Before having children couples may plan to have one partner stay at home, dedicating their time to raising their children. Many people actually go on to do exactly that, some even leaving high pressured jobs to take on the task of full time parenting. However, it is also common for parents to find that the “job” is not as romantic as it seemed and the task of being a stay at home parent is not as fulfilling as one had imagined.
It is harder than it looks
Many parents believe that their role as stay home parents is paramount to healthy family life and wish to continue doing so until their children are a certain age. Despite feeling unfulfilled and, perhaps lonely at time, they continue to service their family this way. Especially for those that have left their previous careers, the task may feel a lot more difficult than anticipated and a role that doesn’t allow much time off.
- Look after yourself too : It is important not to lose sight of yourself while you are busy seeing to the needs of your family. Many stay at home parents feel they lack any sort of accomplishments and begin to feel bored with themselves. You perform a very important role, but it should not be to the detriment of self. Make sure that you find time to embark on hobbies or interests that challenge and stimulate you in order to curb the feeling that you have accomplished nothing.
- Acknowledge your special role: Remind yourself regularly of the amazing milestones your children reach due to your participation in their lives and view your full time parenting job as an accomplishment. Remember, being a full-time stay-at-home parent is the ONLY job in the world where you have to live in (and clean!) your workplace and are responsible for unpredictable, demanding, and wonderful living beings 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Not just a “mum” or “dad”: Loneliness is one of the most common complaints of stay at home parents. Make sure you get out and socialise. Remind yourself that you are more than merely a “mum” or “dad” – you are also a friend, a daughter/son and, possibly, a partner to someone. This means going out with friends and socialising in child-free zones. It also means MAKING time to dressing up and going on dates with your partner by making the most of any family supports you have, or child care you can access, so you have some child-free time.
- What are my other options? If stay at home parenting isn’t working for you and your family, it may be helpful to consider other options. This may mean you return to a previous job, start a new career, study or volunteer. Be aware of your own emotional and mental health – It may be a good time to work through your thoughts and beliefs around what constitutes “parenthood”, and embark on a journey that may fulfill you more. When you are happy and mentally well, your family will also benefit.
Being a stay-at-home parent is a highly romanticised but greatly undervalued role within our society. Everyone has their own opinions about whether mums or dads should stay at home or return to work or other responsibilities after having a child, and everyone’s situation is different. Being a stay-at-home parent often fluctuates between being extremely rewarding and precious on some occasions or days, and challenging and boring others.
If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed, and the ideas we have listed above aren’t helpful or you need some more individualised support in your situation, please give one of our psychologists a call – as many parents face unique and more intense challenges that require professional support and guidance. As no child or family situation is quite the same.
For more information, you can visit: www.changespsychology.com.au