Sunday, May 30, 2010

I found the proof in my pudding: stay-at-home-parenting is the most exhausting job.

I've read dozens of debates about who has it harder - stay-at-home-parents or working parents (those working outside the home).

Genuinely, I don't presume anyone has it harder or worse, necessarily. But, back when I was at home all the time, I speculated over how the two really compared.

Now that I've experienced both avenues first hand, I've reached my own conclusion - that a day looking after two young kids is definitely more physically and mentally exhausting than a day at work. For me, anyway. And I'm a massage therapist (well, almost). And that's a tiring job, believe me.

After a day at work, I still have the energy to go for a run.

After a day at home, I'm depleted and ready for bed by 9 pm.

Two months ago I started my massage therapy practicum - a job, two days a week. Aside from the anxiety of leaving my kids for the first time, I anticipated the exhaustion that would follow. The working day promised to be hectic: dropping the kids off at the dayhome, working for the day - doing several massages, picking them up afterward, preparing dinner, catching up on all the things that needed to be caught up on in the evening.

Sounds tiring.

But actually, it only took me a couple of those days to realize that my energy took way less of a beating on working days. Despite the whole procedure of getting through the day, I wasn't as exhausted as the days I was at home.

Because, after the rush of the morning, and once I was at work with my coffee in hand, things moved slowly. I could sit quietly with my books and paperwork. I could work with clients in a calm, focused manner. Each task I performed was uninterrupted. In between appointments, when there was a quiet moment, I could make a list, or scan my diary to remind myself of upcoming appointments or birthdays. I had time to get my thoughts together.

At home, an average day includes (deep breath) getting the kids up, changed, dressed -- making and feeding breakfast -- making beds -- clearing up breakfast -- preparing activities for the day -- doing laundry -- cleaning the kitchen -- talking to family and friends on the phone -- clearing up after craft activities -- making and feeding lunch -- putting kids down to nap -- clearing up after lunch -- taking out garbage -- doing more laundry; catching up on emails -- changing more diapers -- doing more activities -- preparing a mid-afternoon snack -- clearing up toys -- making and feeding dinner. And more stuff I can't remember.

An agenda many of you are familiar with, I'm sure. It doesn't pause for breath.

On top of the physical demands of being a stay-at-home-parent, there's the emotional side, too. I don't know about you, but on any given day, there are tears, tantrums and a whole host of other feelings and reactions to deal with.

I think, having considered both sides, what makes being a stay-at-home-parent harder for me, is the combination of nonstop activities, physical tasks and emotional confrontations. It's like a concoction of all the most tiring things a body can endure rolled into one period.

And after another weekend with the kids (while I was at class - whoo!), my husband, I'm pretty sure, will agree.
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Lil said...

I am the opposite, I find work a lot more physically and emotionally demanding. But that's my profession..caring for 2 people at home vs caring for 6-8 people..

sarah said...

I would say it would depend on the job, but right now I agree with job right now is like a vacation compared to being at home on some days!

Raine @ Mama Rants said...

I've also found staying at home to be harder and more draining - and my previous job was 12+ hours shifts as a guard in a maximum security prison.

I think the big difference is there are no "breaks" when staying at home - with young children, you can't take a lunch hour or step outside and stop parenting for a coffee or smoke break, they're always there and you're constantly responsible.

A lot of stay at home parents are also isolated from other adults most of the day, and that in itself can be tough because you don't have the social interaction to break things up and liven up the day.

Loukia said...

I 100% agree with you! I work full-time outside of the home, in an office building downtown, from (essentially) 9 to 5 everyday. It is easy-peasy, I tell you. I sit down all day long except when I walk to get my coffee or lunch or go to the gym. I have to write and edit and go to meetings with adults. That is NOT HARD. Staying home with 2 kids, now that is HARD AS HECK - but at the same time - very enjoyable too. I miss my kids when I am at work, though, and find that it's a bit tough when I get home, because there is ZERO downtown to shift from 'working mom' to 'mom mom', you know? Still, it's all good. Well, perfect world would be me only working 3 days a week and having a full-time nanny with a house overlooking the sea somewhere in Europe, but hey - can't really complain! ;) Great post girl.

Emily O said...

I've had a career, I've been a stay at home mum and now I'm a work at home mum. Currently it's exhausting because every second of every day is taken up with childcare, housework and squeezing in actual work. And in the evenings I often work too. But they're all pre-school age and I'm hoping in a few years it will get easier. Kidding myself aren't I? It's exhausting but I wouldn't do anything else.

Kate Coveny Hood said...

I really like this post because we've all considered it. And those of us who have done both usually have a strong opinion. BUT those opinions really are so subjective. It totally depends on where you work(ed), what your kids are like, how many kids you have, how much help you have (if any)... For me - being a working mom was so much harder. Partly because I worked in incredibly stressful environments with scary bosses. But even more so because of the constant shift in priorities. I found it really difficult to switch between the two several times a day. The worst was sitting in a meeting at 5:00 pm thinking, "okay - this isn't ending anytime soon and I really need to leave for daycare pick up in the next 15 minutes..." And getting home with the kids after a long commute - sometimes at 7 pm... So yeah - it's hectic and often tedious, but my life as a SAHM is soooo much more relaxed and simple.

Mwa said...

I feel the same. Teaching large classes of teenagers was a breeze compared to being at home with even one child. Because every fifty minutes the bell goes, and you are released from duty. And there's gossip in the staff room, and time to go to the toilet on your own.

Elaine A. said...

I think both are difficult in their own right, of course. But yes, being with the kiddos all day IS more physically exhausting in my opinion. I'm glad you are finding a balance...

Chic Mama said...

I haven't got anything to compare with but I've heard from lots of people who would agree with you. :0)

Maria @BOREDmommy said...

I agree that both can be tiring, but spending the entire day with the kids day in, day out, with little to no help for days, weeks, months, YEARS on end is beyond mentally exhausting. Finding a balance is a beautiful thing.

Lady Mama said...

I love the comments way more than the post - thank you everyone!

If I Could Escape . . . said...

I definitely agree with you there!