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Stay-at-home parents: do they get enough credit?

by HALEY MILLAN Editor-in-chief

When thinking about a typical work day, people imagine a 9-to-5 job with a 40 minute lunch break (or more if you are lucky), and after the day is done, a person packs up his things and goes home. Most importantly, that person gets paid to work. But what about people who do not go to a specified “job”, do they consider themselves workers?

Stay-at-home moms or dads do not get paid for watching their children or taking care of the house. Moreover, there are no breaks for bathroom or lunch. They do not get to escape, considering their work place is their home.

However, some people believe stay-at-home parents have it easy. When someone says he or she does not work, some people roll their eyes and say, “Oh, lucky you”, imagining the person fanning himself and watching television all day.

Stay-at-home parents actually do more than the average person may assume. Certainly, being a parent is a job in and of itself. Whether it is cleaning up messes, teaching, or chauffeuring, a parent certainly keeps herself busy all day, especially if a child has special needs. There are definitely pros and cons of being a stay-at-home mother or father.

Staying at home to be a caregiver is a choice. Some families do not have that option open for them; a single mother needs to support her family one way or another, and some families depend on two paychecks to survive. Also important to keep in mind is that there may be different unforeseen circumstances that may alter a family’s income, such as illness, death, layoffs, and even divorce. Families that are well-off on one paycheck may choose to have a parent stay home with the children.

Eryn Casey is a married mother of three. She recently stopped teaching after having her third child in order to stay home to take care of all three, her youngest being six months old. She plans to go back to her teaching career in the future.

“I was lucky enough to have my first daughter in June, so I had time off during the summer before I went back to work. I think I can speak for all mothers, no one wants to leave their children to go to work. But I had bills to pay, so I went back,” Casey says.

There are many benefits of a parent staying home to watch the kids. When children are younger, they need attention and affection, and who better to give it to than their own parent? Mothers and fathers know their children inside and out, and have the love and patience to deal with their varying behaviors. The alone time between a mother/father and child will increase family relationships.

Most parents also want to be the main figure raising their children. By staying home with children while they are young and growing, parents will be able to teach them how to behave appropriately based on the family’s beliefs. They also do not have to make sure that caregivers at a daycare will either leave or mistreat their child.

Also, having a mom or dad at home during the day allows for children to be a part of more activities. Working parents simply do not have the same amount of free time to bring children back and forth from clubs, sports, or family events. Stay-at-home parents, however, have the ability to bring their children around town to participate in fun activities with their peers.

“I have really taken advantage of being home with my kids. I appreciate all of the time I have to take them to clubs. My oldest is in Girl Scouts, and she goes to the recreational center for arts and crafts. My second daughter is in a sports program, where they teach her to play a different sport every week. They’re able to make friends and learn some new things outside of school. I’m grateful I have to opportunity to do this,” says Casey.

Studies have shown that children who are cared for at home have less levels of stress and anxiety versus children who go to daycare.

Parents who can afford to stay home have less stress; trying to balance work and family life may be a really painful experience. There is a greater chance of having the home life run smoothly with a parent home during the day.

Another benefit is that parents want to be there to see all of their child’s “firsts”: laughs, steps, and rolls. By staying home, a parent is guaranteed to see all of his or her child’s milestones.

Casey says, “One of the reasons I chose to stay home with my son was to enjoy him as an infant. Since he will be my last child, I wanted to cherish every moment I possibly could with him. It was something I wasn’t able to do with my other girls, so I wanted to take advantage of this.”

Most of all, stay-at-home parents think their job is the most rewarding career. A mother or father is irreplaceable, and their time investment with their child will lead to fulfillment.

However, everything is not all roses. Being a stay-at-home parent also calls for a lot of sacrifices.

One of the biggest cons of staying at home is the depression that follows, especially if a parents has left a career path where s/he dealt with other adults. Staying home all day and communicating with only children can bring forth feelings of loneliness.

Parents may also feel as though a piece of their identity was stripped away if their job was a main focus in their life. Getting back into a previous career field also taunts a stay-at-home parent’s mind, since going back to work may not be an easy plan.

More so, stay-at-home parents, especially stay-at-home fathers, do not get support from general society. Many people relate stay-at-home moms of today with the housewives of the 1950s, viewing it as a burden. People may view these moms as if they are not busy during the day, or sit around with nothing to do.

Stay-at-home parents also cannot take time away from being parents. There is no escape for them to leave or take a sick day. No matter how stressful it can get during the day, between tantrum-throwing infants and fighting siblings, a parents has to deal with it.

“I have to say, I really miss my freedom. My kids mean the world to me, but sometimes I want to go out with my friends, or even go to the grocery store without a huge production of a stroller and diaper bag,” says Casey.

Overall, stay-at-home parents do not have it as easy as some people may believe. It may be a benefit for children, but it does take its toll on the parents. Being financially stable is the overall factor that normally determines whether mothers or fathers stay home to raise the children.

Casey says, “Motherhood is a hard job, especially 24 hours, seven days a week. But I wouldn’t change this time with my kids for the world.”

What is your opinion on stay-at-home parents? Would you ever consider leaving your job in order to raise your children?

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