Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Stay-At -Home Survival Guide: A review

I've had some questions about what I've been reading, as far as parenting books are concerned. The first book I read (and liked, nay, LOVED) was the The Stay-at-Home Survival Guide: Field-Tested Strategies for Staying Smart, Sane, and Connected While Caring for Your Kids by Melissa Stanton.

I'm not being paid to review this, Seal Press didn't send me a galley copy, and best of all? I borrowed it from my local library.

Cover, for you to enjoy

While it's true that I'm not a stay-at-home mom *yet*, that's the end goal. I was reading this book, and it was like Melissa Stanton had been following me around when it came to how other people reacted to our choice to have me stay home. True, she was a few years ahead of me (the book came out in 2008), but her powers of pre-cognition are to be commended.

But seriously.

Stanton talks about dealing with the "yes, but what do you DO" question, household finances, and how demanding being a full-time Mom can be. So it's not a parenting-parenting book, per se, but it helps parents. So it totally counts.

It took me a LONG time to figure out that most people don't respect useful life skills that they lack- like raising children, cooking, or knitting. People who don't (or can't) cook from scratch don't appreciate that skill from someone in a home environment. If you measure success and happiness in dollars and cents, any activity that doesn't make money is worthless and a waste of your time.

We know that's not true. Knitters put thousands of hours into projects every year- many of which never get finished. We knit because it brings us pleasure, because it can be challenging, because it is creatively fulfilling. Not because it is profitable- or even has the *potential* to be profitable.

[Did you just fall out of your chair laughing at the idea that hand knitting is - or could be - profitable? I did.]

Back to the book.

It also includes loads of useful advice and strategies on changing relationships (romantic and otherwise), keeping up your self-esteem, and division of labor.

Division of labor isn't really an issue in our house. Given all of the Mommy Memoirs I've been reading, Andrew is really and truly a prince among men. He doesn't expect to be waited on when he gets home from work, and doesn't assume that because I'm staying at home that I've become the maid, the cook, and the household personal assistant. I thought this was normal in a marriage, but I stand corrected. Also, horrified that it's *not* the status quo.

Not only does he contribute to household chores, but he usually also picks some sort of home improvement project every weekend (sometimes something small, sometimes something... bigger). For the record, I also try to defend his leisure time, by making sure he has plans to do something fun.

(Did I just sign my own death warrant by bragging on my husband? Let me balance all his great qualities with the fact that he snores like a buzzsaw and sometimes leaves his shoes in the living room. He also has a taste for handknit socks and wears a size 12 men's shoe. Move on, he's not so great.)

In short,  I really felt like Stanton addressed a lot of the issues that *all* parents have- not JUST stay-at-homes. I handed the book over to Andrew to read and he's finding it useful, too, for managing expectations (mostly). I've been screening the books, and handing over the ones that I particularly like to Andrew to read. (I have more time right now to sift through the chaff. Also, I read faster.)

I think this is a great book for *all* parents. Everyone has a schedule to accommodate, whether or not you work outside the home. I think the real key is that *both* parents need to read this book. (All the books, really, but this is a good place to start.)

The writing is compelling, Stanton has a personable style as a writer. I powered through this book in two days- that's how "readable" it is. Pick up a copy, you'll thank me for it.


  1. I think Andrew is a lot like my hubby. When I went back to work my husband's only ask for chores was "can I have you cook once per week or so" and its hard but I've managed even when I get home with the baby 20 mins before he gets home. But we talk about things like that and it works really well.

    Staying at home wasn't for me..I was crazy by the end of my leave but I completely and utterly support stay-at-home moms. My BFF is one and I know what it takes to get things done in a day for her and two kids.

    Yes, things should be equal or at least negotiable about chores and duties etc. A good balance is a good thing and it makes for a happy couple and a happy baby.

  2. I think your relationship with Andrew is a lot like my relationship with Aaron. There has never been an issue between us about one person doing more, or not feeling like the other is contributing, and I think the key to that is that we talk about it all the time!! You guys are awesome and I know you'll make the best parents ever! I'm so excited for SharkBean!

