Saturday, March 10, 2012

Boredom with Housewifery

Off on her journey
I mentioned before that I was feeling restless and dissatisfied lately. While planning some future trips helped, basically this serves as a distraction and doesn't address the real problem, which has to do with little R.

The problem isn't little R herself. She is so much fun now: today I took her for a walk in the park and she roamed independently for about 40 minutes, walking and climbing on her own power the whole time. She's just starting to talk, saying "likalikalik" for "I like this" and "Na Na Na!" for "no". She sleeps well and eats excellently; she's working on using a cup and spoon (very excited for this; once she can do it, meals will really be a breeze).

It's so much easier to care for her now, even with tantrums, mobility and the discovery of naughtiness (as in, now she is capable of deliberately disobeying/breaking rules). This is actually the problem. When she was a small infant, she really needed my constant attention (after all, she ate every two hours! that alone was a full-time job). Now she doesn't: she will play by herself for hours on end, busily rearranging her books, toys and various household objects. And living in an apartment and with only one child, I just do not have enough household chores to fill up more than a couple hours.

Climbing over a tree branch
This leaves me with a lot of spare time, in a sense. I can't do anything requiring sustained attention, because little R still needs to be frequently watched and checked on (a silence of more than five minutes often means she is doing something forbidden), and because she still frequently requires attention (hugs, diaper changes, comforting, etc.: I would say at least every ten minutes she likes to check on me), even if it's not a constant thing. I also am bound to the house for 14 or 15 hours of the day, when she's sleeping, even though I have free time then. Unfortunately I don't feel that she's ready for preschool yet: she still needs the security of my presence, and the calm predictability of staying at home.

But sitting around watching little R do her developmentally appropriate tasks is just not enough mental stimulation (especially all day long; if it was just a few hours, as it is for working parents, I think I would feel differently). I need something else to do. What, I am not sure.

It needs to be something home-based, productive, and non-screen-oriented. Reading doesn't work very well because of the sustained attention problem. Too bad I don't know how to sew: I could take up clothes-making like a old-time housewife (this used to consume most of the female population's working hours).

So far I have dealt with this problem by keeping busy: we do at least one activity every day involving leaving the house. But it's only a stopgap solution. Honestly, I'm not sure what to do.


  1. How about learning to draw or paint? Painting may be messy to interrupt, but learning to draw would also be fun for R to watch if she's bored.

    To avoid boredom and lack of subject matter, I tend to listen to a TEDtalk or similar podcasts and often end up drawing to conceptualize the ideas (like this woman, but using fewer words).

    Mind you, I almost failed art class in elementary school, but I've found it a useful skill as an adult to at least learn to represent information in an abstract way. I'm not sure what exactly it is B does, but maybe you can figure out a way to make use of a skill like that when you help him with his work.

    As an avid reader, you likely have a love for mastering new skills and concepts. Try it! For example, I had a lot of fun drawing out this TED talk by a Canadian professor of economics:


    1. TED talks are a great idea! I don't like visual media because then little R will see it (trying to avoid all but extremely carefully selected videos until she's older). But just audio seems a lot less distracting.

      Drawing is an interesting idea too; I've actually always wanted to learn to draw (admittedly I have no artistic talent whatsoever but that's OK). I feel like I should take a class first though since my skill level is so low. Did you teach yourself and was that effective?

    2. TED talk podcasts, academic Nature Podcast, and short story podcasts (PRI Selected Shorts, New Yorker Fiction, KQED The Writer's Block) have saved me on my 40 minute walking commutes to and from work. Listening to music only gets you so far.

      I have to be clear - I am never going to be an admired artist. All I know I learned from art class back in school. If you know that shade falls on the side away from the light, that red and yellow make orange, and that you can use different forces to get different effects, you can remain entertained, and improve quite quickly. I draw a lot of abstract things as the mood strikes me, just doodling++. For everything else, there's Google. I doubt class is necessary - you seem to learn from books without issue.

      It's also made the creation of my academic presentations much easier, since I've learned how to represent scientific concepts in visually concise ways.

      I started with a simple set of 12 acrylic colours and an eHow page. Acrylic paint dries solid, and if you want to fix something, you wait until it dries and simply paint over it. The only issue is that it permanently stains clothing, so may not be ideal with a toddler around. This may make coloured pencils an easier option - with less cleanup and no danger of spilling.

      Again, I am not overly artistic, but I've found it relaxing and entertaining, and even my computer scientist boyfriend became a fan. He uses a ruler to draw squares to experiment with paint colour mixtures, while I make swoops and circles. It's an interesting new skill I can improve with hard work, the initial learning curve is very manageable, and "home-based, productive, and non-screen-oriented".

      Bonus: I think it will help little R learn to draw, too. It's a quiet and interesting activity she will be exposed to often, and may very well enjoy in the future.


    3. I am going to buy some colored pencils and a notebook at the store. Let's see what happens: exciting!

  2. Hello, I came here through your well written comment on Penelope Trunks blog about homeschooling. I like your 'about' page that makes it quite clear to us that you are opinionated!

    Your daughter is a darling (do I need to say this!?) I have very fond memories of this at home with little ones stage. Piece of advice my mother gave me that have been very precious - take your little one outside for a walk/ride in pushchair every single day without fail. You seem to have this idea too.

    My children are teenagers and I am still a SAHM so I can relate to your housewife challenge both in memory and to a certain extent in my current situation. Do you like dogs? I didn't get one when the children were young because it all seemed too complicated (we moved a lot). Now that the children are older and we are settled I have finally got a dog it is so much fun I wished I'd done it sooner. Or you can always do what I did and have another baby. (That is NOT advice!)

    Wishing you very well in your life in Singapore (I'm right? I will read around in your archives) and I can add you to my Google reader to keep up with your news.

    Best wishes

    1. Hi Julie, thanks for visiting! Yes, I'm in Singapore (since July 2011) and it's pretty nice here.

      I love the idea of getting out every day and definitely abide by that (although living somewhere that's 80 degrees every day certainly makes this easier).

      One of my future goals is to get a dog. I love them and my husband and I talk about it all the time. I just feel like a dog would be too needy for me at the moment, since I already spend so much of my waking hours caring for others. (Sort of empathy burnout I guess.) Maybe when little R is a bit bigger?