If you’re a stay-at-home parent, these words might sound familiar. For those of us who have chosen to set aside our careers and stay at home with our children, life can sometimes be a trial of errors and tests. Of course, I love my kids. There is a reason that I chose to stay home with them. But the long days, particularly when the other parent is working from morning to night, are very, very, very, very long. And I really do wonder, how am I going to get through this day?
Any parent who is the primary caregiver realises this — and of course this likely applies to the stay-at-home dads and the single parents (how do you do it?). I hear so many comments from people: “Oh, that’s great that you don’t have to work.” Or, “You must have so much fun all day long!” The comments are well-meaning, but they don’t offer help to clean my always-dusty-always-toy-strewn-always-needing-to-be-swept-dishes-everywhere-laundry-piled-up household. They don’t offer to sit with the baby for a half an hour (even 10 minutes?) so that I might have a coffee by myself (or, more than likely, try to attack the mess-of-a-house). The days are filled with driving children to play dates and lessons and friends’ houses, grocery shopping almost every day, making lists, making meals, making snacks, making playtime. And many many days, trying to simply get through the day. Trying to remember to laugh.
Because I realize this is a short period of our lives. The children will grow up, they will move on, they will no longer be ours. They are already not ours — not really. Every day they are moving a little more into the world, giving themselves to the world. And each day is one less day that they will be ever so present in our lives.
So of course, I answer those well-intended comments with, “Yes, I am so lucky. I feel grateful. I love staying home.” And most of the time, it is true.
But it is important to also acknowledge the days that feel like they are never going to end, where I want to run away, where I want to be by myself for just 10 minutes and not have someone grabbing at my boobs, my body, calling me, crying for me, and feeling as if I’m being pulled in a million directions all day long.
Parenting alone doesn’t always have to be lonely
I often think back to my mother and my grandmother, who all stayed at home, and wonder: how did they do it? Did they feel this way too? Of course, they likely did. How isolated did they feel? Were they alone? In many ways, they probably were.
We are so lucky as parents today to be in such an age of technology. If we can’t have physical help to be with our children or to clean the house or take a break, we can at the very least (or the very most) retreat to the Internet. There are parents’ groups and online forums and Facebook pages for every purpose of parenting. There is a place, somewhere, to say, “I’m having a hard day,” or, “Today I don’t want to be a parent,” or, “I really need a break”. And its okay to say these things. In fact, its so incredibly important to voice our frustrations and our fears and maybe have someone else agree with us. It’s validating, and most importantly, it reminds all of us parents out there that, guess what?…
…You are not alone in how you feel. Someone else is also saying these things. And feeling these feelings. And yes, these feelings shall pass.
Looking for the silver lining
These are the things that, as parents, we hold on to. We have to hold on to them. So that when we are overwhelmed and wondering why isn’t there a union for parents to demand better working conditions, or time off, or a living wage, we have these amazing feelings and moments to hold on to.
Because yes, when my baby is giving me raspberry kisses on my belly, or I feel him lay his head against me while being carried, or he reaches up his tiny hands to touch my face while I breastfeed, or when the kids tiptoe loudly in costume around the room while I try to write this column, whispering, “You won’t notice us, we’ll be invisible!” I smile. I can’t help but smile. I have to smile. When my kids give me a hug and say, “Thanks for telling me its all going to be okay,” or text me with forgotten thank-yous for an errand I did for them, or when as a family, we all find a moment together to laugh, this job is the best thing in the world.
It is the only place that I want to be, and these are the only people that I want to be with. The rest of it really does fall away. The moments of chaos melt. There is no place I’d rather be. I am thankful, I am grateful, and yes, this is the hardest job, but it really also is the very best job.
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