I am writing this with my experience viewed through the lens of a now stay-at-home-Viking (aka dad), but I believe that the perspectives I discuss in this post can help enlighten those who have never thought about what it means to be a stay-at-home-parent.
There are two very distinct perspectives that I believe need to be discussed and thought about when looking at what it takes to support your family with a stay-at-home-parent:
- What does your family need, financially speaking, to maintain their current standard of living;
- What worth are the efforts put forth doing the menial duties in supporting the family.
A very prudent note is that none of these things can really happen effectively (or to help promote a happy family since there’s a very distinctive difference between surviving and living) without, at minimum, a strong level of communication with your partner. This should not be an ultimatum given, but a plan open to discussion and malleable. Respect given is respect earned and received in kind (which goes for more than just family, but that’s another blog post for another time).
The first point is the most utilitarian but also the most necessary. Every parent should know what they need, financially, to make their house run (utilities, mortgage, groceries, gas, etc…). If you know that, then you can break down what needs to be brought into the household (through whatever means) in order to make sure that your family has a roof over its head. Whether this is from an alternate source of revenue (like starting your own business, or freelancing) or from the standpoint of the spouse finding a new line of work, it’s important to know how much, minimum, you’ll need. This is the easy part since it’s a somewhat static number and is told to you by someone else.
The second point, while not the most necessary, is more important to recognize and extremely vital to a healthy family environment. As such, it is the more difficult to assess. Making sure the family has a nutritious breakfast, lunches are made (for the partner or children who leave the house for the day) and everyone has what they need is just the start of the day. Then there’s the pet maintenance, cleaning, cooking/prepping for dinner, dishes, laundry that needs to be washed and dried and folded and put away, bill paying, list making, and consumable household supplies that need to be noted (if not acquired) though this is not the comprehensive list. For increased difficulty, add caring for a newborn/infant/toddler (again only by experience can one understand just how difficult it can be). All these things require attention and doing it with a child not only adds time to the task, but also splits attention which exponentially increases the amount of energy required. Then there’s helping school age children with homework, making the dinner, cleaning up after the dinner and making certain the children are showered/bathed and put to bed. Is there a price that one can put on that? If you say yes, then think of that number. Now triple it (at least).
Like educators, stay-at-home-parents are greatly under-valued and under-appreciated (not to mention under-paid in the case of teachers) in our society and why I feel it’s important to have a strong relationship built around respect with your partner who is performing these tasks. They do it out of love and necessity and it oftentimes can be linked to their sense of self-worth. Keep that in mind the next time you put on a clean shirt or eat off a clean plate. Take the time to speak your appreciation. Not only will it help your family thrive happily, but it will set a great example of how parents should be to the children who are paying attention (even if you think they don’t listen).
While this is certainly not the definitive list of perspectives to consider, I believe they are very important to keep in mind. Remember, the parent who stays at home works too, quite a bit and deserve to be recognized for their efforts. It’s not all wine and Minecraft when the other parent is away at work.