A nationwide survey from the United Kingdom has shed interesting light on the realities of life for stay-at-home parents. Some remain convinced that it’s the best job in the world, some desire for the old routines of having a day job, and some represent the wide and varied in between.
The 2018 poll of over 1,500 U.K. parents was commissioned by healthcare professionals Aveeno Baby with results published by The Sun. Thirty-one percent of the people surveyed said staying at home with a child is harder than going to work, and not without good reason.
You will eat most meals with one hand, said 33 percent, and your back will always hurt, said 17 percent. Your carpets and sofas will have permanent stains, groaned 31 percent, and you will regularly be embarrassed in public warned a fifth of all parents surveyed.
Next time someone tries to tell you being a stay at home parent is easy, show them this.
However, you will also feel complete unconditional love for the first time, said 42 percent, and your child’s skin is the best smell in the world, said a nostalgic third.
A significant 28 percent mistakenly believed that they would be able to take their child anywhere, and 32 percent, perhaps naively, assumed that all parenting duties would be split evenly and fairly down the middle.
After all was said and done, exactly half of the new parents surveyed continued to believe that starting a family was a “perfect experience.” This begs the question: Is being a stay-at-home parent harder than going out to work?
Rebecca Bennett, Aveeno Baby’s skin expert, empathized. “Becoming a parent is an amazing experience,” she told The Sun, “but we understand that entering this new chapter of life can also bring with it a great deal of stress and worry.”
One mom who knows firsthand about the highs and lows of stay-at-home parenting is Huffington Post blogger Natalie Thomas.
Thomas explained in a frank article about the myriad joys and mental setbacks of being a new mom.
Then, of course, Thomas and her partner had a baby. “It’s not a sprint, it’s a never-ending marathon,” she described. “We play, we struggle, we laugh, we negotiate. She wins, I sigh. I win, she cries.”
“It’s a daily tug-of-war with emotions so high it feels like a two-woman Broadway show.”
“[My husband and I] say how much we’d love to be the other,” Thomas regaled, “fantasize how great it’d be. ‘I’d kill for a reason to shower, water cooler chat, a meeting of the minds,’ I say. ‘I’d love to stay home, go for coffee, a nice, long walk,’ he hallucinates.”
Fifty-five percent of surveyed British parents agreed with Thomas; having a baby is “hard work.” However, a brave quarter countered that having a baby is “a doddle.”
At the (literal) end of the day, Thomas concludes, she and her husband come out even. “We’re a family,” she writes, “and, together or apart, tears or cheers, we survived and are here together, healthy, happy, in our home, living a life that we’ve always dreamed and it’s pretty sweet.”
“And absolutely even.”
Amy Whipple-Myers, lead instructor of parenting classes at Nest Center City in Philadelphia, advised parents to resist the fantasy that the grass is greener on the other side by soldiering on. Ask for help when you need it, she says.
“An hour,” Whipple-Myers told CBS, “an hour that’s for you. An hour to recharge. Because stay at home parents give and give and give.”
What do you believe? Is stay-at-home parenting inherently harder than going to work? Whatever the life you choose, and whatever circumstances come your way, there’s a wealth of support out there.
And on the rough days, just remember what 15 percent of surveyed British parents say: “A strong coffee will get you though most things.”