I rarely read articles that honestly speak to the struggle many American parents face in the United States. From the lack of parental support/leave to the brutal economy and work pace that often forces both parents to be full time employees in order to make ends meet. Often times, I find myself looking at other families that have a working parent while the other stays at home with their child. A part of me envies them a bit but mostly I just ask, how? How are you able to afford that? There is no way we could afford just one working parent. Many of these couples have lush homes and their lives look so perfectly put together. I don’t shame them for this, I applaud them. They are my inspiration to be able to reach that goal for myself. However, the reality is that not all families can afford the lush life. In fact, many stay at home parents are also forced to stay home due to the simple fact that childcare is ridiculously expensive. In the long run, they end up saving more money staying at home and caring for their children themselves.
The mere fact that maternity and paternity leave are nearly non-existent in this country is a huge implication of how neglectful this country can be to parents (let’s not even jump into the blatant sexism involved towards working mothers and fathers because let’s be honest, that could be a blog post of its own). Mothers easily get judged and mom shamed by coworkers, bosses don’t understand why you missed work because your child is sick again, and some think women get “special treatment” because they had a baby and took “vacation” to stay home with them. Fathers at times are seen less “manly” for taking paternity leave, they are mocked for taking time off to take kids to the doctor, and questioned why the mom isn’t doing it. It’s an unfortunate truth and a serious hardship in this country.
For those parents like my husband and I, we long for the idea of one of us staying home with our son. From people that I know personally, I can testify to the fact that stay at home parents do not have it easy. The house work is endless and you never truly get a break from all the chaos. However, I see the stay at home life with a different lens. My life is always chaotic. Currently, my life consists of two jobs, being a full time parent, older sibling, caretaker, homemaker, cook, pet owner, and everything in between. A majority of it I end up doing on my own because my husband’s job requires weekly travel to different parts of the country. My life would become less chaotic by just eliminating the two jobs and fully focusing on everything else. Right now, I feel like nothing can be fully completed to my standard because I do not have the time to make it all perfect. “Good enough” is usually my mentality. I would love to see my house spotless all the time and as of right now, that is unrealistic. I used to drive myself crazy making sure that everything was always in order and I was causing myself to have horrible anxiety and depression. I had to teach myself to let certain things go and think that “good enough” is perfectly ok. So we live in an organized mess and I would much rather give the extra time to my son than spend 4 hours organizing something. My house is clean, but not organized and I am okay with that. Those papers can be filed later, my pantry can be re-organized later, Jude’s clothes and toys can be sorted through later. In the meantime, I want to make sure that laundry and dishes are clean, bathrooms and floors and clean, and just focus on the absolutely necessary things. This is how I have to convince myself to let things go. Otherwise, I would drive myself crazy. Society expects us to have the perfect home, perfect job, perfect child, perfect body and that is simply a ridiculous and toxic way of thinking. So, in our household, we do what we need to do and move on to the next chaotic thing that is thrown at us.
Then there is my son; my main inspiration to stay home. We do it all for him, the two jobs, the chaos, the juggling, all of it. However, if we can get to a point where we can be “more than” financially stable, we would love to have me stay home with Jude. I want to eventually home school him, teach him to cook, buy him a puppy, potty train him (asap), teach him so many different things that would require so much of my time that I do not have right now. It’s just not fair to him. I want to dedicate more time to him than what I am right now. Monday through Thursday I work. I drop him off and pick him up then it’s dinner time and then bedtime. Where is our Jude and mama time? Literally right before bed when we read a book and cuddle to sleep. We both need more than that. He is growing too fast and I feel like I am missing so much.
Then there’s the stability part. Jude deserves stability. I feel that he doesn’t have that right now. He has a routine, but that’s different. He knows he goes to my mom’s house almost everyday when I go to work. He expects it and at times he cries because he wants to be with his mama. But he is aware of it all and he anticipates it and it is all part of his routine. The instability comes in when you involve so many people in his life. I don’t want this to come out wrong because I am most grateful to have family help me out with him, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that with different generations, come different personalities and different parenting styles. It is a constant struggle between everyone. I feel like this is true for many who have grandparents involved. I know my son the best and I know what quirks he has and what tricks I can pull to swerve certain unnecessary tantrums or situations. Not all of the people involved understand that. Even when you talk to them and try to explain what you want. There is simply a different mentality and upbringing that they are used to, one that would be really difficult to break them from (not to mention the plethora of cultural differences that you see in Hispanic families’ upbringing). It is excruciating and exhausting. I have learned to pick and choose my battles. Some things I just have to get involved with and others, I bite my tongue and move on.
There is so much that goes into being a working parent that I feel gets dismissed. The struggle is super real. There is a lot of scheduling and planning. It might get easier as he grows up, but right now, having a toddler and having both parents working can take a toll if we’re not careful. For now, we have found a balance that works for our family. We also have to go with the flow of things about 80% of the time, otherwise we’d go mad. Hopefully later down the road, I can write from the perspective of a stay at home parent! 🙂 In the meantime, don’t parent shame, be supportive, and respect each other. If you have any comments, relatable stories, or insights on this topic, please share them below!!!