Last Updated September 13th, 2018

How Much Independence Do You Give Your Kids During The School Year?

How Much Independence Do You Give Your Kids During The School Year?

Now that school’s in session, I get a little more time to work at home without kids underfoot. My kids are now at ages where I don’t have to supervise them all of the time. They’re better off doing a lot of things independently after school. The challenge, at times, can be deciding how much independence to give the kids during the school year.

Kids need to learn to do things independently of their parents. It’s hard to let go sometimes, but so necessary for your child’s development. When, how, all that depends on your child and your family’s situation – I’m not going to tell you when your kids are old enough to walk home from school or whatever else. You know your kids and your situation, so you get to decide. But there are plenty of other places to encourage your child to be more independent, even when you’re home.

Finding time for your kids to be more independent during the school year can be difficult. There are so many things that must get done. You may feel as though there isn’t enough time in the day. Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do.

Walking To School

As soon as it’s appropriate, I recommend having your kids walk to and from school on their own. When this is appropriate depends on a lot of factors, but it’s great for kids to walk to and from school on their own. Consider these issues when deciding whether to allow your kids to walk or ride bikes to school.

  • child’s age
  • distance
  • traffic
  • other kids walking to school in the area
  • neighborhood safety

It’s not always easy to decide when to let your children walk to school, but it’s a great milestone for them. You can walk them to school for a time while getting them used to the route, but once you think they’re ready, let them walk on their own. Consider participating in Walk To School Day at the very least.

walk to school

You may find that you disagree with other parents on when this is safe. I had a neighbor who couldn’t bear the thought of letting her daughter walk to school on her own, or even with my kids. The daughter was of an age that I thought was easily appropriate, especially with friends, but her mother wasn’t ready.

These things happen when you’re trying to let your kids be more independent. Other parents will disagree with you at times.

Don’t let that stop you.  Children do better when they can express their independence, and sometimes it’s hard to give independence to your kids during the school year. This is one of the best ways once it fits the situation you live in.

Homework

I encourage independence in homework. My kids get a short break after school, but they’re expected to start their homework after that without being reminded and with minimal assistance. They can ask questions, but overall it’s their responsibility.

I often check math, for example, but I do my best to help my kids find the answer themselves. They’ll learn more if they solve the problems themselves, after all. Most times the kids understand the mistake as soon as it is pointed out. As they get older, I check less and less, although I’m always available for questions.

Those big assignments that some parents get a little overenthusiastic about – you can tell my kids handle those with only advice from me, not the actual work. My youngest had to do a family tree already this school year, which was intended as something to be talked about as a family, but the family tree she made for her presentation was all her work with only some advice on layout.

Sometimes kids will be disappointed when they see the grand projects others turn in. You can usually tell when a parent did more work than the kids. I always make sure my kids understand that they can be proud of what they managed on their own. Handling these projects independently will benefit your kids far more than having you do most of the work.

Working from home may in part be about being there for your kids,  but it shouldn’t be about doing everything for your kids. Allowing them to take as much of the lesson from homework as possible is a big help. Don’t be afraid to help when it’s really needed, but also don’t get dragged into doing the assignment for them.

The ability to do their homework independently will be a huge help as they get older. You don’t want your kids expecting you to do too much of their homework as they go through high school or college. The sooner they’re comfortable handling their homework on their own, the more confident they will be about it. Just make sure they know you’re there when they really need help.

Do Kids Really Need To Do Their Homework?

The need for homework at all can be something of a controversy. While many parents demand homework for their children if teachers don’t already assign it, research shows that it may not be beneficial for early elementary students.

Worse, it might even be detrimental.

Consider the research and your individual child’s needs, and talk to their teacher if you disagree with their homework policy. You might change their minds or at least come up with a deal for your child.

