I find the competition between working parents and stay at home parents a rather bizarre one. Not least because regardless of if someone works or stays at home, their general situation has a large part to play in how difficult their life is from day to day.
Now I’m a stay at home parent, I also write this blog and study. Mr. C is very hands on when it comes to home life, but he works long hours, a lot of weekends and aside from him I have no other support. To be honest it became extremely difficult to stay on top of everything, so we hired some help. We now have the most wonderful cleaner and the boys are in nursery, giving me one morning a week to catch up on everything I haven’t had a chance to do in the evenings. I rarely get to bed before 10:30pm at night and I’m constantly behind on emails.
It’s hard work, but just because my situation is difficult at times doesn’t invalidate someone else’s situation. There are both working and stay at home parents that struggle to keep on top of things, there are elements of these people’s lives that make their situation uniquely difficult, regardless of whether they work 40 hour weeks or spend their time at home.
Earlier in the week, someone on my social media feed uploaded an image that said, ‘I hear you. Raising kids and running a house keeps me busy too. I also have this little gig on the side called a full time job’. This parent in particular has four children, two of which have already flown the nest and out of the two that remain, one is 18 and the other is in secondary school. So while yes she does work full time, the children who remain living in her house are of an age where they can dress themselves, feed themselves and are out of the house for a majority of the day. It seems an odd notion to compare her life to that of a parent with children who aren’t yet at school age.
I recently spoke to a friend of mine, who is a stay at home parent, has a lot of support but was struggling with keeping the house straight. She mentioned how my house was always tidy and the washing always done. I looked at her a bit surprised, because she is still breastfeeding a baby who is at the age where separation anxiety kicks in. It is no wonder the house has gotten a bit messy, when my youngest was 4 months old, although there were always clean clothes to wear, my laundry basket resembled Mount Everest.
A huge difference between working and stay at home parents is the emotional battle that they go through. Now this obviously doesn’t apply to everyone, but as a stay at home parent, I struggled with my sense of identity and needed to find something in life that made me ‘me’ again (you can read about that here). But as a stay at home parent with a lot of other things going on, I feel such an immense amount of guilt for not being there as much as I used to be for my family. Perhaps I haven’t found the right balance yet, I don’t know, but I think the emotional side of each situation plays a huge part in how they are uniquely different and therefore uniquely difficult.
But if we set the differences in situation aside entirely, then another aspect of the argument comes to light; just because a parent is juggling a lot of things, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are doing them all well. I have a lot of things going on in life, but on weeks where I’m hugely behind on work, my children watch more TV than I’m comfortable with while I catch up. On weeks when I’ve got family life down, I’ve got an email inbox bursting at the seams. On weeks when I manage to keep on top of home life and work, I haven’t been to the gym once, have gained 2lbs and have barely spoken to Mr. C.
So while I know most people will still argue that one is more difficult than the other, I wonder why being a stay at home parent is compared to being a working parent at all? It just seems a rather strange thing to compare when the two are so vastly different.