A Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator and HUGE Duran Duran fan, Melissa is a recent transplant from New York to Southern California and we are happy to have her on the left coast!
Melissa is conducting a panel for a Facebook chat on “Nutrition For Moms” hosted by FitForExpecting.com on July 22, 11:00 am – 12 noon PST.
Her letter is to stay at home parents and the shock and awe of becoming one herself.
Dear Stay-At-Home Parents:
I never thought I’d be a Stay-At-Home (SAH) parent but after moving from New York to Los Angeles, I took time off from the professional world to help my child settle into his new surroundings. I went back to school at age 30 to change careers and never thought a child would take me “off-track” but I’m proud to have been part of the SAH community for a little over a year now.
I owe SAH parents an apology. I thought that the job of staying at home was definitely going to be easier than any work I’d do in an office. I always found my definition and purpose through my career. I was the employee that every boss wants because I was extraordinarily dedicated my work. When I became a SAH parent, I thought that I’d finally be able to have my dedication truly appreciated and put to better use to by my family.
I was going to be the ultimate SAH parent. I’d work out every morning, decorate an immaculately clean house, prepare healthy meals and I’d still have enough time to look halfway decent and all the while be more available for my school-aged child.
I failed in nearly every aspect of my plan to do it all. I worked out most days but it all went downhill from there. Most of my other intentions would often be overrun by the tentacles of social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and my blog) and other minor responsibilities. I was often the parent picking my child up from school in the same clothes I worked out in that morning. I was stinky but available for my child.
I learned that work skills aren’t necessarily transferable to being a SAH parent. I was the weekly parent helper in my child’s classroom. Try as I might, my crafting wasn’t up to snuff and there were days that I required a drink after my two hour stint (teachers, how do you do it?!) but my child was so thrilled to have me around that it made stretching my own limitations well worth it.
Despite my SAH parental shortcomings, I realize that the ability to be involved in my child’s school at an early time in his life is an extraordinary opportunity. I may not have reached the ideal in SAH parenthood in my own mind but I doubt my child noticed. I can guarantee that while I was freaking out that there were other parents who would have loved to have switched places with me but couldn’t because they were literally otherwise employed.
Parenting isn’t easy period. To stay at home or to work outside the home is difficult on every parent. It often isn’t a choice but an obligation for one (and often both) parents to work outside the home. It isn’t easy to manage the financial responsibilities and emotional demands of a family. In my experience, the decisions made to achieve balance between need and want is one that gets tested every day.
Working parents and SAH parents, I’ve gotten a chance to visit both sides of the grass and I’ll tell you that the grass isn’t greener on either side. There’s some sort of parental, professional or personal guilt no matter which knoll is yours.
I knew it deep down but I learned that whether you stay at home or outside the home, as a parent you work and work hard. It’s unfortunate that there will always be an unspoken judgment on parents when they identify as being either a SAH parent or work-outside-of-the-home parent. SAH parents, I judged and I’m sorry. I won’t do it again (even when I return to my professional career). I hope maybe someone reading this letter won’t judge in the future as well.
In solidarity for all parents no matter where they work,