It’s been a year of being a stay-at-home mom and here’s what I’ve learned: that this is the hardest job I’ve had. When I used to review resumes, I would laugh at people who would list their stay-at-home mom job as “CEO of family” or “Domestic Engineer” to try to spruce up the title. And while yes, that is still ridiculous, if I ever recruit again, I know whatever you give a previous stay-at-home parent to do, it won’t be as hard as what they’ve already done. Because here’s what being a stay-at-home parent entails that you will never find on any job description:
Ever. There is no water cooler breaks, no lunch breaks. Your lunch is spent shoveling food into the mouths of little ones, while grabbing a bite yourself here and there. It usually takes me approximately three hours to finish my salad. And bathroom breaks? Nope. Of course you will go to the bathroom, but that will be while holding the infant on your lap or putting him in his walker with you in the bathroom. You can’t leave those little guys alone for a second unless you want them to climb and fall down the stairs.
Long hours (all hours)
Think of the job you had that you had to work at the most: late nights, weekends, emails from home. That is nothing compared to be a stay-at-home parent. The hours are endless. Even when you fall asleep at the end of the day, you don’t know how soon you will be woken up again and be back at it. There are no alarms, because that would be a luxury: being able to know ahead of time how much sleep you’re going to get.
No team in I
At a job, you have resources. You are part of a team that makes the giant machine run. You are a cog in the wheel, not the entire (split-open) wheel. At home, you don’t have anyone to be your “second pair of eyes” or someone to “bounce ideas off of” (can you imagine? “Would it be terrible if I left them in the swings so I could take a shower? No, that’s a bad idea. Isn’t it?”) There is no one who will cover for you, to help you out in a jam. You are an island. You are alone in this. Yikes.
Biggest understatement ever. No pay, and you are bleeding money keeping the children fed, clothed and sheltered. That also means no raises, and not even a performance review when you finally get to hear a much needed “good job.” And because you don’t work a paying job, you get the added bonus of people asking you what you do and having to lower your eyes and say, “I stay home” like you’re some sort of unemployed loser. I don’t know if they think it, but I think they think I have no skills, no ambitions or dreams, when that is the farthest thing from the truth.
I think this one is the worst for me. I crave conversation that isn’t about Caillou or finishing two more bites. I want to talk about pointless TV or make fun of someone’s tie behind his back. I am writing to remind myself I know English – the full version, not just the same twenty nags you use on children. Having a friend or at least another breathing adult at work is a very under-appreciated perk.
Ever-expanding job duties
If you drop your child off at a daycare, you’re paying someone to take care of your child. So you would think being a full-time caretaker would be taking care of your children. Which it is…And so much more. You also have to keep the house clean and cook meals. You need to do the shopping. You need to do all of this with the kids around – crying and/or getting into things. Or you can save it for when they are asleep and waste the tiny sliver of alone time you have to begin with. Your choice (there is no right one).
Loss of identity
I think the other hardest thing for me to adjust to is being a mom above all else. It feels sometimes like I traded in who I was to be a parent, and in many ways, I did. So I stay up late after the kids go to bed to remind myself of my non-mom self. I run, I read, I write, I do puzzles and take baths. I try to cram all of my hobbies into evenings so I can keep a sliver of the old me alive. Because once 7:30 rolls around (or 6:45 or 5:17, or 4:26 or…) you once again sacrifice yourself for your children. Because that’s what parents do: they morph from who they were into what their children need. And stay-at-home parents do it all day every day.