It was in the news a week or so ago, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since: is it harder to be a stay at home mom than it is to be a working mom?
At this current stage, I feel like staying at home with my child is somewhat like winning the lottery. I didn’t always feel this way. But right now I do. Logan is two years old, and he is an easygoing toddler. Since he was about fourteen months old, he has slept through the night, from 8:30pm until about 8:30am. Before I had a child, sleeping in would have meant waking up sometime between 11am and 1pm, but after having an infant, 8:30 is a dream come true. Once we wake up, we have breakfast and then he starts playing independently and I start checking email and facebook. If we don’t have school or a playdate to attend, I will end up turning on one of his DVD’s: either Wonderpets, Yo Gabba Gabba, or Thomas the Train and he will watch for a while and then switch between watching TV and playing with his toys. (Once the weather is nice out, we will spend more time on walks or in parks, but this being Ohio, there aren’t many months we aren’t inside.) I will feed him whatever he will eat for lunch and then it’s nap time. Nap time has become a dream come true. He sleeps for a minimum of two hours and it’s not surprising when he sleeps for 3 to 3 1/2 hours. What am I doing during this time? I would like to say I am doing something important, but I am usually reading or browsing the internet. Occasionally I will clean the house or sort through some moving boxes, or I will make phone calls for family appointments or to sort out issues. If my husband is working at home, I might go to the grocery store – alone. Once Logan wakes up from his nap, it’s already evening, and he will play some more, then eat dinner, hang out with his dad, and then I give him a bath, read a story and put him to bed.
Are there occasional tantrums? Yes, but really not that many. I can see some defiance now when I tell him that it’s time for a nap or bath, but once he’s upstairs, he doesn’t fight it. He is a terrible eater, and the other day he was so angry he threw his whole plate of food on the floor and cried for a solid half hour. Why? I don’t know. I don’t understand irrational two year old issues, but I make it known that I am available for a hug when he’s over it. I expect that the demands and tantrums will get more frequent as he gets closer to three, but we aren’t there yet.
Now let’s talk about those infant days – the hard days – which I consider to be birth through fourteen months (for Logan). First is the big issue – lack of sleep. Anyone who likes sleep will be deeply affected by having an infant. Even if they are giving you 2-3 hours at a time, it just doesn’t seem like enough. Waking up several times a night to a tiny human crying is very draining. Lack of sleep follows you through your whole day and this issue follows you for months. And Logan was a crier. Call it colic or whatever you would like, but for about three months, if he was awake, he was crying. There is no greater appreciation for peace and quiet than when you have a fussy infant. And of course you have the feeding and changing schedule. Why is he crying? Is he hungry? I just fed him an hour and a half ago. Maybe he pooped. What color is his poop? Is he pooping enough? Peeing enough? Does he have an ear infection? Is there a tooth coming in? Is he sick?
There is a lot of laundry to be done that first year. I think I did at least one load every day. There is a lot of peeing out of the diaper or poop coming out the back side of the diaper. The child will puke at least once a day – on your clothes, on himself, on his bedding, on the couch. Teething was dramatic – every tooth was a big deal. Whining during the day and waking up at night. Each tooth drama seemed to last 2 weeks. Logan started teething at three months and finished at fourteen months. This is when he started consistently sleeping through the night. From seven months (when we did cry it out) to fourteen months old, he would still wake up once or twice a week in the middle of the night.
And napping – once he was out of the newborn stage, he didn’t go down for naps easily. Each time I would put him down for a nap, which was two or three times a day, it was a struggle. He would cry and cry. Sometimes I would have to go in and further soothe him, or feed him, and sometimes he just decided he wasn’t going to nap, which just leads to a cranky baby.
I was breastfeeding, which added some extra effort to the newborn days. I had to teach him how to latch on, went through at least two weeks of pain, and once he got teeth, had to make sure he didn’t bite me. I leaked milk. It went all over the place – on my clothes and on my bedding. When I was in the shower, it would spontaneously shoot out. They sell pads to soak up the milk, but sometimes it’s not enough. I smelled like milk, my clothes smelled like milk, my bedding smelled like milk. This is not a good smell. I did a lot of laundry.
I know some people have amazing, serene infants. Babies that sleep through the night at two or three months (cry it out or not). Babies who don’t cry that often unless they are hungry or need changed or want held. Babies that can be taken places without the worry that they are going to cry for two hours straight. Good babies.
I also know people that have difficult toddlers. Toddlers who are very dramatic, whiny, that hit other kids, or who have frequent tantrums. Toddlers who exclude other kids from playing with them and who don’t want to share. Toddlers who scream loudly when they don’t get what they want and who already, at their very young age, seem like little jerks. My kid could turn out to be one or many of the above types of toddler. But right now, he’s not.
Is it just as hard to be a stay at home mom as it is a working mom? I think it depends on your kid(s) and how they act, and what kind of job you have and how difficult it is. The working mom gets to leave the children for the day and head off to an adults only environment. Maybe they get to sit in a quiet office and sip coffee while they do their work. I suppose that could be pretty desirable and peaceful. They could also have a very stressful job. Working moms get to walk away from the irrational and dramatic baby or toddler, but their boss might not be any better.
I know moms who work who want to be at home with their kids. I know moms who work and are happy that they do. And I know stay at home moms who are looking forward to going back to work.
Right now, I think being a stay at home mom is the easiest job in the world. In a few months, when I have my second baby, I’m going to think it’s really hard. It is completely contingent on ever changing circumstances.
The whole point of this is that I get tired of reading how I should make $100K + a year for being a stay at home mom or conversely how some people view stay at home moms as lazy. I don’t think moms who go to work should feel guilty if they want to work instead of stay at home with their kids. Moms who go to work still have to come home from work and be a parent, make dinner, and clean up the house. I think everyone’s situation is different. Some people have difficult kids. Some people have difficult jobs. Some people have easy kids. Other people have easy jobs. Sometimes life is going to be hard, and other times it will be easy, no matter if your boss is an adult, or your child.