Full-time parent is not a job title. That, I stand by. Child benefit is not a wage, the transition between parenting a baby to a toddler is no promotion, and I’d never claim to be working while looking after my own baby. To be a parent is a choice, a privilege even, calling it a job is just plain ignorant. We do countless things for our own enjoyment that require effort, but we would never say these are our occupation. If I live off of benefits and clean my house, I am not a full-time cleaner, so in the same right, at what point did parenting become my occupation? In saying that though, that doesn’t make it any less work. There is this allusive appeal to life at home versus the conventional 9 to 5, and it’s easy to assume it’s a cop out, an easy road or a simpler life – that is, until you’ve done it yourself. Anyone who’s gone three days with little sleep and an overtired baby will tell you otherwise. Those who have experienced a teething child coupled with a sleep regression will probably laugh at you. If you’ve been there, you’ll know, and like me, never again will you assume life at home is the easy way out. Often, it can be a lot easier to leave your child in the hands of another on one of those days where you have a bit of a difficult (twatty) child and go to work. At work, you have a break time. A lunch. Unlimited warm coffee. A toilet that is not coupled with a toddler strapped to your ankles. There is adult conversation. Breathing space. I can daydream at work without wondering if a client has managed to find his way back to the television wires. Work may be stressful at times, but more often than not, the stress is nothing compared to that of a difficult day at home, it may not be a proper job, but it doesn’t mean it’s bloody easier.
Full-time parent as a title in the first place is awful. It suggests that those of us who leave the house to make a living are part-time parents, that we are lesser, that we switch off. I wish sometimes, but no, we don’t. I may not have my baby strapped to my hip for the best part of the working day, but that does not revoke my parent title for those 9 hours. For most it’s not a choice, working and making a living is a part of being a grown up – as is parenthood. The two can go hand and hand, and deeming parenting as an occupation simply suggests we choose one or the other, a job, or parenting. That by returning to work we are doing so instead of choosing to be a parent, when the reality is often far from this. This notion of part-time/full-time parenting is just another to add to the list of things we judge each other for, and this post alone shows that I’m guilty of it, or at least I was. Whilst I still can’t come around to the idea of parenting as an occupationI no longer associate those who do not leave the house to go to work with being lazy, or scroungers. I blame too much Jeremy Kyle.
I have a new-found respect for those stay-at-home parents: if I could add the skills gained during my maternity leave to my CV (and not be laughed straight out of a job interview for being a bit of a tit) I’d be a force to be reckoned with. Time management, people management, crisis management and the negotiation skills second to none leap to mind, and the reality is I would probably use these more frequently in one day at home with my seven month old than I would in a week at work. I work more looking after my child than I ever have done at a desk – and that alone is enough to tell me that my old opinion of those who stayed at home was skewed. There is nothing lazy about life at home – regardless of the circumstances that lead to us staying at home, it’ll never be as easy as going to work.
This is all relative – some days at home will be easier than the same day at work, and vice versa. For some (according to their instagram) everyday at home is fecking blissful and that unrealistic serene lifestyle is one I do wish I could have. But I don’t, and I can’t. A stay at home parent is not a job title and I wish we’d stop treating it as one: if it was, there would have been days I’d have called in sick, afternoons when I’d somehow found an emergency dentist appointment to attend and I’d probably have considered handing in my resignation a fair few times. Motherhood is constant, a difficult one, whether you work outside the home or not. I take my hat off to those who are at home, it’s no easy life, and those who do it are for from lazy, for now though, I’m revelling in the hot coffee at my desk, the child who lights up when I come home at 5pm, and the ability to pee in peace.