Before Stay at Home Dads get their hackles up; I was going to go with Misconceptions About SAHPs, but that just makes us all sound like – well – saps. And as for SAHDs, that may be a bit close to the bone for some. Misconceptions About WAHPs was then considered, but that could lead to confusion about wireless application protocols and racial slurs. I also contemplated using Misconceptions about SAHMs, but we’re not completely Americanised as yet and a rake load of you may not know what a SAHM was.
Digression dispensed… to the misconceptions!
1) Stay at home parents do not have all the time in the world, you know, to type prolonged paragraphs about SAHPs (Stay at Home Parents), SAHMs (Stay at Home Mammies), SAHDs (Stay at Home Dads), and WAHPs (Work at Home Parents) – unless you have one child napping and another parked in front of the TV.
2) Not all of us can “afford to stay at home.” The number of times I’ve heard “Well, it’s nice if you can afford to stay at home.” Everyone’s story is different. Please don’t assume that they “have a rich husband.”
One of my neighbours was under the latter illusion. She called around after I had my first child and said “Are you only going back to work part time? It must be great to have a rich husband.” Once the guffawing subsided, I managed to say “There’s a lot wrong with that statement; that aside – does it look like we’re rich?” while gesticulating wildly towards our 13-year-old Nissan Micra complete with rust, mould and leaky boot.
Speaking of what people can and can not afford; there are so many different parents… let’s address a few.
• There are people who need a dual income to live (which is pretty much everyone in ‘rip-off Ireland’). Therefore, if it makes financial sense for both parents to work and pay for childcare, that’s what you’ve got to do. Some parents don’t want to work full-time. They feel they’re on a relentless treadmill; they blink and suddenly their baby is 10-years-old. Some want to work full time, it enriches them and makes them appreciate the time with their children all the more. Different strokes; you have to go with what works for you and your family. And it’s f*cking HARD.
• There are others who can’t afford childcare and perhaps have a relative willing to take on that responsibility gratis. A good 60% of the kids in the 4-year-old’s Montessori get picked up by a grandparent, and you have to doff your cap to them; I barely have the fortitude to look after my own children at this age.
• Then there are people like yours truly. People with no parents/rellies to help look after their kids every day of the week. People who were feckless enough to fall into a career in media when there’s zero money in it, therefore it makes little financial sense to go back to work full-time as you would just be working to pay for childcare. Just working to pay for childcare has its merits (outlined above), but I chose not to do it as the first born was a germ sponge of epic proportions and spent quite a bit of time off creche, making it a nigh pointless endeavour.
• Then there are single parents in various forms – all of which are clearly F*CKING LEGENDS. I would be a (complete) basket case.
3) WAHPS have their work cut out. Well, I would say that, being one of them. Frequently heard sentences include, “Oh, it’s great your freelancing!” and while “working whenever you want” sounds great, that’s not always the case. The hours are sporadic and not guaranteed. The reality is – a lot of the time – you need to get up before the kids in order to work. After dealing with them all day, you then must commence the rest of your professional work day at their bed time – when yer eyes are hanging out of your head and all you want to do is skull a glass of wine and watch John Oliver. Sometimes you werk, werk, werk until way past midnight, surrounded by crud covered floors, dirty dishes, and toy bombs, while shrilly declaring such statements as “Do I come into your place of work and ask if you’ve put a wash on?!”
4) We shouldn’t have to do EVERYTHING. Just because we’re at home for most of the day doesn’t mean we must barrel through the washing, the cleaning, the cooking AND keep the children fed, watered, entertained/alive. It’s not the 1950s or even the 1980s. Please don’t take us for granted; many of us are used to having full-time jobs/careers and we’re finding this transition mind-boggling enough.
5) The grass is not always greener, no matter what side of the fence you’re on. To the workers; if you’re working in a stuffy office all day, coming home to crazy kids just before bedtime can be tough. All you want to do is wash the commute away or do sweet FA for just a few seconds. However, do bear in mind that your other half has been possibly clock watching since lunchtime (certainly vigorously since 3pm).
Whether they’ll admit it or not, they have – subconsciously or otherwise – been working towards an end goal. An adult’s arrival. It heralds a chance solo dash to the jacks, or – the holiest of grails – a shower. Should you send a last minute text saying that you’re heading to the boozer for pints, or you’re running late, can be enough to send your loved one into a rage spiral or a flurry of tears (they sure as hell will be banking points for a future date). They now have to summon the energy to put the kids to bed solo (assuming they don’t have to do that every day as it is) and stay housebound for the rest of the day.
And to the SAHPs; just give them a minute to decompress. A lot of them have had to travel great distances, often on public transport – meaning a nose in some stranger’s armpit or, worse, a crotch parrot for the entire journey.
However, being on your own on public transport is somewhat comparable to a weekend break… like, they didn’t have a screaming toddler attached to their foot while attempting to cook dinner or anything… They also got to encounter different faces, have banter, possibly laugh at nuanced jokes, partake in adult conversations and didn’t have to pretend to be a zombie Martian for their entire LUNCH. But they simply don’t get it. Unless they’re in your position – day in day out – they never will.
In saying that, they also don’t get a piece of delicious pretendy cake hand delivered to their work place by the best little person on the planet…