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Why being a stay-at-home parent is the hardest job:

Changing a diaper isn't hard. Warming a bottle. Waiting in the doctor's office. No, not too hard. Arranging a playdate, then having to cancel the plan because of your child's fever. Doesn't require an advanced degree.

So why is being a stay-at-home Mom the "hardest job" you can have? It's not about what you are doing that makes it hard. It's about what you are not doing.

You're not building a career, staying ahead of the game, honing your marketable skills. But you still need money to buy food and necessities. So no matter your education level or accomplishments, you're dependent on someone else. That's hard.

You're not doing anything for yourself anymore--cooking foods you like, going to stores you prefer, seeing movies you enjoy. You cook foods your kids will eat. You go to stores that will interest the kids. You see movies that the kids will sit through.

You're not always able to be there for your friends when they need you and you want to be there for them. You can't suddenly go to your friend's house when she was just dumped because you can't leave your kid home alone. This is why it is hard. Because you love your friend, too.

And then when you do finally arrange a time to have drinks, you have to cancel because your kid is sick or you are just too tired or your husband had to work late or the babysitter cancel... your life isn't your own anymore, it's forever attached to someone who needs care. Twenty-four hours a day. Someone who can't yet fathom that you might have needs, too.

You're not watching CSI in the middle of the day when you really need a break because you hate interrupting the show twenty times to explain why there are so many "painted, plastic people" that look like that. You finally come to the realization that it is easier to not do things. Not watch your shows, not try to have a meaningful phone conversation with your friend, not get dressed in anything you care about, not take a shower more than once a week.

You do not have a clean house, no matter how much you clean it. You do not have a noticeable end to laundry, dishes, homework to help with, doctor's appointments, dentist appointments, and holidays to make special. You do not get to have a sense of accomplishment or completion at the end of a project. The monotony is really hard.

You do not get to have any object that is "precious." Anything in the house, the car, in a drawer, on the wall, or worn on your body is up for destruction with just one wayward nail polish stroke or an unsupervised flush.

You're not living a spontaneous life. You're packing the diaper bag and taking the time to find the sunscreen. You're bringing snacks. You're making sure to not forget someone else's jacket. You're learning that taking kids on a vacation is more work for you than just staying home.

You are not browsing bookstores for hours, losing track of time. You're not wandering downtown and able to happen upon a cafe with live music that you can stay for. You are not able to let your mind wander for an entire, uninterrupted thought.

You are not able to access all those tools you used to in order to manage yourself. You can't take a break, make a call, have a drink, go for a walk, run, or drive. You do not get to have infinite patience anymore. Now it has borders, and those lines get crossed. And now you get to deal with the person you become on the other side of your best intentions.

You do not get to be who you want to be all the time. You do not get to do things without considering the kids, even if you end up doing it anyway.

You're not starring in a Hollywood movie, making a million dollars, or running off with a rock star. You're a stay-at-home parent. You're not even starring in your own home movies. Not making a dime of your own. And you're just trying to get the piano teacher to even call you back. Your one big dream of 'having kids' comes at the cost of all your others.

You do not get to live free from the responsibility that no matter what your choices or intentions, it will all impact your children.

You do not get to eat what you want, when you want. You do not get to drink a soda or eat candy without defending it or sharing it. You do not get to go to the bathroom uninterrupted. You do not get to skip making dinner when you are not hungry. You do not get to go first. You do not get the last piece to yourself. You rarely get to stay for the whole show.

You do not get to rest when you are tired. You don't get to sleep in. You don't get to have quiet when you need it. You don't get to determine by yourself what music is played or how loud.

You don't get to call in sick. You don't get to go home from your job. You don't get to take a vacation.

You don't get to spend your day having intelligent conversations with adults acting in a professional, respectful manner. You don't get be around reasonable, rational, sane people. You don't get to make it through a day without someone crying or screaming at you.

You don't get to turn your cell phone off when you have a few minutes away. You don't get to be off-duty completely. Ever.

You don't get to interview these housemates you'll be with for at least 18 years. You don't get to determine their ultimate behaviors, beliefs, or feelings about you or the world. You do not have control of them, and because you are legally responsible for them and their actions, you don't have ultimate control of your life either. You do not get to have your freedom.

This is why being a stay-at-home parent is the hardest job.

--Laurie M

May 28, 2010

© 2010 Laurie M Simpkinson. All rights reserved.

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