I worked full time for the first two months of Baby’s life. Then I got fired, and spent the past three months being a stay at home papa. As I get ready to begin my new job on Monday, I can’t help thinking about the two roles.
And how much easier it is to work full time.
My work wasn’t easy. Being in sales is to always fight for your job, and I had the pleasure of being on the losing end of the battle recently. All that stress went away when the axe finally fell. In my new state of unemployment, there was no doubt that I was going to spend a few months soaking up baby time. Let the vacation commence!
The past three months were wonderful. I alleviated some of Mama’s work and stress. I got to bond with Baby. It’s no surprise now that I feel guilty as a dad to be leaving this behind by reentering the work force. What is surprising is that part of the guilt is due to the fact that my life is about to get easier. This is factoring in all the stresses of starting a new job.
Here’s my best explanation why stay at home parenting is more difficult than a “real job”:
Real jobs are business as usual.
Our entire professional life is spent in a certain working groove. It’s familiar. Morning meetings, coffee runs, a few extra minutes in the bathroom catching up on Facebook, lunch breaks, and so on. There’s a certain learned skill in making it through a full day at work, and we’re very experienced. The average working professional takes this for granted. None of these skills are useful when caring for a child, and days at home find a way to grind to a halt. Partly because..
The rules of communication is out the window when you need it most.
A baby doesn’t ping you to say “my diaper is wet,” “please entertain me,” “I’m cranky because I’m tired,” “I’m hungry,” or “my emerging self esteem is being compromised by your seeming preference of iPhone over me.” I suppose you can say their crying is how they ping you, but that would be like work telling you “there’s a typo in the second paragraph of your TPS report,” “the 2pm all hands meeting is getting pushed back an hour,” or “submit your Q3 forecast on Thursday” by simply setting off the fire alarm each time.
Your mind isn’t being stimulated, nor is it relaxed.
This might be the most difficult to understand. Yes, we are sitting around the house during the day. No, it’s not nice. Have you ever talked to a stay at home parent and they desperately thank you for the opportunity to have an adult conversation? This is because humans are social beings, and it is unnatural to spend all your time pretending like your baby’s goo’s and ga’s count as conversation. Too many days under these conditions and you’d even enjoy a holiday call to United Airlines to locate your lost luggage. This is an unenviable state of crazy.
Most jobs don’t require your constant attention for basic human needs.
We’re on auto pilot for most of it, but babies sure have a way of showing you how high maintenance we really are. Stay at home parents have to keep a baby clean, fed, moving, still, awake, asleep, entertained, self sufficient, and breathing at all the right times. How many of us have a job that requires this level of attention, and how many of us have your most precious person’s life depending on it?
Lots of respect for stay at home parents who manage to raise a decent child while keeping their shit together in any way. Lesson learned.