It’s been about a year since I left the safety of my office job in England to move to Malaysia with my wife and children to be a stay at home Dad, for the first time.
I’ll say one thing…
Being a stay at home parent is HARD.
I’ll say two more things…
It can be STRESSFUL
It can be LONELY
But it’s also brilliant and rewarding and much more fun than sitting behind a desk all day. Despite all the difficulties, you quickly realise that this time of your life is not going to last forever, soon the children will be up and gone, you must enjoy it while it’s here.
But how do you enjoy it when it’s so hard?
Well here are a few tips I’ve learnt in the last 12 months of being a stay at home Dad in a completely new country.
Combine Learning and Play
You don’t need a table full of workbooks and an abacus for your child to learn. Absolutely anything can be an activity.
Next time you give your child an apple, find a trail of ants throw a tiny bit on the ground and watch what happens. Then look for a bird in tree, throw a larger bit, watch how the bird looks around to make sure the coast is clear before flying down to take it.
Then take out an apple seed, plant it in the ground. Don’t expect anything to happen quickly but all of these are valuable and fun lessons for your child.
Safety in Numbers
Get out and meet people. Make friends.
If kids have other kids to play with, they are much more likely to be entertained for longer. They’ll develop social skills and learn new things. Also, share childcare, let the children play together at your friend’s house for a couple of hours, then swap.
Take Help when Offered
On the sharing childcare point, if someone offers to take your kids off your hands for any of amount of time, accept it!
If someone is taking their child to a playgroup and offers to take yours, let them go, if you have a baby and someone says, ‘Do you want me to hold them for 5 minutes’ hand that crying machine over!
They wouldn’t ask if the offer wasn’t genuine. (even if they were just saying it to be polite, call their bluff, accept the help and have a break, it doesn’t happen often)
When You Get Free Time, Do Something
Whether that’s free time in the evening or when you’re doing your ‘child swap’, don’t just sit and do nothing, get out and exercise, it is the best way to relieve the inevitable stress that will have built up during the day.
You might not feel like doing it but once you’re out and moving around, you’ll feel so much better…. ready to do it all again tomorrow!
Leave the House
I get it, Malaysia is hot. But coming from a country where it is cold and raining most of the time, being able to leave the house 365 days of the year, if only for a couple of hours, is something very easily taken for granted.
Plan your day around the heat. Get up and out of the house early, try to leave by 8.00 am and have your indoor play time in the house at the hottest part of the day.
Never Wish Your Time Away
It’s a cliché but still so many people do this!! Time is the most important thing to anyone. None of us are here forever and the time you get to spend with your child is an even smaller fraction of that!
Staying at home looking after your child is hard, it’s really hard, (try doing it in a brand-new country where you don’t know anyone!)
But nothing lasts forever, if you spend your life ‘killing time’, what is the point in anything? One day when they are all grown up, you’ll give anything to have this time back again.
There are no tips that anyone can really give you to overcome the stress in the moments immediately after your child has just thrown their lunch all over the floor and is kicking and screaming because that was ‘your fault’ in some way.
Whether you’re into gentle or non-gentle parenting, or a combination of the two, its ok to feel like you just can’t handle it at times. But you CAN handle it. That moment will pass…. just make sure you haven’t wished it away!
Dave gave up a well-paid secure career in the UK in 2018 and moved to Malaysia to be a stay at home Dad in Malaysia. He has a four-year-old daughter and two-year-old son and documents his new lifestyle at www.thestayabroaddad.com