Chores

Teaching kids to do chores well is a real pain. My kids can clean the kitchen fairly well and it is such a relief to be able to tell them that it’s time to clean up in there rather than always doing it myself.washing dishes

Teaching them to do it, as I said, wasn’t fun. Much harder than doing it myself. Many times I’d have to do the job over later. But if they don’t try, they don’t learn.

 

But now that they do that and other cleaning without direct supervision on my part, life is so much easier. They don’t like doing chores, but they know it’s a skill they need, so there is a certain degree of pride in their own abilities there too.

My kids first experienced cleaning the floor, for example, with an electric carpet sweeper. It worked great on hard floors too. Carpet sweepers are much easier than vacuums for small children, but they allow kids to quickly clean up those inevitable spills they make all by themselves. This gives them a touch of responsibility plus the pride of doing it themselves.

Playtime

Playtime should be one of the great times for you to give your kids independence during the school year. Children need play. It’s good for them. When they’re younger, it’s better for them than homework.

Kids love it when you play with them. They need the attention. But you should also encourage them to play on their own or with friends. They don’t need your help to have fun every minute.

Independent play at any age encourages your kids’ creativity. They can come up with ideas for things to do on their own.

creative

Make sure they have lots of supplies for fun projects. I don’t mean just toys. Encourage them to make things as well. Here are some of the things I keep on hand for my kids:

Get better quality and more challenging items as the kids get older. I even have a soldering kit for my older kids.

As your kids get older, you can encourage independence by having them arrange their own time to play with friends. You don’t have to arrange play dates all the time with the parents – encourage the kids to come up with their own plans and then confirm that it’s okay. You probably made plans with your friends when you were a kid – let your children do likewise.

Alone Time

My oldest is getting into time for herself in a big way lately, which is driving my youngest a bit up the wall, as she’d rather be with her big sister. While it’s something of an annoyance for her siblings, it’s very healthy for my oldest. She’s doing things on her own, in her own way, whether she decides to close herself up in her room or go up a tree outside. Who doesn’t sometimes need time to be alone with their thoughts?

This kind of independence can take some rules. It’s not a great idea to allow computers or other devices that can access the internet into the kids’ bedrooms, for example. You can figure out rules for your family while considering both online safety and giving your kids some independence.

The Benefit to Parents

Parents benefit tremendously from having children who are capable of doing many things independently. It means you don’t have to be the entertainment or the boss all of the time. For me and my family, that makes the times we choose to do things together all the more fun. We aren’t usually being pushed to do things together, as that’s not the only way we function.

It’s much easier for me to work at home this way. I can work while the kids play, do homework, chores or watch television. I’m usually around them still so that questions can be answered, but if they don’t need help and are generally behaving, they don’t want my interference, as a general rule.

Letting go is hard, I’ll grant that. It was hard when my oldest started to wander a larger range outside. Letting them go to where I couldn’t just yell for them and expect an answer wasn’t easy. Cell phones as the kids got older helped, as I can send a text when I need them home, but some of the places they like to play don’t have much reception, so it doesn’t always help.

You also need to consider how much your children will need to be independent later in life. The sooner you encourage them to be independent, the better they’ll be at it. They probably aren’t going to live with you forever, and you need to know that they can handle things without you. Helping them build up good habits now will benefit them later. Don’t let school get in the way more than necessary.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated December 29th, 2011

Don’t Insult Working Moms

I came across an article the other day in support of working moms. It came about due to a forum thread that said the lack of stay at home moms is what’s wrong with the U.S. No explanation of what exactly is wrong, though. There were plenty of things that bothered me about the whole deal.

1. Why the focus on moms?

This is one of the things that drives me up the wall. Why blame only moms for putting their kids in daycare and going to work? Why not the dads? I have two very competent stay at home dads in my family. Don’t tell me it can’t be done.

Sure, it’s more common and more traditional for moms to be more involved in child care. Unless you’re talking about pregnancy or breastfeeding, it doesn’t really have to be that way. Dads can do plenty, and they usually enjoy it.

