10.16 22:41, Life In A Pink Fibro said:

                      It’s so difficult isn’t it? I worked around both my boys until they turned three and then despatched them to preschool a few days a week. I know in my heart of hearts that there were periods during that time when they would have been much better off with someone who wasn’t a shrieking banshee and would actually play with them, rather than having her nose buried in a computer and a deadline. But you do what you do, right. I wish more people, including Mem Fox, understood that.

                      • At 2011.10.16 23:11, Maria said:

                        Hi Allison,

                        It definitely is difficult. Add the pressure when ‘they’ say that the first 5 years of a child’s life is vital for their brain connections to ensure academic success later on in their school career and you may as well pass the wine now because I give up.

                        Thanks for the comment and visit.

                        Love & stuff
                        Mrs M

                      • At 2011.12.02 17:52, Miss Pink said:

                        I will have to say that I am firmly on the fence for this one.
                        I DO believe that childcare is a very useful resource, and in the case you are explaining, a household where the adults are working, that is EXACTLY what it is for.
                        However, on the flip side, being a “teen mum” and having worked in childcare prior to becoming a mother (and for a time when I was a mother) I have seen the abuse of this resource. Mothers who throw their kids in at the crack of dawn and are the last to be picked up 5 days a week even though they do not work simply because they don’t want to deal with them or because they are “socialising” their child.
                        Children don’t NEED daycare to socialise. Children won’t grow up deformed without it.

                        • At 2011.12.08 00:31, Maria said:

                          I love your comment Miss Pink. I think you’ve raised an excellent point about ‘socialising’. Especially when we spoke in person and you so rightly pointed out that kids under 2 don’t need ‘socialising’ to that extreme. You said playgroups provide the right amount of socialising required. I would love to hear more about your experiences as a child care worker.

                          Love & stuff
                          Mrs M

                        • At 2011.12.11 16:38, Nicole aka _wideeyedgirl said:

                          Despite my recent Mamamia article where it is evident I sent my first when he was 9mths, depending on the child I think 2-3 days is so beneficial from 18mths and above. The stuff they do and learn I know would just not happen in our house. Maybe I’m a crap Mum but we don’t do painting at home, although drawing is big and play-doh only makes very rare appearances. But they do get lots of TV – not good, Nx

                          • At 2011.12.13 01:09, Maria said:

                            I’m a bit the same with the painting. I also found that the childcare had toys that I didn’t have and they seemed to thrive on that too. Or the other thing is they ate food at childcare that they would never eat at home. Pumpkin soup anyone?

                            Love & stuff
                            Mrs M

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