Millions of families have suddenly found themselves in a strange new world, one in which parents and kids are all stuck at home together. All day and all night. Every day. Every night.
It's fine. We're fine. Everything is fine.
One outcome of this sudden 24/7 togetherness is that working parents are getting a taste of what stay-at-home parents do all day—and they're quickly discovering that the role is far more challenging than they thought.
We're in a weird time right now so that taste is a little skewed. Stay-at-home parents usually get to leave the house and go to the park, run errands, drive kids to and from activities, etc. Then again, they're also all usually doing it by themselves. Nevertheless, the reality of being responsible for children all day and night is hitting home.
People without kids or parents who work outside the home (amazing folks in their own right—no dogging on working parents) often don't understand the busy-ness that looking after children all day entails. The attention it demands. The mess it creates. The maintenance work involved. The emotional toll it can take. The relentless nature of it all.
Most stay-at-home moms (and dads—not trying to leave you out here) have been asked the question, "So what do you do all day?" more than once. Perhaps it's just genuine curiosity, but it often feels like there's a judgment floating beneath the surface. "You just have to hang out with your kids. How could that possibly fill up the whole day?"
Well, now you know.
Salary.com did an estimate of the value of stay-at-home moms' duties and figured out that if they did that job professionally they could reasonably expect a salary of $162,581 per year. Having stayed home with kids myself, that sounds about right.
The first time my 15-year-old babysat for three whole days—one child—she came home and said, "Kids are tiring!" She loved it, but she was surprised at how much energy it took. I just laughed and said, "Tell me about it, kiddo."
Different ages demand different amounts and different kinds of physical and emotional work, but it's still work. And it's work that doesn't have a clear beginning or end, doesn't have a performance review to let you know if you're doing well, and doesn't come with a paycheck or bonus. When you're a parent caring for kids all day long, you're working all day long—just without the official recognition that goes along with professional work.
And it's constantly changing. It's not like you can get really good at your job and coast a little. Children are constantly growing and changing, and what they need constantly changes, and your role constantly changes. All parents experience this, but stay-at-home parents are in the thick of it all. the. time. Even during times that your kids are occupied for a while, you're still "on."
I remember when my kids were little, it felt like a vacation just to go to the store by myself. (Still does, actually, and my kids are all in the double-digit ages.) I adore my children more than anything else in the world, and I love spending time with them, but there's a limit. Kids have so many needs. When they're little, they need food, protection, assistance to do basic things, nurturing, emotional comfort, etc. As they get older and their physical needs diminish, their emotional needs become greater. When you're the available parent, you're the one meeting those needs. And constantly being needed is exhausting.
And that's not even throwing in the housekeeping tasks, which can almost feel like a full-time job on their own.
Clearly, we're not living under normal circumstances at the moment, so people are getting a bit of a strange taste of what full-time, hands-on parenting normally looks like, but it's enough of a taste to recognize that stay-at-home moms are not sitting around twiddling their thumbs all day.
So congrats, stay-at-home moms for finally getting your hour in the sun. Sorry it literally took a global pandemic and for life as we know it to come to a screeching halt for you to finally get the recognition and acknowledgment you deserve.
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