There’s a socially accepted statement about stay-at-home parents, that you hear and see in movies and tv shows. It’s always kind of said with the connotation of “I better say this, but I don’t really believe it and nobody else does either.” That’s this line: “being a stay-at-home mom/dad is the hardest job there is.” I never really noticed how prolific these words are until I was in my current situation, and I find it offensive and condescending when I hear it, unless it is coming from someone who has been in the role themselves.
I have been a stay-at-home parent now for the past 6 months. Crazy how time has flown. Although it has been a short time so far, I can tell you that it is one of the hardest jobs you can have, without question. If you genuinely care and want your kids to have every benefit possible from you being home, it is definitely difficult. On the other hand, if you just float by as a stay-at-home parent, and do the bare minimum, then maybe it’s not for you.
What makes it so difficult is the psychological toll it takes on your intellectually-developed mind. That is, you are an interesting person, who has thoughts, opinions, and world views. In the regular workplace you are stimulated and have an outlet for this. You also have challenges that help keep regular day-to-day stuff in perspective. As a stay-at-home parent, it’s gone, replaced with baby/kid talk with other parents, your partner, and everyone else. Your world revolves around the baby/children.
That’s not so bad, is it? Not really, but too much of anything will will either brainwash you or create a bit of natural discomfort. For me, it’s more about the discomfort at the moment. “Whatever happened to me?” I said today in a conversation with my wife. It’s “little guy needs this” and “little guy did that” and “we should think about XYZ for the little guy.” All of this is normal, good, and right – unless it is happening as an overwriting your sense or agency as a person in the family, or overwriting the needs of the relationship that is the base in the family (the parents).
I am sure I am not the only one to feel this way. Many people like me (career-driven) have gone thru a similar thing when they have stayed home with their children. So what do you do?
Just keep on loving first and foremost. Love your partner, your children, your family, and everyone else in your life. Love grows exponentially.
If you have a partner who is staying home with the children, make sure they know you appreciate it. Say good job, compliment them before they need to hear it, and so on.
Take it easy on yourself. It might feel like you are getting lost in a world of “baby” / “kids”, but I promise that the “you” who was so amazing before you decided to stay home is still there, is still important, and is still alive inside you. You’ve just give yourself a break – don’t put to much pressure on yourself.
Those accomplishments and goals that you strive for in the workplace that help make work life fulfilling are no longer there, and that is hard sometimes – after all, a child does not say “dude, dad, you did an awesome job changing that diaper.” So find some ways to compliment yourself by doing little things and smaller goals. Like for me it might be about making homemade baby food while the little guy is taking a nap. And if you need some recognition, don’t forget my favorite quote, by Mark Twain: “if you can’t get a compliment any other way, pay yourself one.” 😉