What could a stay at home parent possibly need to know about work life balance? Corporations, big time publications, women’s and men’s magazines neglect the work life balance for parents who stay at home with their children. Let me tell you—it is needed.
All of the “Life” and None of the “Work”
The phrase work-life balance has a nebulous definition. Most people think of work as “job” and life as “time with family/friends/fun.” I define the term as: the ratio of time between things you have to do and things you want to do in order to feel fulfilled and content.
For stay at home parents, work is equivalent to watching the children, taking care of the household, driving the children to activities, shopping for food, cooking food, cleaning, laundry, and sometimes yard work and car-maintenance. The “life” part is enjoying time with the children, date nights, hobbies, playing sports, physical fitness, spending time with friends, spiritual endeavors, etc.
These life pursuits are the SAME for both parents. Why then, does it seem that SAHP’s are left out of the discussion? Obviously, there is no HR department pushing this topic for STAHP or corporations afraid of losing the STAHP to a competitor.
Here are things you can do to champion for yourself (or your partner) for a little work life balance:
Invoice Your Time: SAHP often repot feeling like they are “unseen” or unrecognized for the work they do. Many times, those feelings are generated inside the STAHP. I know this is true for me. Often, I feel reluctant to call myself a STHM, even though that is my primary full-time duty. I have other paying jobs, but those are secondary to my being the caretaker for my children. Partially, this is because many of us still equate income with value.
If you can spare a few moments, jot down the time you spend doing each particular task in a week. You will be surprised at how much “income” you would have to spend if you hired out those tasks: daycare (equivalent to the education you give your children), housekeeper, drycleaner/laundry per pound, chef, personal shopper, lawn care. Once you really see the hours, you can start putting a price on it. That price is your income. Seeing it will help you believe it. Seeing it will help your partner see it. Possibly, you might be able to budget in for an actual service to come in and take one of those off your hands. It’s a win win.
Schedule in “Life” as if You Had an Outside Job: Just because you spend all day with your children, doesn’t mean you are spending fun family time with your children. When you embark on a big craft project, sensory play time, or alphabet/number lesson, it is not the same as playing with your children at the park. During that time, you are a pre-school teacher/educator not a parent. Don’t forget to change your “hat.” Help your partner see the difference too. If you want to spend more “quality” time with your children doing fun things, schedule that in. Too many times I have felt like the “mean mommy” because I do all the “school stuff” and Dad does all the “play stuff.” This doesn’t mean that there aren’t wonderful moments in the day with the children, just as it doesn’t mean that working parents don’t get perks from working outside of the home.
Take A Day Off: This is a challenge for a SAHP. The weekend, many times, is not a time of rest for us–or even a time where we get to do something different than what we do during the week! Everyone needs a break from the grind of daily activities. Everyone. Burn-out is a very real thing for both working and stay at home parents.
Maybe this day is on the weekend, where your partner takes your kids. Perhaps, you can afford to have a sitter or grandparent or friend take the children for some time during the week. It has been essential to my sanity, sense of well-being, and fulfillment to have at least one day a week to do my work. If you feel like your ratio is out of whack, see if you can’t work something out where you get one day to work on something else other than your usual SAHP duties. Need help with your scheduling?
I am getting much better at valuing myself based on what I KNOW I am able to accomplish—rather than letting outside opinions influence my self-worth. I have used all of the techniques above to help remind myself, in times of doubt, about how important it is to push my way into the work-life balance discussion and make time for me too.
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