Sometimes parenting is nothing more than your heart breaking for your child. I knew when I became a mother that it meant giving up things for my children but I never considered that she, in turn, would have to give things up for me.
Being a stay at home mom has been an unexpected blessing for our family. We hadn’t exactly planned for me to stay home full-time, but three kids in four years made my return to full-time work the wrong choice for our family.
I think a lot has been said about the sacrifices of the working parent, but not so much about the sacrifices made by those who stay at home. When I made the decision not to return to my full-time position, I left behind more than just my job.
Case in point — my Monday morning this past week: As I was picking up my oldest from junior kindergarten, her two best friends began to excitedly discuss their first day of soccer that evening. A sport my daughter very much wanted to join too but the $300 fee to sign her and her sister up was too much for our single income family.
How do you explain to a four year old that soccer is too expensive for our family this year? Or that we won’t likely be able to afford to put her in competitive dance?
It’s heartbreaking. It sucks. But it’s our reality.
The truth is that this is just one of the many sacrifices of the single income family. In our current economy, having a parent stay home is a luxury that many can’t afford, or, like my family, struggle to afford.
But the loss of income is only one part of the true sacrifice of the stay at home mom. The biggest thing we lose is, at least in my case, any hope of being ‘the hip, cool mom’. I retired any sense of ‘style’ for second-hand threads and mom jeans. My hair went from a sense of vanity to a rotation of the ‘mom bun’ and three inch roots cause I have to save up for the hairdresser that dyes my hair in her kitchen.
You also lose the fun adult time. Instead of the office gossip around the water cooler, I am bitching at playgroup about how Emma refuses to sleep in her new bed. The funny thing is that I have more friends than I have ever had. Having kids in common is such an easy ice breaker and in my quest to socialize my very anti-social three year old, we are regulars on the Early Years, Playland, and Tea and Tots circuit.
Despite a long list of friends, I usually find myself binge-watching Netflix in my yoga pants with my hubby on a Saturday night. When faced with the reality of finding a sitter, paying a sitter, and putting on pants with an actual zipper, Orange is the new Black wins out more often than not. These are friends I see on my own during the day. We sit in each others’ living room and ignore the mess. We meet at the park to avoid the mess. We drink coffee when we wish we were drinking wine and sneak wine when we really need a scotch.
The biggest sacrifice I make is the ability to take a break. As much as work is work it is also a break from your kids. You get to have eight plus full hours of no one touching you. You get to miss your kids and it makes you a better parent for it.
Not that these sacrifices don’t happen for a wonderful reason. I get to walk my daughter to school every day and meet her there (often late) in the afternoon. My middle daughter, told me today that I am her ‘best friend’, and my youngest lost her mind with joy as we rode the Zoomobile for the millionth time on a Tuesday morning because Saturdays are just too busy.
Stay at home parents’ days aren’t often pretty. They are filled with dishes and laundry and showers don’t always happen. Sometimes I have to have difficult talks with my daughters because I want to give them the world but can’t. All I can offer them is the promise that whatever we have to give up, we are giving up so we can be together.
I couldn’t pull off the hip mom look anyway. I look way too good in mom jeans.
What sacrifices have you made as a parent? If you are a stay-at-home parent, what do you miss most about working?
*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Parent Life Network or their partners.