When asked what it is that I do, I am quick to answer my full time job is a stay at home dad. Sometimes, I follow up with my part time jobs which include some at-home public relations work for small businesses and a reserve officer in the Army National Guard.
People often debate if being a stay-at-home parent is truly a “job”. I believe it depends on your definition of a “job.” Is it an employment where you exchange your time for money? No. But without a doubt, it is work and an absolute time commitment.
Even when you enjoy your job, there are times when you wish you could do something else but you can’t. You are on the clock and your are limited on time off. Speaking of which, that is one big difference between the SAH parent and the working parent. One parent switches roles during their day. For better or worse they get to leave the house and turn on a different part of their brain and focus on their work.
PHOTO NOTE: While I was searching for a photo to add to this post, my son decided to help himself to some finger paint. Yes I had to clean up a mess but I did find my photo. Just goes to show the constant attention that is required by the SAH parent.
Who gets time off?
The traditional scene is; husband comes home from work, wife asks husband to watch kids for a while, husband says he worked all day and needs his time to relax and anger ensues. Although every household is different most parents have experienced or know someone else who has experienced this situation.
As I am sure you have gathered, I view this situation from a reversed angle and have some insight to share with both SAH and working parents.
Both the employed parent and the SAH parent have done their share of work during the day. One of the differences is that they employed parent gets to shift gears during their day. He or she gets to focus their time and energy on different tasks and interact with different people. This shift in itself is a bit of a break. The SAH parent needs their moment to shift gears. To not worry about the kids, even if just for 30 solid minutes, will help keep the SAH parent from losing their mind.
I am lucky. My wife is always eager to spend an hour completely engaged with Hunter when she gets home (or whatever she can get). It doesn’t take long before we start into dinner, bath and bedtime routines and she normally is all over that. This gave me a big break in the evenings.
Lately though, as she is five months pregnant, it has become harder for her to keep up with some of that routine. I have gladly picked up the slack but it has brought me to realize and appreciate the big break that I was given previously.
Let me be clear. When I speak of the break I am given as the SAHD, I am not playing video games or kicking back with a beer. I usually use this time constructively, working on something that I couldn’t do while while having to watch my son. I will take the dog for some exercise out back or work on one of several home improvement projects I have going on (NOTE TO SELF: START DIY-DAD BLOGS). The point is that I get that time to shift my focus to something else for a while, even if it is just other work.
The SAHD truth is when you’re parents, no-one gets a lot of time to themselves to simply relax. However, a little time to shift gears away from parenting during their day is vitally important to each parent’s mental wellness.
I welcome both affirming and contradicting thoughts and experiences in the comments below. Please be polite.