2. Daycare is a perfectly acceptable option.

I may be an at home mom myself, but I have absolutely no problem with putting kids in daycare if that’s what the family needs.

My mother raised four of us on her own, so I speak from personal experience when I say daycare doesn’t have to be all that bad. It is not having someone else raise your child. They’re helping, yes, but so are the schools. Believe me, my parents still had plenty of influence on my choices throughout life, even my dad who I didn’t always see that much of as he didn’t always live nearby or even in the same state.

That said, I know daycare gets expensive fast. You do have to look at whether having both parents work makes sense in the face of daycare costs. Sometimes having a parent stay at home makes more financial sense. Still, that doesn’t mean working moms are in the wrong.

3. Not all stay at home moms are good at it.

It’s like anything else. Some stay at home moms are wonderful, attentive, caring, hard working mothers. Others aren’t. There are plenty of times when it’s better for the kids for both parents to work and have them go to daycare.

I don’t think you’re bad at being a stay at home mom if you aren’t up to June Cleaver’s level or anything. If staying at home is more of a miserable thing for you because you’d rather have a career, get out and get one. You won’t be called a bad parent by me for it.

4. Staying at home can be stressful.

Many people view being a stay at home mom as this wonderful, unstressed lifestyle. Somehow even the financial troubles just aren’t that big a problem for them. They make it work and life is good.

That’s not true for everyone. If you go to one income and can’t pay all the bills for little things you need such as rent, food and electricity, that’s stressful. Dealing with children can be stressful. Really and truly, the life of a stay at home mom isn’t all television and bonbons.

Is it less stressful for some than for others? Absolutely! That doesn’t mean it’s stress free for every stay at home parent. Financial challenges and other problems cause plenty of stress for others.

5. No acknowledgement of the real financial struggles many families face.

The people saying moms should just cope with the cutting back financially and stay at home have no concept of how much many families struggle. It’s not always a choice between a bigger house or a smaller house, or a newer or older car. It’s getting by, period.

Yes, some families are fortunate enough to have circumstances where they can get by on a minimal income and have one parent home. That’s the exception. We can’t all find extremely low rent, have family provide a home, inherit one, or otherwise get off cheap on housing costs. Some places are more expensive to live, and if that’s where your work is, it’s really not so simple as packing up to move someplace cheaper.

Then there’s food costs. Frankly, if the only way you can have one parent stay at home is to go on food stamps or other assistance, you need to look at increasing your income. That can be by working at home, I don’t mind that (obviously). I just don’t think you should use assistance to support a lifestyle choice, no matter how much you love your kids more than money. Use public assistance to keep going when you must, no problem there, but not as a lifestyle when you have other ways to get by.

6. An old car isn’t always a good solution.

Some people in the forum posts mentioned having an old car as one way to cut down on costs. That’s great when it works, no car payments, but sometimes the repairs run more than a car payment would. What do you do then? Unless you live in an area with good public transportation or close enough to work to walk or bike, a car can be a necessity.

Older cars are going to hit that point where you have to repair them more often eventually, and although they can be quite cheap to own for a time, repair costs can be more than payments on a newer car. What are families supposed to do then? A single income family can’t always save up a few thousand for a newer used car.

7. Stop with the “Only have as many children as you can afford” thing.

This one always annoys me. Certainly, there comes a point where people know they’re having more children than they can afford, but that’s not always what happened at the time the child was conceived or was born. Circumstances change. Jobs are lost, businesses close, incomes decrease. You can’t ever be certain that you can “afford” your children the entire 18 years you’ll be raising them, never mind whether or not you’ll be able to help with college.

Yes, I do agree that parents should think if their current circumstances will allow them to afford a child. It’s not my place to tell them what their final decision should be, however. If my husband and I had waited until we knew on paper that we could afford children, we wouldn’t have started when we did. We made it work anyhow, and while it’s been a struggle, we haven’t had to go on any sort of public assistance, and are finally making progress on the credit card debts.

