Why is being a stay-at-home-parent so dang hard?
All jobs are hard. I think about my friends who hold high-powered positions at high-powered companies. I think about myself when I used to work before becoming a stay-at-home-mom. These professional types of jobs are hard. As in ALL CAPS HARD. They involve a lot of pressure, unreasonable demands, impossible multitasking and insane amounts of stress. So why is it that I sit here during nap-time - a period of the day that doesn't exist in any other job - in the comforts of my home sipping iced tea and saying to myself DANG. What I am doing is really, really hard.
It's in these moments of feeling like I'm not really doing a whole lot that I tend to ponder the deeper dynamics of why I also feel like what I'm doing is so tough. Of course there are the obvious answers. There are many responsibilities involved in raising children and you spend the majority of your time working for irrational, screaming, dependent, demanding and trouble-seeking little mini-bosses. Your nighttime sleep is often interrupted by multiple trips to check out what's under the bed and to deliver sippy cups of water. Your day seems like an endless string of cooking, cleaning, feeding, clothing, reading, singing, reminding, reminding again, fixing, reminding for the last time and enforcing. You also often long for adult interaction and a reason to change out of your pajamas.
But there is something that makes this job hard in an altogether different way.
I couldn't quite put my finger on it for awhile. What is this "different way" that makes stay-at-home-parenting so tough (and I don't mean different as in harder than other jobs - I just mean that it pulls at me in different ways)? But then it hit me. And it was so obvious.
It's personal. It's ALL personal.
Being a stay-at-home-parent is investing one's self fully in the growth and maintenance of one's family - one's personal life. Your main focus and barometer by which to measure success or failure is your personal life. And when something happens in your personal life you take it personally because, well, it is personal. And when you take something personally, it tends t0 get under your skin in the most piercing ways. It hurts you deeply and pushes you far. When it's personal, what appears to be a fleeting moment of failure can cause an indescribable sting, and permanently burn itself into your heart and mind. When you're frustrated, angry, overwhelmed or disappointed about your personal life, it stays with you and causes you to constantly worry, scheme, plan and prepare. Yes, you have pockets of time to yourself in this role, but these pockets are filled with thinking, planning and preparing to support everything that is most personal to you. And at the end of the day or week, you can't clock out of this type of thinking and work.
Fortunately, though, what makes being a stay-at-home-parent so hard is the very thing that also makes it so wonderful. The personal nature of this role, which causes it to hurt so much, is also what makes it feel so good. The joy I feel when things go right boosts me up in wonderfully personal ways. When I watch my family succeed, grow and thrive - all parts of me glow with pride. These moments feed my confidence, patience and optimism, as well as fill in holes in the unfolding story of who I am.
So while it's not always obvious, being a stay-at-home-parent is very demanding and difficult. It will tear you down and hurt in ways you didn't know possible. However, the very things that hurt you also restore and uplift you in uniquely wonderful and intimate ways. So while it's tough work, it's hard to complain about the compensation.