You’ve heard the expression “Parenthood: the toughest job you’ll ever love.” No? So you don’t think being a parent is a job and more of a “hobby?”
Recently, a post on xoJane.com, titled: Unpopular Opinion: Being a Stay-at-Home Mother Is Not a Job went viral. It was, in my opinion, click bait; meant to ruffle feathers. Apparently from the comments, a lot of people agreed. Being a stay-at home-mom (or dad) is a hobby. What the what?!
Yes, said the author stay-at-moms are hobbyists. La, la, la, pass the Elmer’s glue and glitter, I’m making a fun craft. Maybe we’ll go to the park, or not.
I take so much issue with her premise, I have blisters from my issues with the word “Hobby.” Here’s my (not) favorite excerpt:
Whether you call it a “blessing” or a “privilege,” the fact remains that having someone else foot the bill for a lifestyle that only benefits you and your close family is by no means a “job.” [sic]
Are you fucking kidding me? First of all, how does my raising my child–and not having a stranger do it–benefit only me? I thought we were living in a community, a world where raising good citizens benefits everyone. Come on down, Ayn Rand. It’s all for one and all for one.
Second, some people don’t call it a privilege but a necessity. When the cost of childcare (which can be astronomical, especially if you chose an accredited organization that won’t give your kid Benadryl at naptime) outweighs the potential income of a parent at their “real job?”
How self-fucking righteous are you, really?
Finally, who is this “someone else” “footing the bill?” In the author’s case, she was not wealthy, so why describe it as “footing the bill?” This is condescending; makes it sound like Daddy Warbucks was handing out cash in the delivery room. In many cases, families who chose a stay-at-home parent lose an income. The choice can be financial as well as emotional. Our income went down by half. “Footing the bill” is an elitist description of how many stay-at-home-parents raise their children. For many, it is cutting incomes in half, more or less, while adding a mountain of expenses and responsibilities.
An important side note, and one that makes the phrase “footing the bill” stick in my craw all the more, is that while this author had little money, she did have access to significant support from the U.S. government’s Women, Infants and Children’s (WIC) program. She also had free-of-charge child care from her parents.
Now, these are gifts.
The job of a stay-at-home-parent includes both mundane and necessary tasks while the working-for-a-paycheck parent deals with the pressure to provide for a family. That the stay-at-home-parent is not financially compensated does not make their role any less necessary, or routine.
Not once, when I was married, did my spouse stay home with a sick kid because I had a doctor’s appointment, a freelance deadline, or I was puking my guts out. Not once. Because he had a job, he had a meeting, or he was out of town on business. So I did my job.
I never do my hobbies when I’m puking. Do you? I was the stay-at-home mom, and the stay-at-home parent stays home.
Parenting is not a hobby. And stay-at-home parenting is a job if you’re the primary caregiver. If you are raising a person–feeding them, changing their shitty diapers, putting them to sleep, bathing them, teaching them values, dealing with their illnesses, teaching them to share, to go to school, to do homework, to deal with bullies, to not be a bully, to fail at things, to succeed gracefully, to be a friend, and to be a contributing member of society–you are a parent with a job.
If you are caring for their needs, including tending to their security, safety, health, welfare, long-term emotional well-being then you, my friend, have a fucking job.
A cross-stitch is a hobby. You can do it in a weekend and frame it over the fireplace. Raising a child from birth to adulthood, that is a job.
So you don’t get your panties in a bunch, let’s define the word job. A job is a piece of work, especially a specific task done as part of the routine of one’s occupation or for an agreed price. Notice it says “or” for an agreed upon price. In your case, the price is zero. But, is it what you and your partner decided when you agreed it made sense to earn one income, save the cost of childcare and raise your child at home? Price comes in a lot of forms. Open your mind. I’m not saying being a stay-at-home-mom is a career; if only, because I’d be on the fucking fast track for CEO.
But it is a job.
You may have chosen this, as I did. Or, you may not have had a choice. Perhaps childcare cost more than your income would offset. Like anyone with a job, you have good days and bad days. You get to revel in the good and bitch about the bad. The one thing you won’t get is a pay check. You will get the side-eye from “working outside the home” parents, which is bullshit. You will get, “aren’t you lucky, you get to stay home?” which, if you want to be home, you are. But it also sucks sometimes, and you get to complain.
I made a conscious choice to stay home, but I made a shit ton of sacrifices including financial, social, career, emotional, and psychological. Don’t call me a hobbyist. I work hard. Not all parents do, by the way. That’s right, I said it. I’m damn good at my job. I have done it well. Where’s my plaque? Where’s my ten-year gold watch? Where’s my goddamn bonus or trip to Hawaii for best salesperson of the year?
I want to be the primary caregiver to my children. Financially, it has worked, although it wasn’t easy and it hasn’t made me rich. But I have two loving and amazing sons who understand, now that they are older, how much I do for them.
So, job well done, and I’m still employed. No pension, and no 401K, but a lot of appreciation. I have been working my ass off for thirteen years as a mother to two incredible human beings who will someday be highly functional, emotionally healthy, brilliant contributors to society.
I’d call that a job and one I’m proud to have.