Surprising Challenges That Stay-at-Home Parents Face
While getting out the door and to work on time is tough when you have small kids at home, being a stay-at-home parent (SAHP) isn’t all roses either. Often times, it’s assumed that parents stay home with their children because they adore every part of parenthood, every moment of the day. But ask the SAHPs around you, and they’ll likely tell you that’s not always the case.
The drain of staying home with kids all day is very real. And whether it’s a choice made out of necessity or because a parent really wanted to experience those formative years with their child, that doesn’t mean it’s still not immensely challenging at times.
Here’s what makes being a stay-at-home parent feel so tough.
Trying to Find “Me Time”
When you spend all your time with your kids, finding even a moment to yourself can be a huge struggle. If you work outside the home, sure, you’re busy meeting the demands of a boss all day, then coming home to tend to kids. Neither scenario is without struggle.
But finding any “me time” (even to go to the bathroom alone) feels almost impossible with kids in the house. They don’t care about your personal space, your need for quiet time or need to complete a task without interruption. And they definitely don’t care about giving you a break, which in most jobs, you get every once in a while. Stay-at-home parents spend their kids' early years constantly in go-mode.
Becoming the Default Parent
If you’re the parent who stays at home, it can be wonderful to bond with your children during all that time together. But if your kids are lucky enough to have a two-parent home, it can become challenging to offset your duties and allow your partner to step up and help with the kids.
The thing is, kids get used to you being the go-to parent, so when it comes time for someone else to take over, it often doesn’t happen as easily as we’d like. We have to work hard to set boundaries, to reclaim our time, and to make space for another person to step up and help with the kids.
Leaving the House Without Your Kids
When it comes time for the stay-at-home parent to leave the house without their kids, say, for a date night or a trip to the gym, sometimes they don’t want to let you go.
Forming strong attachments to your kids is a beautiful thing. But if they aren’t used to you being without them every moment of every day, goodbye can be rough. The more you do it, the easier it will become. Stay-at-home parents know, however, that getting out of the house alone isn’t easy.
Accomplishing Everyday Tasks With Kids in the House
From laundry to dishes to errands to vacuuming the rug, trying to accomplish every little task with kids in the house is a struggle stay-at-home parents know all too well. You can’t wait to get everything done until after they’re in bed (unless you plan on staying up all night to clean). But trying to accomplish even small daily tasks with kids at home is hard.
While you’re busy folding laundry, a basket of toys just got dumped all over the room you just tidied. While you were unloading the dishwasher, the wall got finger-painted. You can spend a whole day cleaning up, only to have your house look just as trashed at the end of the day.
Even though SAHPs are never quite alone, with kids hanging from your limbs 24/7, being only with kids all the time can feel tremendously isolating. You can easily spend an entire day and only have an adult conversation with a cashier. And when you do, you end up accidentally telling that cashier about the diaper blow-out that happened a half hour earlier because you just needed to vent to someone.
When you leave the house to go to work all day, chances are, you’ll have more opportunities to converse with adults, which is a healthy form of human connection. But while SAHPs love their kids, they miss grown-up conversation, too.
Juggling Errands With Kids
Another truth about stay-at-home parenting is that an errand that once took you a few minutes, can now take hours. From changing diapers, grabbing snacks, tying shoes and simply getting everyone out the door in one piece, it’s a scramble. By the time you actually accomplish your errand and get back in the door, you’ll feel as if you’ve run a marathon.
Running errands with kids in tow is not always fun or enjoyable. In fact, mostly, you’re just lucky to make it home again where you kids can have their tantrum without judging eyes glaring you down.
While it’s often assumed that stay-at-home parents have expendable income, a lot of families choose to have one parent stay at home to offset childcare costs, which are massive. To go to work all day only to feel like you’re forking over your entire paycheck to a childcare provider doesn’t make sense for every family. But without two incomes, it can be tough to make ends meet, too.
While these days, more and more families are struggling to provide, with high costs of living and childcare, stay-at-home parents are often no different. And sometimes, the choice to stay home involves a lot of scrimping and saving to make it work.
Feeling Like You’re Just a Parent
With all the child-rearing on your to-do list, feeling like you’ve lost your identity can be a real struggle. Yes, you have an important job to do as an SAHP, but it can begin to feel like it’s all you do. What happened to life outside of parenting? Friends? Hobbies?
Especially in the early years, those things can all too easily take a backseat to your demanding job as an at-home parent. You have to fight hard to regain your sense of self sometimes. And you also have to remind yourself that even though it doesn’t always feel important, the jobs you do, both small and large, are valuable.
Addressing the Assumption That You Don’t Do Anything
One of the most frustrating assumptions that people often make about stay-at-home parents is that life is a cakewalk. People who haven’t experienced being with their kids all day every day, and being in such high demand, can’t always understand how draining it can feel.
While you do so much from day’s start to end, the assumption that you sit around, eating bonbons, like a glorified babysitter, is very real. As SAHPs, we know we work hard. In fact, we never stop working. But convincing those who haven’t been there that that’s the case is another story.
Finding Time for Your Health & Fitness Goals
When you have little ones at home, their needs can feel constant and demanding. That’s why doing anything for yourself — cooking a good meal that takes less than 10 minutes, going for a long jog or even getting to the gym — can be a challenge. Even gyms that have areas where kids can be dropped off can be pricey, and sometimes, kids don’t always want to go.
The good news is that once kids get a little bigger and more independent, you can sneak in a workout here and there. You can use YouTube or workout apps, and hopefully, you’ll find a gym where your kids end up loving the childcare. But while kids are little, sometimes getting or staying fit can feel nearly impossible.
Mental Health Issues
Some research shows that stay-at-home parents struggle with mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, at higher rates that those who leave home all day. It’s not hard to determine why: The mental strain of being a caretaker is grueling.
Parents, especially those who stay home, need more resources to help cater to their mental health. And they need to be taken seriously by friends, family and doctors when they suspect something isn’t quite right.
Being home with kids can be fun. You get the opportunity to see them learn and grow and go from babies to little people with silly things to say and interesting ideas. But so much of what goes into being an SAHP also feels downright repetitive and mundane.
From getting someone dressed, helping them brush their teeth, making meals and doing all of the dozens of things that go into making the world keep turning for your kids, you may start to feel like all your days are blending together. It can be downright boring and monotonous to repeat the same exact tasks over and over. And even though you love your kids, you might not love how it feels to be expected to do it all. Again. And again.
Connecting With Those Who Don’t Have Kids
Becoming a stay-at-home parent can be one of the most satisfying jobs there is. It is hard and important and worthy of praise. But we don’t often get that, especially from those who don’t have kids of their own. Friends without children don’t understand why they don’t see much of us anymore (all we’re doing is sitting around at home all day, right?). They don’t understand how hard we work or even that we work.
Maintaining those connections, when your life looks so different than your old friends can be immensely challenging. It’s not impossible, and if you’re lucky, you’ll have a few good friends who might even babysit for you once in a while. But mostly, you may have better luck connecting with people who have been there. That usually means other parents, especially other parents who’ve walked your same path.
Getting Back Into the Workforce
When it comes time to head back to work, SAHPs may face another big challenge: getting back into the workforce after years of being on the sidelines. If you’ve been at home taking care of kids for many years, your resume might be hurting. That means, even if you’re qualified for a job, convincing someone that you haven’t fallen behind the times can be tough.
Here’s a little known secret, though. Stay-at-home parents are experts in multitasking, managing stress and, basically, being full-time superheroes. And any boss would be lucky to have you. But you’ll have to assert yourself and make your amazing qualities known.