15 Things Not to Say to a Stay-At-Home Parent
If you have not spent an entire day with children, then the life of a stay-at-home parent could seem pretty easy to you. But kids, especially young ones, need a lot of attention, help, and guidance.
It's why "mom" is usually considered the hardest job and why "teacher" usually comes in second place. Spending 24/7 with your kids can be liberating, joyful, challenging, and rewarding all at the same time.
Regardless of their reasons for doing so, stay-at-home parents, both moms and dads, deserve respect and appreciation for all the work they do.
To show you care about the stay-at-home parents in your life, avoid saying these potentially hurtful and unkind phrases.
There is a reason daycare is expensive — keeping children alive and entertained for hours a day is a remarkable job. And for parents who stay home with their kids, there is even more pressure to do all of the above.
Do not assume you know what anyone's day was like and instead ask them how their day was or what their day entailed. Just because a parent has spent the day working at home does not mean it was free of stress or filled with hours of relaxation.
Often a stay-at-home parent juggles all of the household responsibilities, which results in their day never ending, i.e., they end up working 24/7.
Plus, when you throw kids into the mix, it is pretty probable that near sleepless nights will be part of the equation as well. Parents will often prioritize the sleep of the parent who works out of the home, too.
Work With It
When a person cleans or cares for another person or household they are considered a housekeeper or caregiver and are paid for their work. But when a parent does the same tasks in their own home and performs the same caregiving duties for their children, they're often told that their work doesn't count.
Don't make stay-at-home parents feel less than by saying their work does not count just because they did not earn a paycheck for it. Had they hired a babysitter and a housecleaner to do the same job they would have certainly paid them.
Often, families, have one parent stay at home for precisely this reason; it is more affordable than hiring out all of the help that would be needed to run the household.
Not Your Life
Not all parents stay at home with the kids for the same reasons. Some families do not have a choice for a variety of reasons, so it is best to avoid this kind of statement, which implies that the parent staying home made this choice.
It also implies that being a stay at home parent would make someone mentally ill, which is not what most people intend to say when they make this comment.
Instead, consider saying something like this, "I really admire how well you handle all of the responsibilities that come with running a household."
Check Your Assumptions
While stay-at-home moms still get a lot of unfair criticism, stay at home dads seem to get even more. As a society, we are used to seeing men work outside of the home, so people are more apt to assume the partner of a stay at home dad might not like the arrangement.
But all couples are different and ideally make the decision that both partners support and is the best option for their family.
Do not assume anyone is upset with the situation just because the partner who is handling the domestic labor is a man.
Not Seeing the Situation
Having a family means your house will never be perfectly spotless again — at least not for long stretches of time. So it is best not to assume that a stay at home parent would have a clean house 24/7 either.
Especially considering some families have kids at home all day instead of at daycare, which means the kiddos have twice as much time to destroy any cleaning progress mom or dad made that day. Plus, stay-at-home parents are not spending every waking moment cleaning.
Typically, they have meals to plan, doctors appointments to make, and kids to drive to various activities and events — just to name a few responsibilities outside of cleaning.
Stay away from this phrase for various reasons. First, it is incredibly insulting and implies that someone who works at home is not achieving something.
Secondly, not everyone has the same dreams in life. For some people, their ultimate life goal is to have a family.
Often being at home with their kids is a dream realized for stay-at-home parents. Don't diminish someone's life work because it doesn't look like yours. If you are interested in what a stay-at-home parent's life goals are it's better to ask them then to assume that their time at home was wasted.
While either gender can fulfill the role of parent, people often assume that if one parent is staying home, then it will be the woman. Brad Harrington, the executive director of the Boston College Center for Work and Family, told NPR that it is still fairly uncommon for dads to act as stay-at-home parents.
"Depending on whose numbers you believe, it's somewhere between 1 out of 20, or maybe one out of 15 at-home parents now is a dad," he said.
But it isn't because the desire is not there. Harrington explained that through his research he found out that more than half of male millennials would be open to the idea of staying at home with the kids full-time if their family could afford it.
So, if you know a family with a stay at home dad, it is a good idea to ask how they came to that decision as a family instead of making any assumptions.
Modern Life Is Complex
While being a stay at home parent became normalized in television shows in the 1950s, the concept is still alive and well today.
A little more than one in five children of married parents (22.3 percent) lived with a stay-at-home parent in 2017, according to a new report from Zillow that used U.S. Census data.
That number was the same in 2016. What has changed is the number of fathers who are now full-time stay at home parents. The share of stay-at-home dads had increased since 2007 and reached a high of 20.2 percent last year, according to Zillow's report.
It is a popular misconception that stay-at-home parents have an endless amount of free time. But really they have barely any at all considering they play the roles of daycare teacher, CEO, psychologist, cook, housekeeper, laundry machine operator, computer operator, facilities manager, janitor, and driver.
According to a survey by Salary.com, stay at home parents should be charging $115,000 per year for all the work they do. So, no, stay-at-home parents do not typically have a lot of free time.
"We see [Mom] as the compilation of 10 jobs in one person," Evilee Ebb, general manager of Salary.com, told Forbes. "Imagine if you had to attract and retain a candidate to fill this role?”
With so much to do and probably not enough sleep, a lot of stay at home parents don't have the time or energy to find a clever answer to that question. Just like you wouldn't ask someone what their five-year plan is, avoid pressuring stay-at-home parents to define their goals for you.
Stay away from this phrase because of all the reasons discussed in the previous slides, but also because lots of stay-at-home parents also work part-time or full-time jobs from home.
Lots of moms and dads own their own business and choose to work from home so they can spend time with kids.
Other stay-at-home parents have the opportunity to work for an employer that has a flexible work-from-home policy.
The Greener Grass
No one has a perfect life. Sure, some people only post the best photos on Facebook and Instagram, which can lead us to believe their life is nearly perfect.
But you know better than to think that a highlight reel is an accurate portrayal of someone's day-to-day life.
Plus, telling a stay-at-home parent that their life is perfect might put unneeded pressure on them to keep up appearances and prevent them from sharing their true selves with you.
Again, just like no one life is perfect, no one child is perfect.
All kids cry, have tantrums, and experience a bad day.
Just because a parent is at home with their children, doesn't mean that they stop being children.
Deserves No Response
You probably would never consider asking your friend who works outside of the home if they asked their partner for an allowance.
So, don't ask your friends who stay at home this question.
A good rule of thumb when discussing finances is to share what you are comfortable with others knowing when it is appropriate to the conversation, but do not expect or assume others will share the same things.