8. Working moms spend plenty of time with their kids.

It has been shown that working moms spend more time with their kids now than stay at home moms did back in 1965. Dads are more involved too. Sure, stay at home moms spend still more time, but it’s not likely that the average kid is lacking for time with his or her parents due to being sent to daycare.

9. Women benefit from working.

I love the work I do at home. I don’t believe I would cope at all well as a stay at home mom if I didn’t have my business. It gives me something to think about beyond my home and children. That’s a good thing.

There’s also the money moms lose from not working. I don’t just mean in the moment. I mean saving for retirement as well as building a solid base for her career, missing out on promotions and so forth. It’s a long term income loss that can be hard on parents long after their children are grown.

That’s a big part of why I’m such a fan of working from home. Maybe you don’t need to earn the equivalent of a full time job, but at least you can keep some money coming in and some job skills current. Life’s uncertain, and that’s one way I cope.

I have a lawyer friend who tells me that most stay at home moms he knows don’t really understand what they’re losing out on by not working. He’s dealt with them on Social Security issues, and it basically comes down to if you don’t contribute, you don’t get anything. Sometimes that’s a huge problem.

10. The United States isn’t easy on families.

If you take a look at work policies around the Western world, the U.S. doesn’t look remotely family friendly. There’s a lack of parental leave available, childcare standards aren’t as good as other countries, education isn’t as good, the list goes on.  I’d call that a bigger problem than whether or not mothers stay home with their kids.

11. It’s possible that working parents are better for kids.

Now, all kinds of conclusions can be drawn from studies, nonetheless it is possible that working mothers really aren’t bad for their kids.

12. Women have often worked outside the home throughout history.

Women working outside the home is nothing new, and they didn’t just do so before marriage or motherhood.

13. I absolutely support at home parents.

Despite everything on this rant, I absolutely support at home parents, whether it’s the mother or the father. I wouldn’t run this site if I didn’t. It just makes me mad when people glance at working moms and declare them to be awful parents. They aren’t.

There’s nothing wrong with raising kids in the tight financial situation that often results from being a single income family. I suspect there’s some good in it, as kids then learn that they don’t get everything they want all the time.

14. Parents supporting their kids is the most important thing.

What matters most in the long run is that parents support their kids. I don’t just mean financially. I mean educationally, emotionally and so forth. You’re a parent and you’re probably doing the best you can for your kids. That doesn’t mean you can’t do your best for yourself too. If your kids are loved and know it, there’s a good chance they’ll be fine whether you’re at home or working.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated March 14th, 2011

5 Tips to Make the Most of Being a Stay at Home Mom

It’s kind of odd being a stay at home mom much of the time. People have such varying expectations of you. Some figure you for lazy. Others know how much work you do. Too often immediate family takes you for granted.

There’s a lot to get done every day, and never enough time. You could drive yourself crazy with stress, but you’d be better off figuring out how to make the most of being a stay at home mom. With the right perspective and some good family support it’s a lot of fun. The parts where the kids are silly and you get to see them reach so many milestones are always fun, but some days you’ll wish the stress and noise would give you a break.

1. Take a break for you.

That’s right. When you need a break, find a way to take one. It won’t always be easy, but you need to take time for you.

The problem many stay at home moms have is that they’re on call 24/7 and they don’t ask enough help from their husbands. It’s that feeling that he works all day, discounting what you do all day yourself as just part of the deal. The simple truth is that you’re working hard too; it’s just a different kind of work, a different kind of hard. Much of what you do may seem like play to others, but if someone else did that for your kids, you’d probably have to pay them.

That’s why you need and deserve breaks. Children are demanding little rascals. You need a break so that you can deal with the demands in a better frame of mind, more relaxed, and with plenty of time to pursue your own interests.

