It’s a lot of people’s dream to be able to quit their job to stay home with their kids. The idea of someone else raising your kids while you work away from home isn’t something that gratifies a lot of us. But being a stay-at-home-parent (it’s not just moms that stay home) is seen as a non-job. If you stay home, you don’t work. You don’t have a “real” job. The conversation often goes like this:
“What do you do?
“I stay at home with the kids.”
“Lucky you. I wish I didn’t have to work all day.”
Anyone who has ever spent 10 minutes with kids realizes that kids, in fact, are a LOT of work. Especially little kids. Staying at home isn’t a glamorous vacation. It’s not eating Bon Bons by the pool while sipping a mimosa. In reality if you had a pool and kids you’d be ever vigilant any time the kids were anywhere in a 100′ radius of said pool. And as for Bon Bons, you’d have to hide in a lockable (from the inside) room to eat them otherwise you’d have children climbing your body to get a bite. Heck, even in the locked room you’d have to shove them down while listening to your children bang on the door because 1) you’re in a room without them and 2) you have food you’re not sharing. Plus you can’t leave small humans alone for more than about 12 seconds before they have reamed the entire toilet paper roll down the toilet or emptied the contents of every cabinet in the house. And don’t even get me started on the mimosa.
Let me state this again: children are a LOT OF WORK. They have to be fed, cleaned, changed, dressed, entertained, kept from harm, and kept from harming each other. They make MOUNTAINS of laundry that has to be sorted, washed, dried, and folded while they are literally underfoot (or climbing into the dryer). They can’t seem to eat without getting food on at least 3 other surfaces (not including themselves and their table/tray).
And before you say “well, daycare/nannies/baby sitters do the same things” let me remind you that THOSE PEOPLE GET PAID. They do their job, and then they go home. Let me say that again: they do their job, get paid for it, then go home. SAHPs don’t get paid. And there isn’t a break. There isn’t a break in the evenings. Or the weekends. Our job surrounds us 24 hours a day. Could you do your “real” job 24 hours a day? On call throughout the night? Do you go on vacation and take your job with you? If you want to go somewhere and have someone do your work for you do you have to pay them to do it? Because that is the reality of having children. Of “not working”.
Oh, and I forgot about sick days. There are no sick days when you stay at home. There is no refuge to escape to lay around and feel better before you have to go back to work. There is no leaving early or compensation for not being able to function properly. You wake when your children wake whether or not you’re up to it. You still have to feed them, change them, and keep them safe all while feeling like death warmed over.
Now before you get defensive and say that working parents don’t experience these things understand that I am aware of what working parents experience as I worked outside our home full time when my son was a baby. Plus I worked flex hours so sometimes I was home in the mornings and sometimes in the evenings and hardly ever on weekends. Parents who work outside the home are still parents. This isn’t about debating the merits of working outside the home or working within it. And I understand that working outside the home can be grueling and exhausting and the last thing you want to do sometimes when you get home from work is work some more. Because being a parent IS a job. It’s a life-long career.
Yes, I chose to be a parent. Yes, I accepted everything it entails. No, I don’t think I deserve a medal for being a mom. Or for choosing to be a stay-at-home-mom. But I do deserve the same amount of respect for people who work outside the home. I still provide for my family. I am raising our children. I get paid in hugs and kisses and seeing every “first”. I was raised by a SAHM. Her input into my life was incredibly valuable to me. Her time investment into her children was priceless. As is my investment into my own children. And that makes every bit of it worth it. Even if there are days I consider packing my rucksack and striking out to greener pastures. Because all parents feel that way at some point. My time spent at home with my children should not be belittled. It should not be seen as a “sacrifice” or a permanent vacation. I HAVE a real job. Probably the most real job there is. My job is raising tiny humans to become compassionate, strong, functioning adults. My job is raising our future. And there is no job more important than that.