My Decision to Stay Home with Parker & Baby Brain Development
I’ve wanted a baby since I was a very little girl. Growing up, I always pictured myself staying home with my children because that was what my mom did with my 3 siblings. I couldn’t wait to be a mama. When I worked in advertising, I knew for sure that if I had the option, there was no way that I would choose that job over staying home but when I switched into a career in nutrition that I loved, I wasn’t 100% sure what I wanted to do. Deep down, I knew there was a big chance that I wouldn’t be able to leave my baby, but I also wasn’t sure how I would feel after the baby was born and if I would be ready to take time off from my new career that I was so excited about…
Once Parker arrived, the feeling that I always had deep down in my gut was confirmed…there was no way I could leave her. I felt like the luckiest person in the world to finally have my baby that I was waiting for my whole life and didn’t want to miss a second of her growing up. As the first few weeks passed, I was also seeing how quickly they grow! I wasn’t around newborns during my pregnancy and pictured her being in that newborn phase for way longer than they actually are. Within weeks, she was already growing and developing way quicker than I had anticipated and reaching little milestones like cooing, smiling, tummy time, recognizing Bryan and I, giggling, rolling…all things that I knew if she was spending majority of her time with someone else or in daycare, I might not be there for. As much as being a stay at home mom is anything but easy or relaxing, especially when you have a high needs baby battling reflux (will do another post separately on that), it was a challenge that I was ready to take on. I know that not everyone has the option to stay home with their baby and am so thankful that Bryan has been able to support me through this life-changing decision.
With my decision to stay home with Parker, my goal is to make sure that I am constantly finding new ways to keep her stimulated and learning. My sister Jaclyn took a different path with her daughter Ruby, and will now be doing the same with her second daughter Hazel. She chose to return to work and send them to Montessori daycare starting at 3-3.5 months. Whether you stay home or return to work, both options have their own challenges and benefits and neither makes you a better or worse parent. You have to do what is best for you and your family! I was always very interested in everything she told me about the Montessori method which is a child-focused approach that is student-led, allowing them to follow their own curiosity at their own pace. Some key elements of the program include a strong sense of self, the ability to connect with others and being capable, accountable, knowledgeable and productive. I’ve always been so impressed with Ruby’s sense of self and people skills at such a young age that it made me feel like I should send Parker to this kind of program just so that she can develop these kinds of skills.
That was when I started seeking ways to take on this approach myself while at home. I came across Lovevery, a brand that focuses on “playtime with a purpose” with products specifically created for the different stages of brain development. Their research experts include Jody Malterre, who has owned and managed Montessori schools and worked as a master teacher trainer of the Montessori method, as well as others in the field of baby brain development. Their products are built around the foundation of exposing babies to developmental experiences of how the world works to enrich their intricate communication neural network which is primarily formed in the first 3 years of life. The products that caught my eye were their play gym and baby play kits. They also have toddler play kits.
The borders of the gym are different developmental zones each with it’s own focus - sounds, how things feel, hide and seek. colors, etc. It also comes with removable toys and cards to look at. I noticed that Parker is interested in different areas of the gym as she grows. At first she was all about the hitting the batting ring with her hands. Now that she’s discovered her feet, she’s been kicking it with her feet and also moving herself towards the high contrast ball when I put it on the mat. She also loves the cotton teether but gets frustrated when she can’t get a full grasp on it with her hands. It’s teaching her to focus and pinch her thumb and pointer finger together to get it. Right now, she’s not ready for the hide and seek zone yet but I think she’ll be more into that once she’s enjoying more time on her tummy. The interchangeable cards are encouraging more tummy time. She likes the body parts cards ( I think she feels like she’s playing with a friend) and also the mirror card which she somehow manages to find me through when I’m in the kitchen. What I love most is the play guide which teaches me about the month by month developments and how to use the gym for each one. Oh and not nearly as important, but the design of the gym is simple and minimalist so I don’t mind leaving it out in our living room :)
I’m excited to give her the Senser 5-6 Month Play Kit in a few weeks. It comes with a magic tissue box, Montessori ball, play socks, a first spoon and some other toys designed for the “sensing” stage of development. The Montessori ball for example is designed for grasping, rolling and passing from hand to hand. The one that comes with the play kit is black and white for when babies can only see high contrast and the 5-6 month one is more advanced with colors. Thank you to the Lovevery team for sending Parker her gym and kit!
Another way that I'm tracking Parker's developmental stages is through the Wonder Weeks app on my phone which highlights her developmental “leaps.” The app predicts when your baby will enter these leaps based on their due date and how long they will be in each one. It shows you the skills they are developing and signs that they have entered the leap. Some leaps are just a few days and others are weeks long but all (so far at least) have been characterized by fussy and needy behavior. I love how the app shows you videos of what the world looks like to baby and how they are perceiving things.
I still have a lot to learn and am excited to share anything that might be helpful for other mamas as I go :)