Guest post by Heather Rae
I used to be a “working-outside-the-home mom.”
And now I’m a “stay-at-home parent” or as I prefer to be called, a “work-inside-the-home parent.”
When I was growing up, there used to be a more firm divide between the two, at least in popular culture. I have been both now (for three years each) and I can tell you that although there are strong differences, the lines between the two are blurring and they share many things in common. One of the strongest commonalities? All that I and my mom friends do.
(I’m not trying to neglect the dads—I’ve met many amazing ones and am married to a very involved dad. But I have no personal experience and know few dads that I’m around on a consistent basis.)
I come at this from a privileged place.
I can choose to “stay home” and have luxuries such as a gym with childcare and in-laws who live nearby, so I certainly am speaking from a place of relative wealth. But after taking that into consideration, what do my “stay-at-home mom” friends do? We sure don’t spend much time at home (except for the holy grail of afternoon nap times).
On many days, we’re going to activities with our kids or places with childcare. There are so many amazing options for kids these days. Cities have events. Churches have them, too. And so do libraries and zoos and local sports teams and counties and states and parks and gyms and community centers and farms and playgrounds and schools and amusement parks and theaters. One could fill up a whole summer, and weekends during the rest of the year, with events for kids.
Before you know it, the family calendar is full.
And these alone don’t cover weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly local groups that meet. These groups usually have childcare for a small fee and are a great way to meet people. They are also a great place to get more involved.
I’m in voluntary leadership in two such groups: one is for Moms of preschoolers and one is a women’s group. But if those aren’t your style, don’t worry. You can volunteer at many other places: your kid’s preschool, your faith community, your local charities or your city, county, or neighborhood. Moms who volunteer are so numerous that it’s become a cliche.
Of course, one can’t forget the classes or lessons or camps that are offered for kids. Although these pick up in the summer giving parents endless possibilities (if you can sign up before the classes are full and if you can afford them), there are plenty of things to choose from year round: sports, music, cooking, Vacation Bible School, and on and on. The list is endless.
And before you start thinking that I’m one of those extroverted, give-my-kids-every-experience type of people, I can assure you that is not the case.
Most parents who don’t “work” (as in don’t get paid) for 40 hours a week are also concerned at least somewhat with staying healthy, especially when the gym offers childcare or going on a run means a child-free hour or two. Adult leagues offer a variety of sports to choose from. And there are races, often for a good cause, on almost every weekend. Many of my mom friends and I spend time exercising and even competing in many challenging physical activities.
Are we done yet? Surely there can’t be more. I mean, other than errands and cleaning the house, we’ve covered everything right?
Moving on to the plethora of options online…
My mom friends and I follow top blogs. We do research, read up on health, and look up random info that our kids ask us. We check what our friends are doing on Facebook and search Pinterest for decorating and cooking tips—or anything really. And we also spend a lot of time planning: birthdays, who goes where, keeping the house stocked and (semi) clean, as well as feeding kids who constantly are hungry but won’t eat what you make. And this is all coming from a mom (me) who wouldn’t be described as a “Pinterest” mom or a Sanctimommy by anyone.
There is just so much out there that it’s normal to want to be informed and do basic things like give your kids a decent birthday. The internet has opened up a wealth of resources to us and given us countless connections to the outside world.
On top of this (and importantly because it usually means you get paid), most of the “stay-at-home” parents I know work at least 10 hours a week and sometimes as many as 35. They either blog or write or sell products or teach or sub or work any job you can think of part time. Whether you’re working from home or going to a different location to work, your mind is focused on things other than “inside the home.”
Of course, when I was working full time, I didn’t have time to do most of these things.
My time was occupied by a required (minimum) 40 hours at work and making sure my son had ALL THE THINGS for daycare. That, plus I spent time making sure the house had the basics that it needed such as food and toilet paper. (Amazon Prime to the rescue! Actually, Amazon Prime has served me well in any season of life. Ha!) So, I was getting paid more and wasn’t involved in many outside groups or play dates. But I still did a lot at home. And although I wasn’t home as nearly as much, I was often thinking of what needed to be done at home.
So what should you call me now?
How would I describe what I do now that I only get a paycheck for 10 hours a week? It depends on who’s asking. And sometimes, it depends on what that particular week looks like.
Call me part-time volunteer, part-time worker, or full-time parent, but “stay-at-home parent” doesn’t fit at all.
And I’m certainly not bored!