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Staying Home: Perceived Free Time

“My days are full as I stay at home to care for my three-year-old and six-month-old children. Now that my youngest is past the newborn stage, I feel as if I’m in a really good place as far as settling into a routine and being able to balance household responsibilities as well as caring for and simply being able to spend time playing with my two children. The problem I’m having is that various friends or neighbors think that, because I am at home during the day with my children, I am free at any time for them to drop by for a visit or to request my babysitting services, etc. Sometimes this works out great, but it also feels like they don’t think I do anything during the day since I don’t leave the house to go to work and therefore can make time for them whenever they call or show up at my doorstep. Has anyone else experienced this? Can you help me think of ideas to politely let others know my day isn’t wide open for always visiting and helping others? I almost want to leave a message on my phone or a sign on my door stating this, but that seems rude.”

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If you maintain some sort of a set schedule, try sharing the schedule with your friends and family. Perhaps share it in a celebratory way: “Hey, I finally got it all down. Now I am looking forward to quiet play time. If anyone is interested in stopping by, this time (fill in the blank) is best. Otherwise, we’ll be busy. Thanks a bunch!” —Rebecca Howser, Facebook

Boundaries are so important when you are always going, including within your own home. It’s not rude to know your limits. If you feel exasperated by someone asking a favor, that’s a good sign to politely say no. If it doesn’t seem like too much trouble or you feel up to it, then it probably can’t hurt. But you have to pay attention to how thin you spread yourself. —Kimberley Marie, Facebook

Maybe offer a standing play date for those who ask for child care help or a weekly coffee drop-in once a week. That lets people know that you value them but allows you to set clear boundaries to protect your family time. —Tammy Lynne Rowe-Wallace, Facebook

A simple statement that you can’t now but can later is all that’s needed. No explanation necessary. “Sorry, my plate is already full for today, but tomorrow after nap time would be great!” If you try to explain your reasons it just leaves you open for argument or criticism. But giving the person a time that would work for you keeps the tone friendly and makes them feel like a priority to you. —Abigail Beirise Moletti, Facebook

I left a polite note on the door that said, “If you have my number please call. No knocking. Sleeping baby inside.” I knew any guest I would allow to disturb me while I was busy would have my number. —Anna Lynn, Facebook

I disabled my doorbell because, if the doorbell didn’t wake up any napping children, the dog barking at the doorbell would every time. — Courtnaeus Schumanus, Facebook

I can relate. That’s why I rarely answer the door; I don’t even look to see who it is. If I bump into a friend or neighbor and they mention they stopped by, I say, “I must not have been receiving visitors when you came by. I would love to see you. Just give me a call first so we can set up a good time!” If their intentions are good, they understand and we do find a way to see one another at a mutually beneficial time. Hope that helps. —Catherine Lydon, Facebook

Send out an email or text to everyone saying you love them all but cannot babysit anymore as you already have two young ones to care for and that is all you can handle right now. Also, tell them to please not stop by without calling first as it’s not always a good time. End with you appreciate everyone’s understanding. If some people ignore it then either say it’s not a good time and you’ll let them know when it will be okay or just don’t answer the door. They will eventually get the hint. —Krista Ayala, Facebook

My son also has a sign. He is a fulltime stay at home dad with little ones that still take naps. —Christine Bryant, Facebook

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New Situation

My partner works the night shift and sleeps for part of the day while I am home with our two and four-year-old sons. Our house isn’t very big. The boys are very high energy, so I try to get us out of the house as often as possible and find opportunities to be active. Sometimes, though, if the weather isn’t good, or if there aren’t any indoor activities available in town (gym at the local recreation center, story time at the library, etc.), or if one of us is under the weather or just doesn’t want to go out, I really struggle to find ways to keep them happy and fairly quiet. I think I just need to be inspired with new ideas. I’d love to hear from those who are in a similar situation!

Please send your responses to nbeditor@lllusa.org.