"Children are not a distraction from more important work they are the most important work" - C S Lewis
Taking care of children is a full time job and is not easy. It is nothing like an office job. Quitting office in order to take care of kids is a big decision to make. But once the decision is made it is the toughest job one can do. It has no holidays no time off. To a person working in an office, a stay at home mom or dad can seem like a no fuss, easy job. In fact one may think that a stay at home parent is on a long vacation. But the reality is quite different. A person working at an office gets to divide the day between work and home. At the end of the day they get a change of scene when they go home. A stay at home parent does not have the luxury of saying I am done with the kids, time to go home. The kids are there around them whether they like it or not.
Dealing with kids is not the same as dealing with colleagues. Would you enjoy work if your colleagues are constantly cluttering your work environment, jumping on tables, chairs sofas, play fighting, begging you to give permission to watch TV? Imagine every time you have to wrap up a project or start a meeting your team members ask you for 5 more minutes, and "please 5 minutes more, last 5 minutes" goes on for the next half an hour. Would you stay in that kind of an environment? You would be grateful to go back home and get some time for yourself. You would probably look for another job.
Imagine weekends when office goers actually relax (may not pertain to working moms), can a stay at home parent avail that luxury or is it more work? No matter what time your kids go to sleep there are some kids who still wake up bright and early the next day. Then they get bored very easily. The next thing you know you are cleaning up their spilt breakfast, running behind them for baths or taking them to the garden. Where is your weekend gone? Where is your time out?
Your office going partner may argue "I don't get a break either. I travel a lot on work and sometimes over weekends, may be long haul flights which are tiresome". But still isn't it different? They still get to rest in their seat, go out for an uninterrupted dinner after work, take a swim and watch a movie before bed. Is it the same as being stuck with kids all the time? For example, my husband is going on a one week business trip to Barcelona, he may say it is so difficult I deal with time zones I have to sleep on a flight or at airport terminals. That is fine. But I am sure he also gets to site see, sleep early or late as he wishes, have a nice big breakfast before the meeting or visit a good restaurant with friends. What does lucky me get to do? Watch over the kids, take them to the park, make them sleep, try to catch a nap which is not possible as my elder son keeps disturbing me. Try to watch a movie which is impossible as the kids keep interrupting or there are scenes which the kids can't watch so I end up changing the channel.
Going on a vacation sounds fun for a working parent. They finally get to take time off from work and spend with the family. But for the stay at home parent is it really a vacation? They are still on duty, maybe with some help from the working spouse, which is the only change in their situation. They are still taking care of the kids, making sure they are not disturbing the passenger in the next seat and making sure they don't bring the roof down at the hotel. So when do we stay at home parents get a break from our job? Where is our change of scene?
I strongly believe that we have to take time out for ourselves in order to maintain our sanity and continue doing a better job. Just as office goers need a break from work. We do too. It is good for us and for our kids to sometimes stay away from each other. I realised this when I went for a two night trip to Chennai. I was feeling very guilty at first. I left the kids with my husband and a baby sitter. They cried when they saw me off and I felt that I was making a mistake. But I learnt that their crying lasted only for five minutes and the two kids behaved really well. That is when I knew that I had made the right decision. We need to take a break and the kids need a break from us too.
Parents feel emotionally guilty to leave the children with responsible care takers or a guardian for a few days but kids get over it and can manage very well without us. I enjoyed my time at the airport lounge without having to carry diaper bags. I enjoyed Chennai without having to worry about my kids' food, sleep and play. The kids had also bonded well with my husband and vice versa. When I came back I was happy to see them and they were happy to see me. The much deserved change in scenario had helped me relax and I was rejuvenated.
It is very important for stay at home parents to also have their night out, a vacation without the kids or to pursue a course of some sort. So to all those stay at home parent do not feel guilty if you wish to have a life. Take time off from your kids and house chores go out enjoy!