What is this lack of understanding of what a “stay at home parent” does? I’m pretty sure that there are at least (and I think this is probably a drastic underestimation) three people in my friends group that consider that I do nothing all day!
I have mentioned this “but what do you do all day?” phrase before when I posted about being a “Stay at home Mama… or not?” but more and more things happen in my life that make me realise the complete and utter misunderstanding of the stay at home parent that a number of people have, it seems. This is going to be a rant!
Back in February, when I wrote my original post. My answer to the question of what I do all day was this:
“Well, clearly I spend time with my daughter! We go to various groups during the week, meet up with friends with little ones for play dates, play at home, go to the library, go to town and that’s on top of the normal day to day stuff everyone does, which when you have a child takes twice as long.”
An acquaintance responded, in person, to the above and couldn’t understand my beef as they do all of that too, but they also have a full time job.
Another friend who is yet to have children said that I must get a lot of time to relax and enjoy Littlebit.
Now I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy Littlebit, of course I do, that goes without saying. But relax, are you having a laugh? Have you ever been in the same room as a 2 year old for more than a few minutes?
Eyes in the back of your head is an understatement. So far today Littlebit has crash landed on the floor twice, first just by skidding whilst running, second time falling backwards off her chair giving herself a good crack on the head on the way. She’s torn a magazine to shreds. She’s drawn on the wall with her crayons. All of this while I was sending an email, just one email, taking my eyes off her for seconds at a time. It’s not that she’s naughty, she’s actually a pretty easy going toddler. She just likes to explore and is starting to push the boundaries to find out what is ok, and what is not.
So, what do I do all day? And why do I think my job is just as stressful as yours?
When you have young children your days consist of:
- constant attention – from the moment they get up to the minute they go back to bed again. From getting them up, to feeding, cleaning, comforting, listening to, trying to understand, answering their garbled requests and entertaining.
- staying one step ahead of them – feeding, changing, cleaning, calming at just the right moment.
- keeping them out of harms way – from pulling the books off the shelf onto their heads, to falling off furniture, to walking into the table 5 times a day, to not running out of the front door when it’s opened for the post man, to keeping them away from any hazards like that hot cup of coffee. Permanent vigilance.
- forever planning – to make sure you have exactly the right number of nappies, snacks, books to keep them quiet, making sure you are getting in the car or getting home at the exact opportune moment for a nap.
- constant touch.
- constant use of your voice.
- it’s needing an hour to do something that used to take you 15 minutes.
- relegation of your needs to bottom of the pile.
- it’s knowing that whenever you leave the house there is someone surveying what you are doing as a mother, scrutinising you, judging you, watching you.
- all of this while being your child’s teacher. Teaching them pretty much everything they need to learn: language, independence, creativity, manners, safety, curiosity, sympathy, empathy, how and when to share, discipline. Like I said, pretty much everything!
- it’s never being alone, not even for 5 minutes, not really, as even when they’re in bed you’re still listening for them.
- it’s being constantly responsible for their well being, for their life.
- and lastly, and this is the biggie, as a stay at home parent you don’t get to switch off. A non stay at home parent, who perhaps goes out to work, gets to switch off from their child. Well, ok not switch off as I’m sure you still think of them every minute of every day. But they are not your sole responsibility for the time they are in someone else’s care.
The pressure of that responsibility is immense.
This is my choice, I would choose it again and again. Every single time. It is an absolute joy. It is the best job I have ever, EVER had. But that doesn’t mean I have to find it easy, not all of the time. It is hard, so very hard. Some days more than others.
Some days hubby gets home from a long and stressful day at work, having just driven 45 minutes and I have to just hand her over and take 5 minutes off. Is that so wrong?