Stay-at-home Is the Exception – Not the Rule
I have a lot of respect for stay-at-home dads (and moms of course!). You work tirelessly to keep your kids fed, entertained, and largely poop-free. All this while keeping up on the house-work and hopefully getting in some me-time while kids are napping (if you have more than one kid under 5-years, then sorry, they never nap at the same time). But man, it seems like a tough and thankless gig. To add even more, if your kid is on a year-round schedule, then you have to deal with things like the Fall Break.
My wife and I would both love to be stay-at-home parents, but student debt, pre-school tuition, and a number of other things keeps this from being a reality. We’ve tried to work out the possibilities using napkins and spreadsheets, but it just wouldn’t be possible for one of us to stay home without a substantial cut to our standard of living. While a working father and a stay-at-home mother used to be the norm, in today’s America, or at least, in my bubble, it seems to be the exception to the rule.
Preschool to Kindergarten
Now, It wasn’t too difficult to juggle two kids in pre-school with two full-time parents working, because the kids could be dropped off early and picked up late. However, now that our daughter is in a half-day/year-round kindergarten schedule, things are more challenging. I’ve been fortunate to have an incredibly flexible job schedule that allows me to work remote three days a week. My office is about fifty miles away, so this helps me stay sane after making that commute two or three times a week. I’m a big fan of both Audible and Spotify (though sometimes just silence is the best thing to listen to). Anyway, I do the drop-off/pick-up routine most days, and my father-in-law picks up the days when I have to drive the Los Angeles and back. We are exceptionally grateful (and lucky), he just happened to retire a month before the school-year started.
What I’m worried about though, and how I can really start to appreciate the benefits of having a stay-at-home parent, is what we are going to do with this year-round schedule. For anyone who doesn’t know, a year-round schedule means that students go to classes for a few months, and then have a month-long break, then go to school for a few months, and then have a month-long break, and go to classes for a few months, and then have a month-long break. In other words, the three-month summer break is spread out into three one-month breaks. I can remember being in high school and when hearing about this kind of a schedule, thinking it was just awful. How can someone survive without a summer break? The real pain of being a parent of a child in this kind of schedule never crossed my mind. So what am I going to do with my daughter for a month, other than letting her Netflix-and-chill her way through all seven seasons of My Little Pony on a weekly basis? (Seriously, suggestions in the comments please).
I guess what I’m trying to say is that we all have to balance work and family and even if we don’t have a “job” outside the home, staying at home IS a full-time job.
For the past two months, most days I’ve been working from home, doing my best to get Jenna drawing, playing with Play-Doh, and for the most part, she can play in imagination land for hours. I’d like to say that, while I’m working, my daughter is always playing, painting, running around outside, singing, or dancing. Truth be told, she often is doing these things, but these activities are often the bookends of a few episodes of Barbie Life in the Dreamhouse, Equestria Girls, or The Lion Guard. I’m pretty proud of my girl though, because, despite being a pretty heavy screen viewer, she loves art and writing, talks like a teenager (this is also a big pain, but at least I’m sorta getting prepared for later years… right?), and is all around a bright and beautiful child.
Work/Life Balance is a Struggle for All
I guess what I’m trying to say is that we all have to balance work and family and even if we don’t have a “job” outside the home, staying at home IS a full-time job. There are a lot of parents (or single-parents) that don’t get to spend half or even part of their day in the company of their children, and would very well like to. Hell, there are days when I leave for the office before the kids get up, and get home after they’ve been put to sleep (thanks, Super-Mom).
To all the stay-at-home parents, I admire you and what you deal with day-in and day-out. The often thankless routines of keeping a house and family in order. To all the 40/50-hour a week working parents, I also feel for you and the sacrifices you make to keep food on the table and electricity flowing. No matter where you are or your situation, keep loving your children and teach them the value of your time and theirs, and I guarantee they’ll turn out okay.
Are you a stay-at-home parent? or maybe you work all day and devote your weekends to family. I’d love to hear your perspective in the comments below.