There’s no good reason to drop all your interests just because you’re raising children, and many good reasons to keep them up. Reading to amuse yourself is a good example for the children, as is showing them that you have interests outside of their care. Nothing selfish about that. Instead you’re teaching your kids about things you like to do and that they can amuse themselves when you need time for yourself. You may still have to keep a bit of an eye on them while you pursue your interests, but the independence they learn in playing on their own, or with siblings and friends is a great skill.

2. Take time for your marriage.

Your kids need you quite a bit, but so does your husband. You need him too, and you both need time together. Make time for it.

Dates don’t have to be fancy, or even away from home. Put the kids to bed, shut off the TV or put a great movie you’ve been wanting to watch together, just make time for the two of you. A special dinner, some massage, even just talking, whatever sounds fun to the two of you.

That’s not to discount getting out on your own away from the house and the kids regularly. It’s just to point out that you don’t have to pay for a babysitter if you want to be spontaneous or the budget doesn’t work out. When you can get out together, do so. Have some fun.

It’s important to keep that connection in your marriage. It’s good for the both of you and a great example for the children. They need to know that your partnership as a married couple is a vital part of life.

3. Take time for your friends and other family.

Being a stay at home mom can be really lonely if you let it. Don’t.

This is a good time to quit talking about the kids and remember who you are. It will help encourage you to keep up your other interests, and of course it’s fun to have time with your own friends.

4. Take time for your career.

That’s right. Just because you’re a stay at home mom right now doesn’t mean you should neglect your career entirely. Stay at home moms have a lot of options right now to be there for their families and still either work from home or keep learning so they don’t lose all their work skills. Make the most of these opportunities.

This is important even if you think you’ll always be a stay at home mom. None of us know what the future holds. Death, divorce, layoffs, disabilities, all these things can mean you suddenly need to plunge back into the workforce. You should prepare in other ways financially as well, but keeping up some sort of job skills or running a home business can mean a lot in the long run.

There are a lot of ways to work at home, whether you telecommute from your usual career, freelance, take a simpler job that can be done from home or start your own business of one sort or another. The internet gives you more possibilities than your own mother had for an income from home.

You could also take time to further your career. Night classes, online classes, take something that will give your career a boost later on. Most of us don’t remain stay at home moms until retirement. Better to work to advance your career than to fall behind because your skills are out of date.

5. Have pride in your work as a stay at home mom.

Despite the common description, you aren’t “just” a stay at home mom. There’s nothing so little about it. You do complex, challenging work. Don’t minimize it. The work isn’t for everyone, but what job is?

You know you don’t have that much time for sitting and watching TV. Your day won’t sound like much to some people, but those who have been there know how much is really involved. Have a little fun talking about it when the topic comes up.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated October 25th, 2010

Are Friends Taking Advantage of You Working at Home?

The flexibility that often comes with working at home is great. You can really be there for your kids when they need you.

The only problem is that sometimes other parents want you to be there for their kids too much. A little is one thing but too much interferes with your work schedule and can feel like a burden. It’s really hard to say no once the habit is built, but sometimes you have to.

Then there are your own family and friends who can expect that you’ll be able to help them out whenever they need it. This can be incredibly disruptive to your daily routine, but when they know your schedule is flexible, they don’t like to take no for an answer.

When to Say No

We all like to help our family and friends when they need us. The problem is defining when they need our help versus times that they need to find another solution because it’s taking too much of our own time. You have to know it’s okay for you to speak up when you can’t help out because it doesn’t fit in your own schedule.

Watching someone else’s kids is one of the most common issues for work at home moms, and whether it works for you or not depends on the situation. Watching a baby takes a lot more care than watching an 8 year old who plays well with your own 8 year old, and that’s a very different situation from watching an 8 year old who doesn’t get along with your own 8 year old.

