It’s an ongoing argument that goes beyond semantics. Some argue that being a stay-at-home parent is a “real” job, while others are adamant that it’s not a “real” job. As for me and the lukewarm coffee I’m drinking right now? I’m here to say that I’m well aware that staying home with my four kiddos (aged 1 to 7) is not a “real” job. And that’s exactly why I love it.
Like many middle-class moms, I’ve been (mostly) a stay-at-home mom for the entire duration of my parenting career. Aside from a full-time stint as a nurse putting my husband through school for our first year of marriage, I’ve considered myself a stay-at-home mom first and a part-time nurse second. Last year, I made the leap to quit the hospital work completely and now stay home 100 percent of the time.
And whether it’s because I’m just getting older or I’m just more secure in my parenting, I’ve realized something: I don’t care if anyone sees my stay-at-home parenting as a “job.”
There’s been much hullabaloo in the online parenting world about if staying at home with children is a “real” job. Stay-at-home parents feel the need to defend their roles, and working parents often dish out niceties like, “I don’t know how you do it, I’d go crazy!” which are always kind of awkward because, how do you really respond to that either way? Like, “Don’t worry, I am going crazy!” or “Well, I’d go crazy doing what you do!” and then `round and `round on the mommy-merry-go-round-to-nowhere we go.
Why anyone cares whether the job is “real” or not is beyond me, but if we’re getting technical, then no. No, being a stay-at-home mom is not a “real” job, and frankly I’m glad it’s not.
Here’s the thing: I feel like we are a tad too intent on equating “jobs” with, essentially, work that kind of makes us miserable. Because if we don’t hate it and it doesn’t make us count down the hours until it’s done, it’s not a “real” job, right?
I will happily and freely admit to all the world that staying at home isn’t as hard as a “real” job would be, because I have a lot of freedoms that simply wouldn’t be possible in a “real,” out-of-the-home, bring-home-a-check job. But you know what? I’m proud of that. Sometimes I feel like stay-at-home moms are so focused on proving that staying home is a “real” job that we hold up proof of all of the hard aspects of it like validation. I never get a break, I eat crumbs off the floor for lunch, I’m exhausted and I don’t remember the last time I showered, see I’m just as miserable as the rest of you office slaves!
But what good is that doing? Why not stand proudly in our yoga pants at home and shrug our shoulders at those who even debate if staying home is a “real” job. Because really, it doesn’t matter if it’s a “real” job, a privilege beyond all belief or something that we just kind of fell into on accident, if it’s working for our families.
Because I know a lot of stay-at-home moms and I happen to be one, I’m well familiar with that lingering sense of inadequacy that we all seem to have and portray, almost like we’re apologizing to the world for being stay-at-home moms. We rush to talk about how busy we are and how much the kids have going on, like we need to justify our mere existence.
And honestly, I’m tired of the charade. You want to know the truth? I don’t think staying home is a “real” job. I think it’s vital for a lot of families, I think it’s very real work and I think it’s invaluable in a strict economic sense, but I don’t think it’s a “real” job if the definition of a job is just soul-sucking work. I like staying home and being free of the pressures of a “real” job and bosses and schedules and working on holidays. I don’t miss any of that.
So, really, I don’t need anyone else to call being a stay-at-home mom a “job.” Because having that kind of job is frankly not my ideal anyway. I’ve had “real” jobs and they kind of suck. There is absolutely no point in all of us stay-at-home parents commiserating about how hard it is do what we do, as if misery is proof of a “real” job.
I’m quite happy if you want to scoff at me and my messy bun or shake your head at the thought of being home all day making cookies. That’s cool with me. Because while some days are harder than heck, some days I really do bake cookies all day. Some days as a stay-at-home mom really are your everyday, run-of-the-mill clichés of watching snowflakes and drinking hot chocolate and playing with my kids.
So you can call staying home whatever the heck you want, because either way, I’m pretty darn happy to have the chance to do it.