  3. Sounds like a great book. Here is my two cents worth. I have been a stay at home mom and go to work mom. Saying working mom doesn't sound right to me because stay at home moms work too. My advice is this NEVER feel like you have to explain or defend your decisions as a mom. Ever. Its like knitting socks. We all have our methods and preferences. Doesn't matter if we use dpns, two circulars or magic loop we will end up with a great pair of socks. You do what works for your family and you'll be fine. OK maybe that was more than two cents worth. :)

  4. I am also a lucky one in the husband department. My Jerry makes the bed every morning (without being asked)! I love that! I work part-time and with just one beautiful 8 year old, I don't sit down until 8:30 in the evening. I need to choose what I want to do each evening because I have so many things I would love to do - but I need to rise early the next day and start all over again. I love it. But the best moments are when my husband sees that I have missed my knitting group night two weeks in a row and asks "what can I do to help?" immediately followed by "Oh, I will bring home dinner next Wednesday"! It's all worth it! And, I won't change a thing.

  5. Brava to you for staying home with the SharkBean! When my kids were young, if people asked, I used to say that I was an early childhood development specialist, which of course I was!

    Check out co-op preschools in your area. That was a wonderful experience for us. We met other kids in the same age cohort, made life-long friends with parents who were involved with their kids, and also had parent education as part of the program. Your local community college's Family Life or Early Childhood department will be a starting point for finding out about these programs.

  6. I'm envious of anyone who gets to be the at home parent these days. Luckily, we've been able to have my hubby do that for the 12+ years. It was HUGE for our kids, especially the younger, stubborn one. :-)

    I think it's fantastic that you're making that a priority in your lives.

  7. I only got to stay at home for part of my children's lives. It is a rewarding and sometimes frustrating lifestyle that I felt lucky to be able to take part in.
    People don't appreciate all the things that have to happen for you to get through the day with a little one. I'm glad you have a solid support system.
    My only advice is to not go with the "be very quiet, the baby is sleeping" routine. Babies can and do sleep through vacuums, television, radios, and dishwashers as well as about a million other noises if you don't get them used to silence. (It's not silent now for her.)

  8. My kids are in university now. I left nursing to stay home and went back to work when they were bigger than me. I appreciated the chance to make precious moments of everyday activities. We developed rhythms that changed with the seasons and their ages. I loved having a home their friends could come to (and still do).
    I needed my writing and music and knitting to stay sane. But now they have writing and music and knitting in their lives.

  9. Hi Jasmine,
    Congratulations on your pregnancy! It's exciting to hear that you are planning to stay at home. You'll never regret it.

    My husband and I have been married 34 years, and are parents of 3 sons, now 26, 29, and 31. We chose a path that very much centered on our home - homeschooling! Hubby was self-employed, and working out of home as well. He was in sales, and travelled a good bit, though. Our lifestyle allowed the kids to have more time with him by working their study schedule around his comings and goings.

    In their own ways, all 3 of our kids have told us how much they loved growing up this way. Our youngest is the only one who went to school at all (until college), attending high school so he could play football. There, he met the pretty brunette who has now been his wife for almost 5 years. It's a little ironic, but she had also been homeschooled until high school!

    My memory banks are full and overflowing of those days. Literally hours were spent with all of us piled on the sofa reading. I especially remember the day we finished C.S. Lewis's Narnia series. The kids were up and cheering for the talking horses at last battle, and then sank down in sorrow that the series was finished. And I felt the same way!

    It's exciting to see a young mom pursuing the homemaking arts. Whether Mom works inside or outside the home, attention paid to little touches that truly make a house a home yields huge dividends in children who know they are loved. Kudos to you and anyone else who puts out the effort for their children. That's what it's all about, isn't it!

    Enjoy carrying your child. It's such an intimate experience between you and Shark Bean! After she is born, other people will be clamoring to hold her, but for now, it's only you who knows when she's waking and sleeping. Fantastic!

    Blessings to you.

  10. Being a stay at home parent would be so nice. I have often wondered how we could make that work, but I guess you need a good plan and some serious guts. Nice though that you can do it. I'm sure it will be the hardest and most amazing job on the planet.
    I really want to meet you in person sometime to ask you about bunch of questions about becoming a podcaster. I love your show and find it to be content-rich and so well executed. Best wishes, and congrats on your new baby.

  11. Congratulations on having Sharkbean! I always worry about people who take a few years off from paying work because of the long term ramifications for retirement. Not a lot of people talk about it, but it seems it's a way a lot of older women end up with shittier retirements - especially if something happens to their husbands. I'm sure you've thought of that already : )

  12. Thank you for the book recommendation. I absolutely love this book especially the chapter on Money. This particular chapter gave great ideas about how a woman should be managing the household budget and the same chapter gave me the push I needed to get my act together and get 100% involved with our finances. Just by getting involved I feel in control and my husband is absolutely relieved that I have taken over the finances. Thanks again.


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