Monday, October 6, 2008

Stay At Home Parenting

I have been blessed to be able to stay at home and parent both of my children in their earliest stages of development. With each of my two children and in each of my two marriages, I was afforded this luxury. And as wonderful as this sounds, there is so much more that goes into it, that both your working partner and other non-stay-at-home parents cannot possibly understand. Let me shed some light.

First of all, it is not all beer and Skittles. We do not sit on the couch eating bon-bons and watching a litany of soap operas and talk shows. While our job looks easy to those who brave the traffic and office politics to put a roof over our heads and food on our tables, you are sadly mistaken. We have our own unique set of problems and stresses, some of which you worker-types couldn't handle for three times your annual salary.

Choose your favorite co-worker--past or present. Someone that you enjoyed working with or for, no matter the reason, and given the chance, would work with that person every work day. OK, now try this... You work with that person seven days a week, 24 hours a day, in the same setting. A little bit of cabin fever over time, right? Not even close...

You are responsible for feeding them and clothing them. Everything that you do and say and every single tone of voice and emotion you display is being burned into that little person's memory with all the permanence of a branding iron or a really bad tattoo. In turn, it is creating their behavior in conjunction with their own personality. They will repeat things that you didn't even know that they heard, at the most embarrassing possible time and place. Think that would be stressful? Check this out...

For a while, every single time you turn around, you will have to grab out to counters, walls, chairs, tables and anything else in reaching distance-- mid-freefall -- to keep from completely tripping over them and hurting yourself or them to the point where a visit to the hospital would be a very good idea. Even if you manage to perfect your stunt-person moves and avoid being the source of their (or your) physical damage, eventually, there will be blood. There will be bruises. There will be tears. There will be nightmares from TV shows they shouldn't have seen or bedding that has to be changed at 3 am. Both of which have the possibility of lasting for an extended run of an undetermined number of nights in a row.

There will be blankets and entire rolls of toilet paper in the toilet because you were viewed using the potty, putting in a small amount of said toilet paper and making the hugest mistake of all--flushing. This will create a fascination that will last months and very rarely be pretty, and can in fact, be fatal to small pets, some stuffed animals and almost all TV remotes and cell phones.

There will be soaked-to-the-skin-even-though-you're-not-the-one-in-the-tub bath times that will make you check your homeowners policy concerning flood damage. Those times will inevitably and inexplicably change one day to footraces throughout the house that are not punctuated by the cheering of fans, but the shrill make-you-deaf screams of, "I don't want to take a tubby!!!" Not to mention the full body work out that comes from wrangling an unwilling child. You will also get that several times a day early on when you wrestle a writhing-jumping-bean of a child to clean them of the foulest-melt-paint smelling diapers or a clothing change once they've learned to walk. On that note, let me say now, buy stock in Advil and Tylenol and for goodness sakes, don't forget Excedrin.

You will find spills, stains and
things that you cannot identify on furniture, floors, clothes, in cars, in hair, on hands and without fail, in your kitchen and or bathroom sink. And you get to be the one to clean it -- whatever it is. I promise you, even if you took Home-EC as a professional course at Harvard, they did not ever cover some of these situations and how to clean them up. I know they did not teach Vaseline-stalagmite removal with broken glass and full-body-greased-child (and I mean FULL body greased, standing in the bowl of the sink along with the shards of broken glass that used to contain toothbrushes all because you decided to take a 5 minute--egg timered it, FIVE MINUTE shower...). Yeah, that's one of those learn as you go kind of things. Then again, that's parenting. Joy. Rapture.

You also have to spend time educating them no matter how fast you have to duck as they throw their Tonka trucks at your head, or pull your hair out of your scalp, or refuse to repeat after you, despite how many times and in how many different voices you sing the ABC song. And while their little brains are expanding, yours is shrinking with the repetitious atrophy that only someone who has heard Aladdin 300 times can attest to. Then our partners come home and we're expected to be able to maintain adult conversation and have physical relations even when we can hear Sebastian singing "Under The Sea" in our heads... Over and over and over and over...

Somewhere in between all of this we are expected to put the home in some sort of order akin to cleanliness, keep all necessities stocked, feed all residents and visitors (on a meager budget cause there is only one income), wash, swap to dryer, fold and put away clothes (and any tissues that find their way into the laundry basket). We also have to manage to not go to pot and maintain our own personal maintenance as well as get our bodies back into pre-child shape so our partner doesn't puke when they see us naked.

The stay-at-home parents do all this and more. It's stressful, repetitious, and has the possibility of being dangerous to their physical and mental well being. Is it any wonder why, when we get the chance to go grocery shopping alone we behave as though we're running screaming from the building with our hair on fire--squealing tires down the driveway and all the way up the street...?

We don't get paid, we don't get thanked. What we do almost always goes without any notice at all, unless we're doing it poorly or we have a total psychotic break. And yet we're supposed to always, always, always be thankful for the opportunity to stay home while our hard-working partner provides for us instead of allowing us to be human and realizing that stay-at-home parents need down time too.

My ex-husband constantly had that mentality even when I broke it down to him, much like I just did for you. Then again, my ex has prime real estate on Asshole Avenue.


1stopmom said...

This is great post!! You explained staying at home perfectly. It is almost as if you are in my head. I am glad to have your blog.

Carol said...

"'s not all beer and skittles..." So very true!! You had me spitting coffee at the screen!!

Petra a.k.a The Wise (*Young*) Mommy said...

Awesome post and so true!

But then you have the TRULY insane ones of the bunch who choose to WORK FROM HOME with the children and on top of EVERYTHING you just listed, we also have to fit in eight hours of work. Some days I think I have made the wrong decision...