Monday, June 3, 2013

The Stay At Home Parent.

You know, sometimes Stay At Home Moms are treated like second class citizens. Whether or not you personally agree with that, it's true. It really is.
If I am told one more time that "I don't actually work", or "Imagine how hard your life would be if you had a real job!" I might have to pop someone in the nose. I just might.

People, the time has come to stop thinking that just because a parent chooses to be at home raising their family, they are not, in fact, waving the white flag of surrender and retiring from the working class world. Note that I am saying Parent here because I know there are a lot of Stay At Home Fathers now too. And good for them, I might add.

In a perfect world, when people find out that I have chosen to be at home with my kids they would say, "My goodness, you are wonderful. What a hard, thankless, tiresome task that is. You should be commended on your ability to sacrifice that extra money for what you feel is best for your family." In a perfect world, there would be a national Stay At Home Parent Celebratory Day wherein all Stay At Home Parents would get a day off. Completely to themselves. And free ice cream. All day.

Yes dear nay-sayers, the Stay At Home Parent works. Very hard. Everyday. When my dear husband leaves for his job in the morning--away from chattering children and in a controlled, quiet environment (I might add), my day is only just picking up from yesterday. The To Do list from the day before never seems to be fully completed and my mornings are spent trying to magically merge that list with the list for the new day.

I have kids to get up and get ready. I know what you're thinking. I do. You're thinking, "But Amanda, the girls are older now. They take care of themselves. You have no work here. Stop whining." I will concede that their getting older has certainly lessened some of the load. Now if only children would magically jump out of bed ready to bound into the bathroom and get ready for the day. And if only they managed to do this without getting half a tube of toothpaste all over the sink. And the counter soaking wet from their noble attempts at washing their face. And without leaving piles of clothing (more than I knew they were even wearing, apparently) all over the floor. It would be like absolutely no work at all.

After feeding them breakfast (and I'll skip over the mess that is everyday; suffice it to say we go through multiple choices which they completely veto before landing on Pop Tarts), it's on to a day of school. Now here's where my day differs slightly from other Stay At Home Parents; I have elected to school my girls at home using an online e-academy. Having taught in an actual brick and mortar school in the past, I can say that the amount of work I put into my daily lessons for this e-school is very similar. There is daily planning to be done, and then prepping for lessons, and then preparing each lesson before teaching it, and then evaluating if they understood it or if I need to switch gears to try again. Looking at the week in advance and asking myself, "How can I make this better? What can I pull in to bring it off the page and make it more interactive? Library books? Experiments? Activities? Crafts? All the while looking ahead in the curriculum to find ways to link certain subjects to one another or to activities we happen to be doing. In short: I'm teaching. And teaching without the benefit of knowing next year will be "better" in that my lesson plans are set. Nope, next year will be a new grade level with new lessons. Back to square one. Again.

After my time directly teaching the girls wraps up, I pull free to do that most pressing of all Stay At Home tasks: Clean. People who think you can't possibly need to clean everyday are very, very wrong. Either that or they haven't seen my house. When you are in your house all day everyday, messes are made. Lots of them. Everyday. So you do the best you can to keep things in check and caught up. But dang it, that laundry things throws a complete wrench in the plans. I have figured out (finally) that if I do two loads everyday, I will keep just ahead of the week. Now as soon as I put that sage advice into practice, we'll be golden. (And maybe it will be a lot like having "No Work" everyday).

Of course, in between loads of laundry, picking up, cleaning, dusting, vacuuming, sweeping, and checking in from time to time with the girls on their independent school work, I have to plan meals. Apparently, no matter how busy the day gets, the family still has to eat. Sometimes I feel like there is pressure on me to make grand and amazing lunches and dinners every single day. You know, because I'm home and I "don't work". Surely I must have time, right? Meals around here have to be fully planned in advance, so I can shop for the stuff and make sure it's in my house before I get stuck in the middle of a recipe without it. (That happens often.) And since we're on a budget (my non-paying, non-working job doesn't add much to the old bank account), what I make needs to be economical. In short, I am tasked with the daily challenge to prepare meals that are fabulously amazing and completely and utterly cheap. No last minute pizza runs here. Or Chinese.

After dinner is in the books and a memory, I have to close up the day. What still needs done that can't wait until tomorrow? What does tomorrow look like? Can I even add to that list? Meanwhile, naturally, there are two girls to pull together for bed: baths and nightly reading first. Finally, an hour or two for just me and the dear husband. Day over. Sort of---there is that on-going list from today that rolls over into tomorrow.

Don't get me wrong, I love what I do. And like most Stay At Home Parents, I have chosen to do this. But I feel like society should stop making me (making US) feel bad about it. Staying at home is not a cop out, people. It's a hard choice that means you're on the front line every single day. Rain or shine. Sick or healthy. It's you. All you. Only you.

So please, when I say that I stay home with my kids, don't respond with, "So you don't work then?" Because I do work, thank you. It's also not comforting to hear, "My gosh, I would LOVE to stay home all day. But some of us have to work, you know." Again, I work. At home. For no pay. My day is not filled with bon-bons and books read on the couch, or catching up on My Stories on television. And even though you think it makes it better, asking "Do you work outside the home" isn't especially helpful either. I get it, you're implying I work...just not "outside" the house. But honestly, that makes me feel like I'm in a cage.

It is, however, okay to say, "Thank you for your hard work." That's always nice to hear (and I've heard it a few times). It's also nice to hear, "I hope you're able to get time for yourself sometimes." It's pleasant when people keep in mind that some days are real sanity-busters. And it's always okay to say, "I wish I could have done that." I know what a privilege my being home is. It's a sacrifice on our family finances, but it's a blessing. I know many people who would love to stay home but can't.

Staying at home isn't for everyone. And just like any job, there are lots of 'Bad Examples' out there that give it a bad name. But there are also the diligent among us. The daily laborers who toil tirelessly, (often thanklessly) away, for a greater good. So when I say "I'm a stay at home Mom", please try something encouraging rather than the cut downs. Thank you muchly.

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