No one knows what it is like to be a stay-at-home parent unless they have
done it themselves.
Maybe you watched your kids for a long weekend so your spouse could get a break. Maybe you watched your kids for a week while your spouse was away. Maybe you actually used all your paternity or maternity leave after your child was born. These are all great things to do. Necessary, in my view.
But doing all of those stints with your kid doesn’t give you enough experience to know what being a stay-at-home parent (SAHP) is like.
There is an end you can see in all three scenarios mentioned above. Of course, for SAHDs or SAHMs, there is also an end, but well beyond the horizon and out of sight. As a SAHD, I’m not yearning for the end of this job, but until you grasp the permanence of staying at home, you haven’t gotten a taste for the real thing.
And then you must prepare yourself because that’s the tip of the iceberg. There are so many challenging aspects of stay-at-home parenting. I have mentioned some of them in previous posts: limited adult-to-adult communication, a decent dose of isolation, the fact that you’re not making money, and facing the stigma associated with being a SAHD, which is certainly one thing SAHDs have to deal with a little more than SAHMs.
So why am I writing about this? Well, it’s long overdue. I have talked to too many people since becoming a SAHD who have never been a SAHD or SAHM themselves who imply that they know what it is like. Yet, we don’t do this in conversations with other professionals (and yes, I’m implying that I’m a professional and, once again, if you don’t get that, you’ve never been a stay-at-home parent) like doctors, accountants, or teachers. We don’t assume to know what daily challenges they face because we once used an epipen, did our own taxes using TurboTax, or completed a math problem on a chalkboard for an audience, respectively. So why do so many people assume they know the day-to-day ups and downs of SAHDs and SAHMs because they spend the weekend around their kids?
Because they assume it is easy. They assume it just must be like the weekend over and over again. How hard can that be?
I think the real problem is that being a stay-at-home parent is not viewed and talked about as a real job by enough people. Too many people talk about it as a hobby. I cannot tell you how far from the truth calling this a hobby is. Hopefully, I’ve conveyed that from time to time on this blog.
Next time you find yourself talking to a SAHP, treat them like a professional, understand that they work 80 hours a week, and buy them a beer because they don’t have a paycheck.