Let me start by saying I give stay at home parents mad props. Like seriously. Handling unexpected situations, constant arguments or crying, and the bribery dance is a recipe for a bottomless glass of wine. That is – if I can physically make it to the kitchen after getting two kids off to bed. Really, how do you accomplish anything else?
I get it. Finally. It only took 2,204 days (roughly 6 ½ years) and an abrupt job loss to get my turn as a stay at home parent. And at four and six years old, the kids can actually help out so I can’t imagine what it was like when they didn’t comprehend words, couldn’t put on shoes or fill a cup of water.
After staying home for four months and taking on some – not even all responsibilities – I now understand the stress, challenges, frustrations, and realities of THE hardest job in the world. I thought my corporate role with a global food-service company was stressful. Nope. I can handle a lot at work. You can throw curveballs, change the strategy, and even run me short-staffed. I can handle that. All of it. At the same time in fact. But what I cannot handle is staying home with two little souls I gave birth to and love the most. The stress of the corporate world is nothing compared to staying home.
I always knew staying at home was hard. I joked with my husband that I could never do his job as a stay-at-home parent. I always gave him credit, but never truly understood. Admittedly, I gave him slack when the house was a wreck or laundry wasn’t done. I couldn’t understand how a full day could go by with all of the “house” stuff not getting done.
What I didn’t account for were the unexpected situations that – to my surprise – happened all the time. Like the midday meltdown (sometimes in public) that threw the rest of the day off, the endless bickering from siblings over silly things, or the unplanned grocery run for classroom snacks that popped up mid-week. Not to mention the child that woke in the middle of the night for two hours, which means I was up for at least 2 ½ hours and now exhausted. All of these impromptu roadblocks and barriers create more stress than I imagined. And all of a sudden, I started understanding how tough staying at home is.
Four months at home taught me a lot. The biggest lesson of all was realizing it really wasn’t all possible. For as efficient, organized, and productive I could be at work—it was different at home. I needed some slack (and boy did I pull the “new in position” card a few times), but staying at home was hard work. I now know that when dishes don’t get done or there’s a pile of clothes unfolded, it’s for good reason. Stay-at-home parents are trying their best, despite getting pushed to their limits daily and working in a very stressful and demanding environment. Not to mention, there are no breaks and you don’t get paid!
But in all seriousness, this job is selfless. It takes a special person to stay home and even the nicest, most patient person is going to have their day (or days) where everything isn’t so. So I raise my hands up high in the air and give stay at home parents all the accolades in the world. You deserve it. You deserve a pat on the back, a night off (or out!), a hot bath or shower, a foot massage – heck a full body massage. Staying at home is NOT easy and I’m even more grateful to stay-at-home parents having done the job for four months. This job challenged me and many days I felt like a “newbie”. And please don’t tell my kids I’ve been lying to them here and there. Like saying “no, I don’t think we have cheese” (for grilled cheese) to avoid cleaning another pan after lunch. Shhhhh….