Wednesday, May 25, 2011

So who has it harder anyway? SAHP vs. WOHP

 I read a humorous article Monday entitled "Stay-At-Home vs. Working Parents" that made me smile. Truly I may even have giggled a little. This article was supposed to be about the differences between the day a husband/wife team faces when one parent works outside of the home and the other stays home to tend to the children. In our family, I have been blessed to be the stay at home parent while my husband goes to work every day as a middle school and high school band director. Sure I teach flute lessons twice a week and I am training to be a doula, but I don't really consider those jobs time consuming enough to even warrant the label "part-time job." Maybe I would feel differently if those jobs weren't enjoyable for me.

The author poses some questions from the stay at home parent's point of view for the working parent to imagine. I inserted my husband's coworkers' names for a more personal effect and he seemed to enjoy hearing the article that way. For example, the first question is, "When you walked into work this morning and pleasantly greeted your co-worker Jim, was his first reaction to scream, "NO! WANT JASON!" followed by an office supply being thrown at you?" That first question made me giggle a little. Rarely do articles make me laugh out loud (seriously), so I knew I was in for a treat.

After being in the mommy blogging world for nearly a year now, I should have known better than to read the comments. Why oh why did I do it? I couldn't resist the call of the comments section even though I knew beyond all knowledge that someone was going to be mean. Someone was going to criticize. Someone was going to say something to make me feel bad about myself even though their comments were not directed at me. I learned of a new fight (or perhaps it's only new to me as I am a new parent) that parents are having. I knew about CIO vs. no CIO, circumcision vs. no circumcision, breastfeeding vs. formula feeding, unmedicated birth vs. medicated birth, and vaccinating vs. not vaccinating. Here was a new argument. Who has it harder? Who is the better parent because they have it harder?

Honestly, these comments did not bother me as much as I thought they would, but they did make me think. Not, who has it harder? But, what is the real issue here? Why are people getting offended at what should have been a light hearted and funny piece? I have been thinking about this for days now. I am not sure I have found THE answer, but maybe I have found AN answer. I think....and this is just a guess...what everyone wants is appreciation. I am sure there are other issues, but I think those that were the most offended were lacking appreciation in their lives.

I am a SAHM. I don't get paid for what I do as a parent. Who does? I take care of our daughter and I try to make sure all the household-y things are taken care of. My goal is to make sure things are taken care of so my husband doesn't have to do any household-y things when he comes home. Unless, of course, it is some icky ol' man job like unclogging drains or something that I wouldn't know how to do. (Yes, I've watched the Bill Cosby skit and women can use it to their advantage too! Those who have seen it know what I am talking about.) The reason I enjoy staying home and serving my husband after a long day is because he appreciates me. He notices the things I do for our family and he expresses appreciation all the time. It really is a huge boost to my ego when I am the one that might have to go out and do something work-ish and he has to stay home and he says to me, "I don't know how you do this!" It feels good to hear him say that and makes me feel like he "gets it."

Even though it's been awhile, I remember what it is like to have to wake up early, and have to be at work all day. I remember how exhausting a mundane work day can be. I remember how exhausting having a supervisor breathing down your neck is and all you want to do when 5 o' clock hits is get in your car, get home, walk through your door and sink into your couch. The last thing you want to do after a long day is to do anything, much less cook, clean, go shopping and tend to children. Sure a working parent gets paid for the work they do, but they still need appreciation as well. I remember when I was getting paid to work it didn't really seem like all that much of a reward. It was amazing what a kind word and someone expressing appreciation did. It was unfortunately extremely rare.

I appreciate my husband for the sacrifices he makes for our family. His is not a 9-5 job. It's more like a 5am-6pm job. LONG day. Even though I get up several times a night with our daughter, I am glad I am not the one that has to leave at 6:30 every morning. I am glad I have the freedom to do what I want during the day. It can be a different adventure each day, and I like that. My most aggravating days are those days that I have to work AND be a parent. Ugh. I like just being a parent and I appreciate my husband for doing what he does to allow me to be the one to stay home.

So which one has it harder? I would say he does. He would probably say I do. And here is why. My husband has this phrase, "You know what you know." I have grown and improved as a SAHM. I've, through practice, developed a system that works for me. My husband has grown and improved as a teacher. He has developed a system that works for him. I don't understand how he can do what he does and he doesn't understand how I can do what I do. But he appreciates me and I appreciate him.

But....which one has it harder????

Why is that an important question? If you are working harder, does that make you a better parent than someone else? I think there has to be more to it than that, but I have not figured it out yet.

Different people handle stresses very differently. It may be very stressful for someone to have a rigid schedule though not for another person. Someone else may be very grossed out by having peanut butter smears all over their clothes that they haven't changed since yesterday, while someone else may just shrug their shoulders and say, "Oh well." One person may relish hearing, "Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!" all the time whereas the next person may feel like pulling her hair out. One person might feel extremely guilty staying home, feeling like they are mooching off the working parent, while another may feel guilty working and may feel like they are neglecting their children. So who has it harder? I suppose anyone who is feeling unappreciated and unhappy with what they are doing has it harder than the person who feels appreciated and happy with what they are doing.

One more thought. Venting. We all need to vent. Some of what I see is some people think, "How dare she vent about her situation? She has it so much easier than I do, and I am not complaining!" Perhaps it is the presumption that they have it easier, so they have no right to complain. I wonder, "Who is it that gets to be the judge of who has it easier?"

My favorite comment out of all comments I read was the following from 'dl': (I edited it just a little for grammar.)

"I'm past this age in my life: been there and done that, both SAHM and WOHM (I only read this article because it popped up in my Facebook). Here's what I can tell all you mothers, no matter where you're working: Stop arguing with each other over who has it harder and who's doing things right or wrong. Chances are, at some time in your 20+ years of parenting, you're going to be doing both SAHM and WOHM. And when those parenting years are over, you're hardly going to remember because it will have gone by so fast. So give it up. It's a boring argument. Accept the fact that no one understands life different than their own, no matter what it is. If someone doesn't understand your stress, so what. Know that you're also not understanding theirs. That said, this was a funny article!"

Thank you, 'dl', for the answer to the question!

So who has it harder?

Who cares? Give it up. It's a boring argument.

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