If you work full-time, you’ll be familiar with dodging the morning traffic and attending meeting after meeting with people who irritate you, all while missing your kids like crazy.
For working moms and dads, spending time with your kids can be limited to a rushed half-hour in the morning followed by a quick bath and a bedtime story.
And it can be truly heartbreaking.
Yet, stay-at-home moms are often the biggest complainers! Why?
Stay-at-home moms never miss their kids’ milestones.
They can wear loungewear all day and enjoy walks in the park while everyone else is chained to a desk in office attire.
If you’ve never been a stay-at-home parent, aside from an all-too-brief period of maternity or paternity leave, then it can be really hard to comprehend why stay-at-home moms complain so much.
But honestly, we need to recognize that staying at home to raise your kids is no walk in the park.
It’s a never-ending, nearly 24 hour per day job full of unpaid and under-appreciated labor.
From the overwhelmingly long lists of chores and the constant juggling of tasks, to the lack of social interaction and financial worries; there are many reasons why stay-at-home parents might find it hard.
We spoke with a bunch of veteran moms — some current and others former stay-at-home moms — to learn a little bit about the challenges of being a stay-at-home parent.
Not all stay at home parents are moms
Before we begin, it’s important to recognize that this is not just a problem for moms.
While stay-at-home moms outnumber stay-at-home dads by four to one, there are currently more than two million stay-at-home dads in the United States.
And that figure is rising every year.
As traditionally, fathers have been expected to go to work to provide for their families, dads who choose to stay at home with children may experience additional judgment from friends and family members.
People may assume that if a father chooses to stay home with their kids that they are either lazy or unable to get a job that pays more than daycare costs.
Of course, this is rarely true.
Stay-at-home dads experience the same struggles as stay-at-home moms, and some unique ones of their own (click the link to read more).
Unfortunately, people are often even less-sympathetic when they’re open about finding life difficult.
The top 5 reasons why stay-at-home parents complain
To help understand the point of view of stay-at-home parents and why they find it tough not to go to work, we asked several moms to share their views.
Here are the most common reasons why housewives and househusbands have it tougher than you might think.
1. The mental load can be overwhelming
One of the biggest stresses of being a stay-at-home parent is the mental load.
When only one person is bringing in an income, it often falls on the other to take care of absolutely everything.
And that’s a lot.
As well as the obvious tasks associated with looking after children, stay-at-home moms may find themselves shouldering the responsibility of the running of the whole house, including the:
- appointment schedule
- and more
Mom of three Kathy says: “You’re constantly juggling things like the grocery list, the laundry, finding misplaced items, packing school lunches, watching the kids’ growth and purchasing them new clothes, while trying to avoid meltdowns.”
If you’re not an organized person with good systems in place (and even if you are), then the mental load of hundreds of tasks fighting for your attention can rapidly lead to health problems such as:
- and depression.
If you’ve never run the whole household alone, you can’t appreciate how taxing it really is.
2. There’s no training to be a parent
Have you ever had a job where you were thrown in at the deep end with no training?
Whether you’re making sales calls before you’ve learned the pitch or working in a shop when you don’t yet know which buttons to press; doing any job without the proper training is hard.
Yet when it comes to raising kids, most parents receive little or no training.
Parenting coach Holly says: “I think there’s a gross misconception that being a mom means that all the mom skills come naturally. That couldn’t be farther from the truth.
“Parenting skills are learned. And when you don’t have coaching or training AND lots of experience, it can be difficult to deal with the chaos that comes with little humans.”
There are tons of resources where moms and dads can learn how to be better parents, but many parents are so time-poor that they have little energy left to invest in reading about parenting at the end of a long day.
Most parenting skills are earned the hard-way, through experience and failure.
(Learn some myths about parenting instincts here.)
3. Being a stay-at-home parent can be isolating & lonely
Stay-at-home parents often report feelings of isolation that come from spending prolonged periods of time with young children, rather than other adults.
Since 2020, this has become much more of a problem as baby groups, play centers, and kids’ classes closed down and people were ordered to stay in their houses.
Stay-at-home mom Alice says: “A personal challenge for me has been trying to keep up with relationships or feel connected to the outside world.
“Being a stay-at-home mom can feel very isolating and overwhelming sometimes.”
Even when parents are able to meet with other moms and dads for playdates, they may find that conversations are almost always about the kids, rather than anything meaningful or exciting.
But, being friends with people who don’t have kids can also have its challenges.
Mom Jill comments: “Even when I had time to hang out with my friends, I still felt lonely because they talked about topics that I had nothing to contribute to.”
Left unchecked, a lack of social support can lead to feelings of loneliness, hopelessness, and anxiety.
4. The hours are long
Being a parent is a 24-hour-a-day job.
As soon as you become a mom, you’re often prohibited from sleeping for longer than two or three hours at a time!
Even once you get the sleep part cracked after a year or two (if you’re lucky), children still require attention for at least twelve hours per day, seven days per week.
Most employed folks work somewhere in the ballpark of 40-60 hours per week, yet stay-at-home parents regularly do two or even three times that when caring for children.
Mom of one Julie says: “Most people think we have all the time in the world to do anything we want, but the truth is, we never almost have any time for ourselves.
“We don’t have time off – never-ending chores and responsibilities are always waiting for us. Sometimes we barely have time to eat or take a bath.”
Working long hours for extended periods of time just isn’t sustainable.
Homeschooling mom Sarah explains: “Stay-at-home parents are on-call to help their kids all the time. This kind of constant caregiving can be exhausting for parents.
“Stay-at-home moms often struggle to find time for self-care and may experience symptoms of burnout.”
To combat this issue, parents must set aside some time for themselves each week.
When the working parent or another relative can take sole responsibility for the children for the set days, this can give the primary caregiver a much-needed break to rest and recharge.
5. Being a parent is an unpaid position
Going from two incomes to one can be a huge step for families.
On top of that, the cost of diapers, clothing, food, and toys can mean that parents are left with much less disposable income than before they had kids.
The lack of money might mean that parents have to give up things that they previously thought nothing of buying; saying no to eating out, takeaway food, new clothes, gadgets, and vacations.
Jill was forced to give up being a stay-at-home mom after two years because she simply couldn’t afford it.
She says: “Staying at home to take care of my child meant that my husband was the only one to bring the bacon home.
“Therefore, I had to consider very thoroughly before I wanted to buy something expensive. … I did not want to bring financial trouble to my family.”
Not only that, but many stay-at-home parents who don’t earn an income feel guilty they’re not contributing financially, especially when the budget is tight.
The fact is, the labor they put in nearly 24 hours a day is mandatory and unpaid.
If you’re a working parent who’s always thought the grass seemed greener on the other side, you might want to reconsider.
While working parents are stressed out by juggling work and family life and may feel like they’re missing the most important time of their kids’ lives, stay-at-home parents have their own struggles.
Interacting with only children all-day, every day can be lonely and isolating.
SAHMs and dads often feel like they have little to contribute to normal “adult” conversations, struggle with stress and anxiety, and have surprisingly little time for themselves — sometimes barely being able to eat a meal or take a shower.
However, a lot of stay-at-home parents will tell you it’s one of the most rewarding things they’ve ever done.
But hey, if you can complain about your job, stay-at-home moms and dads have the right to occasionally complain about theirs.