What are the expectations for a stay at home parent?
I’ve seen this question pop up in online mom groups over and over.
It’s interesting to see that it usually gets a wide array of responses, everything from just keeping the kids alive to maintaining a spotless house, doing all of the child care, and cooking a gourmet meal all while wearing pearls and high heels.
So, what is a realistic expectation for a SAHM?
If these responses have told me anything, it’s that every family is different. Whichever end of the spectrum you fall on is fine as long as both partners are cool with it.
But I can see how this becomes an issue. It can be hard to see what we did all day sometimes.
Some days go like this: I fed the baby, then the toddler, then cleaned a diaper explosion, then took the toddler potty, then tried to get the baby to sleep while simultaneously trying to keep the toddler from destroying the house, and then I repeat that whole sequence until my husband gets home.
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Should stay at home parents be responsible for all of the household tasks?
I, personally, don’t think so.
My priority is taking care of our kids, so sometimes chores end up on the back burner. Also, so much of what we do is invisible and is only noticed when it isn’t done.
No one thinks much about the clean clothes in their drawers, but they likely notice when they have no more clean underwear. It is unlikely that the working parent comes home and sees all of the effort that you put into keeping the place semi presentable that day, however, they notice if its a wreck.
Some days are great and I feel like a rockstar – laundry folded, dishes washed, dinner in oven, and whoa, check out that vacuumed carpet.
But more often, I pick one thing and that’s really all that gets done that day. If my husband didn’t help out around the house, it would be a disaster.
Are stay at home parents responsible for all of the child care tasks?
Not in our house.
While my husband works a crazy schedule, when he’s home, it’s all hands on deck. They’re his children too and spending time with them is not a chore.
Recently, I was asked if my husband could “babysit” so I could go out. While, yes, he’s fine keeping the kids alone, it’s not babysitting when you’re the parent.
With the house and kids we subscribe to a “team work makes the dream work” mentality. We both do as much as we’re able. This doesn’t mean that we split things equally, but rather that we both put in equal effort.
It’s only a problem if it’s a problem for you
It seems like this question comes up because someone is unhappy with the current roles.
Perhaps the working parent thinks the stay at home parent should get more done all day or maybe the stay at home parent thinks the working parent should pitch in more when they’re home.
Honestly, family division of labor is not just a problem with stay at home parents. Surveys have repeatedly shown that moms often shoulder more of the household responsibilities even when they work full time.
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I feel lucky that my hubby is so chill. He doesn’t “expect” much from me (that makes it sound kind of bad, but whatevs).
There’s days he’s arrived to a messy house, us still in PJs, and a big question mark about dinner since it just didn’t happen that day. He rolls with it because, well, he’s awesome. If I’m truly honest, I doubt I’d be as laid back if our roles were reversed.
He knows I’m doing the best I can for our family, even when it may not look like it.
But we haven’t always been in a such a good place. After our first baby was born, we had to really shift around the household responsibilities. To do this, we had to focus on our communication. As much as we’ve improved, we’re far from perfect and continue to work at it.
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Communication is key
I know, we’ve all heard about the importance of communication in relationships before, but it is so crucial that it bears repeating.
Ideally, we would hash out all of the expectations for both the working parent and stay at home parent before baby ever arrived.
Realistically, we need to be flexible, because it’s impossible to know all of the issues that may come up and how we’d truly deal with them. Also, things will change over time and we’ll have to change too.
If you are just considering becoming a SAHM, this is an important conversation to have. You may realize that you both have totally different expectations already. Bridging these differences sooner than later can only make the transition easier.
Who will do the cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, laundry?
Who will do bathtime, bedtime, night wakings, doctor’s appointments?
Who will do the car and lawn maintenance?
This conversation is definitely harder when you’re already in it. Someone is already unhappy and emotions may run high, especially if this is an issue that’s been argued repeatedly.
But letting the resentment build up is toxic for relationships.
The best advice I ever received about having tough talks is to wait until you’re both calm. Try listen to understand and strive to see from their perspective. Give each other the benefit of the doubt.
Sometimes it is hard to find common ground so look for creative solutions.
If the working parent is upset about the messy house, maybe compromise by trying to make sure one specific task is done or hiring a cleaning service or getting a roomba?
Remember, you are both taking care of your family, just in different ways.
What works for your family might look totally different than what works for mine.