Our latest guest blog is by David, stay-at-home dad and blogger from Life with Benjamin. David and I "met" on Instagram last summer and I've been a fan ever since. I appreciate his sense of humour, admire his photography skills and relate to his everyday realities of raising a toddler.
This particular topic spoke to me as it's a question I, too, get asked a lot. Many people were stunned when I walked away from a lucrative Oil & Gas career to stay at home with my daughter and start Stinky Bunny. Being a stay-at-home parent is the hardest thing I have ever done but I haven't once missed my old office life. It's hard for me to explain it but David does it well so read on!
A question that has come up quite a bit in the last little while, mostly from my family, is, “Don’t you miss working?”
First off, I find it comforting to know that spending all day catering to the needs of a semi-neurotic person isn’t work.
I guess it depends on how you define work.
“Activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result.”
I would argue that full time parenthood fully meets the requirements for so called “work” based on that definition… and anyone who has driven in a car longer than 15 minutes with a tired or hungry toddler would not dispute this point. On the highway, toddlers have an amazing ability to estimate the distance to the next off ramp. Shortly after passing an off ramp, its melt down time. Kicking, screaming, and turning beet red is all part of their strategy. However, the melt down isn’t actually about getting out of the car seat, it’s about testing your mental stability. Need proof? Within a few miles of the next off ramp, a toddler will calm right down to the point that you think another unnecessary stop isn’t needed. Once the ramp is a safe distance behind you, its melt down time again.
The mental and physical toll it takes on a parent to accomplish even the most basic task is challenging. The battle grounds are everywhere; diaper changes, dressing, baths, naps, food, not to mention the millions of things you never considered a safety hazard until you had kids.
Clearly, the definition above acknowledges the massive amount of effort that is required in order to raise another human being. So what else does Dictionary.com say?
“Mental or physical activity as a means of earning income; employment.”
And there it is!
This is most certainly the definition society (minus physicists) think of when it comes to work. Heck, this is how I think of work! Work has always been about making money for me and probably always will be.
Raising another human being is different, though, and it’s honestly the most difficult ‘job’ I’ve ever had.
Well, now that I say that, I remember the summer I spent landscaping.
So, raising another human being is the second most difficult ‘job’ I’ve ever had.
Even with all the difficulty, however, being home with Benjamin is also the most rewarding and fulfilling ‘job’ I’ve ever had.
In between the battles, I get to see him grow every step of the way. I’m the first to witness his new words, his new toddler jokes, and I’m there to receive those rare hugs and kisses. I don’t wonder if his caregiver is mistreating him. I don’t wonder what he is being fed because I’m there to see it. All of it.
So, do I miss work?
As you’ve likely guessed after all this rambling, the answer to that question is complicated.
Are there days I wish I had an income? Yes.
Are there days I wish I could hang my head over my desk at work and listen to podcasts all day? Yes. (Favourite Podcast)
The all expenses paid work trips to Europe, very nice!
In reality, however, the perks accounted for a very small part of my work.
The majority of the time, work was a grey, stale cubicle setting. I sat at a desk all day listening to dull corporate conversations going on all around me. The heat was either too hot or too cold depending on whom you talked to in the lunchroom. I drank 40 liters (10 gallons?) of water a day just so I had a reason to get up from my desk and walk to the restroom.
9 hours a day, 5 days a week. It was in one word, depressing.
So, while I don’t actually miss work, what I would love is a bit more balance for both my wife and I.
My Wife Works
I am fortunate that my wife does all the working for our family. But I will admit, it isn’t fair. I often think about going back to work solely so that my wife can have an opportunity to be home with Benjamin.
In my mind, it doesn’t matter how many errands I run, diapers I change, or bathrooms I clean, it will never add as much value as bringing money into the home. That’s because our society runs on cold hard cash. I tried to pay for a latte the other day with used diapers and I was asked to leave.
Value is Nice and all
Salary.com had an interesting info graphic showing the value created by a stay at home mom.
(I ignored the “mom” part and read “parent”… what is this the 90’s?)
Anyway, the graphic estimates that a stay at home “parent” creates $112,962 worth of value in 90 hours of work.
Sadly, when I tried to use the graphic to buy a latte at another café, I was asked to leave once again.
All I can say is, the majority of families have two working parents. With no one staying home and both parents putting in at least a 40-hour work week outside the home, who does the 90 hours of staying home work??
It sounds exhausting!
Guilt Free Balance
I’ve had this discussion with my wife several times. Because my wife and I are both Geologists, in a perfect world, we would share one job. Both working 2.5 days a week while the other person is home with Benjamin. The 2 days on the weekend? Family time!
In my opinion, shared jobs create more value for families, parents, and corporations. Both parents share in the frustrations and benefits of cubicles (I would list the benefits if there were any) and both parents are adding to the latte fund.
Additionally, both parents share the frustrations and benefits of raising their child. One parent isn’t alienated because they don’t know the routines, behaviors, quirks, inside jokes, etc.
Finally, a corporation gets increased knowledge and increased productivity for the same yearly salary. Win-win for everyone.
Sadly this isn’t an option for us yet. A quick google search on job sharing in Canada reveals that the concept is used as a method for avoiding layoffs, but not as a method for creating better work-life balance.
You tell your Mom all that?
Okay, if you were smart and quickly scrolled through the above text, you now get the benefit of the shortened version:
When someone asks me if I miss work, I usually say, “hell no”!
What I DO wish, for ourselves and for all families, is a situation that yields more balance, where the efforts of both income earning and parenting are shared.
Until that perfect scenario comes to fruition, I’ll just be here making lattes at home and laughing at toddler fart jokes.