The main point to remember is that if you don’t take your at home job or home business seriously, no one else will. If watching someone’s child or children interferes with your ability to earn a living, that’s a problem. You can’t watch their child, or at least not without appropriate compensation, and if you earn enough from your work, there may not be reasonable compensation that can be paid for the loss of work hours. Not that you can’t be there for emergencies, but when daily or even weekly visits don’t work out, speak up!

Even if you aren’t earning much, your ability to work and eventually create an income makes your work time worth something. Don’t treat your business as less than serious just because the income isn’t there yet, and don’t let anyone tell you it’s less just because the income isn’t there. The income won’t be there until you make your business work. That takes serious, focused work time. You can’t be doing too many things for others when you need to do your own work, just as you wouldn’t if you were working a job outside the home.

In fact, that’s not a bad criteria in a lot of cases. If you wouldn’t be taking time off work to help from an outside the home job, is it a situation where you should be taking time off your at home work? You should be treating your at home work just as seriously.

When to Say Yes

Sometimes you’re going to say yes when people ask you for help. Hopefully it’s something that fits into your work schedule, so you can still get the work done while helping someone who needs it. Other times, it’s just that the need is that great.

When it comes to watching someone else’s kids, sometimes it’s to your benefit to agree to help. That would be when having another child or children over means your own will need you less, and so you can work more. That usually doesn’t work out if done on a daily basis, in my experience, but occasional friends over have given me some wonderfully quiet days with my older kids. They’re having too much fun with friends to be trying for my attention. Better yet, friends often want to trade times, so you can get still quieter time by having your kids at their friend’s house. That can be worth a little lost work time.

Overall, the most important thing to remember is that you have to take your work seriously to get others to take it seriously. That’s how you can decide when to help out and when to remind people that you’re working just as they are.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated October 5th, 2010

How Does Being a Stay at Home Parent Effect Your Finances?

When you’re considering becoming a stay at home mom or dad, a lot goes through your mind. Giving up the income from your job is usually a difficult thought. Giving up time with other adults is difficult. Gaining more time with your kids… major bonus except those days where they’re really running you ragged.

The only one you can directly calculate is the impact it’s going to have on your finances. Sometimes it’s not as bad as you might think. That’s good to know if you’re going to have to do some sort of work at home job or start a home business to make ends meet.

Things That May Cost Less

Taxes – If your income as a family goes down, you’ll be paying less in taxes. How much less depends on your family’s situation.

Eating Out – Stay at home parents usually eat out less. There’s the occasional meal out with the kids, but especially if you’re on a tight budget, the ability to eat at home more should be a nice savings. Some people do eat out a fair bit even when staying home with their kids, however.

Driving – This one depends on how many activities you’re running the kids around to as well as how far you had to drive to work. Still, for many families it’s a nice savings.

Daycare – Usually, when you stay at home you take care of your own kids. There goes the money you had to pay for daycare!

Entertainment – While you may be a major source of entertainment for the kids, you won’t have the occasional entertainment and social expenses that come from working. You won’t be asked to contribute to birthday presents, for example.

Clothes – Depends a bit on your habits and what you had to wear to work. But if you had to have a professional wardrobe, you’re likely to save a nice bit, especially if you had a lot of clothes to take to the dry cleaners.

Costs That May Increase

Not every cost goes down when you start staying at home. Fortunately, the increases should be significantly smaller than the decreases.

Power/Gas for Your Home – You’re home more. That means you’ll be using more electricity during the day and heating or cooling the house more.

Groceries – Especially if staying at home makes money tight, you’ll probably be eating at home more. Fortunately, it also means you have more time to make home cooked meals if so inclined.

Activities with the Kids – Having more time with the kids may mean that you spend more on activities with them or for them, as you’ll have more time to take them to extracurricular classes or have fun as a family. Just try to remember there are free fun things to do too.

How exactly your finances are effected overall depends on your own situation, but knowing some of the things that will change can help. Try some basic calculations based on how you think things will change and you might be surprised at how little your available income may change by staying at home.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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