Yes, I’m a stay at home mom. No, I’m not simply laying around on the floor playing with my kid all day. It’s not a walk in the park and it’s certainly not all fun and games. I cannot always be ready for the unplanned at the drop of a hat. And, I can’t be expected to fill in to help you just because I’m a stay at home mom. Sometimes I’m surprised at the treatment I receive as a stay at home parent. Though I’ve fought long and hard NOT to write a post about differences between working and stay at home parents, recent events really made me think working parents really will never understand how different and yet similar we all are.
I’ve been bothered by the fact that sometimes I feel as though friends, family, and strangers just don’t understand what my requirements are as stay at home parent. Sometimes, I get the feeling that my time as a stay at home mom isn’t viewed nearly as valuable as a parent who is working out of the home for money. I want to shed some light on the subject and demand a bit more respect for all stay at home parents because we deserve more. If you’re lucky to have never experienced being disrespected as a stay at home parent, I offer a big pat on the back for you and your supporters!
Here are a few things I think are overlooked (or under-appreciated) when working parents compare themselves to stay at home parents.
Regardless of your paid work status, don’t you have more schedules and routines now that you have a kid?
I am a housekeeper, cook, event coordinator, preschool teacher, chauffeur, and personal assistant, party planner, routine organizer. You name it, it’s probably a built in job duty and I’m multi-tasking with another human being incapable of grasping that they’re not fully in control of their day yet. I have simultaneous and completely contradictory jobs that don’t always go hand in hand.
I don’t have the luxury of making quick meals. Thanks to my health problems, I’m having to spend much more time in the kitchen cooking things from scratch.
How long do you spend in the kitchen preparing meals?
My bathroom breaks are rarely uninterrupted. If my little one hasn’t decided to simply come in and watch my every move, I’m bound to see her at least briefly. Privacy is long gone once she became mobile.
Do you get to go to the bathroom alone?
If I’m starving and need to eat, but my kid has determined that she needs to use the bathroom or has fallen and needs a band-aid, I have to put aside my needs or desires to assist here. It’s like that for everything during the day. I can’t simply stop to do whatever it is I want or feel I need to do.
Can you break away to take care of your needs when you’re ready or are you at the mercy of someone else?
Other breaks are limited and I spend them doing work that I can’t get done while entertaining and/or educating the little one. I can’t really even “schedule” what needs to get done because … well … let’s face it, kids really don’t understand schedules. I have a set schedule for lunch, quiet time, dinner, and bedtime. Everything else is a general idea of what I want to accomplish for each day of the week and some of my work needs to be done in the quiet time/bedtime parts of the day or it doesn’t get done. I feel good if I can get to all of my chores on the days I hope to, but it’s all dependent on moods, interruptions, and expectations within the family.
Can you get your work done without a zillion interruptions during the day?
Let’s not forget that as a stay at home parent, I don’t have days off and I don’t get sick days. If I feel unwell, I don’t get to ship my kid off to a daycare center or babysitter… I typically have to trudge through and make it work. If I’m really sick, I’d have to call my husband to leave work to relieve me. Heck, I can’t even have a mental health day on a whim. I don’t have backup childcare because we don’t have the extra income.
If you need a real day off in the middle of your work week, can you take your kiddo to the daycare or nanny and take care of yourself?
I often start my day about the same time as my husband does to go to work and I’m working after he has come home from his paid job. At the end of the day, I can’t hide what I didn’t finish in a desk or by closing an office door. If I’ve cleaned the playroom and the kiddo goes back in to play, it probably looks as though I haven’t cleaned up at all.
Stay at Home Mom Time Deserves Consideration
Being a stay at home mom is my job and it doesn’t mean my time is less valuable or more easily interrupted than that of a working parent.
True story: My father-in-law was coming into town to spend time with my sister-in-law and her new baby. He made it perfectly clear that he intended to spend most of the time with her to visit with the new baby. The morning of his arrival, my husband and I were messaged 2 hours before his flight landed hoping (or assuming, as it really felt) that I could pick him from the airport. The text message came from the sister with the new baby to only my husband and myself (knowing my husband was in class and unable to break away). The text message didn’t include the other sister or her husband. Come to find out, the hubby of the sister with the new baby had gone off hunting instead of being around for his father-in-law who was coming to visit his new baby. So, you can be the judge, but I certainly took it as the assumption that because I’m a stay at home mom, I had nothing better to do or that it couldn’t possibly be an inconvenience. I mean, what could I possibly be doing with my time?
Let me tell you, my take is that this kind of assumption was rude and inconsiderate. My daughter was coming down with a cold and I had spent 4 or 5 days prior keeping us busy while my husband was away. I needed the day to stay home, catch up on housework and tend to my daughter’s cold while trying to catch her up on her preschool work. Not to mention, I really needed to swap out books at the library before I incurred late fees and missed out on the round of books I had on hold.
This isn’t the only time I’ve been expected to be inconvenienced and then questioned when we can’t (or won’t) comply. There’s a real issue with making plans ahead of time as it’s not uncommon to be requested to come over for dinner the day of. Seriously? Occasionally is one thing, but I’m not planning my meals by the seat of my pants. I have my meals planned out at least a week in advance (which makes grocery shopping easier) and normally my meat is thawing in the fridge during the day for dinner. As you’re reading this, my meal is probably planned and thawing because that’s how we maintain routine and sanity in this house. And, to be honest, both my daughter and I thrive on routines. Even hubby has recognized how much more simple life is since we always know I’ll have dinner ready early and the kiddo can be ready for bed at a decent hour. It works for us and some occasional emergencies or spontaneity can be accounted for, but not regular inconsistencies and preferably not for inconsiderate requests or assumptions.
Make No Assumptions About a Stay At Home Mom’s Availability
If you want my help, asking last minute is neither appropriate or appreciated. I respect you have to do what you need to do with your time as a working parent, but your time isn’t any more valuable than mine. When you interrupt our schedules or plans on a whim for lack of planning or selfish reasons on your part, you aren’t just affecting me, but my entire household. If you cause a hiccup in our schedule, it effects me and the little ones. Just because I’m not getting paid as a stay at home mom doesn’t mean that I’m not working or that I don’t have things that need to be done.
Asking me for help is okay and I may happily oblige if it isn’t dropped on me at the last minute. I require planning and scheduling so that I can take care of the needs of my household as fits us.
None of this is to be considered griping or whining about my life as a stay at home mom. It’s hard work and many times feels under-appreciated, but it’s the decision my husband and I made because we felt it was the best for our family. But that decision doesn’t mean my time, resources, or schedules are any less valuable than yours as a working parent.
Chime in folks.
If you’re a stay at home parent, do you feel like people take your time for granted? Did I miss anything you think I should add?
For the working parents, do you think you’ve ever taken a stay at home parent’s time for granted?