The greatest parenting debate ever produced. It divides opinions. There’s no right answer, and there will never be a winner of the argument. It’s just one of them debates that will carry on forever. Which is harder? Being a working parent, or a stay at home parent? I’ve been lucky enough to experience both, and still do on a weekly basis. So I feel like I am the perfect parent to be able to make a judgement.
My career as a nursery worker means that I spend four days as a working parent (two of which Austin is with me), and three days as a parent at home. This means I get a good perspective of what it’s like on both sides of the argument. I spent the entire duration of my partner’s maternity wishing that we could swap places. The idea of being a stay at home Dad was something I felt like I would enjoy. It was only when maternity was over and I was having days as a parent that I realised just how challenging it could be.
Here are some of the pros and cons of being a working parent, and a stay at home parent. Then I will make my judgement on which one is harder.
Benefits of the Working Parent
Every parent knows that we live for our down time. It’s constantly on our minds. When will be the next time that I can sit down and relax? As a working parent, you get to experience those magical moments that we all crave. The drive to work, that was once a stressful commute, is now time for your brain to switch off. Maybe listen to some music. You can also sit in silence and not have to listen to Peppa Pig on repeat.
Being at work also consists of a lunch break which you don’t get looking after a child. One whole hour that you can sit down and eat a meal without a small child watching you like a hawk ready to pounce and steal your food. This also gives you the opportunity to have some actual adult conversation. To talk about adult things where someone will answer back when you talk to them. You also get the use the bathroom in peace. It’s the little things that you take for granted.
Challenges of the Working Parent
I managed to have 6 weeks off work when Austin was first born. 6 weeks to adjust to fatherhood before I had to leave them to go back. That first day back was really hard. I hated getting up in the morning to leave the house. All the special little moments that I was missing. I missed staying in bed for hours with the baby, having cuddles and watching baby programmes. I even missed the stench of a soiled nappy at 6 in the morning.
As many of you know, my career is childcare based. I work in a nursery with 2 and 3 year olds. This means that my ‘break’ from looking after my own child, is spent looking after other people’s children for 10 hours a day. Not much of a break really. I do find the long days physically and mentally exhausting. My brain never really switches off from being around children. I do feel bad sometimes that I’m leaving my son with someone else, for me to then go to work and spend time with other children.
Benefits of being Stay At Home Parent
For me there are so many benefits of being a stay at home parent. It’s my dream to be able to spend every day at home with Austin. You have the whole day to do whatever you want. In the rain, sun or snow, there is always something to do or somewhere to go. Day trips out to the zoo and the museum. Days in painting or watching movies. Your day is yours and you can do whatever you (or your child) wants to do.
There’s no going to work. No interacting with people that you don’t want to interact with. No fake smiles or forced conversation. You are surrounded by the person or people that mean the most to you. Plus being in the comfort of your own home. Being at home makes me feel relaxed and at ease. Something that I don’t always feel at work. I’m hoping that soon I will be able to work from home and spend all day around my son. I’ll be living the dream.
Challenges of being Stay At Home Parent
Although it is my dream to be at home, I understand that it comes with challenges. I know that it’s not all fun and games. There are times when I’ve been at home where I’ve felt like I couldn’t do it. When the baby is screaming and you have no idea how to make them stop. When you have changed 3 stinky poo explosions already and you get a whiff of number four. It’s the hardest job in the world being a parent.
One of the biggest challenges as a stay at home parent is the mental exhaustion. Parenting is 24/7. There’s no break from it. You can’t explain to your child that you are off on your lunch break and you’ll be back in an hour. It doesn’t work that way. That little bundle of joy is relying on you every minute of the day. There’s no switching off. Yes they will have naps, but do you really get much time to switch off your brain? There’s always a job that needs doing. Before you know it, they are awake again.
Being a parent can put you in a very lonely place. Especially at the beginning. The only person you have to talk to is a baby that just stares back at you with a blank expression. As children get older, they do become better company. In fact, they never stop talking and you’ll wish they were newborn again.
The sleepless nights are a killer too. Newborns will keep you up the majority of the night. I don’t miss them days. Waking up every couple of hours for a feed. I don’t know how I survived that stage. The tiredness can make you go insane. This is when your emotions will start to appear. I’ve found that tiredness turns me into someone that I’m not. A grumpy, moody version of myself. I have learnt to accept the tiredness, but it’s always there.
Now it’s time to make my judgement. Which is harder? Being a working parent, or a stay at home parent?
It’s a no brainer really. Being a stay at home parent is definitely harder. However, if you were to ask me which one I would choose to be, it would be a stay at home Dad every single time. It may be the harder choice, but the time with my boy and the memories that we would make would make it all worth it. Work is work, and you can forget about it when you get home. Parenting is your life, and it’s what will make a difference in years to come. I’m still waiting for a lottery win so that I can stop working, but that’s dreaming a little too much.
I’d love to hear your opinions on this debate. Maybe you have a different view of which one is harder. Let me know by getting in touch, and let the debate continue.