Actually, Being A Stay-At-Home Parent Is Work
I've been a stay-at-home mom for six years now. It's more rewarding than I ever thought possible. It's also so much more difficult. Over the years, I've had multiple jobs in various fields, all of them challenging me in different ways. However, being stay-at-home is by far the hardest job I've ever had. From morning until the time my husband gets home from work, I'm in mommy mode. I change diapers, clean messes, make meals, answer questions, and drive kids around all day. My mini-van is my second home and I rarely have to time to sit down, unless I'm driving. I love what I do, but boy, is it exhausting.
Before I get a bunch of backlash from working parents, I'll say that I have great respect for parents who work outside of the home as well as parents who work from home. My parents were both working parents and my husband is the hardest-working parent I've ever met. I know that working parents, work-from-home parents, and stay-at-home parents work very hard, in different ways, but frankly, I'm tired of the stigma that stay-at-home parents "don't work." Even in 2016, there are quite a few misconceptions about stay-at-home parents, if you ask me. The biggest one? The belief that stay-at-home parenting isn't work. Because actually, being a stay-at-home parent is the most difficult job.
On every important form, there's always a box to check for your job description. Some forms are considerate enough to have a box for stay-at-home parents, but too many times I've had to check the "unemployed" box. Really? This is what society thinks of me?
One common misconception about the role of stay-at-home parents is the idea that we watch TV all day. If the television is on in my home, it's most likely on Nick Jr,. or if my husband is home, some sort of sports game is blaring through the house. The idea that I have time to sit and watch TV all day is ridiculous, and can I just say that I'v never eaten a "bon bon" either? Honestly, I don't even know what that is. The other misunderstood perception is that stay-at-home parents live in their pajamas all day long. It's just not true. I wake up, get dressed, and even put on makeup most days. If you do happen to see me at school drop off in my PJs, just assume it's because I've had a very rough morning. It's not because I'm lazy. Or because I don't care.
The thing that bugs me most about my "job," however, is the lack of respect people have for it. On every important form, there's always a box to check for your job description. Some forms are considerate enough to have a box for stay-at-home parents, but too many times I've had to check the "unemployed" box. Really? This is what society thinks of me? Though I'm fortunate enough to have the opportunity and the means to stay at home and raise my children, I'm also actually working my butt off each and everyday to take care of them all day long, too. I'm constantly cooking, cleaning, nurturing, and teaching my children how to one day be self-sufficient adults. From morning to night, I never stop working. Actually, I have multiple jobs, if you think about it. Maybe next time I fill out a form I'll just write: taxi driver, tutor, chef, referee, therapist, doctor, and housekeeper in the blank space. That ought to do.
While it's still dark outside, I get up to wake, dress, and feed all three kids before hopping in the mini-van for school. After I drop off my oldest at school, I head back home to feed myself, bathe in coffee, clean the house, prep dinner, and finish the laundry that's probably been in the dryer for at least three days. Then it's time to make lunch and get the next child ready for school. After dropping him off, I head to run errands (usually the grocery store to get that one item we ran out of the night before) before then returning to my oldest son's school to pick him up. Dealing with the stressful event that is school pick up is a task in and of itself. Every parent drives like a cab driver at the airport and when the bell rings, the kids flood through the school gates like cattle. After I get my son, we rush to find our car in what feels like the running of the bulls. Then we stop at the house for an after-school snack and potty break before we head back to my second son's school for pick up. We have to arrive early to reserve a parking spot close enough to avoid a three-mile walk. Then it's home for the hardest part of my day.
I love what I do. I love that I get to wake up to my children and see them so much. I love my role as a stay-at-home parent, but it doesn't mean that it's not extremely hard work. A doctor may love saving lives, but it's still a difficult job. (Yes, I am comparing parenting to saving lives, do you have a problem with that?) My job is rewarding and I'm the first to admit that I'm very blessed to get to do it, but it's still work.
For some reason, after school is when everyone needs something from me at the exact same time. I cook dinner with a baby on my hip while one child does homework, my cell phone rings, and the other child blasts cartoons until my ears bleed. Then, after the kids tell me what they would have preferred to eat for dinner (which is, of course, not what I made), we eat a nice family dinner together. Well, let me rephrase that: They eat dinner while I run around feeding the baby, getting things I forgot (who needs napkins or drinks anyway?), and making sure the ration of food of the floor versus food in mouths is somewhat even. By the time I sit down to eat, everyone is pretty much done, so I shovel in my food without chewing before the baby wants to get out of her high chair. As I clean the kitchen, make lunches, and lay out outfits for the following day, my husband plays with the kids, which is very helpful until I realize that the house I've cleaned all day is once again in disarray. Then it's upstairs for "quiet" (LOL, who am I kidding?) playtime and eventually bath time.
Because my newly walking toddler needs constant supervision, I usually spend the next hour chasing her around the house like a zookeeper. After I get her off the bunk-bed ladder 74 times, it's time for bed.
My kids go to bed at the same time every night, yet they act like it's a brand-new activity every single time it happens. They act like it's some sort of torture they're forced to endure. I, however, have never enjoyed sleep more now that I'm a parent. I'm ready to go back to bed pretty much as soon as I wake up in the morning. After I announce that it's bedtime, I hear things like, "No! I didn't even play yet!" or "I'm not tired." I proceed to read stories anyway and tuck them in their beds. After I get 14 cups of water, answer questions about the meaning of life, and rock the baby to sleep, I usually resort to mercilessly begging my children to "just go to sleep."
Then it's my turn to spend time with my husband or have some much-needed alone time. Since my husband goes to work super early, he's usually asleep by the time I get to bed. So I kick up my feet, have a snack, and vow to stay up late catching up on a book I've been trying to finish or a show I'm behind on, but four seconds later I'm fast asleep, remote in hand.
Raising my children isn't a "fun" hobby or an easy job to do. It's work, plain and simple.
It may sound like I'm complaining about my never-ending schedule, but actually quite the opposite. I love what I do. I love that I get to wake up to my children and see them so much. I love my role as a stay-at-home parent, but it doesn't mean that it's not extremely hard work. A doctor may love saving lives, but it's still a difficult job. (Yes, I am comparing parenting to saving lives, do you have a problem with that?) My job is rewarding and I'm the first to admit that I'm very blessed to get to do it, but it's still work.
Working parents pay someone (either a care provider or a facility) to watch their children while they're at work. That means that someone is being paid for the service I ultimately provide my own children. Raising my children isn't a "fun" hobby or an easy job to do. It's work, plain and simple.
Work is defined as "activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result," according to Merriam-Webster. Well, since every single day of my life involves endless mental and physical effort, and I'm tirelessly working towards turning tiny humans into kind, respectful adults, I'd say what I do fits the definition to a T.
One day, I'll look back and laugh at these hectic days. I'll smile when I remember the busy life I once lived. I'll miss the crazy mornings, the constant driving, the endless messes, and the never-ending questions about the meaning of life. I know that I'll always be grateful for the time I got to be a stay-at-home parent, but I'll always view it as a job worthy of respect. In my opinion, it's one of the best jobs in the entire world, but it's a job, none-the-less. Luckily for me, I wake up every morning and can't wait to get to work.