What if I told you that a free website exists purely to help you leave the house with your kids?
I’m a parent with 2 small children and I’m the first to admit that it’s bloody hard. It’s been nothing like I was lead to believe by the parents around me, or the wider society. My mental health has taken a huge hit since my first child was born.
I don’t feel like we are given the freedom to talk about how much we struggle with being parents, and when we do discuss it, I feel like I need to preface every point with, “don’t worry, I do love my kids, but…”
The daily struggle
The amount of energy required to continuously entertain them day after day is one of the main things I’ve struggled with. My second boy is only 16 months at the time I write this, and his midday nap is golden for us — it gives me a moment to breathe again.
However, that nap means that we can’t go too far from the house in the mornings, in case someone falls asleep on the way home, ruining the schedule for the day and resulting in a difficult bedtime routine. My husband and I both have felt stuck in the house, and sometimes we struggle to get motivated and jump into the day while operating on the absolute bare minimum of sleep and self-care.
New can be scary
It wasn’t always like this though. When my first son was born, all I wanted to do was get as far away from the house as I could. However, as a new parent, when I did get out into the world, I was crippled with anxiety.
Did I remember to take everything the baby needs? Food, clothes, nappies, cream, water.. ? What happens if he has a poo explosion in public? What if I have a breakdown and start panicking when something insignificant gets in my way? And so on, and so on.
I spent hours online trying to find places to go that I felt were within my comfort zone. Sometimes I would find a perfect place to go, only to find out it was shut on the one day I was able to go. Other times I’d want to find a new class activity, would spend hours searching Google and Facebook only to come up empty handed.
Neither my husband or I have family close-by for support, so I really needed the internet and wider community to help guide and support me to go exploring with my baby when everyone else was out visiting the grandparents.
However, I didn’t find anything past the usual ‘my-opinion-only’ blogs, cookie-cutter directory sites only sparsely populated with sponsored corporate content, and bizarrely intense forums full of incomprehensible acronyms. There wasn’t a single place I could go for quick inspiration and info. It was all too hard.
Getting to a solution
Fast forward a few years (and another pregnancy and child!), and I’m still having all the same struggles — but now you can add trying to return to the workforce to the list.
I feel passionate about communicating the experience that I’ve gone through, because I know that so many people out there must feel the same way as I do. I want to shout from the rooftops that it’s ok to struggle with parenting, and that I’m right there with you.
So instead of going back to a part-time job, I decided to build a free tool to help other parents like me navigate early parenthood with a bit more ease, and enable them to see there is so much they can do just outside their doorstep. Our site, thingsforkids.com.au, is the first version of that tool.
I strongly believe that our free-to-use site can help encourage, enable, and motivate those parents who struggle with parenthood. I want parents to be able to easily see every relevant kids activity near them on a map, including parks, playgrounds, council services like pools and libraries, small businesses, kid-friendly cafes, big franchise playcentres… everything!
Here’s a small sample of the types of things we’ve added to the site:
I personally loved taking my first born to lots of classes. I felt that while at the class, be it music, dance, languages, or whatever, I could have a small break from being the main entertainer. I needed to find classes available on specific days to fit in with childcare, which can take a lot of searching. On thingsforkids.com.au, parents can select the days they are available, and only see activities for that day. This feature alone has saved me hours.
Getting out of the house — even if it’s just for a cuppa while your kids carry on in a cafe playhouse — can help you feel much better. We’ve included kid-friendly cafes to our list of activities for this reason. I really enjoyed meeting up with some of my mothers’ group while our kids were little, and as they grew, it was a godsend to have a kid-friendly cafe nearby.
Childcare has saved us, which is why we’ve included childcare as a category on the site. Neither my husband or I have any family nearby, and we need the help so that we can work. But importantly, the kids love being around other kids, and also other adults who have more energy and staying power. Our children have made great friends at childcare as well, which has done wonders for their social skills.
I encourage all parents, even stay-at-home parents, to be open to sending your children to care, even for just a few hours at an occasional care centre. You deserve a break and you don’t have to make yourself busy while they’re in care. Many times, I’ve sat on the couch and binge watched TV for the 5 hours while they are in childcare. If that’s what I needed at the time, then that’s what happened. Give yourself some care, and your children will be happier and more engaged with you because you’re not so tired of them all the time.
One category we decided not to include is organised playgroups. That’s because Playgroup Australia (playgroupaustralia.org.au) has such a fantastic website that allows you to find all that you need, I felt I would be reinventing that wheel. Make sure to head over to their website and check out what playgroups are in your area. They can be a great way to connect with other parents who are in the same boat as you.
With other activities and locations like playgrounds, parks, toy libraries, museums, playcentres, and pools being added daily, thingsforkids.com.au encourages new parents to explore what’s around their local neighbourhood. At the moment, we’re adding as much content to Victoria as we can, and we hope to expand nationwide in the coming 12–18 months.
We’ve got all the motivation we need to make this an amazing (and did I mention free?) tool for all those parents out there who struggled like we did. There is light at the end of the tunnel, and you’re not in this alone.
So head over to thingsforkids.com.au to see what’s going on in your suburb today!