When my wife and I decided that she would be a stay at home mom I was well aware of the fact that it would be more than a full time job for her. She decided that she wanted taking care of our son to be her career and I wanted to make that happen for her. I thought I understood the challenges and benefits of this decision but it never occurred to me exactly how much like a job it would be.
It may sound silly to propose a job description for a stay at home parent, but in a way it isn’t. My wife and I talked a lot about what our life would look like with her being a full time mom and part of those conversations included our expectation of what that meant. From house work to waking up with the baby at night, it is important to discuss what each of you expects. The difficult part of this is that the lines between what is part of the job description and what is not can be hazy at times. For example, doing the laundry and making dinner may be something you agree can be done by the at home parent, but washing dishes may be a family chore. The important thing is to be flexible and ask for help when you need it.
Most people who have worked in a large company have heard the term “Work-Life Balance”. It refers to a personal prioritization between your career and lifestyle (health, leisure, family, etc.). The key here is that it specific to each person and only you can determine the right balance for yourself. It wasn’t until I read this blog my sister wrote that I realized that this concept applies to stay at home parents as well. I would even argue that finding that balance is more important for them because the lines between work and life can be so much more fuzzy.
One thing I was aware of from the start was that just because my wife wasn’t working didn’t mean that she wasn’t contributing to the family budget by staying home with our son. When we ran the numbers we figured that she was saving us over a thousand dollars a month in our budget just between daycare, and gas. But what about benefits? In my career I get vacation, sick time, retirement, and medical. It is important to make sure that the stay at home parent has these same benefits. This means that my vacation and sick time aren’t just my own. If she needs a day off, or has to take a sick day, then I may need to take some time off to cover for her.
Communication Is Key
It may seem like common sense but it is very important for both parents to talk to each other about the challenges and struggles they are having. Both need to be comfortable asking for help. When you stop communicating is when resentments and misunderstandings can happen and that can be very toxic for a family.
Clear expectations of both parents, making leisure a priority, and acknowledging the contribution of both parents are all essential. If both parents put the other first they will always have their needs met and that means that the kids will have their needs met as well. After all, isn’t that the ultimate goal?