Monday, August 10, 2015

We can't compare...

I've seen and read countless articles about the comparison of working stay at home parents and working out of the home parents.
Some of the articles are satirically funny (or try to be) and others are straight up slicing and dicing critical of one way or another.
Parents who work are socially flogged for not spending enough time with their kid (and we don't know *why* they are working, do we?), parents who stay at home are stressed out and overworked and despise being seen as not working just as hard as out of home parents.

But even as I write this I can't for the life of me pick out one example of parents I know who fall 100% on one side or another. And that tells me something. There aren't sides. There are perspectives.

I know stay at home parents who have blissfully easy children, who do what they say most of the time and who nap regularly, and I know folks who are raising a flock, gaggle, (murder?) of kids who are sapping the life out of them. Sometimes to the point of divorce, illness, and scary other options. I know working parents who are struggling to stay sane, who figured out that finding professionals to help them care for (and raise!) their kids was BEST for their kids and themselves. Most of the people I know did different things at different stages of their children's growing up, to flex to what their family needs.

I don't know any parent who doesn't struggle with what their parenting looks like.

Read that again.

Whether it's how they spend their time, money, resources, or what they do, say, seems that we're all writing (and sadly, reading) a lot of articles about the ways we're parenting and how other people feel about that.

I'm one of the folks that takes offense that someone has pigeon-holed me based on how I spend my time parenting. Just because I'm at work, doesn't mean I'm not parenting, honestly.

I hear other co-workers flexing their time, talking to their kids on the phone, leaving work early for Dr. appointments and school achievements, and taking sabbaticals to spend more time with their families. You can't tell me that a parent's heart stops beating for their kids when they come to work. I know it's not true. They are still concerned, stressed, strategizing, planning, and loving while they are 'away'.

But here's what I know: the more I talk to people, the more I explain, the more I realize that I need to be talking to myself.

What are my issues with my parenting? What are my issues with how much time I spend with my kid? How am I dealing with my stress (do I even register that I am stressed?)? Who are my allies? Who are the friends and family that can ignore my dirty carpet and my occasional lateness and understand that I am attempting a really intense experiment on being human? Do I talk to my kid (no matter how young!) and try to make the moments count or explain when I'm not able to bend to every whim?

I have been known to be defensive to a voice that only exists in my head. No one has come up to my face (I dare 'em) and told me I'm not working hard at parenting by being at work. Walk a mile in these scuffed up, 3 year old shoes, my friend.

So if no *real* person is accusing me, then what am I responding to?

We are so quick to project our own demons out and then write crazy articles about it. And then a bunch of people "like" our thoughts or comments or they respond with criticism. I guess I don't see how this is helping the culture of parenting and child-rearing.

I tell new parents who are sleep-deprived and out of their minds (sometimes literally) that in the end, your family is the microcosm of the culture around you. I have awesome friends and family, who I believe don't judge me and if they do and they ask me, we'll have a real conversation about our choices. I don't need to be validated anymore (I go to therapy for that) and it has helped me enjoy my time with my family.

The most important people I need to communicate with about my parenting choices is my family. They are the people I am working for. Always. They tell me (directly or indirectly) what is working. We listen to each other. I leave work early for them. I wake up at ungodly hours for them. I go to work everyday so that we can pay down our debt, afford healthcare and groceries, and not cry myself to sleep at night. That's good amazing parenting in my book.

And finally, it's none of my business how other folks see themselves. If they are trying desperately trying to tell me that they work as hard as I do, I suspect that they are talking to themselves. I never said they didn't. I know articles are generalizing but that seems to be hurting us more than helping us. I know there's NOT ONE THING that can be compared between how my family works and how other families work. So when an article of a stay at home parent wants to tell me how much more stressful their job is, I can't read it. We can't compare our experiences, our stresses, our resiliency, our resources or our communities. So why even write those articles? What are we really asking for? Someone to see us (likely)? Someone to validate our choices? Public consideration? Then let's talk about it THAT way. Let's ask questions, let's lift ourselves up (by sharing amazing personal stories of how we are living life!), and let's assume we're doing the best we can (even if we don't agree with what "best" is).

To adapt Ghandi's famous quote, let's actually be the village we want in the world.


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